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A 5-step plan for upgrading your car stereo system

Improve your sound in affordable stages

5-step plan for upgrading your car stereo system

Build your system one step at a time

Building a great car audio system doesn't have to be a budget-straining, all-at-once proposition. With a plan and a budget, you can build the system of your dreams in stages. Doing it that way is a lot easier on the wallet, plus you’ll get to enjoy hearing your system improve with each new step in the process. The best part is that there's no "right" way to approach it. You can perform the following steps in the order that works best for you.

Install a new receiver

1. Replace the factory radio

Installing a new receiver makes any system sound better. You'll get more power, which means better sound from your speakers at any volume. Depending on the receiver you choose, you can enjoy music from your iPod® or CD collection, Pandora® Internet radio or an HD Radio™ station. If you're into satellite radio (or want to be), choose one that's SiriusXM-Ready. Hands-free calling is practically an essential these days, so look for a receiver with built-in Bluetooth® connectivity.

New speakers typically have much larger magnets than speakers that come with your car

2. Get new speakers

That new receiver will make your factory speakers sound better simply by giving them more power. But if you're happy with the factory radio, skip straight to the speakers. If you're serious about sound, you'll need aftermarket speakers. If you have a 4-door (or more) vehicle, start up front where you sit, then take care of the other locations as your budget allows. Crutchfield carries car speakers of nearly every size, shape, and type. Our Outfit My Car tool will show you which ones will fit your vehicle. And check out our car speakers buying guide to learn more.

Component speakers

Quick tip about speakers

Here’s an expert tip if you’re buying one set of speakers at a time: If your first set of speakers is a full-range set for the front doors, make sure to choose speakers that will also fit the rear doors. Later, you can upgrade to component speakers up front and move those coaxials to the back.

Installing an amplifier

3. Give your system more power

Once you’ve replaced the speakers, the next step is to add an amplifier to give them more power. The added power will make the speakers live up to their true potential, bringing out the details and clarity of your music. You’ll need a 4-channel amp to power your front and rear speakers. Another tip: if you intend to add a subwoofer, you can power it with the amp’s rear channels until you’re ready to add a separate subwoofer amp.

Subwoofer and box

4. Time for some bass

For many, installing a subwoofer is the moment they look forward to the most. But even if you're not a major basshead, you'll appreciate the added depth a good sub adds to your music. Be sure to check out our guide to matching subs and amps to make sure you're on the right track now, and in the future.

Two amps mounted on a subwoofer box

5. Add a dedicated amp to the sub

If you want more thump from your sub, you'll need to give it more juice. A dedicated mono amp will give your sub (or subs) the juice you need to get the bigl bass sound you want. And if your subs are located in the trunk of your car, now's a great time to line the trunk lid with Dynamat to reduce vibrations.

The great thing about building your own stereo system is that you can build it your way, on your schedule. If you're ready to get started now, visit our Outfit My Car page and enter your vehicle information.

Please share your thoughts below.

  • Manuel from San Jose

    Posted on 4/27/2020

    Hello i have upgraded my whole sound system on my vehicle. 2014 Ford Fusion 1.5 L. I upgraded all 4 doors after market fosgate speakers. And I have 2 12" alpine subs with a 5 channel 2500 watt amp. I also have stock radio stock alternator and stock battery. I hardly bump the subs full volume, it's always less than it's full potential. There is times where my car dies and I just jump start it but one time not even the dash lights turned on and I got it jumped and it turned on. I got the battery and alternator tested and it passed so I'm not sure what to do. The car starts up fine with no issues but that's because I haven't been really using the system I just turn down the subs all the way and just use the door speakers.

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 4/29/2020

    Manuel, It's possible that the amp is staying on overnight and draining things, but it's more likely that the battery is old and/or the alternator is faulty. Get a second opinion on those from a trusted mechanic before you do anything else. Hope that helps!
  • m.bennett@lifeconnectchurch.org from severn

    Posted on 3/13/2020

    my teen son has a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica with 7 speakers total, 1 center dash, 1 small and full size in both front doors and 1 each side rear doors. Can he replace his receiver with a decent Bluetooth model and replace the front speakers for less than $350 installed?

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 3/16/2020

    Mr. Bennett, Sounds possible, especially if you do the installation yourself! I've sent your question to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.
  • Gregory Mutter from Bay Saint Louis, MS

    Posted on 6/30/2019

    Hi! I have a 2012 bmw R1200RT with the premium package which came with the stereo, xm, weather band, bluetooth, etc. There are two speakers in the front flaring but the sound quality, the bass and the loudness just doesn't cut it. I mean, it's ok but most riders use the bluetooth feature and listen in their helmet. I'd rather not. Is there anything for motorcycles, specifically for the model I mentioned above that would really enhance the sound and make it louder? Thanks!

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 7/1/2019

    Gregory, I've sent your question to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.
  • Bill Bingen from Burlington

    Posted on 6/3/2019

    I have a 2012 Camaro with a standard 80 watt factory sound system. One of my rear speakers blew and I need to replace them. Instead of replacing it with Chevy's cheap factory speakers I would like to replace them with a better quality set. My question how much wattage can I go without reducing the sound quality. I don't want to upgrade the receiver or add an amplifier. Just want the same or a little better than what was installed at the factory. Thanks

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 6/4/2019

    Bill, We can help you with that. I've sent your question to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.
  • Caleb from Pittsburgh

    Posted on 9/2/2018

    I need some help on a 2006 Subaru Outback. I need a full makeover for my sound system. I've never done anything but add a new receiver to a car before so I'm a little nervous about replacing speakers and what not. Any help would be appreciated. Just want an overall good sound like able to hear vocals and music clearly with a solid bass. I don't need anything crazy like a big subwoofer. Thanks again!

    Jon P. from Crutchfield

    on 9/4/2018

    Caleb, It's not nearly as difficult as you think, especially when you have an expert on your side. Our advisors can help you choose the right gear and give you the right advice on how to install it. I've sent your question to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.
  • Jack from Charlotte

    Posted on 8/2/2018

    I have a 2005 Lexus ls430. The factory sound system has 7 speakers (4 speakers, 2 tweeters, and a subwoofer) with a factory amplifier. I'm pretty sure the factory amplifier has gone bad. It is possible to power only the speakers with an aftermarket head unit for now and then add a more powerful external amplifier later to replace the factory one that doesn't work?

    Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    on 8/3/2018

    Jack, It all depends on which stock radio you're working with. I've sent your question to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.
  • Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/2/2016

    Derek, I've sent your question to our sales team for the best answer, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat. Good luck!

  • Derek from Roswell, GA

    Posted on 5/1/2016

    I just purchased an amp and ported subs from a friend. I have a 2012 Nissan Altima sedan. I know I need a amp wiring kit and don't know if I need a special wiring kit to use my factory stereo or not. Please let me know if I need to buy a special harness wire for me to use my factory stereo. Btw it's not the Bose speakers I have in my car if that matters or not. Thanks

  • Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/31/2015

    Rick, News speakers, a sub, and some Dynamat will do the trick. I'll send this to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Rick Jaramillo from colorado springs

    Posted on 8/31/2015

    I would appreciate advice on car speakers for a 2013 Subaru Impreza limited. I have steering wheel controls for radio, blue tooth and navigation system so the head has to stay in car. I'm not 19 years old any more but I want clear sound and better base while driving since I have a 30 mile commute one way. The car suffers from road noise, so I would also like advice on sound deadening as well. Thanks.

  • Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/30/2015

    Anne Louise, I'll send your question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Anne Louise from Dover

    Posted on 7/30/2015

    I would appreciate advice on car speakers for a 2013 Hyundai Accent Sedan. I want to be able to hear details in instruments and vocals. I don't like a lot of bass, but at the same time I don't want the music to sound tinny. Thank you.