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3 Different Types of Car Audio Systems Explained

Driving is about the journey and the ambiance you create within your vehicle. And your car’s audio system creates that ambiance or mood of happiness.

But did you know there are distinct types of car audio systems to consider, each with its unique offerings and nuances? From the factory-installed OEM systems to the highly customizable aftermarket and bespoke custom setups, the choices are as varied as they are exciting. 

Dive into our comprehensive guide to understanding the differences between OEM, Aftermarket, and Custom car audio systems, ensuring you find the perfect sonic companion for your drives.

1. OEM System

The name OEM, Original Equipment Manufacturer, speaks for itself. As it suggests, all the devices and electronics you have preinstalled in your car are OEM systems. They are the car’s default system and were installed at the time of manufacturing. They can be your default audio components like stereo, speaker, or amplifier.

The quality of your OEM audio system highly depends on how much money you are spending on purchasing the car. Because reputed car companies partner with industry-leading audio specialists to produce the best factory-installed audio system.

They can undoubtedly outperform many high-end aftermarket audio systems.

OEM Audio System

Advantages of the OEM System

1. Easy Integration: The biggest perk of OEM systems is their seamless integration with the car’s ecosystem. They are specific to the car and match the car’s vibe, color, aesthetic, and interior.

2. Consistency: As they are company and vehicle-specific, you know exactly what to expect as a car audio system. Their design and performance will be consistent among all the similar models.

3. Customer Support: If anything happens to the OEM system, you can have easy access to the warranty. You do not need separate documentation as it already comes under the vehicle’s service warranty.

4. Ease of Use: The OEM car audio system is excellent for people who are new to the genre. They do not require in-depth knowledge, and anyone can easily use an OEM system thanks to its customer generic user experience.

Limitations of the OEM System

1. Upgrading Hurdles: Unlike other types, the factory-installed systems are vehicle-specific. So, it is hard to find the perfect match, which makes upgrading between OEM systems harder.

2. High Repair Cost: If you do not have a service warranty, it will be expensive to repair or change an OEM system compared to its counterparts.

3. Quality Variability: The sound quality can vary considerably. Base models might have a very basic sound system, while high-end trims or models may feature premium branded audio systems, such as Bose, Bang & Olufsen, or Harman Kardon.

2. Aftermarket System

In an OEM system, you are stuck with a specific setting that may not align with your liking. And here come aftermarket audio systems to rescue. Aftermarket audio systems give you the freedom to choose whatever features you like, as they are not pre-installed by manufacturers. But you can easily purchase them from any marketplace.

Third-party companies make customizable audio systems that are compatible with a large range of vehicles. These are designed to cater to your unique preferences with unparalleled customizability.

You can compare this with your phone cover. Your custom phone cover does not come in the same box as the phone. You have to purchase it separately amidst thousands of options.

After Audio System Installed

The Perks of choosing Aftermarket

1. Advanced Features: They come with features like advanced EQ settings, time alignment, high-resolution audio playback, and even Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

2. Sound Quality: User experience and sound quality are the main themes behind aftermarket components and can provide a significant upgrade over OEM systems.

3. Diverse Options: The owners can trial and error with thousands of aftermarket components to make their perfect audio system.

4. Price Range: Products are available across a broad price spectrum, from budget-friendly to high-end.

Potential drawbacks to consider

1. Warranty: Any modifications or third-party services on the car can ruin the manufacturer’s service warranty.

2. Vehicle Integration: Installing an aftermarket system means compromising your car’s aesthetic to some extent.

3. Custom System

The Custom audio systems serve a specific vehicle or user’s requirements. Unlike aftermarket audio components, it does not target a customer group who have the exact requirements. Rather than that, it gives customers the opportunity to choose everything on their own. The choices can range from a unique speaker enclosure built to maximize the acoustics of a particular car model to an entire system overhaul designed to cater to specific sound preferences or performance demands.

Customized Car Audio System

Why go for a Custom System?

1. Tailored Sound: A specific sound signature or response covers the entire car space, giving the listener their ideal audio experience.

2. Vehicle Optimization: Every car has its acoustics. A custom system can be engineered to take advantage of or compensate for these unique characteristics.

3. Aesthetic Freedom: You get to bend everything according to your wish.

Things to bear in mind

1. Warranty: Because of high customizations manufacturer can discontinue the warranty.

2. Resale Value: Custom systems are tailored to unique tastes. It is hard to find a buyer with exact same taste.

3. Associated Cost: It is the most expensive.

OEM vs. Aftermarket vs. Custom

Each one of them seems great, and you might be confused about which one to choose for your car audio system. Let us make it easy for you.

If you do not want to get involved in extra hassle, then you should go for an OEM car audio system.

If you need some degree of customization and do not want to redesign everything, you can choose an aftermarket car audio system.

If your nuances matter to you the most and you are willing to pay a huge premium, then you should have a custom-built car audio system.

Wrapping it up

Among different types of car audio systems, choosing the right one is overwhelming. But, with our easy guide, it can be much easier. Our detailed outline will undoubtedly help you select the perfect fit for you.

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