The World of Autosound

Car Stereo Specs defined:

Dynamic Range
The difference (in dB) between the loudest note and the softest note a component can reproduce. Higher is better!

FM mono sensitivity
A measure of tuner sensitivity. Units of measurement is dBf (decibel femtowatt). Smaller values indicate a greater ability to pick up weak (and distant) stations.

Frequency Response
This tells you how wide a range of sounds a component can reproduce. A wider range corresponds to clearer sounding music. Human hearing theoretically ranges from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. A bass guitar goes down to about 40Hz while cymbals typically go up to 15,000Hz.

Peak Power
The maximum power output an amplifier can produce. This rating tells the amount of power that can be produced during a brief musical peak. Higher numbers are usually usually better but be careful because some manufacturers exaggerate their power ratings.

RMS Power ratings
This is the continuous power output of the amplifier. The more power output you have, the louder the music can be played while still sounding clean.

Signal-To-Noise Ratio
This gives an indication of how much background noise the component will add to the music. The unit of measure is dB. Tape decks have a SNR of between 50 and 75dB while CD players commonly have SNRs of better than 96dB. Higher is better.

Speaker Sensitivity
A speaker's sensitivity gives an indication of how much power will be needed to make the speaker play at a reasonable level. The term reasonable level is very relative so this rating is used really to compare speakers. A higher sensitivity is better. In theory, a 3dB increase in sensitivity will halve your power needs.

Wow and Flutter
This gives an indication of how accurate a tape deck's playback speed is. Lower numbers are better. Wow caused by a decrease in tape speed while flutter is caused by an incesase in tape speed.

Bass and Treble controls
Separate Bass and Treble controls give you greater control than a simple Tone control. They give you greater flexibility in tailoring the sound to your individual taste.

Boosts low frequencies giving more bass. Some loudness controls also add more highs. Some car stereos have automatic loudness which engages when volume is low, others have a loudness switch which can be activated at any volume.

Pre-amp outputs
These are usually RCA jacks. These make it easy to connect a separate amplifier, equalizer or acitve crossover. The signal coming out of these jacks is low-level and usually has little distortion.

Auto Music Search
This is a feature on tape decks that allows the user to fast forward or rewind to the beginning of the next selection. The deck senses the blank portion on the tape and stops there. This feature is far from essential but can be very handy.

Auto Reverse
At the end of one side, the tape player will chang direction, playing the other side of the tape.

Dolby Noise Reduction
Dolby is a nose reduction system where the highs are boosted during recording and decreased during playback. This gives rise to a larger Signal-To-Noise ratio and hence, less tape hiss. For a Dolby recorded tape to sound properly, it should be played back with Dolby NR activated. Dolby B is the most common noise reduction system, but Dolby C is better and becomming more popular in cars.

Full-Logic tape transport
This type of cassette deck has soft-touch electronic controls instead of mechanical controls that most decks still use.

Radio recall
Some cassette decks automatically switch to the tuner when a tape is being fast-winding. This is a great feature and illiminates the need to ever drive in silence.

Power-off pichroller release
Whenever power to the deck is cut, the pinchroller is dis-engaged from the tape. This saves wear and tear on both the tape and the pinchroller. It saves you from having to eject the tape each time you switch off the ignition.

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