been around long enough to see how multiple evolutions of audio technology have changed how
we listen to music in our cars. Up until recently, it was pretty common for a car owner to swap out
their stereo receiver (also called a deck or head unit) at least once within the course of the car’s
life to keep up with these changes.
Today, car stereos are coming straight from the factory with everything they need and are
basically future-proof. This is in large part thanks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Your phone
has taken over the role of music player; the only thing your deck needs to do is connect to it.
Even when you get a new phone, it will use the same protocol. For new cars at least, deck
upgrades are becoming a thing of the past.
That said, if yours is one of the 200-million-plus used vehicles on the road, a head unit upgrade
may be just what you need — you can even add Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to
older cars that didn’t ship with those features. We stock a wide variety of units at different prices
and they’re absolutely worth it to bring your vehicle into the modern era.
But for the purpose of this article, we’re looking at all the ways you can upgrade your vehicle’s
audio without removing your stock head unit. Here, the focus has shifted from adding features to
enhancing sound quality, and the way I see it, this is a good thing!
Factory Sound Upgrade: Get More from Your Car’s Stereo
New vehicles almost universally come with phone connectivity, but actual sound quality is usually
lacking. Fortunately, our expert technicians are well versed in all manner of factory-installed head
units and electronics, including those found on the newest EVs, which makes integrating with
these systems pretty straightforward from our perspective.
There are three basic components to upgrading your car’s sound. The first is an amplifier, or
amp. This slots in between your head unit and your speakers, amplifying the audio signals so you
can get louder, cleaner sound. Next come upgraded speakers. Factory speakers tend to be very
cheap as this is one area where an auto manufacturer can cut costs where the buyer is less likely
to notice right away. These speakers often use smaller magnets and cheap materials, such as
paper cones, which deliver subpar audio quality and aren’t designed to last. Finally, a subwoofer,
or sub, can be added to provide clean, deep, powerful bass in a frequency range normal
speakers simply can’t reproduce. Even if you’re not looking for window-rattling sound, a sub is an
essential piece of the puzzle. Without one, you’re missing up to 30% of the recording and not
hearing your music the way it was meant to be heard, be it hip hop, rock, pop, classical, jazz, or
any other genre.
Amps, speakers, and subs certainly aren’t new — we’ve been installing them for as long as we’ve
been in business — but there’s a good reason to renew the conversation about them. Most
vehicle owners don’t have infinite budgets for aftermarket upgrades, but when a new deck isn’t
part of the package, you can put more of your budget towards other items that you may have
overlooked before, such as an amp. Every penny you spend can go directly to improving sound
quality. This is why I said it’s good that car stereo replacements are going away in new vehicles —
more people will be able to afford better sound.
And finally, by working with your factory head unit, nothing changes about the look or
functionality of your vehicle. There’s no sacrifice to the fit-and-finish of your dash and all of your
controls remain the same (well, we can add a bass knob, if you’d like).
If you’re interested in looking at specific audio upgrades for your vehicle, I encourage you to
come into a Car Toys store, where you can demo a full range of speakers and subs. Our
specialists will help you find the best sound that will fit your vehicle.