Car Sound Staging and Acoustics
The Stage is Set
Many people are convinced that buying high quality car audio equipment will automatically guarantee them a top notch sounding system. Fact of the matter is, there are many factors to take into consideration when installing aftermarket sound components in your vehicle. Sound staging is one of the most important aspects in that it can make the difference between a good system and a great one. The basic concept of sound staging can be best described as trying to recreate a stereo recording as a live performance. Think of the basic format of a band: You have a singer, one or two guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. Someone who has proper sound staging should be able to listen to the recording and hear the singer in the center, the guitarist on the left, the bassist on the right, and the drummer behind the singer.
The placement of a vehicle’s speakers can drastically affect its sound staging. Common vehicles usually only have a standard 4 speaker system. This can often result in poor sound staging creating a very artificial sound. However, this can be improved by adding speakers such as the Infinity Reference 6032cf. The Unipivot feature allows the tweeter to be pointed at the listeners location even when the speaker is mounted off axis. Passionate audiophiles will go above and beyond to ensure that their speakers are in locations that will provide optimum performance. This might include modifying door panels or building custom kick panels to accommodate midbass drivers and tweeters. Some may create mounting devices which allow them to raise the speaker above the dash for improved imaging and staging. Installers might achieve better sound staging by adding additional speakers to the equation in locations such as pillars or under seats.
A vehicle’s interior characteristics can help determine sound staging as well. Different surfaces will have various responses to sound waves depending on how they absorb or reflect them. For instance, a surface such as glass will be reflective and cause sound waves to bounce around. A surface such as upholstery will cause sound wave to be absorbed. This can greatly affect how your speakers and subwoofers reproduce music. For example, if you were to put identical sound systems in a Rolls Royce and a Toyota Corolla, they would sound very different. Adding a digital sound processor such as the JBL MS-8 can improve staging significantly with its automatic time correction feature, allowing the sound from each speaker to reach the listener simultaneously. Audiophiles will often apply sound dampening material to door panels and trunks in order to control interior surfaces and reduce unwanted vibrations.
Let’s be honest, there is no perfect sound system, but understanding how to take advantage of every small detail can mean a world of difference.