We are back in-car audio section and this time we will be talking about how SQ car audio works and how to set up a basic SQ audio system. SQ stands for sound quality and SQ car audio enthusiasts who run an SQ setup will find their audio produces the natural sound of a recorded song. SQ lovers will have their car tuned as close as the audio recorded and concentrate on soundstage / front stage imaging.
The SQ tuning makes the front stage imaging more centralized, with the vocal, focused on the centre, and each instrument positioned well on the front windscreen. There are many articles about setting up an SQ system, but the SQ guide here is all you need to get started!
What is SQ?
The music that is played will sound as if the musicians are alive in front of you and playing only for you. All instruments are in place, and sound alive and natural.
In the SQ car competition, there are 5 positions that you need to take care of by tuning the soundstage to be as realistic as possible just like enjoying music at a live concert. The 5 positions are left, left centre, centre, right centre and right, instruments like a hand drum, mini bell, acoustic guitar or castanet etc will play at its own position depending on the music and how it was recorded in the studio.
The SQ front stage imaging
The sound stage’s height, ambience and depth also need to be tuned according to your liking, be it on top of the dashboard or further centre on the windscreen, this is where the sound came from. A perfectly tuned SQ car has bigger sound staging than the size of the car, it will sound wider, balanced, clear and not overwhelmed with bass.
This is just a basic SQ guide and a good start for those who want a good sound-quality car setup. After we have discussed our basic mobile audio setup guide, this section will introduced a few basic car audio equipment for SQ setup.
The audio source – MP3, CD or FLAC?
The music source played is also important, for example, if you are playing lossy 128kbps MP3, you will get a lot of details missing because the audio is compressed into a small file of 3MB. To get the best out of your SQ sound system, played it in CD or FLAC format.
The FLAC format is a high-resolution lossless audio format with file sizes ranging from 15MB – 35MB. Anything music you played from Android music apps is also consider losing of sound quality. FLAC is the way to go if you don’t want to use CDs.
The Basic SQ Car Audio Setup
1. Head Unit
As we mentioned in our previous car audio section, the head unit is an important piece of equipment that you need to upgrade as the top priority because the HU/head unit is similar to the vocal of a singer, so upgrade this first.
2. Component Speakers
The next upgrade for SQ setup is having a pair of good-quality component speakers. It will reproduce crystal clear sound right from your head unit or car amplifier, and this is just the beginning. To get a much more detailed sound, go for 3-way components, which consist of a pair of tweeters, a 3″ midrange woofer and 6 1/2 woofers.
Get rid of the crossover and go active as you can have more sound control by using a DSP which we will discuss later below. 3-way components are difficult to tune, it takes time to get the best out of them but will sound great if tuned correctly.
There are 2-way components with tweeters and woofers, the basic component setup. For better results for the SQ starter, we suggest getting rid of the tweeters and using a 2″ woofer for all the midrange and highs. You’ll lose some details but in the sound range, we humans are unable to hear. So it’s alright!
3. 4-channel Amplifier
A good 4-channel amplifier will power the component speakers with more juice, therefore playing music way louder without distortion. With a separate channel amplifier for front speakers, you can tune the audio more accurately.
4. Digital Sound Processor
A digital sound processor is all you need and it is the most crucial SQ component upgrade you need to get if you want your sound system to sound natural and clear in your car! A DSP will process the audio from the source and ‘optimise’ to sound realistic as possible when music is played. A DSP feature includes tuning of individual speakers, time alignments and many more.
DSP can be tuned using a laptop, free DSP PC-Tool software and RTA by measuring the sound tonal graph – bass, sub bass, midrange and high frequency.
A DSP can be used to tune certain instruments to play at their own position. The time alignment can be tuned so that the audio reaches and is directed to the ear of the listener, for example, the person in the driver’s seat will get the full sound being played compared to the passenger who he/she will be missed out on a lot of details.
5. Monoblock Amplifier
A monoblock amplifier is used to power up and separate the subwoofer from the front component speakers, giving better control in tuning the right sound. A greatly tuned car SQ sound system will have bass coming from the front rather than the back. If you crank up these new hit songs, I’m sure you’re going to be amazed by the sound of the booming bass.
The subwoofer can be tuned using the DSP time alignment, by delaying the time of the sound wave so the bass virtually comes from the front and blend nicely with the component speakers.
6. Soundproofing / Deadening
When it comes to car audio, soundproofing or sound deadening the interior is important to reduce outside noises, eliminate vibrations and absorb sound waves as much as possible. Sound deadening also help to improve the sound quality of car audio. Soundproofing a car can be done by professionals or DIY by purchasing soundproof materials and installing it in certain areas like doors, boots, roofs etc.
7. Car Audio Cables
Audio cables deliver all the sound you need and using a thick gauge audio cable will deliver better sound to your system. There are many car audio cable brands out there and its best to ask the SQ professional installer for advice on which best suit your car setup. Some say it’s a myth as cables won’t affect sound quality but give it a try and you’ll know the difference.
So we have come to an end with this basic SQ guide for car audiophile enthusiasts who love music and want to get their car audio sounds nice. We will come up with the next one with our best song selection for SQ testing, sound good? So stay tuned!
* The images above are just for illustration and guidance purposes only.