Audible differences between head units/brands - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 07-29-2014, 09:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Audible differences between head units/brands

Alright guys before I ask my question Ill give you a quick background on why I'm asking.
I work at Best Buy. ( Go ahead hate me about monster HDMI cables )
Anyway, I know a lot about car-fi. I know that every head unit we keep on display uses MOSFET amplifiers to keep it cool, cheap, and small. These mosfets put out on average 14 watts/channel and at most 20 watts/channel. Everyone knows to get better quality/louder volumes you need to utilize the preouts on the back of the headunit. By then quality will be dictated by the amp you use, and a sufficient power source. Cool.
So this guy tells me I know nothing because I say a sony will sound the same as a kenwood and pioneer and jvc etc. Because theyre all chinese mosfet amps. And because youre putting it in a '98 ford f150 with road noise and engine noise and $40 reinforced paper pioneer speakers. I told him the only differences are the sales they happen to be on, bluetooth capabilities, sirius, hd radio, usb, analog, and the ease of EQ settings. I firmly believe that radios are all capable of the same quality sound out of the box. And he told my manager to fire me.

So, my questions are for the car audio masters, I want to know

WHO makes these mosfet amps. Is it all brand X amps in brand Y head units? or is it actually sony amp in sony head unit?

WHAT are the differences between brands? Are there notable digital samplers going on behind the scenes that nobody knows about?

IS there ever an argument to take seriously when someone wants sq from the speaker outputs at 15-20 watts?? IMO you are going to distort by the time it is loud enough to drown out road noise. (ESPECIALLY IN A 98 F150!!)

ANY other info you can tell me that I cant read on bestbuy.com?? I understand that one head unit can do bluetooth and one cant... its how ive been selling the past year... I always will find out a customers needs and recomend the cheapest solution based on that. If the parent wants their kid to have hands free calling, I give them the kenwood, pioneer sony jvc or alpine that is the best price at the time. My conscious is clear when it comes to selling at best buy. I am here to learn and not to argue about overpriced services or geek squad protection, so keep those opinions off this please. Thanks.
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post #2 of 6 Old 07-30-2014, 01:53 AM
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Never apologize about having a job.

Thank you for not being an audio-phool. Will save you a lot of money down the road.

Getting ready to go into work but can touch on some points.

The different circuitry topologies including opamps, dacs, the amplifier circuit etc can have an affect on the sound. I can say there Are some mainstream decks out there that just sound like ass. A certain jvc model comes to mind.

This being said, speakers are going to have the greatest impact on the sq of the total system followed by install.

Amplifiers pretty much all have distortion magnitudes lower than audible and signal to noise ratios high enough to not be noisy. In fact I suggest buying the most power you can afford in the size of amp you can fit in whatever brands you are comfortable with. Aesthetics are of course entirely subjective.

You were also right that in a truck driving, the differences between alpine pioneer and any other suitably transparent head unit are sonically, not going to amount to anything

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post #3 of 6 Old 07-30-2014, 07:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Cubdenno, thanks for your reply. Do you happen to know any differences there might be between brands? What makes that jvc bad? What makes any head unit in the 100-150$ range "better"
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post #4 of 6 Old 07-30-2014, 07:42 PM
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Honestly not sure of the reasons what caused the jvc head to sound so bad. Even at moderate volumes harsh, clipped, maybe some form of eq. Even on the preouts. So it was internal and not in the amp section.

I would give a listen, and while a sound board is not the best place to critically audition, try to differentiate if there are any sonic differences between a group of head units within the budget. Then if there isn't, try to get all the bells and whistles that fit your needs. Number of pre outs, preout voltage, dsp, BT, hd radio, aesthetics, fit finish and feel.

I am with you though, for the most part a competent designed head is as it should be the source selector and volume control. A 150 dollar alpine, pioneer ken wood clarion etc should all be similar in performance. At least one would think!

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post #5 of 6 Old 08-01-2014, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yllennodmij View Post
WHO makes these mosfet amps. Is it all brand X amps in brand Y head units? or is it actually sony amp in sony head unit?

WHAT are the differences between brands? Are there notable digital samplers going on behind the scenes that nobody knows about?
ok... my first post in the car audio section... even though i have been involved in the industry for almost 30 years. ( not sales, but engineering )

the 4 channel audio amplifier chips in all head units are mostly made by Signetics Thompson ( ST ) or Hitachi. the ST chip is slightly cleaner, but it is not a significant difference. most of the brands use both chips, so you cant really say brand X is cleaner than brand Y. they all have a THD somewhere near a whole 5%.

i would call the companies that say 14 watts RMS a little bit more honest than the companies that say 20 watts RMS... yes, you can overdrive that 14 watt unit to 20 watts... but it sounds like dirt. the 20 watt unit sounds like dirt unless you turn it down to 14 watts. after all, they often use the same chip.

back in the early 2000's Alpine had advertised 27 watts RMS... they used a Signetics Thompson TDA7860 chip... funny that Pioneer used the same chip ( with the Pioneer logo silkscreened on it ) and advertised it as 17 watts RMS. neither could go much above 14 watts and not sound like dirt.

now here is the thing that makes different units sound slightly different. the preamp section. if you go to some of the car audio forums, you will find people who are brand loyal. some are Alpine fans, some Pioneer, some Kenwood, etc. the thing is, is that companies manipulate the sound. in the old days, Alpine used to heavy boost spike low frequencies. in other words, people used to hear a definite stronger bass out of an Alpine than out of others. this holds true, regardless of using the onboard amp, or external amps.

for the guy just replacing the head unit, and keeping the factory speakers, this is a major plus. all of a sudden, there is low frequencies that were not there before.

Kenwood has always been a flatter sound than the rest. Pioneer almost as flat. i actually prefer that, as when running amps, i do not want the sound to be manipulated at all. ( i run McIntosh and Denon head units, about as flat as you can get ) Sony, before the 2000 Xplod line started, had some really nice units. the 1997-1999 Sony CDX-C90 is still one of the most sought after units for flat and clean sound quality.

but, with modern head units, sound manipulation is much less than the old days. thats because they now have multiple band EQ's and bass boost circuits for the user to manipulate it to their preference. Alpine is still ever so slightly bass heavy though. so in that sense, you are correct to say that there is not much difference in the brands.

but... people are a little confused on what sound quality really is. i would say a large percentage confuse tone with sound quality. i have a guy that swears by his old 1996 Alpine CDA-7840 that i keep fixing for him. he claims that the bass spike makes his system sound better. i keep telling him that if he upgrades the rest of the system, he wont want that bass spike. never mind that the 7840 is not exactly a clean or accurate unit, it just makes his less than optimal equipment's tone better. and that is what he considers sound quality.

anyway, if you are in sales, it is best not to argue with the customer. some people have a perception of what is good or not, and it is a near impossible thing to convince them otherwise. just let them listen to whatever and choose for themselves. marketing makes sure that they dont understand that that JL Audio 1000/1 actually has more power than that "3000 Watt" Power Acoustik does. and you will almost never convince them that a $4500 McIntosh MCC602TM 600 watt amp has more power than the JL does. most people would buy the Power Acoustik, because they can get "3000 Watts" for $139. same goes for head units. just show them the sound settings and let them play with it. they will decide what sounds better, even if they set each unit the exact same.

and also remember, everyones ears are different. what is good to you, may not be to someone else. when setting up a system for my friend, he complained that he could not hear the high frequencies... no amount of EQ could fix it. it then dawned on me that he has been a professional welder for almost 30 years, and his high frequency hearing is almost non-existent. i replaced his door speakers with some cheap Infinity Kappas, which have the harshest metal dome screaming tweeters i know of... he is a totally happy camper now. his system also gives me a splitting headache.
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post #6 of 6 Old 09-14-2014, 10:54 AM
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