Turn It Up! A DIY Guide to the Perfect Car Sound System


You are serious about your music. You spend hours crafting the perfect playlist. You regularly keep up-to-date with your favorite artists and musicians, all 15,000 of them.

Why, then, would you be content listening to your jams through a factory car sound system?

Unfortunately, cost can be one reason why automotive audiophiles might be contenting themselves with less-than-optimal sound quality. Luckily, it’s more possible than ever to have a killer sound system without paying for professional installation. This is one of the reasons professional car audio installation services are on the decline.  

For the dedicated DIY-ers, here’s everything you need to know about designing and installing your own car sound system.

How To Install Your Own Car Sound System

There are a lot of car audio systems on the market. With so many options, there’s not going to be one simple, catch-all answer to what the perfect car audio system might look like for you.

Here are some things to keep in mind when getting your perfect car audio system together, however.

Think About What You Need

Different car sound systems respond dissimilarly to particular kinds of music. If you’re a hip-hop fiend, you might want a system with big, beefy bass. If you’re an audiophile with a taste for pristine classical music, you might want something with a clean, clear high-end, with plenty of headroom for those arias.

If you’re going to the trouble to install a dream car audio system, it stands to reason that fidelity should be on your list of required traits. Distortion is great when it’s intentional. It can be maddening if you’re trying to hear music the way it’s intended, though.

You should definitely look into the best recommended car amps with good sound quality, regardless of what kind of music you’ll be listening to.

Settle On Some Speakers

Once you’ve thought about what your particular audio needs are, you’re ready to pick out a set of speakers. First, you’ll want to research what brands of speakers are supported for your car. Then look into the frequency response of the different makes and models of speakers to decide which ones will make your music sound its best.

There’s more to speakers than technical specifications, however. Make sure to research customer reviews and comments to see how the speakers hold up in the field.

You’ll also need to consider where these speakers are going to be placed. Different locations in your car have different specifications they can handle. Front door panels can accommodate speakers up to 6″ by 9″, for example.

Once you know all of the specifics, you’ll be able to pick out car audio speakers with the perfect blend of power, precision, and affordability.

Pick Your Receiver

The receiver is the center of your car audio system, same as any home stereo. You’ll want to select carefully or you’re music will come out fuzzy and muddled, no matter which speakers and amps you’re running.

Car audio receivers have a lot of special features these days, as well. You’ll want to think about which features are mandatory and which are just a nice luxury.

If you do a lot of streaming, for instance, you’ll probably want Bluetooth connectivity. Otherwise you might be stuck with one of those digital cassette adapters like it’s 1988.

Some other special features for you to consider are:

  • Satellite radio availability
  • HD Radio
  • Steering wheel control
  • Large display
  • AUX input
  • Preamp outputs

Pick Out Your Amp

If you think you’ll be upgrading your car audio system at any point, you’ll want to think about getting an amp as well. Amps generally feature multiple channel inputs, making it easier to install additional components than factory audio units.

Generally speaking, five-channel amplifiers are your best bet. This gives you more than enough inputs for surround-sound speakers as well a sub-woofer.

Select A Subwoofer

If you’re going to be listening to any bass-heavy music, you’ll be wanting a subwoofer as well. It’s one of the main joys in having an excellent car audio system, after all. It’s like riding around inside your favorite bass amp.

Make sure you get the right enclosure for your sub-woofer, as well, or you run the risk of it shaking itself to pieces. That’s not even to mention the irritating rattle you’ll have to live with during the process.

Make sure your receiver and amp have a built-in crossover, as well. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy one separately for your sub-woofer to function properly.

DIY Installation

Now that you have all of your components, you’re ready to start popping them in. You’ll likely want to grab a wiring harness for your particular car, while you’re at it, or you run the risk of frying your electrical system.

You’ll want to start out by removing the factory stereo unit. Exactly how to do that will depend on the kind of car audio stereo you have.

Once you’ve removed the factory stereo, you’ll need to disconnect the wiring. It may have a wiring harness, depending on how new your car is. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll likely be installing one with the new stereo anyway.

Depending on the make and model of your car, some of these installation phases can get kind of tricky. You could write several volumes just on installing your receiver, considering how many variables there can be.

If you’re determined to DIY your entire car audio system yourself, we recommend this excellent, thorough guide from Crutchfield.

And that’s it! You’re now ready to rock while you’re rolling, bumping your Spotify playlists and getting lost in the crystal clear sound quality.

Looking For More Auto Repair Guides?

We’re here for you! There is nothing more satisfying than working on your own vehicle. Installing your own car sound system saves you money, as well, which goes without saying.

Check out our extensive listing of auto repair manuals. You can also follow our blog for more tips!