Before we dive into what makes an audiophile car audio system, I think we need to define what an audiophile is. Audiophile is the term used to describe high-fidelity sound reproduction enthusiastic seeking to reproduce the sound of the original performance. To achieve that, the audio system needs to have a good phase correlation between the drivers, low distortion, and a flat frequency response that covers the entire human hearing spectrum of 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
However, the audio system may NOT be considered an audiophile quality even when these things are present. That is the case for many premium car stereo systems. Yes, they have lower distortion than the base models. Yes, they play from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Nevertheless, they almost always seem to lack the ability to reproduce a realistic soundstage and image. That is because better speakers can improve the overall performance of the sound system, but they can’t make up for bad speaker location. Whether it is a base system or a premium one, automakers will use the exact speaker location, and this, my friends, is usually to blame for the lack of a realistic soundstage and imaging.
An audiophile car stereo system does not have to be loud despite popular beliefs! In fact, when you listen to music really loud, your ears will start to shout down, and you will not be able to hear small details in the recording. On the other hand, accurate is one thing an audiophile car stereo system is! This is why driver selection is so crucial in car stereo and DIY home audio as well!
There are few audiophile car stereo systems around because even though they are not impossible, it is not easy to build and design one. A lot has to do with the consumer’s lack of education and demand. If automakers can get away with $5 Chinese speakers, why would they opt for a $50 German or Japanese one? Another myth is that an audiophile car audio system needs to have 15 to 30 speakers, as seen in the new DSP system found on the new Acura NSX. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the new Acura NSX system is TRUE garbage if you ask me! DSP reverb and over accentuated decays are as far from audiophile car stereo systems as you can get!
A top-notch audiophile car stereo system can have as little as six speakers, as demonstrated by Richard Clark and Dave Navone on the seven-time world champion SpeakerWorks Buick Grand National. The sound system I am building on my 2022 Ford Maverick will have two dual concentric drivers, two midbass drivers, and one sub! The vehicle has two waveguided midrange tweeters, two midbass drivers, and one subwoofer. That is all that is needed to achieve audiophile sound quality in a car stereo system.
The key to this sound system is the custom build, fiberglass, kick panel speaker pods. By placing the midrange and tweeter in the kick panel area, I am able to equalize the distance between the left and right channel, therefore reproducing a more accurate and realistic soundstage and imaging. I will be documenting the process on a YouTube video. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, remember that more is not necessarily better when it comes to audio, especially car stereo!