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The ABCs of Car Audio

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Breaking Down the Most Popular Terms

The world of car audio can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the terms. Here at San Diego Car Stereo, we like for our customers to be just as educated as we are. This ensures that we’re both on the same page when talking about car audio installation or about the frequency response of your car speakers. To help get you up to speed, here is a glossary of some of the most popular car audio terms being used today.

Referred to as an “amp” for short, this is the device that boosts the signal coming from your car stereo to make it sound louder and clearer upon playback.

B - Bass

Bass covers all of your low frequencies which fall in the 40 Hz and 200 Hz range.

C - Crossover

They come in two varieties: active and passive crossovers. An active crossover will modify the audio signal before it hits the amp (line-level or preamp signals only). A passive crossover will modify the signal after it’s already been amplified by the amp.

Damping is a process used to reduce resonance, vibration, and the sound of external noise that reverberates through the car. A special dampening material is used to achieve this. If you have equipment that produces a lot of bass, sound dampening is a great way to ensure those basslines sound clean.

E - Equalizer

Referred to as an EQ for short, this allows the listener to manipulate frequency aspects of the track such as treble and bass.

F - Frequency

This is the property of sound that most determines pitch, often referred to as highs, lows, and mid-ranges.

G - Gain

The amount of amplification used in an electrical circuit.

H - High Fidelity

When you think of high fidelity, think quality. High fidelity playback means that you’re hearing no audible noise or distortion in the track.

I - Imaging

The reproduction of sound accurately so that the listener can imagine the original environment and placement of the original sound sources accurately within that environment. The better the imaging the more analogous the reproduced sound will be to the original.


JVC is one of the most popular brands in car audio, manufacturing a wide array of products such as car stereo systems and speakers.

K - Kilohertz (kHz)

1 kHz = one thousand hertz or 1,000 times per second.

L - Lows

Lows refer to the frequencies that are produced when under 500 Hz. Woofers and subwoofers are used to produce lows.

M - Midrange Speaker

Midrange speakers are used to reproduce the frequencies between highs and lows, falling in the range of 350 Hz to 5 kHz.

N - Noise Floor

Noise floor is the measure of signal created from unwanted signals, where noise is defined as any signal other than audio outputs.

O - Octave

An octave is either doubling or halving a particular frequency. For instance, 60 Hz is an octave higher than 30 Hz.

P - Pink Noise

Pink noise is when the human ear perceives low frequencies to be just as loud as high frequencies.

Q - Q

The ratio of resistance to reactance in a parallel circuit, or the ratio of reactance to resistance in a series circuit.

R - RCA Connectors

RCA connectors are a type of electrical connector used for audio and video signals. They are distinctly recognizable by the red, yellow, and white plugs.

Used to remove unwanted sounds and signals, a sound processor drastically improves your audio playback by connecting to your car stereo system.

T - Tweeter

Also known as a treble speaker, a tweeter is a small speaker used to reproduce high pitch frequencies.

U - Unloading

The tendency of an enclosure to produce no spring or pressure on the woofer.

V – Voice Control

A feature found in more modern car stereo system units allows drivers to make commands using their voice.

W - Woofer

A speaker that is used to reproduce low and measured in midrange frequencies.

X - Xmax

This is the distance a speaker can move while keeping a consistent number of voice coil windings inside the magnetic gap of the speaker.

Z - Zero-bit Detector

Certain CD receivers feature a particular circuit that will detect periods where no audio signal is detectable, which appears as a series of zeros in the digital bit stream. When these zeros are detected, the audio output is then muted.

Upgrade Your Car Audio Today at San Diego Car Stereo

Now that you know some of the most commonly used terms in car audio, the next step is to figure out which car stereo system and car speakers you’d like so that you can elevate your ride. If you’ve been searching for terms like “car stereo installation near me,” then look no further than San Diego Car Stereo. We have some of the largest stock and whitest selection of aftermarket car audio from the industry’s top brands.

You can visit our shop directly at 4220 Convoy St. located right here in sunny San Diego. If you’d like to make an appointment, call us at (858) 569-0777 or message us using the contact form on our website.

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