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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:23 pm 
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Just got hit with an idea for all the DIY folks who venture into audio installation, that a rolling thread of the DOs and DON'Ts would be a useful resource. I'm not formally trained in electronics, but that doesn't mean that I didn't read a whole heap when I was growing up and took an interest in it. Either way, my suggestions are freely open to critique/debate and I am stating my disclaimer up front that I am not going to be held responsible if one day you get up feeling DIYish and end up blowing a few hundred bucks worth of equipment.

DO:

1. Get an online calculator to figure out the proper gauge of wires needed for speakers and power. Hint: For power, there's nothing like overkill since you may want to upgrade your equipment at some point;
2. Get it done right the first time...as the adage goes, "measure ten times and cut once". This also makes adding/upgrading equipment easier;
3. Install separate fuses for all your signal processing equipment, even if they are equipped with fuses of their own;
4. Properly ground all equipment, especially head units - its a mistake to think that the chassis of the unit making contact with the mounting brackets is a sufficient ground;
5. Securely mount your amplifiers and ensure sufficient room for ventilation, especially if the amp is of a Class rating that produces a lot of heat;
6. Label your connecting wires on your head unit with a small piece of masking tape...this makes it much easier to tell them apart without having to remove the unit from the chassis to check the wiring diagram;
7. Use screw type connectors when joining wires or make proper solder connections...the twist is a dance, not a method of joining wires;
8. Use grommets when routing wires through your firewall and body panels of the vehicle;
9. Use copper or silver plated wires, terminals and connectors as these offer the best conductivity;
10. Remember that all new speakers should be broken in before they can sound and play at their optimum.




DON'T:

1. Skimp on cheap RCA connectors, adapters or wire...there's a reason they're cheap:
2. Turn on the power on any device before connecting all wires and jacks and double checking connections;
3. Mount lead acid/wet cell batteries in the interior of a vehicle;
4. Mount amplifiers upside down unless the manufacturer specifically states that you can mount it that way;
5. Overpower your speakers for risk of having to sing to yourself...match speaker and amplifier ratings to one another;

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:37 pm 
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PBC137 wrote:

DO:

9. Use copper or silver plated wires, terminals and connectors as these offer the best conductivity;

10. Remember that all new speakers should be broken in before they can sound and play at their optimum.


DON'T:

1. Skimp on cheap RCA connectors, adapters or wire...there's a reason they're cheap

5. Overpower your speakers for risk of having to sing to yourself...match speaker and amplifier ratings to one another;



Couple of nitpicks which may simply be a matter of miscommunication...

DO's

1. Most silver plated wire isn't actually plated with silver (the stuff that is cost more money than most people will ever spend on wire). While silver is the best conductor it also corrodes easily...this is why most manufacturers use gold plating as it has superior corrosion resistance.

2. jury seems to still be out on whether or not properly breaking in a speaker actually does anything. There's been countless tests done and it seems nobody ever come up with something substancial on either side. While it's true that parts like the suspension system of the drivers will "relax" a bit after playtime a lot of these test come back saying nobody could accurately differentiate between a broken in speaker over one straight out of the box. I'm of the belief that my ears couldn't tell the difference...maybe somebody else could. IMHO it's not a big deal. Plug 'em in and play your music.

DON'Ts

With respect to cost of speaker wire. Lots of test showing that a nice $1000 peice of cable sounds as good as a $3 piece of lamp cord. ABX tested and in high end (as in more $$$ than our cars are worth) home systems. I wouldn't cheap out to the point of buying ching a ling 12 gauge wire that actually measures out to 14 gauge but if you get a good deal on $1 12gauge it'll likely be as good (electrically speaking) as the $10 stuff at the stereo shop. May not be quite as flexible. Same goes with power cable. Best bang for your buck is welding cable. Ugly as sin with a wide range of colours (black, red and sometimes green) but it's really good cable. Sizes from pencil to firehose...

Buy more power than what you need. If your rated at 100W for speakers get something 200-250W. Set the levels on the amp correctly and speakers will never blow. Amplifiers will run with less distortion (which comes from running your 100W amp full jam and it distorting when peaks in output turn to square waves and burn out the speaker coils) and save your speakers. It should read "don't overdrive your speakers or run an underpowered amp into distortion to them."

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:06 pm 
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m, we seem to come from different schools of thought on some of the above.

While there may be a difference in opinion with respect to speaker break-in and the difference in sound, it is almost never advised to take any speaker off the shelf and play it at full volume...at least I've never seen a manufacturer recommend this. Not only the suspension/surround but the spider and voice coil need to be properly broken in, in the case of the latter the build up of heat and subsequent dispersion. I've seen coils let loose already because of improper break in.

Cheap RCA connectors are cheap for a reason. While there may be no audible difference in sound at first, I have enough experience to know that the construction of these cheap cables and wire is one such that they break/short much more easily, corrode rather quickly and the insulation gets either brittle or melts. So sure, go ahead and tell the guys doing your custom $5000+ sound system install to use cheap $1 cables...It's be fun seeing you pull up the floor carpeting and ton of other stuff the wire is routed over, under, around and through to replace it in short time.

As a general rule of thumb yes, the power requirements for any speaker should be at least matched or be a little less than what your amp puts out, but my point was to not overpower the drivers to the point of easily blowing them. The level of audio that I am referring to is for the more reputable manufacturers who actually put the true ratings on their amplifiers. For e.g. I had no problem paying $300 a couple years ago for a PPI amp that was rated 60W x 4 nom., or for ID speakers that are rated at 125watts max.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:02 pm 
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PBC137 wrote:
m, we seem to come from different schools of thought on some of the above.

While there may be a difference in opinion with respect to speaker break-in and the difference in sound, it is almost never advised to take any speaker off the shelf and play it at full volume...at least I've never seen a manufacturer recommend this. Not only the suspension/surround but the spider and voice coil need to be properly broken in, in the case of the latter the build up of heat and subsequent dispersion. I've seen coils let loose already because of improper break in.


This is interesting. How do you know it was from improper break in and not a faulty winding? I'm not sure you would have an accurate way of testing this? While I can't say that I've read every manufacturers reasons for break in I can say that I haven't read one that recommended it to reduce the chance of driver failure. In fact a few of them recommend breaking in a speaker by playing them at moderate to high volume. By and large the reasoning is to loosen up suspension components to get a better sound. It may be a different school of thought but it's much like opinions on breaking in an engine. Some builders say go balls to the wall with a hard break in and others say drive for 1000km. I can tell you I've seen hundreds of speakers from home audio to pro audio beaten on from the moment they were wired up without failures. I've also seen speakers with 100's of hours of playtime decide to let go. I have a 21" subwoofer here that sat for a few years and had the spider delaminate without ever having a watt of power put through it. I re-glued the spider and dropped it into a sub enclosure...rolled it outside and ran 1500W to it for a few hours at my wedding and it worked beautifully. We would have to agree to disagree on this one I suppose as we could go on forever about who's way is right and who's way is wrong. I've spent the better part of 20 years building/designing/installing/selling audio in one capacity or another. I can only go by my experience much like you can only go with yours.

PBC137 wrote:
Cheap RCA connectors are cheap for a reason. While there may be no audible difference in sound at first, I have enough experience to know that the construction of these cheap cables and wire is one such that they break/short much more easily, corrode rather quickly and the insulation gets either brittle or melts. So sure, go ahead and tell the guys doing your custom $5000+ sound system install to use cheap $1 cables...It's be fun seeing you pull up the floor carpeting and ton of other stuff the wire is routed over, under, around and through to replace it in short time.


See I was reading your recommendation of wire to do with speaker and power cables with all their respective terminals. RCA's I wouldn't skimp on. I've made it work in customer's cars but it's not something I advocate whatsoever. Now there is a catch to that. I don't recommend top of the line RCA's either. A good quality set doesn't have to cost a ton of money. A well built shielded cable can cost you $50 and will work just as well as a $200 octosheild-flux normalized-harmonically balanced-certified gay RCA cable. Believe it or not a few years ago guys were using cat5 cable as an interconnect...with 0 hum. I twisted some 22awg copper wire once for interest of trying it. Zero noise. I still went with a good set of RCA's in my own car...my ex's car ran the twisted experiment wire for a couple of years with no problems. Again, I wouldn't recommend it...but I don't buy the 100's of dollar wire either.

PBC137 wrote:
As a general rule of thumb yes, the power requirements for any speaker should be at least matched or be a little less than what your amp puts out, but my point was to not overpower the drivers to the point of easily blowing them. The level of audio that I am referring to is for the more reputable manufacturers who actually put the true ratings on their amplifiers. For e.g. I had no problem paying $300 a couple years ago for a PPI amp that was rated 60W x 4 nom., or for ID speakers that are rated at 125watts max.


I should had my reply to that under the "DO" area. Either way...you could wire up a 250WRMS amp to a 15W speaker and it won't blow if it's set correctly. Of course you won't be using the amplifier to its potential and it would largely be a waste of money. Really the issue is distortion so we could just say set your amps so that they don't distort if they're underpowered and set your amps so that they don't overdrive if they're overpowered. I'm pretty sure we're thinking the same thing and just expressing it differently.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:47 pm 
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I'll weigh in because I know a lot more about it than both of you :lol:

Speakers do change after a break in period. It's well documented that the T/S parameters change. Whether it affects the sound to the point that you can hear it, who knows? Sometimes it's a significant change.

I didn't use shielded RCA cables for years. In the 90's it was popular with the audiophile nuts to use a certain high quality wire with Teflon sheath. I got a bunch cheap, so I made some up and they worked fine for a long time. Even cheap ones these days are pretty good.

More power = better speaker control and better sound. Low power most often kills speakers, not high power. Of course, with car audio equipment (until recently) power ratings were usually equal parts fantasy and bullshit :P

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:09 pm 
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suprf1y wrote:
Speakers do change after a break in period. It's well documented that the T/S parameters change. Whether it affects the sound to the point that you can hear it, who knows? Sometimes it's a significant change.



I agree completely. It's even been shown with a break in as short as 10 seconds. I think the whole debate was, as you said, whether or not somebody could hear the difference or not. Every article I ever read that had somebody compare fresh speakers to units that were broken is was that they couldn't hear the difference.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:54 pm 
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suprf1y wrote:
I'll weigh in because I know a lot more about it than both of you :lol:

Speakers do change after a break in period. It's well documented that the T/S parameters change. Whether it affects the sound to the point that you can hear it, who knows? Sometimes it's a significant change.


I should add that when I said speakers, I meant all types- not just woofers but compression drivers/tweeters as well. Have either of you noticed the scent of new plastic when breaking in compression drivers with significant power? I was told that this was normal for when the diaphragm heats up...because of the very restricted movement, compression units tend to give a ‘smoother’ (for want of a better word) sound when broken in...they tend to play horns and brass instruments a bit less edgy.

suprf1y”]I didn't use shielded RCA cables for years. In the 90's it was popular with the audiophile nuts to use a certain high quality wire with Teflon sheath. I got a bunch cheap, so I made some up and they worked fine for a long time. Even cheap ones these days are pretty good.[/quote]
As I said, there may be no difference in the sound, but my advice was meant to be for long-term installations where durability is a factor.

[quote="suprf1y wrote:
power = better speaker control and better sound. Low power most often kills speakers, not high power. Of course, with car audio equipment (until recently) power ratings were usually equal parts fantasy and bullshit :P


My foray is SQ and like m I have been involved in this since I was 11 years old, when I remember soldering my first broken coil wire and taking apart my dad’s tape deck and turntable...which was over 23 years ago. The power ratings I was referring to were not the advertised stuff that the run of the mill brands adorn their boxes, but the true technical specs. I’m not saying to underpower speakers....I spoke of matching components properly in my first post (not arguing with the wisdom here rather just clarifying what I meant).

I can see this thread doing well in the long term...lets keep the discussion going and add to the list.

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