Amplifying speaker level outputs on my car's factory stereo?
April 23, 2007 5:29 AM   Subscribe

Do car audio amplifiers sound any good using speaker level inputs?

I have a 2001 Maxima SE with the non-Bose stereo system. It is supposedly "premium audio," but in my opinion the sound is pretty mediocre -- reasonable bass response, muddled mids and inconsistent highs.

In past cars, I've simply replaced the stereo with a decent Alpine unit along with new speakers, and everything is good. However, in this car, the stereo is a big trapezoidal component of the center console, and any aftermarket head unit is not going to look appropriate there. I'm fine with adding an amplifier and replacing the speakers if it will give me quality sound using the stock head unit. If the sound will still be mediocre, though, then I'll hesitantly start looking at aftermarket stereos.

Regarding the quality of sound: I'm not after big booming bass or anything, just high fidelity reproduction across the spectrum.
posted by knave to Technology (5 answers total)
I think what you're asking is whether the output of the existing stereo system's power amp can be fed into the input of another amplifier. Right?

Yes, it can be, but it probably won't sound very good because it'll usually be too strong and will saturate the input. The problem is that you're going to want to use the old unit's volume control, and it won't give you fine enough control.

It would be much better if a non-amplified output could be gotten out of the existing stereo, but to know if that is possible would require knowing what specific brand and unit you've got.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:47 AM on April 23, 2007

I think what you're asking is whether the output of the existing stereo system's power amp can be fed into the input of another amplifier. Right?

No, I know many amplifiers can accept speaker level input. I'm asking if it sounds any good.

I'm fairly certain I can't get line level outputs from my stereo, so I'm stuck with using the speaker level outputs, or replacing the head unit completely. Thanks for the input!
posted by knave at 6:00 AM on April 23, 2007

In my experience, admittedly over 10 years ago, when I hooked up my amp to the speaker level inputs it did not sound right. When I did the extra work of stringing line level inputs back to the amp it sounded great. I doubt your unit has line level outputs, but it is worth looking. The problem with your muddy sound probably is as much the fault of your speakers as it is the amp, so just putting in some quality speakers should help tremendously.
posted by caddis at 6:25 AM on April 23, 2007

I think most stock head units thease days are reasonably good, just underpowered.

I have the same problem you do in my Subaru - a goofy sized, sort-of-integrated in the console head unit that's not easily replaced (at least aesthetically). I am running the stock unit through speaker level inputs on an Alpine amp to replacement speakers, and they sound great.

I say try it, but make sure you get at good quality amp.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:31 AM on April 23, 2007

Before you do the amp, just replace the speakers with something decent. ADS has some decent coaxes. If you need more power later on, you can just add the amp.
posted by Ferrari328 at 7:20 AM on April 23, 2007

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