Replacing the receiver in your car's "premium" audio system
Charlie Pastorfield writes about car audio for Crutchfield. Raised in Connecticut and the U.S. Virgin Islands, he graduated from the University of Virginia, but was having way too much fun to leave Charlottesville. After a long, beautiful career touring the East Coast from Boston to Atlanta as a professional guitarist (Skip Castro Band, The Believers), he married Emilie, had two daughters (Morgan and Emma), and got his first full-time job at Crutchfield. Still an extremely active musician, he's now a member of The Gladstones, a 4-piece group that plays just about anything, and Mama Tried, a 4-piece band that plays early Grateful Dead.
More from Charlie Pastorfield
Recently, I bought a Chrysler convertible with a factory Infinity audio system. I wasn't very happy with the sound, but figured I could always improve the situation by replacing the speakers. Then I found out that no speakers are shallow enough to fit in the doors of my car.
I love to listen to music, but I rarely listened in my car during the month that I lived with the stock Infinity system. The system's bass was boomy, the sound unfocused, and the high frequencies extremely unfriendly at higher volumes. But I had a $100 Aiwa CD receiver lying around that was already wired up with a Crutchfield Chrysler harness, so I though I'd just drop it in to see if it might help.
I didn't really expect a big change, because I knew that the Infinity amp would still be providing power to the system. So I was totally unprepared for the huge improvement in sound quality once I installed the Aiwa. The bass got tighter, I could hear a lot more of the little details in the music, and the highs got much more friendly. I guess it makes sense - I replaced the preamp in the system with a better preamp, so it should sound better.
My car's become my favorite place for music listening again. I find myself listening to CDs on my long daily commute, discovering new music and reacquainting myself with discs I haven't heard in a long time. And now I'm looking into modifying my car's speaker locations to accept some aftermarket 6"x9"s.
My point? Your vehicle may have a "premium" factory system, but that's no guarantee you're getting great sound. Do you find yourself tuning into sports or talk radio rather than listening to music? Your ears are trying to tell you something. Try replacing your speakers and your receiver. You don't have to do it all at once, just take it one step at a time. You might be amazed at the results.