Advice Articles

Dealing with Noise

Hiss. Hum. Noise. Every system is going to have some noise. Unless you're going to enter a sound competition, you may not even have to worry about it. Usually, you won't hear that small hiss when you're driving. But if you're concerned, you can test your system. Make sure your amplifier is isolated from your car's chassis. Then, try this:

Check your RCA patch cords.
Disconnect the interconnects from your amp and reinsert just one strand into the right and left input jacks of your amp. Now start your engine and turn on your system. If you get noise, try re-routing your interconnects, separating them from other connectors (like your power cable) by at least 18". Also, try a better quality of interconnect, consider trading in coaxial cable for "twisted pair" cables.
Check your antenna.
Unplug it and see if the noise goes away. If it does, you need an antenna noise filter.
Check your head unit.
If you stop hearing the noise when you jiggle or pull out your head unit while it's playing, the noise may be radiating from an ungrounded component into your tape or CD system. Try shielding the back of your head unit with metal foil (available at retailers) or filtering the unit's power leads.
Check the electrical system.
Is your battery filled? Have a mechanic check your alternator and give your car a tune up. A tune up will stop the noise at its source: the spark plugs, wires, distributor cap, and coil. Install resistor-type spark plugs with shielded carbon-core wires. Worse case, have a mechanic check the grounding of your ignition, charging, and injection systems. All of these things can radiate noise into your system.

Defeating Distortion

Distortion can destroy your speakers. Distortion is the audible expression of a speaker's limitations or an amplifier running out of clean power. Distortion happens when speakers are forced to play frequencies that they were not meant to play, which happens when speakers lack the proper crossovers (frequency blockers). If you don't have the crossovers, and you jam low frequencies through your little tweeters, you will hear distortion.

Since beauty, as it were, is in the ear of the beholder, there's lots of argument over what distortion actually sounds like. But it's safe to say that when the stuff you?re listening to gets "muddy" or when it starts to lose the definition of individual elements, when it all starts to blend together into a loud jumble; that, my friend, is distortion.

If you start hearing distortion, turn it down!

Distortion is bad. Power, on the other hand, is good.

This article was last modified Apr 18, 2014

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