by Paul Sanders
If you're into car audio, then you may be shopping for a new car stereo. Before you select speakers, subwoofers, and tweeters, you'll need to consider some general options. These are the best things to know about car stereos, so you can avoid making some of the common mistakes first-time buyers make and the options they may overlook.
Select the right stereo size. Car stereos come in two standard sizes: single-DIN (2 inches by 7 inches) and double-DIN (4 inches by 7 inches). Double-DIN car stereos are twice as tall as single-DIN car stereos. If you get the wrong size, you'll either have a big gap or a stereo that won't fit in your dash at all. Check your dash depth, too, since not all car stereos have standard depths. If your vehicle owner's manual does not list measurements for your car dash's stereo space, you may need to remove the stereo and take measurements before deciding on a new receiver.
Decide on audio sources. Depending on the type of audio input you'll be using, you'll want to look at car stereos that have easy-to-use ports and connectors for different sources. For instance, if you want to be able to plug your MP3 player in directly, you'll need to look for car stereos with connectors like USB ports or other interface cables. Sometimes these connection ports are on the face of the car stereo, which is much easier to reach than the back side of the receiver.
Match your amplifier to your speakers. If your amplifier is too powerful, you can damage your car stereo speakers. On the other hand, car stereos that run amplifiers at or near maximum capacity can degrade the amp over time. Find a middle ground: car stereos with stereo speakers that can handle an amplifier running at about 80 percent of its maximum power.
Be careful with subwoofers. Many car audio enthusiasts want car stereo systems with massive subwoofers. Test your subwoofer after installation. If you get excessive rattling in your windows, you may want to adjust the settings. It is possible to crack or shatter your windshield or other windows with poorly calibrated car stereos. Also, mounting a subwoofer in a sturdy speaker box and mounting it to your car will add powerful bass with less rattling.