Cognition & Reality

Friday, 14 January 2011

Self-Torture: Car Stereo Edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 4:28 pm

When I got my new car, I reversed my previous habit of buying new cars with the “premium” sound system. This time, I got the basic system, with the plan of upgrading the audio myself, saving money in the long run and maybe getting more of what I want. I am no expert on home audio, but have put together a number of systems in my life, and I pretty much know what I’m looking for and how to hook everything up. Car audio is a completely different animal. The brands are, by and large, different. The equipment is different, too, although it all performs the same function.

Despite my deficit in expertise, I moved ahead. My plan was to build the car system in stages, first with a better set of speakers in the front doors and an amplifier for those speakers; later, perhaps much later, I would add a subwoofer, as well as more speakers on the rear deck and in the rear doors. As is usual for me, I shopped and shopped for the right speakers and the right amp, knowing that I did not have enough information. I tried talking with a couple of installers, to pick their brains, but of course they were uncooperative, not wanting to undercut themselves. Based on home audio, for which one obtains the biggest, baddest amp one can, I bought the most powerful 2-channel amp I could get within a pretty tight budget, but spending more than if I had bought a 4-channel amp. More is better, and I was only powering two speakers.

When the installer I found through Craigslist put everything in, he told me he had to turn the amp down because the speakers could not handle that much power. The first time I tried the system out, I discovered two things. The first was that, even at less than the highest volume setting and with the gain on the amp down, the speakers will shut off if the signal is too loud. The second was that the installer had failed to latch the hood of my BRAND NEW CAR, and that I was riding down the freeway in danger of having the hood of my BRAND NEW CAR fly up, block my vision, get destroyed, and forever twist the engine compartment opening of my BRAND NEW CAR. In the event, I was able to pull over before disaster hit and latch the hood; I also found that, as I expected, the speakers would reset if I shut the car off and restarted it. Nevertheless, the system does not work right and shuts down when scared by loud noises.

The installer, the same one who left my hood unlatched, says that my 2-channel amp can be configured to run a subwoofer through a third channel. That might distribute the power better, and solve the problem of the speakers cutting out when overdriven. It would also give me better sound. I’ve looked at the manual and am not sure if that is true, although I do see how it’s a possibility, if the settings and outputs are as I understand them to be. But I am, as I say, pretty ignorant about this type of equipment. At any rate, to do that, I’d have to spend more money, which was exactly what I was trying to avoid.

These are the questions my Inner Bully is asking. First of all, why didn’t you simply buy the cheaper 4-channel amp, which is designed to configure as two stereo channels, plus a third channel for the sub? Secondly, how dare you  think of spending yet more on a sub? You already shouldn’t have bought the car, and having bought the car, shouldn’t have tried to upgrade the stereo. Also, how did you manage to pick that sad-sack, monumentally obese, irresponsible car stereo installer? There were other options. Finally, why are you spending so much energy on this? No wonder your life isn’t the way you want it. You dissipate all your energy on the trivial, first going through all the rituals of buying and then twisting in the wind of buyer’s remorse.

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1 Comment »

  1. I think I heard the abreviated version of this story. It helps to articulate stories like this for me because I tend to blame myself for everything that goes wrong with electronic stuff/ streos/ you name it. I’m sure that there’s something wrong with me that I can’t figure them out. My father used to be the master of complicated electronic systems, so the advent of the “boom box” was a blessing to everyone in the family. He was a scientist and mathematician. It’s a long story, but you get the idea.

    Comment by annie wallack — Saturday, 15 January 2011 @ 5:38 pm | Reply


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