How many watts does this sub put out?

We hear this question all the time.  Unfortunately, someone that asks this question does not have a firm understanding of how your vehicle's stereo system actually works.  The correct answer to this question is Zero.  None.  Nada.  Your subwoofer (or any speaker for that matter) does not "put out" any wattage.  Rather, your subwoofer is designed to receive power from your amplifier and turn that power into sound.  This means that the question you should really be asking is: "how many watts can this sub handle?"  Which leads us to:

How many watts does this sub handle?

There are two types of power handling associated with any speaker.  One is the thermal power handling.  This is the amount of power the speaker is able to disipate as heat.  This number is generally a fairly fixed number.  The other is mechanical power handling.  This is the amount of power the speaker is able to handle before the moving assembly reaches its mechanical limits.  This number can vary depending upon enclosure type and frequency.  An unfortunate industry trend in the past decade is that companies have begun to grossly over estimate the power handling of their subwoofers.  Save for a few respectable companies, most speakers that say "1500 watts" on them would probably be crying for their mother after being fed a mere 500 watts.  Power handling on subwoofers (and power output of amplifiers) is something that needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  That shiny chrome sub that you just saw on Ebay that looks too good to be true and is "competition rated" and can handle "3000 watts" is probably just that - too good to be true.


How many watts does this amp put out?

Another excellent question.  And unfortunately, another area where the disturbing industry trend is to grossly over estimate the true wattage that amplifiers are producing.  We have seen amplifiers come through our shop that say 1000 watts on the heatsink, and yet they have a single 30 amp fuse.  If you do the rough math, that means the amplifier would need to have an efficency rating of 238 percent - AMAZING!  This means that either the company that produced the amp is either lying, or they have broken the laws of physics and solved all of the world's energy problems.  Unfortunately the obvious answer is this:  Most amps these days do between one half to one third of the power they are rated for.  Sticking with known brands that have a reputable history of creating quality products is the best way to avoid this all too common practice.


My factory CD player has a CD stuck in it.  Can you help?

This is something we see very frequently.  Factory CD players (especially CD changers) have many small motorzied parts, and was most likely built and assembeled as cheaply as possible.  This is great for a vehicle manufacturer's bottom line, but unfortunately it leads to problems down the road.  We have seen vehicles only a few years old that have major issues with jammed CDs.  Often times people hope that we can "just get the CD out" and then everything will be fine again.  Unfortunately the thing that most people don't understand is that if it happend once, its probably going to happen again.  Often times the CD mechanism inside the unit has been permanently damaged. 

Typically, the most cost effective solution is to replace the factory radio with an aftermarket unit.  Doing this is probably cheaper than you think, and you will then have a brand new unit with a warranty.  Chances are good that the new aftermarket radio will have more features (aux and USB inputs) and a better amplifier.  If we install a new radio for you, we would be more than happy to get the CD out of your old unit at no extra charge.  Be aware that the radio itself will most likely not be salvagable.


I installed an amplifier in my car, and now my lights dim when I play my stereo loud.  Why is that?

Dimming lights are an indication that the amplifier is not installed correctly, or is not able to draw the power it needs to from the vehicle's electrical system.  The first thing to do is make sure that your power wire is a large enough gauge.  Your gound wire needs to be AT LEAST as large as your power wire, if not larger.  Also, make sure that the ground wire is firmly connected to the vehicle's body, and that all paint has been removed in that area.  Other things that may need to be upgraded are the wires that go between the vehicles battery and frame (factory ground) and the wire going from the alternator to the battery.  If all of these are upgraded and your lights are STILL dimming, its probably an indication that your vehicle's electrical system is not strong enough to support the amplifier, and other changes will need to be made.  These could include (but are not limited to) adding a capacitor, adding a second battery, or upgrading the alternator.


Do you buy used stereo equipment?

Generally, No.  We do not buy used equipment.  Not being able to offer any sort of warranty to our customer on the resale of such goods, combined with the fact that there are huge amounts of low quality gear floating around forces us to stay away from almost anything used.  There are a few exceptions to this rule though.  One being high quality items originally purchased from Sounds & Motion (be aware though that even in this situation, we will probably not offer you even close to what you were hoping to get for your stuff) or vintage car audio equipment, of which Nate, the owner of the business, is an avid collector.  If you have a piece of equipment that you think would qualify, we invite you to bring it down and let us take a look. 

I Want to have a subwoofer and amplifier installed in my vehicle, but I want to keep my factory head unit.  Can you do that?

Absolutely.  In fact, this has been an increasingly popular trend in the past few years due to factory radios being more integrated into a car both visually and electrically.  In situations like this we use what is called a Line Output Converter (LOC) which hooks into the speaker outputs of your factory radio.  It then generates a usable RCA preamp signal which goes to your amplifier.  The benefit of these is that they are typically quick and easy, and allow you to retain that factory look.  There are some drawbacks however.  The signal quality is often somewhat limited by the factory radio, which can be a concern if you are trying to achieve maximum sound quality.  Additionally, any signal that is going to your aftermarket amplifier is also going to your factory midrange speakers.  Because of this, you cannot effectively remove the low frequencies from your midrange speakers (which is generally desired, and improves sound quality) because those low frequency signals would then not be going to your subwoofer either.  Installing a Line Output Converter can be either a big compromise, or a great solution, depending on what your goals are for your audio system.


I have a pair of 10" Subwoofers installed in my car and my buddy just gave me a different 12" subwoofer.  Can I have them all hooked up at once for even more bass?

Is it possible to hook up different size subwoofers in a vehicle?  Yes.  Would we recommend it?  Definitely not.  Mixing subwoofer sizes will invariably lead to a poor sounding stereo that is often not even all that loud due to a cancelation effect.  Different sizes of subwoofers have different parameters, giving each one its own unique frequency response.  When these different frequency responses are overlapped, sound quality is often reduced substantially.  A better plan would be to pick which subwoofer suits your needs best, and to make sure it is in a properly designed enclosure.



A very important aspect of car audio systems that is often overlooked is the acoustics of the vehicle itself.  Some vehicles amplify certain frequencies more than others.  Large SUVs for example will often amplify deep low bass, making them a good candidate for a "ground pounder".  Other vehicles such as extended cab pickup trucks, while being fairly large, do not have nearly as much acoustical gain.  So how do you determine what works best in your specific vehicle?  Often, this is a matter of trial and error.  At Sounds & Motion, we have experience installing stereos in nearly every imaginable type of vehicle, and we know what works and what doesn't.  We would love to share some of this knowledge with you, and invite you to stop by so we can discuss what type of system would work best in your specific car.