20-40 years ago, car audio was a big thing. I remember replacing my spare wheel with a 10 inch subwoofer in the early 1990s and having several amps screwed in behind the rear seat. The front had tweeters at ear level. Even a screen mounted TV at some point. However, recently, most cars have sculpted bespoke interiors and it is difficult or impossible to install aftermarket DIN or double DIN head units. Given the bass heads and audio/HT enthusiasts in this forum, I’m wondering what you guys do to your cars to make them rock!
For me, I have a creaky 8 year old Subaru that has a passable Harmon Kardon system connected to it’s head unit. It didn’t sound that good and I had to fiddle a lot with the bass and treble controls to get it to sound right.
A few years ago, I hooked up its analog Aux port to an Audioquest Dragonfly USB DAC connected to my iPhone via an Apple camera adapter and there was a dramatic improvement in clarity and tightness of bass. It seems that the head unit’s DAC is really bad. Since then, I have tried a variety of DACs including various ESS DACs that support DSD and MQA. Hi res music from Tidal and DSD sounds pretty good even in the noisy environment of the car.
As for a source, I used to download DSD files to the iPhone and play them with VOX app to the DAC. VOX reads DSD files, but translates them into hires PCM before sending to the DAC. More recently, I got the Onkyo HF Player (paid) working and it sends DSD over DOP to a DSD capable DAC. Sounds superb to have hires FLAC, DSD and Tidal MQA all working.
However, even these mods may be coming to an end. I was driving my son’s Mazda recently and noticed that there is no more Aux in, so it isn’t possible to connect an external DAC. The only way to get Tidal or phone-store music over is via Bluetooth or USB and Bluetooth results in a lossy Codec and a bad quality source. Furthermore, it likes to deal with an iPhone via wired Airplay although the DAC seems to be an improvement over those 10 years ago. Tidal played by CarPlay was acceptable, but the Mazda DAC doesn’t accept hires music or DSD.
Most people will invest in a good camera system to protect themself when an accident happens. I have installed a simple pioneer active sub-woofer that was placed under the passenger seat. The sub-woofer died less than 2 years. Even with the sub-woofer the bass does not seem to be good. I have seen people install a power sub-woofer in a Suzuki Swift. All I could hear is the bass and nothing else. The bass overwhelmed everything. I mainly listen to the radio and yes the sound quality is very bad if use Bluetooth.
The camera’s system has been most useful to catch people hitting your parked car in the parking lot. I caught some guy who looked quite sick when he side swiped my parked car at SGH. He then staggered out and walked towards the ER. He should have taken a taxi to hospital. I successfully got the Traffic Police to charge him.
My first camera system was a Blackvue installed by the agent. It was quite good and had a remote access system over WiFi, but you had to install a separate WiFi hotspot in the car. The newer Blackvue, you just insert a SIM card as they have their own cellular modem. Both my camera and wifi hotspot were powered by a Lithium Polymer battery that could fully charge to 20 hrs use in just 45 minutes. When my wife was driving, I could pull out my phone and connect to the car to watch her drive Not much use unless there was a crash (touch wood never happened) so you could see how bad it was. If the car was close enough to home wifi, you could get your NAS to connect through and backup the SIM card, but this was impractical over 4G as you would chew up your data plan.
The Blackvue died after a few years and when I replaced it, I just got a simple model that records without all of the cloud functions.
Not exactly a car audio enthusiast, but I want decent sound in my 2017 Lancer despite noisy environment. I use 8" SB Acoustics woofer in custom cabinet with Sony plate amp, SB Acoustics midbass in the front door and chinese tweeter on dashboard with custom crossover. Installation was done by car audio installer. I still need to tweak the sound to my liking using built in 7 band EQ.
Sounds good enough for radio and quite decent using Tidal via bluetooth, comparable to the built in CDP.
Would suggest trying a USB DAC attached to your phone and going to Aux port. Tidal should be very nice.
I’ve used this. Plays MQA from Tidal. Comes with cable for iPhone and Android
Audirect Beam 2SE
There might be a newer model now
Thank you for the recommendation. I don’t think there will be any more benefit in getting separate DAC considering the noise level in the car. Besides, there is no Aux port…
Tidal via bluetooth is already a good step up compared to radio.
Looks like you can hook up an Aux port
I find a big difference with the DAC but YMMV
Thank you again but I’m not confident to open up the HU, scared to mess up the wiring inside the dashboard. All is good enough for me now considering the noise in the car.
I once installed sound deadening to my car and it did improve the cabin environment somewhat… but with the cost I think it’s better spent on solar film instead
I have thicker sound deadening on the front door and thinner one on the back door but I did not do anything on the floor and firewall.
I remember my previous car was hotter than current car
Its hugely effective in the Firewall for engine noise and floor for road noise. The year before model is almost identical, but did not have sound deadening in the firewal and floorl. A lot of people complained that it was very noisy, so Subaru fixed it. Mine now sounds like a Lexus
On Aliexpress I found complete replacement head unit for my Subaru running Android OS with Apple Carplay. It incudes all the plastic bits to fit properly into the dash. But didn’t buy though tempted