How would you build the best sounding system? - Realm of Excursion



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Old 11-20-2012   #1 (permalink)
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Default How would you build the best sounding system?

I've learned a little bit since my last few threads here and I think that brings me to this question. I was told by a person that I would consider to be "in the know" when it comes to Car audio, that the best sounding system is going to be a component system. Would you agree with this? In terms of overall performance, and sound quality.

So let me get this straight. In your typical vehicle, for good sound quality and everything most of us are looking for in this hobby, you're going to have lows, mids, and highs. Am I off to a good start there? Or are there some other ranges that need to be considered? Something in between perhaps? If I'm right, then it seems to me that the perfect car (or truck I guess) audio system would consist of a total of 9 speakers. 9 speakers in the car.

You'd have your 2 tweets up front, and your 2 tweets out back. Then your 2 mids up front, then your 2 mids out back. Then your one sub. Could it be that simple for a great sounding system that even an audiophile would have trouble finding fault with? Obviously you want a high quality head unit, and amplifiers to run all this but I personally find that to be the easy part. To me those are easier to figure out, than all the endless possibilities of configurations that a person could do. I'm just trying to get a general idea here. Anyway, did I hit pretty close to the mark with my analysis? Or am I way off?
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Old 11-20-2012   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

the best would be a single set of components that is linear across the entire spectrum, that produces a sound stay in front of your dash.

obviously, not going to happen. next option is a subwoofer that is able produce low notes linearly, and speakers that produce linearly above that. how you wish to split the duty up is up to you. there is no one best way
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Old 11-20-2012   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

personally i say get rid of the rear mids and highs and focus on front stage. the higher the frequency the more directional it is and your ears point forward not back. i would do a nice substage with a 3 way active front stage midbass in the doors with alot of deadener, mids in the kick in pods, and tweeters in the a pillars.
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Old 11-20-2012   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

an anechoic chamber would help also

be wary of the 3 ways. many times there are strange interferences due to the 2 mids sharing a portion of the spectrum. if they arent placed correctly they will sound worse than a 2 way comp set.
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Old 11-20-2012   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

So the way that the automakers do it is pretty far from the best? For example, in a new mercedes that claims to have a good sound system, you will have speakers in the dash, speakers in all 4 doors, and speakers in the rear. Such factory systems can easily have 12 speakers or more. Are they doing it wrong? Is there method, by default, going to be sub par?

I want to put together a system that is at the very least complete, and not lacking for anything. I don't want to waste my money if I don't even meet the minimum requirements of having the proper setup.
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Old 11-20-2012   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

if it was that easy this site might not exist!!!!
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Old 11-20-2012   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

If you are doing it without external processing (other than a crossover... no DSP or time alignment) I would do the following:

6 1/2" coaxial speaker (point-sync/point-source config preferred.... bi-amp configuration with passive crossovers @ 6db/octave) in the kickpanels or MAYBE in the a-pillar depending on car.
10" highly efficient Subwoofer in rear in a sealed or aperiodic membrane enclosure.
31 Band EQ
5 Monoblock class a/b amplifiers @ around 100 watts RMS each. The subwoofer amp would have an LP internal crossover set to ~65 Hz @ 6 dB/octave, the midrange amps would be set high pass @ ~100 Hz @ 6 dB/octave and the tweeter amps would play full range as the tweeter would utilize the passive crossover mentioned above to cut the lower frequencies out and the midrange would also use a low-pass passive crossover to cut the high frequencies from it.

The brands are less important than the location of the speakers. Amps would without a doubt be class a/b for the entire spectrum and again, brand is irrelevant so long as they produce clean power.

I would also sound deaden the vehicle top to bottom and wrap the dash and all other hard plastic panels in an absorptive material (suede perhaps with a foam under layer).
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Old 11-20-2012   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

no reason the sub amp cannot be class d, or even the mids amp. modern transistors can run at clock speeds capable of producing nearly perfect sine waves. As the tech continues to improve, no reason why class D tech won't become the main force in the amplifier field
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Old 11-20-2012   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

5.25 or 6.5s in the doors, 4 or 5.25s in the kicks along with tweets if it will all fit. A good EQ is also a plus. And make sure you have plenty of headroom on the mids and highs, you don't want to overdrive your amp.
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Old 11-20-2012   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

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Originally Posted by cxa0897 View Post
no reason the sub amp cannot be class d, or even the mids amp. modern transistors can run at clock speeds capable of producing nearly perfect sine waves. As the tech continues to improve, no reason why class D tech won't become the main force in the amplifier field
I agree class D has gotten much better in the recent years, however I'm still not there with them on SQ. For the average daily driver... sure, but for the ultimate SQ setup AB is still king in my books. I've yet to hear a class D that sounds anywhere near as good as my Zapco DC Reference amps (or my old school Phoenix Gold amps).
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Old 11-21-2012   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

No rear fill....Running active is almost a given. Much easier to obtain the right soundstage with processing than hit or miss running passive. Even though I do run OS A/B I think the new high end class D amps have come a very long way.
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Old 11-21-2012   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

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Originally Posted by karate kid View Post
No rear fill....Running active is almost a given. Much easier to obtain the right soundstage with processing than hit or miss running passive. Even though I do run OS A/B I think the new high end class D amps have come a very long way.
I'll agree that processing makes it easier to produce best sound stage, but proper speaker location and properly designed passive crossovers can give you an overall better sound.... add in some Digital Time Alignment and it can get even better.

Most home theater systems (even the $50k to $100k systems) and ultra-high end audiophile home systems utilize passive crossovers for their more natural sound. If active were truly superior I honestly think you would see a TON more in those type of setups.
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Old 11-21-2012   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

Active xovers will introduce some new noise into the system, even a high end betwpek. . A high quality passive network should have almost zero impact.

Speaker placement is paramount, as I and others have touched on. That is The most important part of it all. Integrating the tweeter and woofer using proper location and directions is The key, and one of the hardest parts. It's a whole lot easier in ht when you can just spread em in front of you at ear level. Can't do That in a car, so creativity and compromise is required.
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Old 11-21-2012   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

I'm not a fan of passive crossovers at all. They are very nonideal. In order to have reasonably sized inductors iron cores must be used. This introduces hysteresis which causes harmonic distortion. Air core inductors get around this, but they require many turns of wire. The parasitic series resistance becomes an issue then.

Capacitors are even worse. For large capacitances, elecrolytics must be used to keep the cap a reasonable size. Bi-polar electrolytic caps have a massive negative impact on the sound. The are very far from ideal. Non polarized caps would be great, if they didn't need to be the size of a brick for 100uF at 100V...

Power resistors are wirewound to save on cost/space. There is a parasitic inductance due to this.
All of this can be mitigated by using large expensive parts I suppose.

Now lets consider the other issue of passive crossovers. The crossovers are influenced by the impedance of the speaker. That's right. The speaker is not a 4 ohm resistive load. It has a major inductive component. This series inductance with the resistive (ideal) speaker must be accounted for. How? With a Zobel network. A parallel capacitor and resistor. This makes the speakers impedance flat. It insures that it is indeed 4 ohms at 2kHz, not 40 ohms.

Now what if you want a slope of greater than 12dB/oct with passive components? It's a lot harder than it sounds! You can't just add another capacitor or inductor. It's not that simple. They influence each other.

That 12dB/oct I mentioned, it's just a compromise. The only reason to use it is because conveniently if you flip the phase on the tweeter(or woofer but not both) it will sum to 0dB at the crossover point. But your phase response is now entirely garbage. Humans aren't really sensitive to phase errors (we can't decern absolute phase, but we can discern relative phase. It's partly responsible for spacial cues)

The ideal crossover is a LR4. It sums to 0dB without the phase inversion nonsense. The steeper rolloff limits the driver overlap as well. The tweeter can thus be crossed lower without worrying about it reaching its mechanical limits. Good luck building an LR4 with passive components. If you do, it'll cost more than the drivers anyways...


What issues do active setups have? Plenty that's for sure. But not the ones above. The noise introduced by the active setup is a concern. Each gain stage will do that. But properly setup I think the benefits well outweigh the potential hit to SNR.



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Old 11-21-2012   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

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Originally Posted by cxa0897 View Post
Active xovers will introduce some new noise into the system, even a high end betwpek. . A high quality passive network should have almost zero impact.

Speaker placement is paramount, as I and others have touched on. That is The most important part of it all. Integrating the tweeter and woofer using proper location and directions is The key, and one of the hardest parts. It's a whole lot easier in ht when you can just spread em in front of you at ear level. Can't do That in a car, so creativity and compromise is required.
I want to agree with what fallen has said and add my own thoughts. I have been running active nearly as long as a lot of members here. I will never go back to passive again.

Setting time alignment for a center stage. Unless you're bi amping through a passive crossover you can't independantly time align your mid and tweet. That in itself causes quite a headache. Unfortunately in a car the driver seat is on the left side....In the US. We end up for the most part with several different distances from the mids and tweets to our ears. Running active will allow you to time align each driver independantly. Now if you have a braxially mounted tweet you can overcome that to a degree. This is much easier in a house just because we have a lot more flexibility on where the furniture goes. We don't exactly have that pleasure in our car.

No matter how high end the passive crossover is there are other issues. Amlifying the signal first and then crossing the signal to each driver is a source of distortion. It's also a source of power loss. For the most part you will find that a comp set running active will take more power and play much cleaner once the passive is removed from the equation.

The flexibility you have from running active is another thing. I can level match, adjust acoustic phase, crossover points and slope all from the drivers seat.


There are a ton of threads at DIY that go into great detail on the whole debate. very good reading.
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Old 11-21-2012   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

I don't disagree that it is MUCH MUCH MUCH easier to go active vs passive (I do it in all of my own vehicles for that very reason) but I honestly believe audio sounds more "real" through passive crossovers.

If you look at my "dream" setup for SQ I have each speaker on it's own amplifier because I know that level matching and independent alignment is hard when you are trying to adjust through a 2 way crossover.

I've heard a lot of cars over the years while judging for IASCA and USACi (and other unsanctioned events) and in all honesty the best cars I've ever judged were running passive crossovers.... especially to separate the mid & tweeter. I've really come to appreciate the time and effort these individual took in hand crafting their crossovers and playing with various different designs to make them work... along with Zobel networks and the like.

The problem I have is that I feel that digitally processed sound sounds... well... processed and unnatural. And no, I'm not the type that thinks they can "hear" differences in speaker wire or RCA cables. Nor do I think that vinyl records sound better than a CD. I am just a fan of keeping things simplistic without adding a ton of extra bells and whistles because IMO every time you add an active processing unit to the system you are adding new sonic characteristics from that piece.

So again, if time/money were no object I'd go passive. Since they are a concern I'd do my exact system above but with a good DSP and electronic x-over. Probably something along the lines of Zapco DSP-8 or JBL MS-8 or Audison Bit-10.
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Old 11-22-2012   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

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Originally Posted by tjamz View Post
I don't disagree that it is MUCH MUCH MUCH easier to go active vs passive (I do it in all of my own vehicles for that very reason) but I honestly believe audio sounds more "real" through passive crossovers.

If you look at my "dream" setup for SQ I have each speaker on it's own amplifier because I know that level matching and independent alignment is hard when you are trying to adjust through a 2 way crossover.

I've heard a lot of cars over the years while judging for IASCA and USACi (and other unsanctioned events) and in all honesty the best cars I've ever judged were running passive crossovers.... especially to separate the mid & tweeter. I've really come to appreciate the time and effort these individual took in hand crafting their crossovers and playing with various different designs to make them work... along with Zobel networks and the like.

The problem I have is that I feel that digitally processed sound sounds... well... processed and unnatural. And no, I'm not the type that thinks they can "hear" differences in speaker wire or RCA cables. Nor do I think that vinyl records sound better than a CD. I am just a fan of keeping things simplistic without adding a ton of extra bells and whistles because IMO every time you add an active processing unit to the system you are adding new sonic characteristics from that piece.

So again, if time/money were no object I'd go passive. Since they are a concern I'd do my exact system above but with a good DSP and electronic x-over. Probably something along the lines of Zapco DSP-8 or JBL MS-8 or Audison Bit-10.
Ya know I really do agree with that to a certain extent. I lot of people over process and make the music sound very un natural as opposed to just correcting the acoustic deficiencies of a vehichle. Done right I still think active will sound much better though.
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Old 11-22-2012   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

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Ya know I really do agree with that to a certain extent. I lot of people over process and make the music sound very un natural as opposed to just correcting the acoustic deficiencies of a vehichle. Done right I still think active will sound much better though.
agreed

And the high end home audio argument is kinda moot. Those guys spend $10k on cables FFS.

Personally if we're looking at how it's done outside of the car, I'd look to professionals. Not audiophiles. Active monitors are used quite often.

Or in the very least, take a page from this guys notes:
Linkwitz Lab - Loudspeaker Design

(PS he's the L in LR4 )

And finally, active does not imply digital. You can go active without touching a dsp. It simply implies the filtering is done with active components (IE op-amps). In other words at the signal stage, not after the power amplifier. Heck it doesn't add any more to the sound than the tone knobs on every amp out there. It's just simply putting the LPF and HPF circuits in the signal path, and using indivdual power amplifiers for each driver. But anyways to each their own. Either method can sound good.



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Old 11-22-2012   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

Anyone else notice the lack of the op in this thread?
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Old 11-22-2012   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

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Anyone else notice the lack of the op in this thread?
Yes but the thread ended up producing a worthwhile discussion.
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Old 11-22-2012   #21 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

Like was mentioned before all active processing would do would be to LP or High pass + time alignment. The only way i see that it would make the sound unnatural is if your device is broken (not doing its job) or you're EQing.

There is another discussion about how digital amplifiers can sound different. The same concept applies if your amp sounds different its because it is not doing its job accurately, which is to amplify a signal precisely, not introduce overtones or modify the input signal in anyway.

In my opinion active should always be better as long as the sampling rate is high enough and the unit is well designed.
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Old 11-22-2012   #22 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

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And finally, active does not imply digital. You can go active without touching a dsp. It simply implies the filtering is done with active components (IE op-amps). In other words at the signal stage, not after the power amplifier. Heck it doesn't add any more to the sound than the tone knobs on every amp out there. It's just simply putting the LPF and HPF circuits in the signal path, and using indivdual power amplifiers for each driver. But anyways to each their own. Either method can sound good.
Yes, my use of the term "DSP" was a misnomer. I was using it generically to mean any form of electronic signal manipulation. I am very familiar with active crossovers and passive as well. I've designed both for use in personal and customer vehicles (more so back in the 80's & 90's than in recent years since the quality and availability of prebuilt x-overs has improved immensely since the "golden era" of car audio)
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Old 11-24-2012   #23 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

Sounds like its a toss up for the crossovers. Both sound like they've got their fair share of advantages and disadvantages.

So:

Speaker placement

decent quality speakers and amps

Thick enough wire

.... anything else for the bullet points?
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Old 11-25-2012   #24 (permalink)
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Default Re: How would you build the best sounding system?

Also, at what point do you hear this extra noise from active or passive crossovers? What exactly do you listen for if you're trying to hear it?
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