Why Do Aftermarket Car Stereos Sound Better?
When a car manufacturer is building a vehicle, not much thought goes into the quality of the radio – just the conveniences it offers. For example, new vehicles are coming with great features such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, backup cameras, Bluetooth, etc. However, while these features offer incredible benefits, the quality of the radio hasn’t improved all that much.
This lack of quality hurts the sound quality of the attached speakers (or amplified premium sound system, if you opted to get that). We are not saying that the speakers that the vehicle manufacturer put in the car, truck, or SUV are the best, either, but even upgrading the stereo to an aftermarket one will improve your overall listening experience.
Have we captured your attention? Please read on!
Does a Head Unit affect sound quality?
100%. Think of it in terms of the smartphone that you own: if your fancy new smartphone featured a weak processor, it’s going to be sluggish and uninspiring. When it comes to a radio (factory-installed or aftermarket) the bits and pieces inside of the unit – things like digital-to-analog converters and Bluetooth chipsets, as examples – are of higher quality, so there is a sonic difference.
Read our next paragraph to get an even better idea on how a new stereo can affect sound quality (and some other neat things).
Benefits of Upgrading to a New Head Unit: Aftermarket vs. OEM Stereo
In addition to top-shelf components inside of an aftermarket head unit, you will get more tuning options to sculpt the sound to precisely what you want it to be. Built-in features such as comprehensive equalization, digital time alignment (also known as time correction), and high-pass/low-pass filter customization go far beyond what factory-installed head units are going to offer. You want the best-possible sound in your vehicle? Upgrade your radio!
Another benefit of an aftermarket radio would be wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These upgraded stereos allow you to keep your phone in your pocket, backpack, or purse, but still enjoy those wildly-popular conveniences. If charging is something you crave, plug into the USB input provided by the aftermarket stereo.
Upgraded Bluetooth chipsets in aftermarket stereos – particularly the higher-performance models – greatly improve fidelity in your audio files from your Bluetooth-enabled device. How? Well, these newer Bluetooth technologies permit the streaming of high-resolution audio from your iPhone or Android, for example. Tracks from the high-resolution music streaming services like Tidal or Qobuz will sound really darn good with an upgraded Bluetooth chipset.
There are even more benefits available when upgrading your current stereo. Make sure to check out our article on the top 5 features to consider when shopping for a car stereo and please feel free to reach out to us if you’re looking for a particular feature!
Do aftermarket speakers sound better than stock?
This is another question we can answer with “100%”! Factory-installed speakers are rarely the quality of a good set of aftermarket speakers – even the ones from a “premium" sound system. A lot of vehicle manufacturers dazzle their vehicle buyers with boasts of “19 speakers” or “600-watt amplifier”, but you don’t need all of those speakers to get rich, clean sound. You may also not need that strong of an amplifier – especially if you’re forgoing a subwoofer (which we advise against).
Aftermarket speakers from manufacturers like Focal, Kicker, JL Audio, etc. are created using better materials that are capable of producing truer-to-life sound quality for a more engaging experience. A great example of this is Focal’s K2 Power series. In that series, both the woofer cones and the tweeters are made of Kevlar. This materials delivers superb sonic performance due to their acoustic properties in addition to how light the material is (if it’s a lighter material, it can move more quickly and more precisely versus a heavier material. This translates into less coloration of the sound produced and more life-like sound quality).
We could write a book about how much better aftermarket speakers are (maybe we will?!), but suffice it to say that there is a demonstrable difference between factory-installed speakers and aftermarket speakers. If you want our recommendations, check out our guide to the best car speakers of 2023.
Is it worth it to upgrade the car’s stereo?
Yes, we believe that it is. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that not every vehicle allows the current stereo/touchscreen to be replaced, though. It can be a confusing experience in trying to find out if your vehicle’s current stereo can be replaced, so we want to assure you that we are here to help! You can read our article on how you can tell what size car stereo will fit in your car here, or we are only an email, phone call, or chat away from answering your questions!
There are many factors to consider when it comes to finding the right car stereo for you. You owe it to yourself to make sure the car stereo you’re considering will work for your car so you can be in an excellent position to pick the perfect fit for your ride. It’s your car, so it should be a reflection of what you love: music and entertainment.
See our best car stereos list to find the right head unit for you.