Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Choosing an Amplifier

The addition of an amplifier and suitable speakers can enhance any car audio system. In this article we will cover the most of the decisions that need to be made when choosing an amplifier for your car.

How Much Power?

Some people will say that you can never have enough power! The power output of the amplifier will ultimately govern the maximum volume that will be available in the system. However the power output of the amplifier must be carefully matched to the power that the speakers can handle. The values that should be matched are the RMS output value of the amplifier and the RMS input value of the speakers. Speakers often supply the peak music input power as well but this shouldn't be confused with the RMS value. The peak value is the power that the speaker can sustain for short bursts but not continuously.

If the RMS input power of the speaker is regularly exceeded then it will lead to premature failure of the speakers which will probably be caused by a mechanical failure.

How Many Channels?

The number of channels correspond to the number of speakers that can be driven from a single amplifier. The most popular choices are either 2 or 4 channels.

4 channel amplifiers often give the ability to create a bridged connection. This is where 2 channels are combined to give approximately twice the output of a single channel. This gives some flexibility in the system for example you could use 2 channels to power the high/mid range speakers and a single bridged channel for the sub-woofer to give some extra depth to the sound.

Amplifier Inputs

One common problem that maybe experienced is when the factory head unit is to be maintained. The input connections to an amplifier usually consist of a set of RCA sockets. If you are lucky the head unit will provide RCA output connections which can be directly connected to the amplifier. In the majority of cases some kind of adapter will be required to reduce the output level of the head unit to a suitable value for the input of the amplifier.

Power Supply

The supply that the amplifier is connected to is vital to ensure a pure clean sound. To get the optimum sound the supply cables should be routed directly to the battery ideally keeping the cables as far from the other cables as possible. This is to prevent any spurious 'noise' being picked up which will manifest itself as buzzes, hums and clicks on the audio from the amplifier.

The amplifier itself is switched on and off by connecting the supply usually used for an electric aerial straight to the remote input of the amplifier.

If buzzes, clicks and hums are present on the audio then a choke can be placed in series with the power supply lines which will reduce and hopefully eliminate it.


The final point that shouldn't be overlooked is the location of the amplifier. The amplifier must be located in a position where it has good airflow to ensure that it doesn't overheat. In the event of overheating the amplifier will probably shutdown or at worst it will fail.

It should also be located somewhere where it will not be exposed to electromagnetic radiation such as too close to the engine etc.

An good quality sound system will make an excellent addition to any modified cars.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Choosing a Car Stereo

With the huge choice of car audio equipment available today it is often difficult to decide what car stereo would best suit your needs. This article will hopefully help you negotiate the technical minefield and make the best choice for your requirements.

There are two main contributing factors to the quality of the audio that is produced by any audio equipment which are the frequency response and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). The frequency response of the ear is around 20Hz to 20KHz although this often diminishes with age. A 'loud' facility is sometimes provide to boost the frequencies that become degraded with age. The SNR is important as it is what constitutes the background hiss that is often associated with cheaper audio equipment.

The car stereo or head unit today can play audio from a wide variety of sources which we will now discuss below.

Cassette Deck

If the reason for replacing your car stereo is to allow you to play your CD's or music from your iPod then please be aware that it is possible to purchase equipment that allows you to play music from an external source. These specialised adapters look like a cassette with a flying lead that plugs into your alternate music source ie iPod, CD player etc. This is often a very cheap and easy alternative if funds are tight!

Audio Cassettes in general do not give as good an audio experience as CD players as their frequency response and SNR is often inferior to that of modern digital equipment.

Although cassette tape sales have declined extensively it is still possible to purchase due to the amount of tapes that are still out there however as a long term investment a CD or MP3 player would probably be a better choice.

CD player

The CD has been around for many years now and is well established in the market-place. A CD can store its information in a multitude of formats but the most popular at the moment is usually just referred to as an Audio CD in the specifications. These are the CD's that you can buy of the shelf from any major music retail shop.

As with all technology the the common audio format is under threat by a relatively new format referred to as MP3. MP3 is a digital audio compression technique that allows much more audio to be squeezed onto a single CD. A typical compressed song will be roughly 4-6MB depending upon the quality of the audio and a typical CD can store around 700MB of data. So you can see that you can store many more songs using MP3 technology than with the conventional music CD's.

It is also possible to purchase a head unit that has a remote CD player or CD changer. A CD changer is like a mini duke box that can be located in your boot, glove compartment etc. They typically have between 6 and 12 CD's within them and often support the ability to play songs randomly between all the CD's.

USB/Memory Card

With the rapid adoption of MP3 format and the availability of cheap USB memory sticks car audio manufacturers have started to adopt USB ports on their equipment as standard. A USB stick or memory card can be thought of as a very small CD usually about a couple of inches long and about half an inch wide but capable of storing vastly more information than a conventional CD. Something to check when buying a head unit supporting this feature is the upper memory limit of the USB stick or memory card. Typical memory cards today are around 2-4GB which would store many albums however these sizes may not be supported by the head unit.

If you purchase a head unit supporting this type of media then you'll need to make sure that you have a method of getting the music from you CD collection onto the memory stick. This will involve 'ripping' the audio and copying it onto the memory. There are many programs available for doing this such as Windows Media Player.


Most people are familiar with car radio's and understand what to look for when purchasing one. However something to keep in mind when looking is the uptake of DAB radio which is the new digital transmission method.

DAB radio uses modern digital compression techniques to offer a greater variety of music and programmes as well as short messages etc that often appear of the display. Since this is a new format and isn't widely adopted as the mainstream format most DAB radios also still support FM transmissions.

The DIN form factor

Finally something which should be overlooked is the form factor and connections for the head-unit. With early cars there wasn't really a standard which led to all sorts of problems when replacing the factor standard unit. However there is now a standard size referred to as the DIN which is 2 1/8" (50mm) tall and 7 1/8" (180mm) wide and double-DIN which is twice as tall as the standard DIN size.

The connectors used to plug the stereo in are fairly common but there is no one standard connector. Luckily due to the size of the problem there are many different types of adaptor readily available in most car audio shops.

One problem often experience with fitting new audio equipment is with the memory 'forgetting' its settings. This is often due to the power supply wires to the head unit being switched over. To over come this problem the manufacturers of the cabling adapters easily enable the yellow and red wire to be interchanged which will fix the problem.

It is always worth checking out many retailers before making a selection on a head unit and I would recommend searching an automotive directory for the best choice.

First stop news on the adventure!

Erie Flathead Club hosted The Rolling Bones last night on their first leg of the WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE ROLLING BONES cross country adventure to SEMA. Keith Cornell and Ken Schmidt met with about 40 Erie area rodders at the Quaker Steak and Lube for a few hours. Thank you to Steve for organizing the group! Bright and early this morning, Keith and Ken were sipping coffee with Jeff at Tregler’s Precision Services in Fairview , PA. Specializing in racing and high performance engines, Tregler’s was a great way to get the motor running this morning!

Next stop is the Road Rockets Custom Car Club at Culbertson’s Rod & Custom Shop in Indy ( 1815 South Lynhurst Drive ). If you’re in the area, the fun starts at 7pm tonight. Thanks to Tom and Naomi for gathering friends, family, customers and fellow rodders to meet and greet Ken and Keith on their 2nd day of their journey!


We’ve added an additional stop to the tour!! On Halloween evening (Saturday, October 31st), Ken and Keith will be swinging through Jamie Johnson’s Hot Rod Haven in Albuquerque . This world-renowned shop is located at 2215 Edith NE in Albuquerque . Thanks to Jamie for hosting this last gathering before the last leg to Las Vegas ! Hope to see you there!

Pictures to follow soon!

The cross country adventure to SEMA has begun!

The Where In The World Are Rolling Bones cross country adventure to SEMA started today!!

Hot Rod? Check.

Books? Check.

Maps? Check.

Ken and Keith? Check. Check.

Speeding Ticket? Check.

The Rolling Bones Cross Country Adventure to SEMA started bright and early this morning... with a speeding ticket! Even before they hit the highway, Keith got a speeding ticket on the way to pick up Ken this morning. The best part? The guys only live 10 miles apart. I guess they were excited to get the WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE THE ROLLING BONES adventure started!

Rolling Bones arrive in Erie , Pennsylvania this afternoon and will hang with Erie County Flatheads Club tonight at the Quaker Steak & Lube ( 7851 Peach Street , Erie ), 7pm. All rodders in the area are welcome to come!

Don't forget to check back again to read what happens when they get there and see some pictures of the turn out!

Lowrider Arte

When people think of Lowriders the first thing that most people with think of is the ground-scraping stance and the bouncing of Hydraulic competitions. However there is much more to the Lowrider scene than dropping the suspension and one major area is that of Lowrider Arte.

The creation of the Lowrider scene can be traced back to the late 60s and was due to the mixing of several cultures which were the California car culture and the Mexican culture.

Lowrider Arte is not confined to using a Lowrider as the canvas and extends to Tattoos, paintings and most other art forms. The Lowrider Arte magazine is solely dedicated to providing an outlet for Lowrider artists and features articles and tattoos, car drawing and much more.

Serious Lowrider car enthusiasts spend a great deal of time on all aspects of their creation with attention to detail being paramount to their success in Lowrider competitions. During the build the car will be completely stripped and many of the major components of the car will be as detailed including chrome plating and air-brushing. Often the bodywork, door shuts, boot, engine compartment will feature murals and fantastic works of art.

'32 Ford Deuce

This is a big heavy book that will have your both a little more muscular and more knowledgeable after reading it! It is actually an extended version of a book originally about the Deuce. The book now has 75 of the best Deuces that have shaped history to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Deuce.

The beginning of the book is devoted to the history of Ford with an interesting insight into how Ford operated as a company. It is packed with photos of early prototypes, production lines and designs and tells of how the Ford V8 was a move to go 2 cylinders better than the competition which were mainly using 6 cylinders. Henry Ford also tried to avoid using a water pump in the design to cut down on production costs which were always his key objective in any new project.

The 75 Deuce Hot Rods at the end of the book include cars from Bruce Meyer, Boyd Coddington and Dan Fink. The pictures are large and very hi-resolution and each section has a small piece of interesting text about the car and its creator.

You can see the entire review plus some 32 Ford Deuce pictures here.

Where in the world are the Rolling Bones?

Rolling Bones

Rolling Bones, one of the nations best-known hot rod shops, is teaming up with Motorbooks and rodders across the country on an adventure to SEMA! Ken Schmidt and Keith Cornell (aka Rolling Bones) will drive their 1932 Ford Three Window Coupe from their shop in Ballston Spa , New York to Las Vegas . Their final destination would be the Motorbooks booth (#22393) at SEMA! Rolling Bones were featured in Peter Harholdt and Ken Gross’ book Art of the Hot Rod(which recently won a GOLD medal at the International Automotive Media Awards and author Ken Gross won the Lifetime Achievement Award) and Peter Vincent’s Hot Rod Garages. They will be meeting with hot rod enthusiasts and builders all the way across the country… and selling books to pay for their gas!


  • Monday, October 26th - Erie County Flathead Club hosts at the Quaker Steak & Lube ( 7851 Peach Street , Erie , PA ), 7pm
  • Tuesday, October 27th - Road Rockets Custom Car Club in Indianapolis hosts at Culbertson’s Rod & Custom Shop ( 1815 South Lynhurst Drive , Indianapolis , IN ), 7pm
  • Wednesday, October 28th - Regional Streeters in Crown Point , Indiana hosts at Schoops Hamburgers ( 1124 N. Main Street , Crown Point , IN ), 5pm
  • Thursday, October 29th - Morfab Customs in Union , Missouri hosts ( 79 Hi-Line Drive , Union , MO ) hosts, 6pm
  • Friday, October 30th - Darryl Starbird Custom and Hot Rod Hall of Fame hosts (55251 E. Hwy 85A, Afton, OK) 1pm
  • Saturday, October 31st - Bozo’s Garage in Santa Rosa hosts ( 2601 Will Rogers Drive , Santa Rosa , NM ), 2pm
  • Sunday, November 1st - Heading to Vegas!

You can see the route that the guys from Rolling Bones will take across the states in the map below;

The Rolling Bones Route
The Rolling Bones Route

The guys below will be performing the adventure in the hot-rod (also shown below) if you're in the vicinity and see them don't forget to give them a wave!

Rolling Bones Coupe Hot-Rod
Rolling Bones Coupe Hot-Rod
The Intrepid Explorers
The Intrepid Explorers

If you’re interested in following their progress as they drive cross country, become a friend of Motorbooks on FACEBOOK or check out this blog.