If you’re interested in upgrading a car stereo system in a vehicle that includes a center channel or an upmixer, contact the audio system integration experts at Adrenaline Autosound near Raleigh. Modern audio systems have advanced dramatically in the last decade to ensure that both the driver and the passengers are provided with an enjoyable and realistic music listening experience. Follow along as we start a three-part series that explains the concepts of upmixing and center speakers, and how we can make your modern mobile audio system sound even more amazing.
Stereo Sound in Automobiles
When a sound engineer records an audio performance, his or her goal is to capture the instrument location on the stage. If there is a guitar on the left, its sound should be louder in the left channel. If there’s a bassist on the right, the sound from that instrument should be louder in the right channel. If the drums and singers are in the middle of the stage, then they should be recorded equally in both channels.
When we play this recording on a home stereo or a set of headphones where the distances and levels from both speakers are equal, the performers will sound as if they’re spread out between the speakers.
In a car with a conventional two-channel stereo system, that performer location information gets bunched to the left door, as that speaker appears to be louder because we are sitting closer to it. The soundstage may still be with the width of the car, but the instrument placement will be clumped toward the left. We call that having a left-side bias.
How an Upmixer Improves Car Audio
If there were only just one person in the car, you could use the balance control to reduce the volume of the left speaker to match the perceived output of the right. This process would help to spread the apparent position of the instruments across the dash. If we used a signal processor to delay the output of the left speakers so that we would hear them at the same time as the right speakers, instrument placement and focus become excellent. The drawback to this method is that it exacerbates the bias for a listener in the passenger seat. As such, we’d describe this configuration as a one-seat solution.
The upmixer software implemented by OE audio system suppliers like Harman, Bose and Panasonic analyze the stereo audio signal and extract information intended for the left, right and center of the performance and send it to dedicated amplifier channels and speakers. The result is, sounds in your car come from where they are supposed to, no matter where you’re sitting. These systems also create signals designated for rear speakers to help enhance the perception of room size, and the most elaborate systems add side speakers to add a sense of width to the listening experience.
Upgrading Complex Audio Systems
In the past, we could take the left and right signals from a radio and feed them into a new high-power amplifier and new speakers to improve the sound quality and volume capabilities of your car stereo. If your car or truck has a center channel, the project is much more complex. Tune in to Part 2 of this article as we explain how we test your audio system to ensure that your upgrade delivers the performance you expect.