Milbert (Berning) bam-235ab 30 watt tube amp runs off 12v. with Altec 604s or similar.
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Dracule1, I applaude you for searching something better. FWIW, I am currently in a tiny apartment. At the moment, I am running 45 amps @ 2 watts each into straight 8" lowther speakers. (no powered woofers). My tiny room is at least 12X the square interior footage of an automobile, yet I get can get louder than I ever care too. 2000 plus watts in a Honda is slightly overkill, IMO.
I settled on 2 pairs of Focal K2P separate components. They are/were considered decent higher end (for car I guess)speakers and have them hooked up to a 4 channel McIntosh amplifier. They sound great but I will say they're a little on the bright side. They even come with a "treble cut" switch on the crossover which I have set to the lower setting. I would have loved to demo some Dynaudio separates but couldn't find anyone in the area that had them or could demo them in a car environment. Overall I'm really happy with the sound, but you can only expect so much from a car system if you're used to systems like you see on this website.
I used to have an ok system in an old Saab. The highlight was the JL Audio MicroSub, driven by an Alpine amp. That little subwoofer was very musical and packed a nice small punch. Not enough to rattle any windows, but it really made the rest of the system (I think I had JBL speakers) sound so much better.
Years ago when Dynaudio discontinued the distribution of raw drivers for DIY home systems it still made the car drivers available. This was a big deal because you could buy a mobile Esotar tweeter which was very highly sought after but not the home version. It created some confusion and angst. I finally bought some Esotars from a friend of a firend in Denmark to give to my best buddy in this hobby who then turned them down. True story quite painful, to my wallet and mind.
Morel and Dynaudio make excellent car audio speakers. Focal are said to be good but I have not heard them. For subs JL Audio are good and also Eclipse.
You will also want a separate amp for your front speakers as the built in amp in the reciever is usually not up to the task of driving quality separates. If you want the best quality sound it's gonna cost you.
As stated by other posters above the car environment is not conducive to really good sound but you can get a pleasing sound even with all the road noise.
I have noticed with newer cars that the stock sound systems are much better than in the past. If your car is newer and sounds pretty good already I would not bother. Maybe just add a sub.
True... newer cars have better and better audio systems in them and are more than enough for most people... but for those seeking more.... Dynaudio, Focal, Morel and Diamond Audio make very, very good sounding car audio drivers and crossovers.
I am using the Dynaudio 3-way Esotec system with 7" midbass unit (actually 6.5" I think, but they call it a 7"). I did all the install and had custom thick MDF baffles CNC cut for the mid/tweeter pod in the kick panel area. I installed the midbass in the stock door location (with cutting and more custom MDF rings). Also used almost 100 sq. ft. of Dynamat Extreme (necessary to cut down on road noise).
I am running three Diamond Audio monoblock amps... one to each component set at about 240 watts per side and another monoblock running about 400 watts to a JL Audio 10w7 (sealed). I love the JL subs (either w6 or w7 series), I have owned a few... the 8w7 is totally badass... had it in a slot port box to spec. I am using an Alpine head unit, always have. The system sounds amazing. I have sensitive ears to high frequency and have owned some serious component speakers (Boston Z6 and Diamond Audio Hex Series) and to me, these are the best sounding car audio speakers for the money. The big dome midrange is awesome!!! Also, I used Audioquest cabling throughout. Setup (crossover points and EQ) are vital to get the right sound. These decks now have a lot of flexibility and settings to cutomize the sound. I think I paid around $1,100 OTD for the Dynaudio components from a dealer.
Took maybe 60 hours to do the entire install. And this is setup for SQ (Sound Quality), not SPL. When I play Gotye "State of the Art" or any Gordon Goodwin people freak out at the sound.
I'm not saying you can't get better sound in a new car with after market gear. It's just that the gap in sound quality is smaller. Depends how fanatical you want to get and how much you want to spend.
My last car had a very good setup and sounded great. My head unit was a Pioneer P9 with the outboard digital eq/crossover box. Into a 4 channel Tube Driver Blue amp for the fronts. For tweeters I used the totl Morel soft dome. Midbass drivers were 8" Dynaudio. I used the Pioneer P9 for the crossover. The P9 also had a 31 band eq. I used a RTA to adjust. For subs I had 2 12" Eclipse driven by a Rockford Fosgate digital amp. Being able to adjust eq for the car environment is very helpfull.
In my new car I did not want to cut up my door panels to accomodate the 8" mids and big tweeters. So I just used some older Diamond Audio Hex series I had behind the existing grills. My Pioneer P9 finally died so I just got the new Pioneer PRS80 which is much less expensive but has most of the same features of the P9. Unfortunately it does not sound as good. I miss the other speakers so I may find a way to install them in this car.
Don't overlook Audiofreak32's mention of Dynamat. Lowering the noise in the passenger compartment is an essential first step. In my last car I lined the doors and inner door frame pillars with Dynamat and had substantially quieter environment in which to listen. BTW, I've got Focals and find them very satisfying.
Thank you for all your informative advice.
I found a local installer who is a dealer for Focal, Dynaudio and German Maestro (founded by members of MB Quart). The latter appears to be even pricier.
"Tube Driver Blue amp"...I didn't realize there are tube amps for car audio!
I ask the installer about Dynamat.
I was surprised to about a car audio tube amp. I heard about them years ago but never got a chance to listen.
The company is called Butler Audio.
Lots of good brands of speakers mentioned here. I used to drool over lots them. I'm curious about Maestro as I remember MB Quart making quality stuff.
I don't know if this company is around but they used to make Horn Loaded Compression Drivers for cars. Image Dynamics. They would fit under the entire dash. I never got to hear them in a car but I always thought the installs were cool.
Jedinite, thanks for the Bultleraudio link. I remember their home audio tube amp now. Cool...Tubes in my car. May be the tubes will tame some of the brightness in some of the highend car speakers.
I remember MB Quart speakers from the late 80's and early 90's. They were very clean and transparent speakers.
The Tube Driver Blue is not technically a true tube amp. It has a tube buffer in the input stage. It uses small signal tubes for the buffer. The actual amplification is solid state. That said it is a nice sounding amp but is not overly warm. I don't think it will tame overly bright speakers. Unfortunately you can not swap tubes because they are soldered in. Unless your handy with a soldering iron. I may play with that one day.
IMO, while many try to avoid EQ use in their home stereo rigs, it makes much more sense in car audio. There are a bunch of automated EQ units made for cars. Especially with aftermarket car stereo, I would budget for one of these units.
BTW, I just made a huge upgrade in my car stereo sound - by buying new tires!! My car is known as a pretty noisy vehicle (2004 Subaru Outback wagon). I have always loved the 6-disc in-dash changer, and the factory audio is suprisingly detailed and fairly smooth (two sets of mid-woofs and tweeters, plus a "subwoofer" of sorts in the rear deck). But when I needed new tires, I carefully read Tire Rack reviews of possible tires, especially regarding noise. There is quite a difference in the self-noise of various tire types. I ended up with a Goodyear Assurance Comfort Grand Touring model, ~$450 shipped for the four tires. Huge difference! The noise floor has been reduced dramatically. I can hear a lot more detail now, and I have been listening at lower volume settings for the same apparent volume levels as with the old tires. So, that's another thing to try. Just my $0.02.
My wife's Audi has a terrific sounding B&O sourced system, it's among the best I've heard. Hyundai features a Lexicon system that sounded great on a brief test drive. On the EQ front, I didn't check out the Volvo, but this looks promising:
I have no idea if any of this stuff is available in the aftermarket, but - if not - maybe you should just replace the car ;-}
On the subject of factory systems, I recently had two different Jaguar XF loaners from the dealer. One had the standard sound system, and one was a luxury package with a B&W system. They both sounded pretty good, but I was a little disappointed that the B&W system didn't knock my socks off. I'm told the one in the top-of-line XJ is much better. Anyone heard it?