Working a 5.1 Car Surround Sound System into Your Car

large car audio system from the trunk
  • 2-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 75-400
What You'll Need
Surround sound capable stereo head unit or surround sound encoder
High-end DVD or CD player that support optical surround sound signals
Four channel amplifier
Dual channel amplifier set to bridged mono mode
Subwoofer (if not already installed)
Midrange and tweeter drivers
Electronic crossover
Wire crimper tool
Wire cutters
Wire strippers
Wire caps
Electrical cable

If you want to add car surround sound to your vehicle, you will need to know how to integrate surround sound capable components with your existing system or install a new system. This simple how-to guide will walk you through the basic steps of creating 5.1 surround sound in your vehicle. Let's get started.

Step 1 - Choose Appropriate Head Unit and Disc Player

Before you can incorporate surround sound in your vehicle, you'll need to ensure that you have a surround sound-capable stereo head unit and DVD or CD player installed. Alternatively, you could choose to have a CD or DVD player that supports optical surround signals that a surround sound encoder can translate. Please take note that only the newest and most expensive stereo head units support surround sound capabilities.

Step 2 - Install Amplifiers

To amplify the signal produced by a surround sound-capable head unit, you'll need to choose one of two amplifier options. First, you can choose a four-channel amplifier to power the midrange and tweeter drivers in your vehicle and select a dual channel amplifier bridged in mono mode. In a vehicle, it is not practical to use the center channel of a 5.1 surround sound setup. Therefore, in fact, you'll be creating a 4.1 surround system. Optionally, you can use the pre-amp on the head unit (if your amplifier supports this setting connection).

Step 3 - Install Subwoofer

Once you have chosen the amplification method for driving your surround sound-capable system, you'll need to install the subwoofer (if your vehicle does not already have one). Either wire it directly to the subwoofer channel on the head unit or wire it to the dual-channel amplifier you set to bridged mono bug.

Step 4 - Install Midrange and Tweeter Drivers

Next, you'll need to make sure that you have quality midrange and tweeter drivers installed in your vehicle. You may be able to use the present driver speakers in your car for your surround sound setup. Generally speaking, you need to ensure that the midrange drivers are in the rear of the vehicle and the tweeter drivers are in the front. Then, you need to wire the four speakers to the four channels on the four-channel amplifier.

Step 5 - Install Crossover

If the amplifier you're using allows you to set crossover points, you want to set the crossovers as follows: you should set subwoofers to fire below 500 Hz. Midrange drivers should be set to deliver frequency sounds between 500 and 3,000 Hz. Finally, you should adjust the crossovers to allow the tweeter drivers to produce all sounds and audio over 3000 Hz.

Step 6 - Wire Up Players

Once the speakers are installed, you need to wire the stereo head unit or surround sound-capable CD or DVD player (attached to a surround sound encoder) to the amplifiers. Refer to the instructions that come with your head unit or player to make the proper connections.