The Car Stereo Cookbook - ISBN 0-0705-8083-9 / ISBN 0070580839
My review copy of "Car Stereo Cookbook", [How to Design, Choose, and Install Car Stereo Systems],© 2002, is very well written by Mark Rumreich. It is published by Mc Graw-Hill who kindly provided me with my review copy.
If you ever intend to spend serious money on a quality car stereo system then buy this book. The common pitfalls to avoid, as disclosed by "The Car Stereo Cookbook" will handsomely repay your modest investment in this book.
Car Stereo Systems usually require the expenditure of some really "serious" money to get the desired results, and unless your decisions are very informed ones, it is all too easy to get burned big time financially.
It's been quite some time since I have read such a well presented publication as "Car Stereo Cookbook". This is such an important subject for audio enthusiasts that I intend to cover my review in much greater detail than I normally would because I concluded "The Car Stereo Cookbook" represents terrific value for money to enthusiasts and technicians, the potential financial savings far outweigh the initial cost of the book. Comes with the highest recommendation from me, and with every good reason.
I honestly recommend you definitely buy a copy of "The Car Stereo Cookbook" to save yourself financial pain. Buy it now!
The Car Stereo Cookbook - ISBN 0-0705-8083-9 / ISBN 0070580839
Mark Rumreich covers these topics in adequate detail (with illustrations) in "The Car Stereo Cookbook".
In the introduction Mark says: "The Car Stereo Cookbook provides a comprehensive and well organised guide to designing, choosing, and installing car stereo systems. It's geared toward the technically orientated do-it-yourselfer who is interested in car stereo. It assumes some familiarity with car stereo's, but you don't need to have a degree in electronics or have installed a car stereo before". Well said...
Here's what is on offer in "The Car Stereo Cookbook"...
We will now review each chapter in some detail.
Mark, starts us off with some sound [no pun intended] advice on looking at your situation. How long will you keep the car? Factory look? Understand all your options. Understand what's in your car, familiarize yourself with available products and approaches.
As Mark says: "Some of the best car stereo solutions are often the one's that aren't obvious...". This is just some of what "The Car Stereo Cookbook" sets out to answer quite successfully.
This chapter goes on to discuss 'Designing your System' and includes a reference table on "Upgrade solutions to Common Complaints".
This section covers and discusses various means of connection such as soldering, crimp connectors, quick splice / scotchlok connectors and even wire nuts (discouraged). Further discussion with illustrations goes over various fuse tap options, then installation tips, speciality tools, using a multimeter, identifying power wires and ground wires.
Further discussion with illustrations indicates how to identify speaker wires and finishes with how to identify speaker polarity, a simple solution.
Interesting that nothing has changed much in the last 30+ years. As Mark says: "speakers are often the weak link in system performance". Indeed...
A comprehensive discussion with illustrations and diagrams follows on the topics of "imaging and you; choosing, placing and connecting tweeters; upgrading existing speakers (including speaker materials and properties to look for); making the best of an existing speaker enclosure; installing speakers in a new location; installing a door speaker, cutting the hole, wiring it up and so on...
This is the largest chapter (64 pages) with comprehensive diagrams and illustrations. Among the reasons:
"First, subwoofers are one of the most important components in a high-quality auto sound system. Second, there are a tremendous number of options you must choose from every step of the way".
It's not hard to understand the minefield that lays ahead of you when you consider that second sentence, another added reason I recommend this book. I find this chapter especially absorbing, but then I always had some interest in subwoofers years ago.
Mark goes on to say: "A subwoofer not only gives you a rock-solid bottom end, it lets you play your other speakers louder with less distortion by diverting the burden of deep bass to the subwoofer. A subwoofer is almost a necessity if you use the front speakers for imaging and the rear speakers for fill, because of the difficulty in getting decent bass from the front".
I must add I think these comments apply equally to the home audio scenario. In this chapter, Subwoofers and Subwoofer Projects, we have: System Configuration Options - there is an illustrated table comprising six basic configurations for adding a subwoofer - these are discussed at length; Conventional Speaker-Level Crossover Subwoofer, Tri-Way Crossover Subwoofer, Separates, Amplifier with Built-In Crossover Subwoofer, Separate Crossover Amplified Subwoofer and Amplified Subwoofer with Built-In Crossover.
Other comprehensive topics complete with extensive tables, diagrams, illustrations, design examples and frequency response diagrams are:
Throughout those topics these aspects are discussed: How much power do you need? Best Amplifier/Subwoofer Configurations; Types of Enclosures - free air, sealed, ported, bandpass and transmission line; power handling, sensitivity, bass response, comparisons, cone and surround material of subwoofers; Computer Programs for Box Design and so it goes on...
Mark explains that a 'head unit' is an industry term for an in-dash radio or receiver, I didn't know that but 30+ years is a long time. He also says:
"Adding or upgrading a head unit along with a new set of speakers is undoubtedly the most popular car stereo project - not surprising, since the head unit is the heart of any car stereo system".
- [Ed: my emphasis].
Again we have extensive discussion, illustrations etc. dealing with radio receivers, cassettes, CD features and so on...
We start off with "Advertised Power versus Honest Power". This is a reference to the fact that the marketing types took over from the engineers many years back to hijack terms relating to power output. Just as one example an engineer would say that an amplifier operating at 13.8 volts DC into a 4 ohm load with 0.1% THD is capable of 13 watts per channel. The marketing people would slightly increase the DC voltage to 14.4 volts and claim "Peak Power 35 watts per channel". It's all bunkum of course and you need to know who's pulling your leg and why.
Then we have some tricks of the trade involving bridging followed by locating amplifiers, power and ground wiring considerations, recommended wire gauges, fuses, speaker wiring and a host of different head/amplifier/speaker configurations and finally adjusting amplifier gain settings.
There are quite a number of helpful tables throughout this chapter, Amplifiers And Amplifier Projects for Car Stereo Systems.
Turning our attention to equalizers we have some discussion on this topic including adjusting by ear [which I disagree with] or adjusting with a real time analyzer (RTA) which I think is the way to go.
Really this topic of equalizers is one entirely of personal philosophy. On the one hand some people fervently believe they are adjusted to personal taste, this usually involves boosting the bass as high as possible. People with my philosophy tend to believe that the sole function of an equalizer is to compensate for the deficiencies created by the listening environment. That is, after appropriate adjustment "pink noise" is equally distributed across the entire audio spectrum of interest.
My theory is that the programme material ought to be reproduced the same as it was intended in the recording studio without the benefit of any "engineering" on my part.
Years ago I had a living room set up which was magic. "Bolero" by Rick Wakeman [I think] was really something to behold, a real acid test for any decent high end system... Starting from the almost inaudible and finishing with almost earthquake proportions of beautiful sound. Experience it once and you'll never forget. Fiddle with the equalizer settings and you would destroy the experience.
Oh, that high end system was entirely designed and constructed by yours truly, preamplifier, active crossovers, power amplifiers and speaker boxes, everything. I didn't construct the 15" subwoofers of course. Nostalgia...
Just personal opinions which are 5 cents a dozen.
Biamping refers to using two amplifiers per channnel to separately drive woofers and tweeters, usually used in high performance systems.
A crossover is used to split the music signal into different frequency bands to drive woofers or tweeters. I notice that Mark prefers to refer to active crossovers as "electronic crossovers" in the Car Stereo Cookbook, perhaps this is an Australian/American difference in terminology.
This chapter, which is provided with illustrations, diagrams and extensive tables gives a thorough coverage to the topic without becoming needlessly technical nor boring to the enthusiast.
I must confess almost total ignorance on this topic, my vehicle doesn't have a CD player. I found it intriguing as to what seems to be available today. I would imagine CD would now be the preferred medium for programme material.
Some of the items discussed in this chapter I would tend to put under the heading of "essentials" for a car stereo system. In high end, high power applications I consider power line capacitors to be essential, you simply need the reserve power although some people might regard a battery as the ultimate capacitor.
I'm pleased the discussion on premium speaker wire, connectors etc. is devoid of all the marketing hype [meaning ripping you off]. As Mark says: "If you use the proper wire gauge then the benefits of premium speaker wire are purely cosmetic". As if we all sit there and marvel at the speaker wire!
This section also covers portable CD player head unit adaptors, cassette adaptors, FM transmitters for CD, antennas and antenna boosters, motorized antennas.
Sound deadening materials is also given some coverage in an easy to understand style.
Again a well illustrated chapter on a most important topic. It's somewhat ironic the last chapter, least likely to be read by an enthusiast keen to get started, covers our biggest enemy, noise!.
The topic of noise is given extensive coverage including what is noise? signal-to-noise ratio, differential versus single-ended signals, ground loops [very important], common ground impedance, power supply noise, cable routing, grounding, step-by-step level adjustment and Troubleshooting Noise Problems.
[Ed: - I can offer no comment on Mark's recommendations]
Madisound Speaker Components
Here is Mark's list of recommended reading.
The Loudspeaker Design Cookbook - Vance Dickason
Designing, Building and Testing Your Own Speaker System - David Weems
AudioControl Technical Papers - collection of PDF files.
If you're into Car Stereo Systems and plan to spend significant money then you'd be crazy not to make a small modest investment in "how-to-get-it-right" with "The Car Stereo Cookbook" - [my opinion]. Buy it now!
I can only tell you what I think of this book in a hopefully unbiased fashion. To buy or not to buy is of course your personal decision.
I think "the Car Stereo Cookbook" represents terrific value for money to enthusiasts and technicians, potential financial savings far outweigh the initial cost of the book. Comes with the highest recommendation from me, and with every good reason.
In the book stores look for The Car Stereo Cookbook by Mark Rumreich. ISBN 0070580839
Another book worth looking at is Car Audio For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)). Paperback: 310 pages of useful information.
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Created 22nd June, 2002
Updated 23rd June, 2002