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Gift ideas for high-resolution audio fans in the car

The right gear can turn the car into a studio-level listening space

If you know someone who is dedicated to playing lossless files and music formats that go beyond basic CD specs, this gear can help them maximize their car stereo system's performance and dial in the sound precisely.

The music lover in your life can be transported in more ways than one while in the car. Building a top-notch audio system rrequires time, patience, and a decent financial investment. And you can help get them there.

They don't have to get everything at once. Just like their incredible home audio system, each upgrade in their car audio system gets them one step closer to that musical bliss. Here are a few of our ideas. And remember, a chat with our advisors will help make sure your gift will help get the job done.

For the purposes of this article, we're defining "high-resolution audio" as music files offering audio bit-depth resolution and sample rate beyond normal CD specifications (16-bit resolution/44.1 kHz sample rate). High-res audio files can typically offer up to 24-bit resolution and sample rates up to 192 kHz. Our primer on high-res audio goes further into different file types and specs.

Alpine HDA-V90 Status Series 5-channel car amplifier

Boost your high-res signal with a proper amplifier

Some folks think of amplifiers as just a way to make their speakers play louder. That's certainly true, but the real reason for that extra power is to make the music sound better at normal listening levels. The added power helps bring out more details in the music, even at lower volumes.

But not all amplifiers are the same. For an amp to work with high-resolution audio, it should have an extraordinary dynamic range and be able to perform accurately without distortion. Not many amps fit these criteria, but keep an eye out for a high signal-to-noise ratio and audiophile-quality construction.

Digital signal processing (DSP) is another key element in high-performance amplifiers, but it's not a requirement. An amp with built-in DSP gives you way more control over getting the sound just right, thanks to features like multi-band EQ, time alignment, and special signal routing.

High-resolution power

Alpine's Status Series HDA-V90 5-channel amp features a bevy of tuning controls and plug-in connectors for convenient installation. It fuels their speakers with 75 watts RMS and a sub with 500 watts RMS, and it offers a 3-channel mode for emphasizing your front soundstage. This amp also boasts a frequency response of 8-60,000 Hz, which requires a highly-engineered chassis and power supply to pull off without adding noise to the music. In short, it's perfect for powering high-res audio.

The HDA-V90 doesn't have built-in DSP, but you can see all the amps we carry with DSP here.

Another option that includes a built-in DSP and serious processing power is the JL Audio VX800/8i 8-channel amplifier. This amplifier takes versatility to the next level. It has ten channels of signal processing that allow it to manage a variety of speaker/subwoofer setups and boasts three levels of tuning to suit your music fan's comfort level.

Sony XAV-9000ES Mobile ES Series digital multimedia receiver

Outfit their dash with an audiophile-friendly receiver

This might be obvious, but having all the high-res audio files in the world won't do you much good if your stereo can't play them to their fullest potential. And while many receivers can play regular FLAC and/or WAV files without hassle, if a file's bit-depth resolution or sample rate gets too high, the receivers might just choose to ignore those files. So make sure your receiver works with high-res audio (including file format compatibility) before building your system.

Gorgeous command center

Sony's XAV-9000ES digital multimedia receiver is a 6.75" marvel with a premium digital-to-analog converter and robust capacitors to help it deliver spot-on sound from high-res files or streaming sources. It also offers a 14-band EQ, 3-zone crossover, and 5-volt preamp outputs. Smartphones can integrate with the stereo using wireless Android Auto™ or Apple CarPlay®.

Another great option is the Alpine HDS-990 digital media audio source. It connects to the current stereo and functions as an external source unit/processor for high-res audio files. It delivers precise reproduction of music files (up to 24-bit/192kHz) from an external drive or Bluetooth® enabled device.

You can also check out our other receivers that can play high-res audio files.

Sony XS-162ES Mobile ES Series 6-1/2" component speaker system

Speakers you can count on

Component speaker systems with external crossovers are the best way to get top-tier musical output in your car, especially regarding high-res audio. A component system with separate crossovers lets you position the woofer and tweeter for optimum response, then tune the output of each for the proper blend of notes without taxing the individual components. A set of full-range speakers (2-way, 3-way, or 4-way, with the tweeter and other smaller speakers mounted on the woofer) makes for an easier installation, but offers less flexibility.

Get closer to your music

Sony’s Mobile ES Series speakers deliver on two fronts: accurate reproduction and minimal distortion. The rugged woofers pump out midrange with aplomb, emphasizing your playlist’s “oomph.” The fabric dome tweeters reach up to 40 kHz for detail and texture that provide new clarity to your favorite tunes.

We also carry other speaker options for high-res playback. Morel, for example. You don't find a lot of hand-made products in the car audio world, but the Morel Virtus Series speaker lineup delivers on both craftsmanship and sonic performance. They're famed for warm sound and emphatic midbass response, highlighted by Morel's unique Acuflex™ compound that's hand-applied to every Virtus tweeter.

You can see more component speaker systems with separate crossovers.

JL Audio 10TW3-D4 Shallow-mount 10" subwoofer with dual 4-ohm voice coils

Foundational bass – subwoofers for high-res sound

Every audiophile knows that bass is fundamental to great sound, which is why adding a subwoofer is important for high-res systems. Without a dedicated speaker for your music's lowest ebbs, your other components can get overworked trying to reproduce tones they weren't designed for, leading to distortion and early wear.

Super-thin thumper

Bass provides a necessary anchor for any great system, but your vehicle might not have a lot of room for subs. JL Audio's 10TW3-D4 slender (3¼" deep) subwoofer handles 400 watts RMS and goes down to 24 Hz for outstanding performance, even in small enclosures.

If you want to let things get deep and space isn't an issue in your car, JL Audio's full sub lineup offers plenty of options for great bass in your trunk or cargo area.

JL Audio FiXT 82 Sound processor for adding amps and speakers to a factory system

Sound-shaping gear to get the details right

The right equalizer or signal processor is the key to fine-tuning music in the car. Overcome road noise and hear music that's crisp and clear, even at highway speeds. An equalizer adjusts frequencies to improve the audio system's sound, helping to compensate for the vehicle's noisy listening environment. A signal processor uses digital signal processing (DSP) for sound adjustments that are even more detailed and comprehensive.

Tweak your sound clean

If you can’t replace your factory stereo, you might struggle to get the most out of new speakers and amps due to funky factory EQ curves and time alignments. JL Audio’s FiX™ 82, with its eight input channels, gives you a clean slate from your factory radio so you can dial the signal in to suit your fancy. It offers two output channels; a 6-output model (the FiX 86) is also available.

Alpine's PXE-C60-60 6-channel digital signal processor with automatic sound tuning is another great option. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of dialing in the car's system thanks to high-resolution processing that corrects itself. It also eliminates factory EQ curves.

Check out our full selection of car equalizers and signal processors.

AudioControl DM-RTA Pro Kit Real time analyzer and test tool

Tune everything with the right tools

Once the system is installed, dialing it in will make everything sound balanced. This is the audiophile's final step in system mastery. Since vehicle interiors vary wildly, thorough analysis can help decode the angles and surfaces particular to each car so the music's soundstage can be enjoyed at the proper level. Using the right tools for signal analysis can go a long way in ensuring a proper soundstage is reached.

In tune and on time

Dialing in the audio system’s finer points can be a challenge without the right tools. AudioControl's DM-RTA Pro Kit contains a real-time signal analyzer, an omnidirectional microphone, and a Bluetooth adapter for wireless analysis, along with a foam-lined hard carrying case.

See more tuning tools from AudioControl.

Dynamat Xtreme sound damping family

Other ways to get the most out of high-res music

The car is not an ideal environment for listening to music, but as we've discussed, there are steps one can take to make it more friendly to our ears. Sound deadening is a positive first move — defeat the road noise and car's rattles, and speakers won't have to work so hard to be heard.

If your audio fan has gone to the trouble of adding an amp, subwoofer, or signal processor, a remote control can make things easier for those in the driver's seat. Making quick changes on the fly can make a big difference when a certain song hits and you don't want to pull over. You can explore our selection of remote controls.

It's also important to pay attention to the little stuff, like speaker wire, power wire, and even making sure they have the right tools on hand for the job. We offer a wide array of car audio installation tools and accessories, so you can make sure they have what they need before their project begins.

Consider the source

High-res audio formats give you excellent sound quality and the convenience of digital audio files. High-res music files are larger since they retain all the audio information from the original recording, so they take up more space on your hard drive and require more bandwidth for streaming.

MP3s and streaming services are very convenient but less than ideal for sound quality. There's no reason you can't build a high-resolution digital audio library that's just as easy to access in your car as it at home.

Our guide to high-res music in the car is a great explainer for how to get started on a high-res car audio journey.

We've got the beat on high-res car audio

Have questions about choosing the best in-car high-res audio gear for your favorite music fan? Our expert Advisors can help guide you with in-depth knowledge and practical advice. Call or chat with us today

And if your music fan has any questions about setting up or using their gear, we'll be happy to help with that, too. Free lifetime tech support is included with every Crutchfield purchase.

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