The ABCs of Car Audio Terminology for Newbies

Are you looking to soup up your car and drop some heavy bass but you’re unsure where to start? Well, if you want to walk the walk, you have to talk the talk first. And that starts with understanding car audio tech basic terminology.

Here we’ve laid out the basics so you can eventually understand how many watts your amp can handle or the RMS on your speaker.

Basic Car Audio Tech Terminology  

Acoustics: The study of sound.

Amplifiers: Commonly known as "amps," these devices increase the amplitude of a signal, which allows the signal to power larger speakers. (These can be purchased from a authorized Phoenix Gold dealer)

Bandwidth: The range of frequencies capable to be reproduced by a speaker, amplifier or other component.

Bass: The lower end of the audio frequency spectrum. (This is what rattles your trunk.)

Coaxial: Speakers with a woofer and tweeter combined into one chassis with the tweeter mounted on or above the woofer as one unit.

Components: (also called-Separates). Individual speaker sets that are specifically designed to reproduce a narrow set of frequencies for the best performance. Example. 2-Way components contain a tweeter for high frequencies, and midrange woofer for mid and low frequencies. These would be combined with at subwoofer to reproduce the entire frequency range.

Decibel (dB): A scale used to show a change in the strength of an electric signal or acoustic wave (aka how loud something is).

Distortion: Any unwanted change in the audio that deviates from the original signal. 

Dynamic Range: The range of sound a system can produce without compromising or distorting the signal.

Equalizer: An electronic device that acts as an active audio filter. It's used to boost or cut specific frequencies to tailor the sound.

Frequency: The number of waves or cycles arriving at or passing a point in one second. This is also known as Hertz (Hz). Example: 60Hz = 60 cycles per second.

Ground: Refers to a point that has 0 voltage potential. This is similar to when you're jumping a car battery and how you are supposed to touch one of the negative sides of the jumper cables to the piece of metal.

Hertz (Hz): Named after H.R. Hertz, who was a German physicist. A Hertz is a measurement of the frequency of sound vibration.

Midrange (mids): This is the frequency range falls between the bass and treble frequencies. It carries most of the identifying tones of music or speech.

Output: The amplitude produced by a speaker or component.

Peak: The max amount of amplitude of a current or voltage.

RMS: An acronym for "root mean square." Used in audio to help grade the continuous power output of an amp or a speaker’s capability with a set level of acceptable distortion. Typically with only 1% distortion which is inaudible.

Subwoofer (sub): A speaker designed to produce bass frequencies. (This can be purchased from Phoenix Gold.)

Treble (highs): The higher end of the audio spectrum produced by tweeters.

Tweeter: A speaker designed to produce the higher range of the sound spectrum.

Watt: A unit of electrical power. It's usually used to describe the output power of an amplifier or the power handling capability of your speakers.

Pump up the Jams

This basic list will assist you in the beginning stages of car audio terminology. While there are more terms, these will help you get started and hit the ground running.