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Thread: Explanation of terms often used in car-audio

  1. #1
    Markb's Avatar
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    Explanation of terms often used in car-audio


    The alternator generates the electricle power for the vehicle, keeping the battery toped up and powering all the vehicle systems

    Alternator Whine

    High-frequency interference produced by the alternator, that is heard over the system. The pitch rises and falls with the engine revs and, depending on severity, it can be heard between tracks when there's no music present, or it can obliterate the music at any level


    Essential equipment if you are running lots of speakers or a sub, this will increase the signal of the music and the power. In short they power the speakers.


    Unit of measuremnt of electrical current. Used, for instanced, to describe altornater output or amplifier current consumption


    The strength of a single or a sound, with out reference to its frequency content


    To decrease the amplitude - or loudness - of a signal

    Aux input

    An auxiliary input is generally used to feed a secoundary source into a head unit equiptped with the required socket


    Any panel that is used to mount a speaker becomes a baffle board

    Balanced line

    A method of audio signal transmission using a cable that dose'nt use the outer screen braided to handle the return portion of audio signal


    Meaning a specific segment of the audio spectrum. Used when discussing equalisers and crossovers

    Band-Pass Enclosure

    A more involed speaker cabinet that uses two chambers to limit the band that passes from the speaker into the listening area.

    Band-Pass Filter

    A crossover network that conines high-pass and low-pass components to allow a certain frequency band to pass through


    The support structure that holds a speaker cone and the magnet assembly together in correct alignment


    Low frequencies, generally up to 100Hz


    Bridging is a technique where an amplifier's stereo channels are coupled to produce a single, more powerful mono channel


    A device that filters out low frequencies from an audio signal, used in actice and passive high-pass filter

    Centre Channel

    A third channel used to enhaunce and reinforce the stereo image in the front of the car


    A discreet path from an audio signal. Stereo systems have two channels - left and right - but a sourondsound system like Dolby 5.1 has six channels

    Circuit Breaker

    A ressettable protection device that breaks the current flow when excese amperage is detected


    A term meaning distortion free


    A term descibing 1) the distortion that occurs when an electronic device cannot accomidate the maximum levels of input signal 2) At extreme volumes when the cone of the driver(speaker) "bottoms out" - it cannot move as far as the signal requires it to i.e. it's xmax is exceeded.

    Coaxial speakers

    This is much the same as the components but they are not seperate. The tweeter cone is mounted onto the mid. These are not as effecient as the components.


    Usually a 2 peice speaker system with a mid and tweeter.


    A low-resistance material used for the transfer of electrical current


    The part of a speaker that produces sound by rapid fore-and-aft movement, so called because of it shape

    Crossover Frequency

    In a crossover network, this is the frequency where the signal is divided/crossed over. Also known as a crossover point or cut-off point

    Crossover Network

    An electronic compnent designed to seperate frequency bands from an audio signal and route the appropriate frequencies to the correct driver


    The flow of electrons through a conducter. In direct current ( DC ) the electrons flowin one direction, in alternating current ( AC ) the electrons move in both directions. It is delivered by the battery/alternatore system and powers the electrical devices in the vehicle

    Current draw

    The amount of current needed by an electronic conponent to carry out its function


    Referes to how tightly an amplifier or speakers suspension controls the cone motion

    dB ( deciBel )

    The logarithmic scale used to denote a change in the relative strength of an electric signal or acoustic wave or the unit used to measure the "loudness" of a system.


    The size of the headunit is usually 1 DIN you can get 1.5 and 2 DIN. These are the universal fitting size for cars. Corsa's have 1 DIN which means anything can fit into your car.

    Distribution blocks

    These are used to split the power/earth cables into small Ga, this method is used only when running more than 1 amp. These have fuses within them and can only be split down a Ga. For example you can split a 2Ga into two - four 4Ga. get it?????????


    Any unwanted alternation in an audio signal


    An individual speaker consisting of the electromagnetic components of a speaker, typically a magnet and voice coil.


    The boosting or cutting af audio frequencies by electronic means. Can be done to correct acoustic anomalies or talior the acoustic signal to the listeners preference


    A controler used to change the volume between front and rear speakers

    Fibre Optics

    A method of trainsmitting digital audio signals as pulses of light, through a special cable, this results in less electrical interferences


    Term used to describe ambience information in an audio system


    A circuit that boosted, attenutes or removes selected frequencies from audio signal


    A 0dB setting


    Described as the rate of vibration or oscillation of sound, it is measured in hertz ( Hz ( cycles per secound ) ). The audio signal spectrum is considered to between 20Hz to 20.000Hz

    Frequency Response

    Described how evernly a component or system repoduces frequencies in the audio spectrum

    Full-Range Speaker

    A single driver unit thats designed to reproduce all or most of the frequencies between 20Hz and 20.000Hz


    An electrical protection device that prevents damage from occurring by stopping the flow of current through a circuit when the amperage of the current flow is too high

    Ga- Gauge

    This is what wire is measured in, for thickness. The smaller the number the thicker the wire.

    Graphic Equaliser

    An audio component that breaks the frequency spectrum in to bands, and allows the output of each band to be cut or boosted


    The theoretical zero voltage reference

    Hard Dome / Soft Dome

    A tweeter dome that is made os a stiff material, such as aluminium or titanium, as opposed to a soft dome made from silk or simular material

    Hertz ( Hz )

    A unit of frequency measurement representing one complete cycle per second. In sound terms, the higher the Hz figure, the higher the sound pitch

    High Frequency

    In audio terms, the frequency range from approximently 5kHz to 20kHz

    High-Pass filter

    A cross over circuit the lets throughfrequencies above the chosen cross over frequency


    A system's ability to place vocals and instrumentation in a spatially realistic manner


    A measurment, expressed in ohms, of electrical resistance in a component


    A coil of wire used to attenuate high frequencies

    Input Sensitivity

    Specification that gives input signals levels required for an amplifier to produce its rated output


    A method of installing woofers useing a compond loading technique where a pair of woofers use the same airspace between them. The woofer are either face - to - face or piggybacked. The main benefit is les space is needed to mount them


    A thounsand hertz


    The side of the foot well area, now widley used for custom speaker installation

    LCD ( Liquid Crystal Display )

    A type of electronic read out used in the head unit and some system components

    LED ( Light Edmitting Diode )

    A small light often used as a condition or function indicator on an electrical component


    Describes the accuracy of a component's output signal compared to its input signal

    Line Level

    The low - voltage audio signal, usually between 500 millivolts and 4 volts, also know as the pre-out level

    Low-Pass filter

    A crossover circuit that lets though those frequencies which are below the chosen frequency

    Max Power

    Max power is basically a figure which companys make up, so for example an amp which is 300WRMS/1000Watt Max is exactly the same as an amp which is 300WRMS/ 500W Max Power


    The section of the audio spectrum between sub-bass and mid-range, about 100-400 Hz


    The section of the audio spectrum between the mid-bass and the treble, about 400-5000Hz


    The interval betwwen two frequencies, where the lighter frequency is twice that of the lower one. The audible frequency bandwidth covers 20Hz to 20kHz, which is broken up in to ten octaves


    A listening or test-microphone position that is not directly in front of a speaker


    A unit of electrical resistance or impedence


    A listening or test-microphone position that is directly in front of a speaker

    Ported box

    This is where your sub box has a tube port cut into it. This will enable more air movement and thus a lower bass note. SPL use only.

    Power cable/ Earth cable

    These are needed when building a system, this is what sends the power from your battery to your amp(s). This comes in different thickness, from 8Ga - 0Ga. The thicker the cable the more power can be had.


    These are the signal cable which give the amps their signal from the headunit so they will replay the signal into the speakers. The better quality you get the better the signal will be.

    Remote wire

    This is a thin blue wire that connects from the headunit to the amp. These look unimportant but are highly nessesary for your amps to work.

    RMS "root mean square"

    RMS ratings are universal accross the scale. RMS is a sorta universal way of measuring continuous power of an amp or input capability of speakers.


    "RTA, or Real Time Analysis is a measurement of your system's frequency response in your car. It accounts for speaker placement, speaker quality, and amplifier power, and equalisation.

    The sound is analysed in Real Time, playing test tones and music. The frequency response graph should be "flat", with no peaks in bass, midrange or treble response.

    If there's a peak, it can be compensated for with equalisation, and better speaker placement.

    Sound stage

    The sound systems ability recreate an imaginary stage. The reproduction of the way the music would sound if you were actually watching the musicians play in front of you. The stage should always appear to be in front of you, with a proper "image" of where each musician is playing on the imaginary soundstage.


    Sound Pressure Level mainly sound off stuff


    Sound Quality people could spend more time and money on this than most other things.


    Mix of SQ and SPL


    The accuracy of the soundstage, concerning width, depth and height. A good staging system will convince the listener that the players in the band are placed correctly playing across the windscreen and possibly outside the physical limits of the car. The listener should believe that the vocalist is in front and the drummer is behind them. Hard to achieve but what is aimed for.


    Subwoofer, a speaker from 4"-34" designed to reproduce bass frequencies.


    Typically a 1" speaker that is designed to reproduce the high or treble range of the sound spectrum.
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  2. #2
    BasilD's Avatar
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    Mark I have added to one or to of the explanations above i.e. Tweeter and Subwoofer.

  3. #3
    Markb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BasilD
    Mark I have added to one or to of the explanations above i.e. Tweeter and Subwoofer.
    Right thanks I thought they may need changing, but never got around to it. As I had only put that a Sub starts at 10" LOL
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