Better car audio, Tip #10: Use a capacitor if you're going to push your subs hard
I edit the home A/V and pro audio articles on Crutchfield.com. It's a cool gig for a guy who's been seriously into audio since way before 1974. I started buying records, guitars, and gear with the money I made mowing lawns and delivering newspapers. Now the way I earn my money has changed for the better, but where it goes hasn't changed too much. Just give me the proverbial three chords and the truth. I'll do my best to help you feel it, too.
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They didn't have subwoofers in mind when they built your vehicle. Big bass sucks up a lot of power, and most car electrical systems aren't equipped to deal with it. A capacitor acts as a buffer between your amps and your car's battery. You connect the cap inline on the power cable from your battery, as close to the amp location as possible. It stores up power from your battery, then releases it instantly to satisfy your amp's demand for the power needed to reproduce a big bass hit.
Maybe you notice a big drop in performance after you run your subs loud for a minute or two? Or do you see your headlights dimming in time to the music at night? A cap cures these problems by taking the brunt of those demand peaks from your amp, so your amp sees a more consistent supply of power.
This post is excerpted from a recent article in our Learning Center, Jeff's Tips for Getting Maximum Sound Quality in Your Car.