Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Head Unit and Speaker Matching

I've been listening to the car audio for several months now. It is a Pioneer DEH-2950MP head unit driving a pair of Kicker ES60 two-way speakers on the front channel only. The rear speakers are not connected as I prefer a cleaner sound stage coming from the front.

I hear the bass to be quite weak, while the mid and treble is crisp and clear. I've been fiddling with the bass levels, unfortunately cranking up the bass and volume together creates bad distortion. Also I prefer to leave the bass/mid/treble levels flat and hear what the musician wanted me to hear, which is the natural recording level.

So I'm left with an audio system with poor bass response. My guess is that the head unit, which is 50W max, can't drive the 6-65W power range speakers properly. In reality, the head unit output is typically 20W continuous, and that is at high volume levels. So I'd expect around 10-15W at normal volume levels, which is not even within half the power range of the speakers.

So to cut the story short, I decided to put back the 20W factory speakers. And guess what, the bass is much better with more punch, even at low volume levels. The plus side to this is that it is originally paired to the tweeters mounted on the windows, so now I get a better sound stage. The Kickers were two-way speakers which made the music appear to come from under the dashboard.

I think I will be hunting for new better quality speakers again, this time it has to be component speakers with a lower power rating, so that it matches with the head unit. I'm not into adding sub-woofers or additional high power amps at the moment, as I don't believe that to be the solution. Being an audiophile, I know very well that low power amps with correctly matched speakers, can produce excellent sound quality at both very low and very high volume levels, without distortion.