When talking top end car audio systems there are a few basics you need. A car, a source, quality speakers to deliver your sound, powerful amplifiers to drive them, some bass re enforcement and the speakers themselves operating in a deadened and dampened acoustic environment.
Now once upon a time this was a relatively hassle free process. Simply sound deaden your doors, have your top shelf speakers and amplifiers installed by a seasoned professional and control them with a multiband EQ capable high quality CD player with time alignment capabilities.
Now have that same seasoned professional whip out their Oscilloscope to tune the system to it's optimum potential.
Easy right? Well.. not so much if you're the bloke on the tools, but relatively speaking, car audio finesse was a readily achievable feat.
Fast forward 15 years.. it's now 2015 and you've just bought your new bitumen sled. You have the wheels, you have the engine mods, you have the slick trim and it's time for tunes... but wait a minute.
What the hell is this thing in your dash? It has steering wheel controls, it has a screen, it has your climate controls integrated, it talks to you and there's no way it's coming out.
The modern car has changed format, integration and aesthetics have seen your form and function develop as one giving you a modern seamless electronic control interface to your driving experience. Great. But where do you install your CD player?
Well put quite simply... nowhere. Most modern vehicles don't allow for the removal of the factory audio and control interface. And why would you want to? You've probably already have an IPOD interface, USB capabilities, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth Handsfree and maybe even GPS navigation. but you still want to build in some hard hitting bass tones and clear punctual audio that's loud enough to blow your hair back.
Fortunately, in step with the rapid evolution of your cars interior command center, aftermarket acoustic enhancement systems have been making some developments of their own.
The weakest link between your Factory audio system as a source and your potential for on-road acoustic Nirvana is transferring that CD or IPOD/USB sound to the amplifiers without battering it through messy and poorly made converters. For if you amplify a messy sound, all you will get is a louder messy sound regardless of the finesse and potential of your amplifier and speaker system.
Enter- the signal processor.
Big brands and industry leaders in car audio have been anticipating this development and evolving the humble EQ component to encompass a host of additional features including multi band electronic EQ, Electronic crossover points, digital time correction and most importantly, processed acoustic correction for the gremlins of electronic limitations, and sound environment cancellation and resonance that threaten to rob you of your audio potential. This has been the major advantage of the modern car audio processor development, allowing you to achieve a pristine audio source from from your factory integrated audio system with time correction and advanced tuning features and adjustments that would turn a top end aftermarket CD player/Head unit green with envy.
Utilising advanced correction processing and on board computer analysis, an audio processor will analyse, in real time, process and correct any imperfections and constraints of the factory system (which, unfortunately in most cases, there are many) then correct the unbalanced resonance and reflections created by varying surface densities in the vehicle. After which it will adjust phase settings and group delay to compensate for cancellation of sound waves created by speakers facing each other, or in some cases pointing at a window. Then comes the acoustic 'imaging', our ears point forward and it's a far greater musical experience to feel like you are 'watching' artist perform. Your new processor will correct the time delay between your different speaker locations so that the sound from each speaker cone will arrive at your ears simultaneously, digitally putting you front center stage.. the best seat in the house.
No easy feat, unlike the audio systems of yesteryear, but never fear, the processor is clever enough to do it all for you. And your pro audio installer will have configured it all for you already.
The best seats in the house..
It's always hard to explain the different a processor makes to any car audio system.
The before and after effects are clear though, and a moment listening to the completed system with the processor settings nullified so that the uncontrolled and highly amplified sound waves are now at the complete mercy of the unforgiving acoustic environment of the car interior is all it takes to identify the clear, defined, pure, result of a processed audio system.
It's a sound that isn't easily forgotten as you cruise to your favourite artists performance reproduced in absolute faith and realism, as they intended it to be enjoyed.
Every string pluck and kick drum beat and high hat tap pure and true. Enjoy.