Crutchfield's car audio proving ground series

A four-part look at what new gear can do for a Ford F-150

By

Zak Billmeier

Zak Billmeier grew up in southern Vermont and coastal Maine. After graduating from Mary Washington College with a Geography degree he still isn't sure quite what to do with, he eventually settled in the mountains of Central Virginia. He spends his free time chasing his daughter around, taking pictures, gardening and cooking. Zak traces the roots of his interest in electronic gadgets to the Casio wristwatch with a built-in calculator he received as a gift one year as a child. He joined Crutchfield's car A/V team in 2007.

More from Zak Billmeier

We wanted to answer the most basic question about car audio: is it really worth it to upgrade? With the help of the Crutchfield Labs, we set out to prove just how much better music sounds when it’s played through a high-quality aftermarket system. Our plan was to test the sound of an after­market system one component at a time, based on sound quality and loudness.

Using a 2004 Ford F-150 as our test vehicle, we installed some great gear, then documented the system performance and improvements along the way. Here are the four parts of our process:

Testing equipment

Part one: Receiver and speakers

Starting with a factory system, we added an Alpine receiver, then upgraded the speakers. We tested each configuration separately for loudness, quality of sound, and soundstaging.

For all the details:

Stealthbox

Part two: Amplifiers and subwoofers

The second step was to see how much improvement we got by adding power and bass. We also upgraded the speakers and dove into the Alpine head unit's 7-band parametric EQ. 

Jeff tuning

Part three: Processors and other upgrades

Jeff upgraded to component speakers, installed high-quality speaker wire, and added a processor for fine-tuning ability. He also bi-amped the speakers to get more headroom.

Dynamat in the door

Part four: Battling road noise with Dynamat

With all the gear in place, it was time to seal in the sound.  By installing Dynamat, Jeff hoped to quiet vibrations and block out road noise in his F-150.

Find what fits your car