Next to theaters, cars are the ideal speaker environment

We live in a world where lots of car brands are bragging about bespoke stereo systems from big names. From JBL to MBL.

As a hobbyist who makes speakers, and can at least sympathize with the pros I’ve been thinking that cars are probably the best single environment for speaker designers. Of course, it’s not without it’s own challenges related to noise and room acoustics, but think about it this way:

With a car audio system you are never guessing about the room acoustics.  You know exactly where the user is going to sit and how the room is going to behave.

When you design a speaker system you always have to keep in mind the end user’s most likely environment, or you pick an environment. Roy Allison with his speakers, and to some extent Snell, tried to eliminate as much as possible by making speakers that went along the wall. Not 100% room control, but certainly better than nothing.
I agree with everything erik said above. Sadly, many auto manufacturers (Honda, for one) don’t even offer CD players as original equipment anymore. If it weren’t for XM radio, I might consider taking the bus (LOL). Candidly, I had a Mark Levinson sound system in my Lexus, and an upgraded Bose (I know, I know) system in a Honda years ago, and neither one was much to write home about. I’d be willing to give that mbl system a listen though.
My current vehicle offers a JBL system, with the tweeter embedded in the front roof supports. It seems that they have foregone having the tweeter stick out so much as use the moulding as a waveguide.  Outsatanding!
Large flat reflective surface right in front of your face. More large flat reflective surfaces inches from your ears. Speakers down by your feet, some within inches others several feet away. With a great big obstacle in between. Honestly, it is hard to think of anything less ideal. Compared to a car your coat closet is a dedicated listening room.

The one thing about a car from a designers point of view, they do know the volume. Whatever the options, at least the volume stays the same.

So you have confused ideal with uniform. This happens all the time. May I suggest a dictionary? If all you did was start using words according to their actual meanings the improvement from that one thing alone would be, uh, outsatanding.
I always have pretty good sound. Just no soundstage, no closing my eyes and point out the instruments location. Clarity, in lows, mids and highs, never an issue. Magic though?

Can get pretty close in a van or RV if you really watch what your doing..

My Camry will please. I tightened the whole thing up with dampening mat.
4 doors, trunk, and floor boards.

It’s all wonderful until I start it.. LOL

Alpine head set
10k watt system. Three, power amps. Two 3K stereos and one 4K mono. class ds 1/2 ohm stable. YUP 1/2 ohm..
COOL as cucumbers.. at 4 and 8 ohm.

I use a 30 farad cap bank, all wired with SOOW 4 x 4 gauge copper. I still have most all of my trunk and it looks beautiful it’s all in armor and mounted in two custom modified well pockets either side of a FULL size spare, behind the rear tires. Dude it can bounce.. Kids can’t believe a single 10" and my setup can hit 120+ db.. 124 actually AND I drive up, all grandpa like..:-) Stone stock 2003 Camry. Perfect shape..

You pop the trunk and swing the doors open up against a two story about 60 foot wide.. :-) Its clear, that’s, all but good... MONO ay...

The second 12 VDC battery is in the spare compartment centered under the spare. Lithium. 200 amp alternator and a Gel Cell for the starter, main and computer circuits.

I’m wired at 4 ohms for the bass and 8 ohms for the doors, dash, and rear deck.

Single 10" IB (sealed) rear
4 6 x 9 coaxial in the doors
4 tweet buttons AMT doors
4 5 1/4 coaxial front kick panels and rear deck
2 top mount dash 3" FR drivers

Again looks all factory.. The Organic Mechanic strikes again.
Boom Boom. "Da Club" comes to mind.. little Carlos, War.. Cisco Kid. :-)

Guy/Girls.. 1000.00 at the most.. all the drivers, less the tweets and sub, are pro drivers. I did the work.. No funblin fool in my cars or PUs..


i am not fond of listening in my car save for long trip....

Car is midway between an headphone box around your ears and a small room....

The imbalance between reflective surface and other absorbent and diffusive surface is extreme not unlike a nude room...No uniformity here except the uniformity of reflective surface all around......

In a car source is most of the times problematic, external and internal noises, listening position is unbalanced in regard to speakers and speakers have generally drastic limitations of their own.......

I can understand that a speaker designer want to begins with precise measurement from one specific room or car tough and can create a work of acoustic art for sure...


A thing i know is ALL speakers need room controls, a pair of speaker cannot replace the room settings by a miracle in the design....They can be designed to accomadate particular room or position for sure...

The speakers are often a box and the room is a box.....These 2 boxes interact one with another but not only and always in a destructive way, the room impeding the speakers.... By the way that explain why some people falsely claims that near listening free us from room controls...This is not true at all in any small room...

These 2 boxes interact also constructively and the room may add and must add something essential to the speakers....This is the reason why acoustical setting of the room is so fundamental in ALL case....

My main point is that the room or the car are not mainly a source of passive obstacle to be taken care but active player with advantages of their own that may work their part with the speakers..... Acoustical art is the art of balancing this passive deficit with the potential active credit of ANY room...

Controls and treatment are not there to nullify the room and make it like an anechoic chamber, in the opposite, they are there to make the room glorifying the speakers and the speakers glorifying the room... Producing then a unique synergetical room/speakers sound phenomenon...

I suppose then that we can apply the same recipe in a car and create an acoustical marvel in a car like in a specific room....

Room/speakers interaction is UNIQUE phenomenon each time...The same goes with car/speakers.....

Nothing is more powerful in my experience and experiments in audio....

Much less than 'Ideal' but certainly another environment with which to play with EQ.
I heard Richard Clarks Cadillac and his Grand National back in the early 90s on the IASCA circuit. I was gobsmacked. I haven't heard many high end systems that could come close in dynamics, accurate bass reproduction and yes, even imaging. It was two eye opening experiences.

Good example, acoustically room or car are the same problem that can be solved....

The speakers are often a box and the room is a box.....These 2 boxes interact one with another but not only and always in a destructive way.


Roll down the windows and port the second box. It reduced EAR sound pressure, and some nasty reflective surfaces right by your Left or right ear depending where you set.. I’m the driver. BUT I don’t listen at any volume when I’m driving.. Setting still, oh yea I’ll swing the doors out. We’ll have a pound off, every now and then with the oldhvymec, and the KIDs. Under 35 mph at least one window down, with any volume.

I don’t use any OB stuff either. All the drivers are in tuning pockets, or self enclosed. AMT..

Oh I forgot.. For peanuts, too. I've done a LOT of cabs in my time.  All part of the job.. Cassette and CD in that Alpine head unit. YUP... I wire straight to my phone...NO WiFi..  BAMB...

A car interior is probably the absolute worst acoustic environment for an audio system.
Consider the issues-
Road noise and vibration and bass cancellations.
Road noise, wind noise, powertrain noise vs. amplifier head room / power requirements. 
Charging circuit and voltage vs. amplification requirements.
Door cavities make poor speaker enclosures.
Greenhouse glass is a highly acoustic reflective surface and will alter the polar response from upper speakers requiring extensive EQ to tame.   
Every OEM mobile audio system has embedded EQ curves to compensate for the above.  Some do a good job, some do not. 

I guess we are skipping over this part:

best single environment for speaker designers.

cars are probably the best single environment for speaker designers
Uh, seems like a nightmare to me.  A mix of reflective and absorptive surfaces close to the speakers, and the listener is sitting right in front of the speakers on one side.  I can’t imagine designing a speaker for the home where the listener is gonna sit right next to one of them, equalization or no.  But that’s just me. 
Not me.. I like um, better than ear phones. I turn them up to loud and I can't hear what's going on outside.. I drive first, not listen to music..

You swear it was the other way around with cellphones and stereos in cars though. Everything BUT driving.. more like herding.. Stop lights on the freeway on ramps.. IF they accelerate instead of fu@k with the phone or radio, they might make it on the freeway, without a stop light..

You know what that cost? BILLIONS... oh oh.. sound... ok.. I'm back..

OK E, it's not that bad of environment, but it sure is a challenge.
Underwater is tough  :-)

It's not a stable environment at all--fans, windows partially rolled up, dogs panting, plus other people sitting there.    But one thing is for sure:  it is ALWAYS loud enough.   And that is likely what convinces us  the sound there is better than ... well ... I was going to say 'better than it is', but then ... what is sound?