Ready Reckoner: Car audio systems for small cars

Music systems are car accessories that come standard only with the more expensive cars. The lower variants of cars usually are bereft of audio systems as this is one area of cost savings for car makers.

But music systems are also the car accessories that are most in demand, as most people who buy cars are keen on some in-car entertainment, be it a basic radio or a hi-end audio system capable of playing DVDs, MP3s and CDs.

If you’ve got a car that does not have a music system or you want to upgrade the basic music system that comes with the car, here are a few pointers on audio systems and the budget you’ll have to set aside for a good music system.

Ready Reckoner: Car audio systems for small cars


Basic Car Audio system – Rs. 7,000 onwards

A basic car audio system consists of a head unit and a set of speakers. Head units come in two standard sizes that can fit most cars around the world. The slim ones that are about 18 cm wide and 5 cm high are called single-DIN units, while the chunkier ones that measure 18 cm x 10 cm are double-DIN units. Depending on the slot space available in your car, you could choose either size. Most music systems these days feature a CD/MP3 drive, a USB port and an Aux-in port, controls for FM station presets, playback, volume control and some have remote controls.

Ensure you buy a head unit that can play at least basic audio formats like MP3 and WAV. If you want to play music from a USB, MP3 player or from an iPod you will need a head unit that comes with a USB port or an Aux-in slot.

A low-end system will set you back by around Rs. 6,000 depending on the model and make.  Some basic head units offered by popular brands include the Pioneer DEH – 2390 UB, Sony CDX- GT303 MP, and Kenwood KDC 139S.  Some basic speakers (available at prices as low as Rs. 1,400) are the Sony XS – GTF 10272 and Kenwood KFC –S502P.

Advanced Car Audio system – Rs. 20,000 onwards

If you can afford to stretch your bigger budget a little, you can go for a more advanced head unit and component speakers with additional subwoofers, crossovers, amplifiers etc. There are many audio systems that come with an LCD touch screen, allowing you to search for songs based on the name/title etc.

Such systems can play CDs, MP3s and DVDs as well. You can also select different colors for the backlight of the display. You can also control your iPods and MP3 devices from the music system without having to use the devices themselves. There is also a provision to stream music wirelessly via Bluetooth and take calls by pairing your mobile phone with the system. These systems allow you to dial numbers and call people on the move.

Pioneer AVH – 2390 DVD, Alpine IVA – W520E, JVC KW-XR416D are some of the more advanced head units available starting from about Rs. 9,000 upwards.

Advanced car audio systems include component speakers wired to a combination of other audio components like subwoofers, mid-bass’, tweeters, amplifiers and crossovers.  These add-ons mean that you get an enhanced music experience. A four speaker set, with 2 tweeters, an amplifier and a crossover along with a high-end head unit could cost upwards of Rs. 20,000.

Car Monitors – Rs. 8,000 onwards

If you are one of those who often embark on weekend getaways with your family and like to keep your kids occupied during long journeys, you can opt for head-rest mounted video monitors or roof-mounted monitors (overhead monitors).  You can also install monitors behind the passenger sun-visor as well, and some head unit displays also double up as monitors.

Some overhead monitors available are the Sony XVM – B62, Kenwood LZ-702W, and Alpine PKG-RSE2, which would cost you around Rs. 8,000. You can always buy cheaper Chinese brands of car monitors, but the drawback is that these may not come with a manufacturers warranty.

*Prices and availability of models will vary