Tech Stuff

Tech Stuff

The Downside of High-End Audio Installs


Like good music? Who doesn't!

To many of us, music is a way of life. Heading out to an audio shop to beef up the sound system is a logical move. The benefit of a high-end audio system is obvious = Pure sound quality. It's been 3 years since I got a tricked out ICE install, and every drive has brought an extremely pleasurable aural experience.

That said, have you ever thought about the disadvantages? The following 10 points might be worth considering before your car gets pro-audio gear:

1. Forget about the precise fit of panels & plastic parts:
Factory fit is factory fit, enough said. Once your car is ripped apart in the after-market, you've lost that 'perfect fit' for good. In my Civic, I've had to deal with uneven panel gaps (around the climate control & handbrake areas), loose boot molding etc. The robotic precision of an assembly line is impossible to match at your local audio shop.

2. Risk of Theft:

The danger of audio theft is always lurking in urban India. Protecting your system is a royal pain! I got an Autocop installed only for the audio (factory alarm & immobiliser otherwise work well for the car) for 5K and bought an ICE insurance cover @ 3.5K. Then, because my area is theft-prone, the Civic has to be parked in one, safe spot....every night. No flexibility allowed. When I'm visiting a restaurant or a friend's place for a late night party, I have to doubly ensure that a proper parking spot is available.

3. Complexity = Things going wrong. K.I.S.S.


They say, the more parts you add, the more you've got stuff that can break down. Remember this thread? The problem drove me up the wall, requiring several visits to sort things out. That issue aside, something or the other does go wrong from time to time. Loose wiring, amps playing selective speakers and more. Fact : My car has visited the ICE shop more than the authorised service station!

4. Got the hardware. Have the software?

Good audio equipment is one part of the ICE experience. Do you have high quality music? Audiophiles insist on CDs but honestly, they're so passé. You got to have a digital library full of high bitrate, clean songs. The inconsistent quality of various online sources won't make the cut, no. For the record, I now primarily download from iTunes India. Be prepared to put in a lot of effort to bring your music collection up to speed. I even went as far as to equalize all of the 3,500 songs in my iTunes (GUIDE : How to Normalize / Equalize the volume of your entire song collection). If I rip a CD, it's always the lossless way.

5. Reduced Boot Capacity:

Amps & subwoofers eat into your car's boot space. The stock Civic has a rather useless trunk. With 3 amps and 2 large subs, things have gotten only worse. Of course, my sub enclosures can be easily removed when required.

6. Others messing with your equipment:

If chauffeurs / family members / friends use your car, you'd be foolhardy to expect them to use the equipment with the same love & care. Starting / stopping the car with the ICE on, fiddling with the settings etc. is all part of the (annoying) game. Tip: Get a detachable faceplate so that drivers don't give your amps a workout.

7. Bye, bye Factory Warranty:

A heavy duty ICE install will see your warranty coverage fade away. Of course, this depends on your equation with the dealership, yet there is always a possibility of the manufacturer rejecting your warranty claim.

8. $$$$$$$$$$ (image source):

A pro-audio install is going to cost you big bucks. Think, well over 6 figures. Then, you'll have to budget for the add-on insurance cover, a security system and maintenance / repairs (inevitable down the road).

9. Cheaper, and just as enjoyable:

If you're chauffeur-driven, it's hard to beat the aural experience of premium headsets. I've heard a couple and can tell you this : They beat my Civic's ICE at a fraction of the price (merely 10% of the $$$).

10. Other Points & Concerns:

  • Alternator stress & Battery life: Resource-hungry ICE equipment can cause high load on your car's electrical system, resulting in alternator issues & reduced battery life.
  • Safety: Wiring, part & labour quality have to be top-class. Else, you are risking an electrical fire.
  • Tuning: Skilled tuning can make a world of difference to the sound quality. My installer knew just what I wanted, but it's hard to find that kind of talent.
  • Power to weight ratio: More weight, less go. Damping, amplifiers, speakers & enclosures add undesirable weight to your car. High-end installs can run over 50 kilos! In a car like the Swift, that's 5% additional fat to carry around.

Would I do it all over again? Honestly, no. I'd probably restrict it to a simpler speaker upgrade, with an amp thrown in. As a certain Sam Kapasi once said, it's not the audio system that creates the's the artist & track playing that really count!

Image Source : Various Team-BHP Threads. Thanks to BHPians for uploading & sharing!

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