Best Car Audio Equalizers: Top Picks To Improve Your Sound
Get the best sound from your vehicle’s audio system with these top audio equalizers
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON March 4, 2019
A vehicle's sound system can be affected by various factors, including engine noise, road noise, wind, glass reflectiveness, seat absorbency, and the size and shape of the car's cabin. The best car audio equalizers (EQ) allow you to boost or cut the tone of your system in ways not supported by standard treble, mid-range, and bass controls. An upgrade enables you to get a superior sound quality.
- Best OverallClarion EQS746 1/2 DIN Graphic Equalizer with Built-in CrossoverSummarySummaryThis seven-band graphic equalizer has six channels, seven-volt RCA outputs, adjustable master volume control, adjustable subwoofer level control, and a two-channel RCA AUX input.ProsProsThe signal is clean; there is no popping or distortion. The knobs offer a nice resistance, and the volume control is smooth when turning. It's quick and easy to install and tune.ConsConsThe subwoofer channel has a cutoff of 90 Hz. The equalizer has only one RCA input. The knobs are small and, after installation, you can't use the radio.
- Best ValuePower Acoustik PWM-16 Pre-Amp EqualizerSummarySummaryThis four-band 18dB parametric EQ has two selectable balanced inputs, front-panel AUX inputs, and independent volume/fader controls.ProsProsYou can adjust the subwoofer volume independently and control low-, mid- and high-range output. It has no Bluetooth or cell interference and has a crisp sound.ConsConsThe volume controls only the front and rear outputs. The knobs are small, the unit may get warm, and it has been known to stop working after several.
- Honorable MentionMassive Audio EQ-7X Car Equalizer with 7 Band Graphic EqualizerSummarySummaryThis four-band EQ features an adjustable master volume, adjustable subwoofer level, two-channel RCA AUX input, an eight-volt line driver, six-channel/seven-volt RCA outputs, and a selectable 12dB Low-Pass Crossover.ProsProsThe EQ has good clarity and picks up the slack of lower-end head units. It fixes spikes and drops in sound, and you can change the LED color.ConsConsThe device is heavy, and the knobs can be tough to turn. The lights are very bright, and it comes with an online fuse rather than one that is built in.
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Why Buy a Car Audio Equalizer?
- Get more options. Many stock head units contain basic bass, treble, and mid-range adjustments. An equalizer for car audio offers you more choices. For example, an EQ can be used to give more bass, less bass, more treble, and so on.
- Improve the factory system. Even if your stock system is high-end, you can fine tune it even further by using a top-rated equalizer to make it sound crisper and clearer.
- Drown out distracting sounds. Many sounds beyond your control, including those generated by your vehicle and the road, can affect your audio system's sound. An equalizer for car audio can resolve this.
- Protect your audio system. The best car EQs can safeguard your sound system by providing higher, clearer volume without taxing components such as the speakers, which can only handle certain tones and levels of amplification.
- Customize your music. If you listen to a lot of electronic dance music, you may want to pull back the treble more than your stock system will allow so the bass becomes more prominent.
Types of Car Audio Equalizers
A car audio graphic equalizer features a graphic presentation that allows you to visually adjust your audio system's frequency bands. They include several audio filters and have sliders that enable you to alter the sound by shifting the control buttons up or down. The left of the EQ is the low or bass side, while the right is the high or treble side.
This type of EQ is a step above conventional equalizers. Parametric equalizer devices enable you to control boost levels/widths and the center frequency. A parametric EQ allows you to select a focused boost or a more sweeping one around 35, 45, 65 or 80 Hertz (Hz).
A car stereo equalizer booster is both an equalizer and an amplifier. They tend to be weaker than external amplifiers, but are a decent alternative to buying a separate amplifier and equalizer, which can be more expensive when bundled. The built-in amp is comparable to most aftermarket receivers, but it also has the bonus equalizer.
Digital equalizers feature a menu screen instead of knobs or slide potentiometers, enabling you to adjust the audio system with precision. One benefit is they can save multiple EQ settings, which is particularly helpful if you listen to various genres of music that require different settings. Conventional equalizers don't have this function.
The major things that set analog equalizers apart are the physical dials or sliders that allow you to control frequency settings. These contrast with other equalizers, such as graphic EQs, that allow you to adjust frequency bands using a touch screen.
Clarion Co. Ltd.
Clarion was established in 1940 in Tokyo, Japan. They developed and launched Japan’s first car radio and first car stereo. In addition to car audio, Clarion covers safety and information systems, cloud-based information network services for vehicles, commercial vehicle management systems, and car navigation systems. One popular product is the Clarion EQS755 7-Band Car Audio Graphic Equalizer.
Massive Audio Inc.
Massive Audio, located in Commerce, California, was founded in 1999. They focus on quality audio products, including in-vehicle, professional/personal audio items. It also has partnerships with the BBC and CBS for audio electronics and figures. One of their top products is the Massive Audio EQ-7X Car Equalizer with 7 Band Graphic Equalizer.
Boss International Group
Boss Audio is the umbrella group for three major car audio brands: Boss Audio, Planet Audio, and Sound Storm Laboratories. The Oxnard, California-based organization has been around for 30 years. They make subwoofers, speakers, amplifiers, mobile video products, and off-roading gear. One popular system is the Sound Storm S4EQ 4 Band Pre-Amp Car Equalizer.
Car Audio Equalizer Pricing
- Under $30: There are a select few equalizers available at this price, but some are of decent quality. They typically don't offer as many features as pricier EQs.
- $30-$100: The most popular equalizers fall into this category, likely due to affordability. They tend to be higher quality, last longer, and give you more options to control your audio system than cheaper EQs.
- Over $100: Serious audiophiles should consider purchasing an equalizer in this price range. These options come with the best features to shape the sound to your preferred liking.
Number of Bands
The average five-band graphic equalizer has five sliders with the following fixed frequencies: 30 Hz (low bass), 100 Hz (mid-bass), 1 kHz (midrange), 10 kHz (upper midrange), and 20 kHz (treble or high-frequency). A 10-band equalizer has 10 sliders with 10 fixed frequencies. The more sliders available, the more control you have over the frequencies. Graphic equalizers have fixed frequencies, while parametric equalizers give you even more options, allowing you to select the center/primary frequency.
- Front-to-rear faders. Some equalizers include a front-to-rear fader to balance dual amps. This function can also be used with receivers that have just one pair of preamp outputs. In addition, the fader can be used to adjust the system so it provides the perfect amount of rear fill.
- Bandwidth/range: A parametric equalizer can control a system's bandwidth/range, which affects adjacent frequencies. This type of EQ allows you to further fine-tune specific frequencies without bothering nearby frequencies. For example, if a center frequency is 30 Hz, the wide bandwidth would also affect 15- and 45-hertz frequencies. Typically, this type of tuning and adjusting is used for mixing and recording purposes.
- Subwoofer output. Filters on the front and rear channels kick in when the subwoofer output is used. They permit certain frequencies to travel through them—i.e. high for smaller speakers and low for subwoofers—so the speakers and subwoofer aren't forced to recreate sounds they were not constructed to produce.
- Controls. Different equalizers have different controls for things such as the master volume, subwoofer volume, fader, main or AUX inputs, etc. Some EQs don't have a power button and are only turned on when the head unit is powered on.
- Line drivers. This feature is included in some EQs and boosts the voltage from the receiver to the highest level that the amp can sustain.
- Mounting area. Some EQs are designed to be installed next to the amplifier in the trunk or cargo area, while others can be mounted onto the dashboard. These are typically placed below the receiver in the factory radio space or below the dashboard with the aid of special brackets.
- DIN: In the mid-eighties, Germans began standardizing radios to use in vehicles such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen. They created Deutsche Industrie Norm (DIN), a term that refers to the 2-inch-by-7-inch opening where radios are inserted. A double DIN is 4 inches by 7 inches wide.
Best Car Audio Equalizer Reviews & Recommendations 2019
This seven-band graphic equalizer features six channels, seven-volt RCA outputs, adjustable volume control, adjustable subwoofer control, and a two-channel RCA AUX input with a 12dB low-pass crossover (60Hz or 90Hz). The device is gold-plated and is intended for vehicles with the negative ground and 12V battery system.
The seven-volt output at 105dB carries a clean signal to the amp. You can tune the EQ to your preference while having an auxiliary input. When adjusted correctly, the subwoofer output is really good, and the signal to other outputs is clean. It is quick and easy to install and tune even for amateur audiophiles.
The EQ only has one RCA input, which may be problematic if your head unit doesn't have the main output. The subwoofer channel has a cutoff at 90 Hz, which may leave a gap in the lower mid-range if you use smaller main speakers that can't do much in the 90-200 Hz range. The knobs are small and may be tough to adjust if you have big fingers. When installed, you can no longer use the volume on your radio.
Best Value: Power Acoustik PWM-16 Pre-Amp Equalizer
This four-band, 18dB parametric EQ features two selectable balanced inputs and front-panel AUX inputs, independent volume and fader controls, and an isolated power supply. It has a maximum eight-volt output. This unit allows for independent control of up to four channels of full range amplification (two front and two rear) as well as a subwoofer amplifier.
The Power Acoustik unit allows you to adjust the subwoofer volume independently from the volume of the full-range speakers. It enables you to control your low-, mid- and high-range output. You can adjust the bass boost frequency and get more volume out of the entire system. While considered a low-end brand, it provides a lot of bang for the buck. The seven-volt preamp output provides plenty of signal to the amplifiers for a crisp sound. It has no Bluetooth or cell interference.
It does not have a power button and is turned on via the head unit. The volume control is limited since it controls only the front and rear outputs. The knobs are quite small, hard to grab, and are stiff to turn. Finally, the unit may get very warm during operation.
Honorable Mention: Massive Audio EQ-7X Car Equalizer with 7 Band Graphic Equalizer
This seven-band EQ features an adjustable master volume level, adjustable subwoofer level, two-channel RCA AUX input and adjustable gain, 1/2 DIN, eight-volt line driver, six-channel/seven-volt RCA outputs, selectable 12dB low-pass crossover (60Hz or 90Hz), and gold-plated terminals.
The Massive Audio equalizer brings out the sound in your amp and picks up the slack of lower-end head units. The equalizer fixes spikes and drops that come from most vehicle interiors. It has a quality sound and is comparable to more expensive brands. With this one, you have the option of changing the LED from orange to blue.
Some downsides: The device is a little heavy, the knobs can be tough to turn, the lights are very bright, and it comes with an online fuse rather than one that is built into the unit. If used incorrectly, it may blow out factory speakers.
Tips & Advice for Car Audio Equalizers
- Invest in good-quality wiring. Cheaper RCAs may result in humming, buzzing, hissing, static, or popping sounds in your system. Your audio system will perform better if you spend a little bit more on better cables.
- If the unit hums after installation, check all the connections. Usually, it's not the unit itself but improper installation that creates unwanted noises. Make sure the screws and cables are tight.
- Don't be afraid to play around with your EQ. The best way to find the top-quality sound is by experimenting with the system through trial and error. Over time, you'll know how to make the best sounds come out of your audio system.
- The position of your vehicle's speakers may affect the sound of the audio. If you have small front speakers, consider using bass blockers to filter lower frequencies in order to get louder and clearer music.
- If your speakers are located in the rear of your vehicle, faders on your receiver can either bring the music forward or further back, depending on where you want it to come out.
Q: Do I need an amp to use an equalizer?
A: You don't necessarily need to have an amp installed to use a car equalizer. Most car stereos have built-in amplifiers, but it's possible to have a standalone equalizer that works in conjunction with the car stereo.
Q: Can I install an equalizer by myself?
A: If you are tech savvy and are good at following directions, you can install an equalizer by yourself. If you're not very confident with electronics and wiring, you may want to ask a knowledgeable friend or hire a professional to do the job.
Q: What is the difference between an equalizer and a crossover?
A: A crossover caps the range of frequencies that are sent to a speaker or amplifier. You can adjust the strength of the signal that's sent to the speakers. An equalizer allows you to cut and boost the frequency output.
Q: Do I need a spectrum analyzer?
A: A spectrum or real-time analyzer (RTA) measures and displays the frequency spectrum, visually demonstrating the amplitude of the frequency bands in real time. They can be fun but aren't necessary because you can adjust your system by the sound alone.
Q: Should I use the factory presets?
A: Factory presets include options such as "rock" and "jazz" to get you started. The presets probably won't produce the precise sound that you want, but you can customize them to your standards. Some EQs feature a frequency curve on the presets, which can help you to visualize the various EQ settings.
Our top pick for the best car audio equalizer is the Clarion EQS746 ½ DIN Graphic Equalizer with Built-in Crossover. It has a clean signal, smooth volume control, and it's quick and easy to install.
If you're looking for something less pricey, consider the Power Acoustik PWM-16 Pre-Amp Equalizer.