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Discussion Starter #1
I've been debating whether or not to install my spare US Acoustics 4060 amp in my wife's car. My wife is really interested in sound quality, not really more volume. I purchased CDT CL-61's for the front so these should sound good. I'm also going to deaden the car with RAAMat. However, I've never used a LOC and from what I read, the low frequency response doesn't look all that great with one. Even the well regarded Navone LOC looks to be a compromise (see link). Would I be better without the amp if the volume is fine as it is...


http://tom-morrow-land.com/tests/navoneloc/
 

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I assume you're running the stock headunit? If so, you won't really see a sound quality improvement by adding an amp -- your SQ is only going to be as good as the weakest component in the chain (in this case, the headunit). Also, not all LOCs are made alike, even ones from Navone. He makes several models; some are better than others. So, simply put, if you're happy with the volume you're getting and don't plan on swapping out the HU, just leave the system as-is.
 

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There is nothing particularly wrong with the head unit other than its lack of power and missing low-level outputs. It sounds pretty good to me. The CD player sounds about as bad or good as any other current-model CD players these days.

There is nothing wrong with adding an amp using a LOC btw. The new speakers and amp should sound quite a bit better. It would be somewhat more elegant if you didn't have to use a LOC with this head unit, but it is not going to produce any particularly audible amounts of distortion in any case. A new head unit would probably get you a somewhat better radio tuner, and (depending on the unit) better equalization control and low-level outputs which would have slightly less distortion, but the level of distortion we are talking about here is nowhere as bad as the lousy Mazda OEM speakers.

Most aftermarket head units are also likely to look tacked on and ugly with the gawdawful boy-racer styling and cheezy looking plastic adapters I've seen posted in photos on this site. I doubt that the CD players in all of the current OEM and aftermarket units sound much different from each other, since they are mostly doing parts bin engineering, putting various chips, power supplies and amp modules into a box and slapping a brand name on it.

The days are long gone that there was a huge difference between the inexpensive amd middle priced car audio gear, or even really expensive units. They are all using the same chipsets and mechanisms, and are proabably nearly all built to contract by the same half-dozen Hong Kong / Taiwan / China-based manufacturing companies. There are factories all over the third world churning out Brand-x players one month, next month making Brand-Y units. Sometimes they even do most of the design work for many of their clients, just making small variations of the same design for several different brand names.

So many times the differences are only cosmetic, with different plastic on the front, badges and stickers. I also suspect that they just leave out features to meet a price point. The 2x more expensive unit has low level out, and the cheaper one has almost all of the circuitry to do the low level out except a few cheap capacitors and the RCA jack. It doesn't cost half as much to make.

I don't understand the worship given to expensive external LOCs here on these pages. I am using the built-in LOC for my current sub amp and it sounds just fine. It is not like it is very difficult to convert high level signals to low level. A $0.30 op-amp and some resistors should do just fine. Or a $1.00 transformer as in the $30 external LOCs. The only reason why these cost $30 is the overhead necessary to package and sell them costs $10, leaving $20 for the store profit.

I think you will find these sorts of people talking about how you can hear the advantages of $200 low-level interconnects over $30 perfectly adequate ones. You can only hear the difference if you know how much they cost and if you were the sucker that paid for them.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks guys.....I sorta figured that it may be a waste if my wife does not use the power.
 

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I'd use the amp if you were putting in better front speakers, which will probably be less efficient than the OEM junk, so you would need more power to get the same voiume.

But otherwise, it won't help much.
 

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Adding amps is not just for volume reasons, but power, clean power. I've always been of the opinion that there is no such thing as too much power. More power means more headroom and less distortion. (With a properly tuned system) I beleive, if your wife is into better sound quality, then adding the amps and speakers would be a good thing and make her happy.

I also pretty much agree with geewhizbang, unless you have some expensive measuring devices or have extreme audiophile ears....the sound quality difference is very negligable. If it sounds good to YOU (or this case your wife) then thats all that matters.
 

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I am currently going this route too, keeping the stock unit and replacing speakers and adding amp. I first replaced my front components with Alpine components and noticed an improvement in sound. I now have an Alpine amp on order to power those speakers and improve the sound more. :D
 

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[quote author=geewhizbang link=topic=67633.msg1166125#msg1166125 date=1169617763]
There is nothing particularly wrong with the head unit. [/quote]

I've done direct A/B comparisons between the factory HU, and two different aftermarket HUs. There is no question in my mind that the factory HU sounds horrible compared to an aftermarket HU.

Zero flexibility is a term that comes to mind. No internal xovers, no time alignment, lousy bass/treble control frequencies, inability to play mp3s (in certain models), low quality D/A converters, poor tuner section.... Need I go on?
 

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[quote author=El Ropo link=topic=67633.msg1168203#msg1168203 date=1169734683]
[quote author=geewhizbang link=topic=67633.msg1166125#msg1166125 date=1169617763]
There is nothing particularly wrong with the head unit. [/quote]

I've done direct A/B comparisons between the factory HU, and two different aftermarket HUs. There is no question in my mind that the factory HU sounds horrible compared to an aftermarket HU.

Zero flexibility is a term that comes to mind. No internal xovers, no time alignment, lousy bass/treble control frequencies, inability to play mp3s (in certain models), low quality D/A converters, poor tuner section.... Need I go on?
[/quote]

Not everyone *needs* those features, though. If you're a hard-core audiophile, yes, the factory HU sucks. But so would a $200 HU; if you're worried about the lack of time alignment, internal build quality, etc., then you're looking at an expensive HU. For most people, simply replacing the speakers and adding a sub is enough. Besides, how often do you sit in your car and listen to music while parked? Cars are primarily for transportation, not for critical music listening, and while driving you'd have to have a hell of a lot of sound deadening to be able to hear the little nuances in the music you're listening to.

I'm not an audiophile, but I can hear the differences between bad, good, great and amazing audio systems. In my car, somewhere between "good" and "great" is enough for me, and, I suspect, most people.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
[quote author=AutoXer link=topic=67633.msg1166769#msg1166769 date=1169661243]
Adding amps is not just for volume reasons, but power, clean power.
[/quote]

Now if I was running RCA's, I would understand this and would install an amp in a heartbeat just to reduce the distortion. But if you are using speaker outputs, you are amplifying the same distortion of the HU amp. Clean amplification of a dirty amplifier. On top of that, you need to add a LOC which filters the low frequencies and seems to put a "bump" in the bass around 80 Hz. I know that adding an good amp would add more current capability which would help control the speakers better, but it still seems like you it would be amplifying a lousy signal. If you are not using the HU amp to clipping (which my wife is well below), it seems that using no amp would have an advantage as the LOC would not be necessary and the LOC associated distortions would not be added.
 

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[quote author=jomo link=topic=67633.msg1163902#msg1163902 date=1169531394]
I've been debating whether or not to install my spare US Acoustics 4060 amp in my wife's car. My wife is really interested in sound quality, not really more volume. I purchased CDT CL-61's for the front so these should sound good. I'm also going to deaden the car with RAAMat. However, I've never used a LOC and from what I read, the low frequency response doesn't look all that great with one. Even the well regarded Navone LOC looks to be a compromise (see link). Would I be better without the amp if the volume is fine as it is...


http://tom-morrow-land.com/tests/navoneloc/
[/quote]

Jomo, I'm not too familiar with the components you have but the speakers you mentioned I believe won't do too well with the stock HU power.Use the amp, get a loc (4ch for future endevours) and believe me your better half will be much happier.I'm running the stock HU with my system and although I might never win any SQ meets, it sounds pretty damn good.


_3


.
 

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add the amp...that way its always there if you need it
 

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Since the D/A converters are all chip based these days, even cheap players are using very good converters and that includes the OEM HU. It is cheaper to use good oversampling digital filters inside a $0.50 chip than all of the analog filters that causes so much problems in the sound.

I used to thoroughly detest CD audio back when the new ones cost $5,000 and sounded absolutely awful, but these days even cheap players have very few digital artifacts.

I also don't undertand why it is good to have a better D/A converter, but then disparage the OEM HU for not being able to play MP3s, which are going to have artifacts no matter what kind of converter you are using.

As someone else said, there is road and engine noise and it is hardly worth it to spend hundreds for vanishingly small improvements that are not audible while the car is moving.
 

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I look at it this way. Even if you do not increase the volume after adding an amp, if done right, it can be cleaner. By setting your LOC and amp gains so that you achieve the same volume at a lower head unit output, you are reducing the strain on the head unit amplifier. However, if you are not playing it loud to begin with, it doesn't really matter.
 

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[quote author=AutoXer link=topic=67633.msg1166769#msg1166769 date=1169661243]
Adding amps is not just for volume reasons, but power, clean power. I've always been of the opinion that there is no such thing as too much power. More power means more headroom and less distortion. (With a properly tuned system) I beleive, if your wife is into better sound quality, then adding the amps and speakers would be a good thing and make her happy.

I also pretty much agree with geewhizbang, unless you have some expensive measuring devices or have extreme audiophile ears....the sound quality difference is very negligable. If it sounds good to YOU (or this case your wife) then thats all that matters.
[/quote]

Bingo!!!

More power is always a plus.
 

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I don't support the More power= better sound mantra. Too much of a good thing can be wrong too. For one, you just waste money, but a big amp can have more extremely audible first-watt distortion than an adequately sized amp. So I don't see the need for more than 80 w/channel up front with most component speakers. A bit more power than the head unit would give a slightly cleaner high end when listening to loud material, but the reduction in distortion is nowhere near comparable to what better speakers would do.

It is also unlikely that adding more watts to the fronts WITHOUT replacing the OEM speakers would be very noticeable at all.

Once the power is adequate, there isn't a lot of difference between 80 w/channel up front and 200 w/channel, unless you are opening the doors and using the car as an outdoor sound system. The OEM HU has been estimated by others here at 15-20 w/channel. This is pretty much adequate for volume, but doesn't have much headroom. 80 watts per channel gives an 8db headroom, which should be enough.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I hear you, and agree.....My guess is that my wife is not using much more than 1 to 2W on average....~90dBA. Say the HU puts out 10W "clean". This makes for ~7 dB of headroom of "clean" power and likely more like 9 dB of peak headroom. This should be enough.

About the only benefit I see with the added amp at very low output (which may be worth the effort) is the much higher damping factor and current output capability which should result in tighter bass (what there is at low output).

I figure the best way to tackle flabby bass in a car door is in a passive manner with damping mat. This has the added benefit of lowering the car noise level as well (real improvement of S/N ratio).
 
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