How to Hook up AMP without RCA Jacks? The new sound amplifiers have redefined how we listen to music in our cars. However, most brands do not ship amps with connectors. When buying amps, you will be less likely to find RCA connections. Also, the older amplifiers do not support the RCA connectors because of their incompatibility with RCA jacks.
While RCA connectors are the most common way of connecting amplifiers and speakers or subwoofers, you can recreate a sound system on your car without them. The new form of wiring the sound system may be a challenge, but it works without affecting the sound quality.
Preparations To Hook up AMP without RCA Jacks
One of the most ignored aspects of sound installation is the preparation stage. However, it is the most important stage, regardless of your experience. The fundamental things you should pre-plan when installing an amp include:
Buy enough wires
The most common mistake we are most likely to make is to buy fewer wires. It is better to have more RCA and speaker wires than not having enough of them. So, before starting the installation process, buy enough wires for your project.
Have the right tools
If it is your first time installing a sound in a car, you will need crimp tools. While there are professional crimp tools, you can get inexpensive ones in any local store. Compared to using solder, the crimp connectors are easy to use. You should also have wire cutters. Finally, ensure you have an electric tape and digital test meter.
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Installation options for hooking up AMP with RCA jacks
As you have noticed, car amplifiers do not come with any installation materials. As a car owner, you must buy the materials separately. Some of the alternatives include:
Option #1: Use Line output converters
If the sound system does not have RCA jacks, you can supplement that with Line Output Converter, commonly known as LOC. It converts the speaker-level signal into a signal equal to (pre-amp) RCA signal. Therefore, you still enjoy music in your car without using the RCA jacks.
To hook up a LOC to your car sound system:
- Power off your car sound system.
- Locate the leads that connect your radio and your AMP directly to your car speakers. In most cases, these leads are behind the head unit. If you cannot find them here, take more time.
- Once you get the leads, strip at least an inch from each wire. The main reason for using a wire stripper to strip an inch in each wire is to create possible connections between the speakers and the AMP and radio.
- Now connect the right speaker to the right channel on your AMP and vice versa. The process should take less than ten minutes. If you are unsure about the ideal channel to connect to your speaker, take more time to study the leads.
- Once you have connected the channels to speakers, use the solder to seal all the new connections. Apart from making the connections safe for your sound system, soldering improves sound quality. It eliminates all the unmated connections between your receiver, the AMP and speakers.
After you have hooked your AMP without RCA cables, you need to fine-tune your car system to sound great. Balancing the sound levels helps you in achieving quality sound in your car. To fine-tune the car sound system if you used LOC as RCA cables alternative:
- Set your AMP gains to midway. The setting gives you an ideal middle ground for sound balancing.
- Adjust your radio’s volume to a perfect listening level. The listening level depends on your preference.
- You can use a small tool such as a screwdriver to alter the adjustment detents of the AMP. The primary goal is to fine-tune the levels and find any sound distortion. If there is sound distortion, use the “gains down” to remove it. The process should take at least 10 minutes, depending on what you want to achieve.
Why should you consider LOC as an RCA jack replacement?
The Line Output Convertors are arguably the best option if the amp does not have RCA jacks. Some main advantages of using LOC in your car sound system include:
LOC is affordable
While RCA jacks have revolutionized the price aspect when installing sounds in cars, these converters are affordable. Unlike years ago, they are available, and the availability has brought the prices down. Now, you can get good quality converters at a competitive price.
The converters are easy to fix in a car sound system.
The LOC converters are easy to use, regardless of one’s experience. It is easy to identify connectors. So, it is hard to make common mistakes such as confusing connections. Thanks to this aspect, everybody can achieve better results without consulting a professional.
However, it is better to spend more money on a quality adapter. Unlike other tools in a sound connection, cheaper pieces may make your car sound system noisy. Also, it may be hard to fine-tune the sound quality from your amplifier.
Option #2: Speaker level inputs
The second alternative when connecting an amp without RCA jacks is to buy the speaker level outputs. As the name suggests, this option allows you to connect the amplifier with the signal source and, therefore, avoiding the need to have a separate adapter.
The connection is simple since you only need to connect positive and negative wiring directly. Unlike the first option, speaker level inputs are cheaper and less complicated. However, you may still need line-level converters for better sound quality.
To hook up your AMP using speaker level inputs:
- Turn off your car’s ignition. The process automatically powers off your car’s sound system.
- If you have a CD player, remove it using a flathead screwdriver. Removing the platter from the plastic trim slot makes the process simpler, regardless of your experience in hooking up your car sound system with an AMP.
- Disconnect the negative terminal from your car battery to protect your system from any possible short circuit cases.
Once you have prepared for the installation, get all your tools together. The next few steps may be intricate, but you do not need any professional assistance.
- Go to your passenger cabin
- Connect the red power wire from the car’s firewall to the AMP
- Mount the fuse (holder) and tighten up the connections to both the battery and head unit
- Route the blue and red wires (under your panels or the car door) to your AMP
Once you have finished wiring, it is time to connect the system and start receiving the audio signal. In this step, you only need a crimp or solder. The golden rule is to ensure that the connections are secure for optimum performance.
Troubleshooting guide if the installation fails
In most cases, the installation options highlighted above will work fine. However, sometimes the amp installation may not amplify the sound from the radio. If it fails, here are some troubleshooting options.
Reset the anti-theft security code
In most cases, the radio may not work with the amp because of security codes. The anti-theft code protects the factory radio in case one steals from you. There are two ways to reset the anti-theft security codes.
Talk to your car dealership
The car dealership service department is one of the best ways to reset the security code. However, you must prove car ownership for them to reset your factory radio. Once reset, you can repeat any of the above processes.
Use the vehicle’s manual to reset online
If you are not near a car dealership service, you are resetting the security code online. Each car comes with the owner’s manual, and you can use it to reset it. Like the other option, you must prove car ownership.
Use a multimeter to check the voltage.
Another probable reason your car sound system is not working is because of a faulty electric system. Therefore, you must check voltage and continuity using a multimeter.
To check the electrical system:
- Using the multimeter, check the voltage present between the positive and ground terminal.
- If it does not read +12 volts, remove the inline fuse and examine it. If it does not have current continuity, replace the fuse because it is faulty.
- However, if you found voltage in step one, it means the amp’s fuses are faulty. While you can replace the fuses, you should return the amp where you bought it.
- If the amp is okay, but you do not net sound on your car speakers, you should check one of these aspects:
The amp and stereo settings
If the settings (of the receiver and amp) are not aligned, you may not get sound on the speakers. If that happens:
Deactivate the filters and try to increase the amp’s gain
If some speakers are playing, check your receiver’s fade. Alternatively, the problem may be from the balance control. Check if the receiver is in mute mode. Some receivers may have a mute function.
The stereo’s audio outputs
If the amp and the stereo settings are okay and you are still not getting any music on your car speakers, you should check the audio outputs. To check whether the audio output is the issue:
- Turn off the new amp and the receiver.
- Unplug all the cables from the receiver
- Try to put the receiver and amp back.
- Using your finger, check if the inner pin is okay. You should hear a hum from the car’s speakers.
- The humming sound means your receiver is not sending enough signal to your car system.
- Contact a professional for more assistance.
Examine the speakers and wiring
The speakers and wiring may be the reason why you are not getting the sound from your receiver. If you suspect the problem is with the speakers or the speakers’ wiring:
- Check if the wiring is in contact with any metal.
- If the wiring is safe, check the speaker terminals if they have contacts with other car parts.
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The quality of sound from the sound system is disappointing! Fix
In most cases, the sound from your car sound system may not be impressive. It may have a lot of buzzing, humming and whining. If that happens shortly after installing your amp to your car system, here are some troubleshooting options.
Change the grounding
Moving the ground from a lower spot to a different place clears the sound from your car system. Even if space has pain and dirt-free, it may still have some noise problems. So, try placing the sound accessories at different places for experimenting with which area gives you the best sound quality.
Tighten up the loose wires
The biggest cause of a noisy sound system is loose wires. Even the loose wires in battery terminals may affect the sound quality. Therefore, you should tighten up the loose cables for a better sound. However, if you do not have the tools to tighten up the wires, consult a professional.
Check the battery fluid.
Did you know that the battery fluid may affect the sound quality? Low battery fluid may be the reason why the sound system has whining and buzzing sounds. Once checked, the sound quality will automatically improve.
Don’t overpower your power system.
Another possible reason your sound system has a lot of noise and low quality output is the lack of enough power in your system. Since the sound system does not have enough power, the amplified sound may not be pressing. So, get an amp that matches your car energy output.
Contact a professional
If the above steps have not worked, the best option is to call a professional. A technician will easily identify the issue and correct it. Unlike installing the car amp, diagnosing the problem is cheaper and faster.
Ideal locations to install an amplifier in your car without RCA jacks
There are many spots in your car that are ideal for installing the amp. Some of the best suggestions include:
Under your seat
Installing an amp under the seat is perfect, thanks to its closeness to the receiver. Also, you will not be sacrificing any cargo space. However, the major reason this location is ideal is the quality of sound. You will use shorter signal and patch cables and less signal degradation.
If you do not want to climb into your trunk or remove the car seat, this position is the best installation place for your amp. The place is also ideal for car owners who want to use short patch cords and wires. Unfortunately, the area can only accommodate smaller amps.
The hatch area (in the trunk)
The hatch area is a perfect location for bigger amps. You can also fix the amp in this area if you want unlimited access to all amp controls. Unfortunately, you will need longer patch cords and wires.
Based on the above steps, it is possible to hook up AMP without RCA jacks. While the jacks are universal and easy to use, some systems may not come with a supported design. Luckily, there are tons of ways to amplify your car sound system without the jacks. Besides connecting the amp with alternate options, the sound from the system may not match your expectations. The options above are unmatched in purifying the found from your sound system.