Basics of a car infotainment system
Are you looking to purchase a new music system for your car? The purpose of this article article is to give you an overview of the key components of the music/infotainment system..
The following are the main components that make up a car’s music system.
The head unit
The head unit is the core of your music system. The head unit can either be a 2 DIN player or a 1 DIN Player. The only difference between the two is the amount of space that the head unit occupies. 2 DIN players are generally more expensive as they come with more features due to increased space like bigger touchscreen displays etc.
2-DIN without touch screen
2-DIN with touch screen
With the arrival of touch screen head units with capacitive touch and higher graphic resolution, it’s now possible to enjoy various other features like Android Auto, Apple Carplay, graphic equalizers, HD video playback, online and offline maps navigation etc. CDs and DVDs are slowly becoming things of the past considering almost all systems available today play audio or video through USB, Aux and Bluetooth.
Some head units also have features which help you display your phone’s screen and this is called ‘mirroring’.
The best way to research head units and their various features is to check the manufacturer websites where all information is displayed which makes your search easier. Prices start from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 50,000/-
Pioneer, Blaupunkt, Sony are among the more affordable brands that are commonly available in the Indian market. They also have a good service network which is important while considering your buying options.
Amps are used for two purposes — to reduce the load on the head unit power supply so that it performs better and to increase the sound levels of the car audio system. In most cases 35–40 watts RMS per channel is more than enough. You should check to see that amplifier distortion figures are less than 0.1%, 20Hz-20KHz and that all channels are driven in parallel. Prices for 2 Channel amps start at Rs.5000 and 4 channel amps pricing starts from Rs.8000/-.
Speakers have the most influence on sound quality. There are two basic speaker types — coaxial and components. In coaxial speakers the low frequency and high frequency units are molded into a single frame. In component speakers, the low and high frequency units are separate and include a third part, called the crossover. Component speakers are more expensive and offer superior sound quality.
If you have a limited budget, you could install component speakers in the front of the car and coaxial speakers in the rear.
The main function of a subwoofer is to amplify bass. The subwoofer is a loudspeaker which is usually housed in wooden casing. Its much larger than a regular speaker and is usually placed inside the trunk of the car or sometimes fitted to the rear parcel tray behind the rear passenger seats.
When fitting a subwoofer to your car, it’s necessary that you have an amplifier installed which will help modulate the extra power consumed by the subwoofer.
Prices start from Rs. 4,000/- all the way up to Rs. 20,000/-. All relevant information will be available on the manufacturer websites.
It’s important that you choose wiring from an international well recognized brand.
Power wires connect the battery to the head unit and amplifiers and provide an electrical ground to the body of the car. Cheap power wires will affect sound dynamics and cause other notable disturbances like headlight dimming at high volumes. Good 8 gauge wires will do unless you have installed powerful amplifiers.
Interconnects connect the headunit to the amplifier. Since most amplifiers are installed in the boot or under the front seats, long lengths of interconnects will be required. Since the signal generated by the headunit is not powerful, these wires are susceptible to noise. Choose a reliable set of interconnects to ensure that your speakers play only music and not static or alternator whine.
Remember, your new audio system is only as good as the wiring used so choose the best quality that is available especially if you’re looking at big upgrades.
Rear Seat Entertainment
The most common product for rear seat entertainment today is the headrest monitor. The headrest of the front seats have monitors housed in them and these monitors face the rear passengers. There are other versions where the monitor itself can be strapped onto the front seats.
There are also products where a monitor can be mounted to the roof of the car. In some cases these are just stuck to the roof with the help of strong adhesive. They can be positioned anywhere on the roof which makes it more convenient for the in-car viewing experience.
Nowadays there are products available from brands like MAPMYINDIA that offer features like gaming, DVD, CD and USB video playback, headphone output, head unit connectivity etc.
In addition to the wiring, the head unit requires the following electrical components -
- Antenna Pin — which connects the head unit to the car’s antenna for radio
- Coupler — this connects the head unit of the car to the power supply.
- Steering interface control — for cars with stock steering mounted controls, a steering wheel interface control is necessary to allow these buttons to be operable with the aftermarket head unit.
- Frame — in most cases, the dimensions of the aftermarket head unit may not match the space available on the car’s dashboard. Therefore an additional frame will be required.
The costs of the above mentioned materials varies from car to car.
it is strongly recommended to take the help of experienced professionals to install your car audio system. (Read our case study on installation of a headunit for a Skoda Yeti)
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