Better car audio, Tip #8: Don't max out your tone controls
Jim Richardson is the managing editor for home audio/video and pro audio learning content on Crutchfield.com.
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Boosting your factory radio's tone controls up to 11 might make your system sound better sitting in your driveway, but it just creates distortion when you turn it up on the highway. A heavy low-frequency boost, in particular, will put a big strain on your factory system. If you want to fatten up your sound, try using a smaller boost in the bass, lower the highs and mids a touch, and then turn up your overall level a little more.
But maybe you've replaced your factory radio with an aftermarket stereo that features a multi-band equalizer. The rule still holds true - you should avoid excessive tone boosts or cuts if possible. A bad EQ setting can make a good system sound terrible, while an intelligent tone curve can make a good system sound great.
It's a bad idea to fool with your EQ on the road. If you can, program a few different EQ presets into your receiver, so you can see what works best in your car without having to adjust settings while you're driving. Or cycle through your receiver's preset curves to see if one of them sounds particularly good at highway speed, then customize that setting in your driveway.
This post is excerpted from a recent article in our Learning Center, Jeff's Tips for Getting Maximum Sound Quality in Your Car.