How to Set An Equalizer (EQ) and Tune Your Car Stereo

We all love to bop to our favorite jams as we roll down the highway. One aspect of jamming out is having a good stereo produce good music. There is no point in putting on your favorite song if the radio makes it sound off or it is full of static.

How do we avoid this? By setting and tuning your car stereo!

Even though nothing is necessarily wrong with your stereo, it never causes damage to set your radio to your preference.

Keep reading to learn more about how to set an equalizer and tune your car stereo.

What Does EQ Mean?

EQ stands for equalizer. Equalizers adjust the sound of your car stereo or radio or any music-producing device to have the best quality music it can produce. You do not have to mess with your car EQ, but it allows you to craft the best sound that your stereo can make.

You probably have messed with your EQ without even realizing it!

The EQ has two main parts: Bandwidth and Center Frequency.

Bandwidth is moving around the treble, mid-range, and bass. Turning up the bass, adjusting where the sound comes out, or how loud or amplified the music is in certain parts of the car are all parts of messing with the EQ.

People constantly adjust the sound output from their computers, phones, speakers, etc. Tuning your car radio is not different, except that it is your car. The process is the same, just on a larger scale in the confined space that makes up the cab of your vehicle.

Why Bother With the EQ?

Adjusting your settings is not a science; it does not have to be perfect. It is all up to you and your preferences, meaning there is no wrong way to do it. It is not a hard process to change your stereo to sound best to your ear; it just takes a few minutes.

It is all about you! It is important to trust yourself and tune to what you think sounds good. While there is nothing wrong with the preset settings, it is best to find the sound that you like because you are the one who will be listening to it all the time when you drive!

Almost all cars made currently have computer screens, which function in the place of where stereos used to be. The best part about built-in computer screens is that any of these cars that have them do the hard work for you! Some just have a button labeled Equalizer that takes the user straight to the EQ settings that they can easily tweak.

Types of Equalizers

Some people, especially those that drive a lot or find pride in their car, will buy an equalizer to put in their car to take the sound another step forward. You do not have to go and buy one, as most cars have some type of amp already built into the vehicle. Getting an additional equalizer is for people who want to have the best sound system they could imagine.

When buying an EQ, there are two types of equalizers.

Any of the other options belong to either Graphic EQ or Parametric EQ. Each one specializes in a different kind of amplification as it hyper-focuses on bettering a particular sound.

Underneath Graphic EQ and Parametric EQ are EQ Booster, Digital Equalizer, and Analog Equalizer.

Graphic Equalizer

Graphic Equalizers can allow for more precise adjustments because they have more bandwidths. It uses slider controls to make general adjustments. It is best to make small changes slowly when using a Graphic Equalizer to ensure the best outcome.

Parametric Equalizer

These EQs are among the most common. That is because it is multifunctioning and able to adjust the center frequency, level, and bandwidth. Parametric Equalizers can also adjust Resonance, or as it is also called Q, Gain, Filter Slope, and Filter Type.

EQ Booster

The EQ Booster is useful because of its duality of being both an equalizer and an amp. It does not perform as well as a real amp but gets the job done and is a lot cheaper plus it comes with an equalizer.

Digital Equalizer

The Digital Equalizer is rising in popularity as it is already incorporated in most modern cars. It is the screen with the slide controllers, like Graphic Equalizers, or sometimes they even have knobs. This type of EQ allows for precision like that of a Graphic Equalizer.

Analog Equalizer

This type of EQ is most often used because of how it affects the tone of the music. Like the analog clock, Analog Equalizers are old school with the physical sliders and dials to adjust the sound.

How To Set an Equalizer and Tune Your Car Stereo in 4 Steps

Tuning your stereo can seem like a mountain of a task, but follow these four steps to make it manageable.

Step 1: Power Up

Make sure that your car is in park. Make sure that the stereo is on. Do not attempt to do this while driving or while the vehicle is in motion. Some newer cars will not allow you to, but older cars do not have the locks that computerized ones have.

Step 2: Put on What You Know

As you are adjusting your sound, you want to have a song that you know by heart so you know how it should sound. It also cannot be something you hate because you will have to listen to it a few times to ensure that the sound is where you want it to be.

It is a good idea to pick a song with variety in it. The variety allows for the maximum amount of amplification and tweaking. This ensures that no matter what song is played, it will sound as great as possible.

Step 3: Tune It To Perfection

Adjusting the fade control is one of the most challenging parts of the process. It requires everything to be turned down, except for the part that is concentrated on (front or back speakers).

Focus on getting the fade control just right. You want the left and right sounds to be balanced out. Most people like the sound to be more focused on the front speakers.

After it is to your liking, move on to the next speaker. Do your best to write down the specifics of what you like for each speaker. This is for the future. If things get reset or accidentally changed, you know exactly where each should be.

Step 4: Adjust the Tone

After the fade control sets according to your liking for the front and back speakers, you can move on to tuning to the perfect tone. You want to check on the high, mid-range, and low notes to ensure that they are all set to your preferences.

The tone needs to be balanced, like the fade control, to ensure the best possible sound. Play around with it to figure out what is wrong, but do not forget to write down your final measurements for when you will need to readjust in the future.

Extra Tips To Keep in Mind

  • Different types of music will sound differently despite using the same settings. Tune to what you listen to most often, and adjust when you need to according to that sound.
  • The perfect setting does not exist, and even the same speaker produces slightly different noise based on what is playing (country, classic, rock, video game, movies, etc.). Since there is no correct answer, choose what you think sounds the best to you.
  • Your car stereo might not need a lot of tuning to get to where you want it to be. It is perfectly normal to need to tweak it a slight amount.
  • If you’re not happy with the way your stereo sounds even after messing around with your equalizer, you can buy an amplifier. Amplifier tuning is not that hard either.

Wrapping Up…

Now that you know how to set an equalizer and tune your car stereo, you’ll be able to listen to your favorite songs with the best sound.

Follow our simple steps, and you’ll be traveling through those notes in no time.

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Robert Muñoz

I’m Robert, a US-based auto electrician, auto mechanic, trained engineer and fanatic about all things motor vehicle. After studying engineering in college I returned to my original passion - car mechanics - and I ran a garage for a number of years serving my local community. Through my garage, I got involved in numerous road safety campaigns in my local area until eventually, I decided to share what I've learned with the world. Know more about me... You can follow me on LinkedIn.

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