Car Audio System Tuning 101 - The Gear

Posted by Scott Welch on

 

 

Not a day goes by as of late that I don't get a phone call or a message asking about tuning an award winning sound system. What gear do i use? What programs do I use? What techniques do i use? How can I improve? So i thought I would take a minute and share some of the tools I use for successful tuning on a daily basis. The whys and hows can be covered later but lets get into the gear I use to get started.

There are countless options with varying price points which increase in accuracy usually the more money you spend. First tip....Don't get too caught up in having the best of everything as there are definite diminishing returns. 

 

Microphones: 

A microphone is a transducer that converts sound into an electrical signal.

  Dayton Audio iMM-6 Calibrated Mic for iPhone/iPad/Android

Definitely one of the most affordable options on the market and does a great job of quick "get it close" RTAing when you are pressed for time. No preamp needed, plug into your ipad, open the app and go.

 

Dayton Audio EMM-6 Electret Measurement Mic

Another very affordable option from Dayton but this time is must be used with a preamp with phanton power and the accuracy are far greater. It comes with a calibration file for for use with on axis applications. Great Starter mic. 

 

BeyerDynamic MM-1 Electret Condenser Omni Directional Measurement Mic with Linear Frequency Response.

Things start to get a little pricey with this Gem of a mic. This is my current choice in mics as it flexibility and accuracy are tremendously increased especially in the upper frequency ranges. Like the Dayton EMM-6, it must also be used with a preamp and supplied Phantom power and calibration files can be obtained for on axis and 90 degrees off axis (pointing up).

 

Earthworks M50 M series Omnidirectional Measurement Microphone

If money is no object in your pursuit of Sonic bliss, well you would be hard pressed to find a better alternative for car audio use then the Earthworks. With a flat freq response to 50k and will provide laboratory grade results. Someday when it fits my budget.....

 

 

 Mic Preamps:

A microphone preamplifier is a sound engineering device that prepares a microphone signal to be processed by other equipment. Microphone signals are often too weak to be transmitted to units such as mixing consoles and recording devices with adequate quality. Preamplifiers increase a microphone signal to line level (i.e. the level of signal strength required by such devices) by providing stable gain while preventing induced noise that would otherwise distort the signal

 

MXL-MicMate XLR to USB preamp

Coming in at under $50, this is an affordable way to get started with an RTA. 

 

 ART USB Dual Pre

Affordable option in a portable USB interface with Dual Mic inputs which are needed for use with Impulsing programs.

 

 

 Tascam US 2x2 USB Audio Interface

My current personal choice for its ease of use and high quality construction. Dual Mic input and High-quality audio components like NE5532 op amps. 

 

 Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 4 mic Audio Interface

With 4 mic inputs you can take you results to a whole different level with this craziness. High quality 24bit 96KHz audio interface for Mac, PC and iPad.

 

 

 

Impulse Programs:

Setting time delay got you stuck? No problem you have options.

1) Tape Measure -  Easiest choice for beginners looking to get close but don't want to spend a bunch of time and money learning a PC program.

2) Holm Impulse - Holm Impulse is a freeware program for frequency and impulse response measurement. PC required

3) Room EQ Wizard - REW is free room acoustics analysis software for measuring and analysing room and loudspeaker responses.

 

 

 

 

 

RTA:

A real-time analyzer (RTA) is a professional audio device that measures and displays the frequency spectrum of an audio signal; a spectrum analyzer that works in real time. An RTA can range from a small PDA-sized device to a rack-mounted hardware unit to software running on a laptop. It works by measuring and displaying sound input, often from an integrated microphone.

1) AudioTools - by Andrew Smith  AudioTools is a suite of professional-grade audio and acoustic analysis apps. Included in the price of this app is a great collection of professional tools -- SPL, RTA, FFT, Speaker Polarity Test, Generator, Audio Scope, CLF Viewer, and Recorder, and the framework to add more powerful modules as you need them. This is of of countless affordable apps for use with the iDevice or Android platform.

2) Audio Control -  Car audio realtime analyzer. Professional installers need the finest diagnostic equipment available. They need the equipment to make sure your car’s audio system is in perfect harmony with your car’s acoustical environment and your personal preferences. The AudioControl SA-3052A is the tool for this job. It allows your installer to get the very best out of your equipment.

3) True RTATrueRTA's audio spectrum analyzer software shows you a detailed picture of what you're hearing in real-time, that is, as it happens. You can create your own professional measurement system starting with TrueRTA software on your PC. Then add the measurement microphone, preamp and USB interface of your choice. TrueRTA accurately tests audio systems using a Windows PC with basic sound capability. TrueRTA turns your PC into a powerful audio test system normally seen only in better audio research and design laboratories. TrueRTA runs under Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10.

4) Room EQ Wizard - REW is free room acoustics analysis software for measuring and analysing room and loudspeaker responses.

 

 

 

Accessories:

 

Mic Stands:

 

Cables:

Adapters:

 

 

 As I said before there are far more options then i could ever list here. But I hope this gives you a better understanding of the gear needed to create great sound in a vehicle. Until next time...Happy Tuning!

 


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