Whether you own a sweet '64 Fairlane, a 2010 Mustang or '80s Pinto, good tunes are a must (especially if you are stuck in a Pinto) for quality cruising. Problem is, with all the misinformation on the Internet and local specialty shops disappearing from Main Street, getting the facts on what works and what is junk has become increasingly difficult. To help you separate the wheat from the chaff, we have put together a buyer's guide for all things electronics for Mustangs and Fords. We have compiled a basic fitment guide for speakers, detailed a few products and have a few tips and tricks as well.
First things first, this is the beginning of your sound system and is a critical component. Unless you have a new (2005-up) Mustang with one of the premium systems, this should be the first thing you replace, even before the speakers. Increasing the quality of the head unit (also known as the radio or stereo) will make your stock speakers sound better, and new speakers sound even better than that. There are a few caveats to this category though, so be careful not to get sucked into the vortex of marketing. All head units, regardless of brand, are only capable of providing up to about 20 watts per channel, max. The power supply for a head unit is not big enough to accommodate any more than that. Head units use IC (Integrated Circuit) chips to power the speakers. A stock head unit amplifier is capable of 5-7 watts, at 5 watts, the amp will distort before the speaker reaches its maximum potential. This tends to make the listener turn it up, maxing out the amp, distorting the speakers, which will eventually cause the speakers to blow. It is always better to slightly over-power (in terms of power ratings) a speaker than it is to under-power one.
Stock head units have come a long way in terms of fidelity. The quality is better, they use outboard amplifiers for more power and they have more features. There are different schools of thought on keeping the stock head unit. This author prefers aftermarket units, but likes some high-end units. Ford SYNC units and the high-end video\navigation pieces are great, and offer a lot of added features, but they still lack in the fidelity department. For these vehicles, there are solutions like the JL Audio Clean Sweep and Rockford Fosgate 3Sixty. These devices integrate the factory head unit controls with aftermarket amplifiers and speakers, removing the factory equalization (which is substandard by any means), allowing the user to program their own equalization, and with the Rockford 3Sixty, control just about every aspect of the audio signal, even adjust time alignment (for serious audiophiles). Some newer cars have other functions built into the head unit, making replacement impossible, so using devices like the Clean Sweep and 3Sixty are required.
When looking into purchasing a new head unit, you need to consider the overall goal. If you simply want better sound with a CD player, then you can find that for around $200. If you want to add subwoofers and amplifiers, the head unit must have pre-outs. Also known as RCAs, these stereo-pair (left and right) outputs bypass the internal amplifier, supplying the direct pre-amp signal to the amplifiers. All of the main controls
Published Dec 7th, 2015
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