Every now and then We get e-mails from readers who like to crank it up. One recent one asked, “Is there any possible way to make car speakers louder without an amp?”.
Obviously, not all cars have the speaker quality or volume levels to make your setup envious. These two issues — along with poor speaker placement — can get in the way of you enjoying your favourite tunes.
Making your speakers louder without an amplifier sounds counter-intuitive, but believe it or not, there are a few simple ways to improve the sound of your car audio setup and add a slight boost of volume to your speakers without the need for an amplifier.
These tips don’t involve massive investment, and you don’t have to spend money on every aspect to achieve a great-sounding car audio system. Follow a few of them, though, and we’d like to think your time in your car will be greatly improved.
If you want your music to be loud — really loud, amplifiers are definitely part of the picture. But, whether you like to turn it up or keep it low as great background music, a power amplifier will breathe life into your music, bringing out all of its excitement and detail.
With that said, having an amplifier has never been a bad idea. No tips or tricks can miraculously improve the sound quality and make your speakers sound loud better than an amplifier. Still, there are a few great tips that can yield noticeable results. And since you’re here, we’re assuming that’s what you’re looking for. So, let’s get to it…
7 Tips to Make Your Speakers Louder Without an Amp
Tip #1: Select higher quality for your music files
There is a scourge wreaking havoc in your music files with its awfulness, and you’re probably not aware of. It’s called compression, and it can significantly color (and even mess up) your music and turn it into a muddled mess.
Compression is the process of reducing the dynamic range between the softest and loudest sounds of an audio signal. This is done by boosting the quieter signals and attenuating the louder ones.
During the compression process, your music loses some high- and low-frequency information along with some important details that make your music interesting.
Compressed music files will sound fine when you’re listening through your earbuds or headphones, but on a good car audio system, you can really tell that something’s missing.
Having said that, using as little compression as possible is the way to go. Keep in mind that the higher the bit rate, the better your music will sound through your car sound system.
Additionally, if you’re a big fan of music streaming, check the settings in your favorite music app to step up the sound quality. You might also want to consider using a music streaming service that uses higher resolution, like TIDAL (our recommended hi-res streaming service) which offers CD-quality and MQA streaming.
Tip #2: Bypass your music player’s built-in digital-to-analog converter
A digital-to-analog converter, or DAC for short, is a little unit that converts digital information — Zeros and Ones — into analog music signals. In today’s world, the majority of us rely on our smartphones for wireless music streaming. Your smartphone’s built-in DAC does a good enough job for casual listening with earbuds, however, it leaves a lot to be desired and doesn’t deliver the same level of performance you can get from the more advanced DACs found in many of today’s car stereos.
When the digital-to-analog conversion is done by the DAC built into your receiver or by a high-end outboard DAC, you get much cleaner, fuller sound.
Fortunately, several aftermarket receivers are designed to allow you to bypass your device’s DAC by connecting your iPod or smartphone to your aftermarket stereo via a USB cable.
Tip #3: Tweak the sound using receiver’s EQ parameters
Your car’s interior isn’t acoustically perfect. It presents a serious challenge when it comes to sound quality. Hence, controlling -a) the way sound is reflected off hard surfaces such as glass and plastic, and -b) they way it’s absorbed by softer ones such as carpet and seat covers can be key to getting good sound.
Hard surfaces reflect sound like crazy, while absorbent materials soak it up. To add insult to injury, most cars’ speakers are poorly placed. These are the reason which lead to significant frequency response peaks in most car interiors. These peaks are what make your music boomy in the bass or shrill in the upper frequencies, causing “ear fatigue.”
A car audio equalizer – whether it’s built into your receiver or in a sound processor – can help you get rid of these peaks.
Fortunately, most modern car receivers, especially aftermarket ones are featured with various more extensive tone control — a built-in equalizer, or preset EQ curves that allow you to get the sound quite right.
If your car headunit has only treble, midrange, and bass controls, and your can’t replace it for whatever reason, opting for a an outboard equalizer can do the trick. Treble, midrange, and bass controls are quite handy and useful for global fixes but not for zeroing in on problem areas.
So, if you’re a tweaker listener who likes to fiddle with the EQ settings to hit that musical sweet spot, you might want to consider using an outboard equalizer, or a digital sound processor. The former gives you multiple points for adjusting frequency response, so you can iron out those peaks in your system, whilst the latter is meant to help you eliminate frequency response peaks and increase bass response.P.S : Most digital sound processors come with built-in equalizers.
Tip #4: Your crossover can really improve the sound of your system
In addition to their EQ parameters, most modern car receivers come with frequency filters that’ll work with your preamp and speaker outputs. If you have a subwoofer, use your receiver’s high-pass filter to prevent bass notes from reaching your full-range speakers. This way, your speakers will deliver clean sound even at high volume levels. This is particularly true if you’re driving your speakers with the receiver’s built-in power.
Furthermore, if you subwoofer is hitting really hard, but the bass sounds like it’s coming from behind you, you might need to increase or decrease the crossover points on your low-pass filter to bring the bass up forward with the rest of the music.
If the amplifier powering your subwoofer is featured with subsonic filters, turn it on. It’ll cut down super-low bass notes below the range of human hearing, making your sub-amp combo run cleaner without that subsonic sludge.
Tip #5: Don’t max out your tone controls
Just like a guitar, your car sound system will perform much better when it’s properly tuned. Therefore, boosting your stock headunit’s tone controls all the way up will do more harm than good.
Your sound system will sound slightly better in your driveway, but as soon as you hit the highway and turn up it up, you’ll experience deteriorated sound with unbearable distortion. A heavy bass boost, in particular, will put a big strain on your stock system. With that said, if you want to fatten up your sound, start with a small bass boost, lower the highs and mids a touch, and then turn up your overall level a little more.
The same rule holds true even if your car audio system is running off an aftermarket receiver that features a multi-band equalizer. So, always avoid excessive tone boosts or cuts if possible.
The same way a bad EQ setting can make a good system sound terrible, an intelligent tone curve can make a night and day difference in terms of sound quality.
For your own safety on the road, it’s never a good idea to tweak your receiver’s EQ while you’re driving. What you should do instead is program a few different EQ preset curves, and cycle between them to figure out what works best in your car without fooling with your EQ settings while you’re on the road.
Tip #6: Use sound deadening material
Sound deadening materials can drastically improve your sound system. I mean think about it, your car stereo sounds great in the driveway, but as soon as you hit the road, it leaves a lot to be desired. The overall volume drops, the highs get muddy, and the bass is almost non existent.
In this situation, your natural reaction is to crank it up to compensate, but as soon as your speed increases it just gets worse — so you’re forced to turn it up a bit more. A few minutes later, your ears are begging for mercy due to a muffled music that has lost its crisp edge.
Hustle out to your car a few hours later, start the engine and BAAAM, the volume is too loud to the point you want to jump out of your car. What gives? Well, there’s no denying that road noise competes with your music and disrupts your listening experience, and chances are, increasing vibrations and road noise made you turn the volume up a couple of times without you even realizing it, sapping performance from your sound system and unnecessarily abusing your speakers, which in turn made your ears numb.
Fortunately, you can cut down that road noise dramatically by installing a sound-deadening material like Dynamat or Hushmat. These noise deadeners make your system sound better by absorbing vibrations and noise, eliminating speaker resonance, and baffling out excessive sound. What this means is that you don’t have to turn your music up as loud when you’re driving.
Tip #7: Add a subwoofer and hear what you’ve been missing
If you don’t mind spending some extra cash, I’d suggest adding a subwoofer to your ride. A good car subwoofer, will take a huge load off your speakers, since you’ll be playing your tunes with the bass control set at “0” instead of “+5”.
A good subwoofer – no matter its size – can greatly improve your music. I mean, you don’t necessarily need to go out and splurge on the most expensive competition subwoofer as even the cheapest one can greatly improve your music.
There’s no denying that audiophilia can cost an arm and a leg. However, if you’re on a strict-budget or if you don’t want to add an amplifier to your ride for whatever reason, the tips we listed above will help make your car speakers louder without an amp. They’ll also improve your sound quality without tearing a hole in your wallet.
With these tips, your favorite tracks that at one time had to be turned up to high volume levels, could now have the same effect at a much lower level.
With that said, you don’t have to live with anemic sound in your car. Even the simplest improvements to your car sound system can yield noticeable results.