Tech Talk: Why are car audio manufacturers still using RCA interconnects for their hardware?

Tech Talk | WRITTEN BY AARON TRIMBLE | February 2018

If you checked in with last months article you’ll remember that this year the Tech Talk is on open mic. All of 2018 is going to be user submitted questions, and boy were there some questions! A lot of you asked questions about the inner workings of speakers, or which sub they should choose for their next bowel shaking bass build, but this month I want to address something that a lot of folks don’t think about.

Charlton from Louisiana, USA asks:

“Why are car audio manufacturers still using RCA interconnects for their hardware? Home A/V has evolved tenfold in comparison to the changes we don’t see in car amps. Why not optical or CAT6 or something better?”

This is a great question. Signal path isn’t something that a lot of folks address in mobile electronics and there are certainly advantages to a digital signal. To answer this question though, let’s first look at analog vs digital. What is analog? Analog is alternating current (AC). It is an electrical reproduction of real sound waves. Digital on the other hand is a series of samples of the original sound at a given rate. Digital is a series of ones and zeros. Now, we’re not overly concerned with the digital vs analog recording process, nor are we here to argue the merits of which is better on a whole. If we look at new cars and trucks with premium audio systems, it is not uncommon to see digital signal transfer over wire. The challenge here though is that very little of it is done with one platform of digital transference. Some manufacturers use MOST by wire, some still use an older CAN-BUS, while still others make use of their own system or a different version of one of the others. To make use of this in the aftermarket, the signal needs to be decoded to analog at some point so that it can be used by your speakers. This decoder, commonly called a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter), must either be able to decode all types of digital signal or there must be a converter for each type, which means an install shop must carry whichever ones they choose to address. So, it makes it difficult to simply put this DAC in an amp. It’s more logical to make an external DAC that can feed into your amp, but then you have analog that goes into the amp anyways, which sort of defeats the purpose of it, doesn’t it?

Now, despite the aftermarket head unit losing market share at an alarming rate, which is a different article on its own, why haven’t the radio companies adopted this? It is in this journalists opinion that it is a logistical problem. DD Audio doesn’t make head units of course, so we can only make conjecture here. It is a logistical issue in much the same way as integrating into digital with the factory systems. Who is responsible for the decoding? Compact Disk, Bluetooth, USB and various other sources are all digital signals. All aftermarket radios have DAC’s in them to decode these signals. This is done at the radio to allow for both the low level signals we use RCA’s for and for the speaker level outputs that most radio’s have (the classic “50×4” watt amps in the decks). In order to maintain the speaker outputs on a radio, the radio must still have a DAC. Now, that doesn’t mean that an aftermarket radio can’t have a digital output. However, it will again come down to the amp manufacturer to have a digital input and its own DAC to do this conversion. Now we don’t have our blinders on. Digital, mostly optical, has been used on some high end aftermarket radios in the past, a few DSP’s (in fact our own DSI-1 has an optical input for some audio codex’s and some gaming devices), and even a few amps, but having 2 of these; a source, and an amp that support digital can not only be difficult to find, but it can also be prohibitively expensive. Seeing wide-scale adoption in car audio would be very expensive for the industry and would require a lot of cooperation between head unit manufacturers, processor manufacturers and amp manufacturers, all at a more competitive price point. This brings up the most important question, should car audio adopt digital signal transfer?

The answer is a resounding, yes, with the caveat that it really isn’t necessary. Digital signal transfer over mediums like fiber optic and CAT6 do have some distinct advantages, most notably among these is that they are not susceptible to electrical noise, engine noise, or hiss like conventional analog signals that are generally transferred over RCA’s. Of course these issues are only common in installs that are performed incorrectly/poorly. Other digital benefits like distributive/multiplexed audio (being able to pass more than one signal along the wire) and long distance transfer are far less relevant to car audio. Odds are your car audio install isn’t going to be a 7.2 home theater set-up (mainly because we’re not watching movies while we’re driving, yet) and you’re certainly not needing a 100 foot run in your new F-150. So it comes down to noise. If an RCA is installed correctly, away from noise producing wires like power wires or fuel pumps in a vehicle, it is going to have the same signal integrity as a digital source. Digital signal mediums like fiber optic are also less flexible and cheaper, plastic optical lines can become brittle over time or crack during an install. Wires, like RCA’s, are much more durable. A good RCA, with durable ends and solid noise rejection, like the DD Audio Z-Wire RCA System, are all that is necessary to create a great sounding audio system.

Z-Wire RCA System

I hope this answer has been helpful Charlton. We’re definitely not against digital audio, but it will certainly take a major industry shift for things like Optical or CAT6 to become commonplace in the average system.

If this sparks debate in your mind, or causes you to have more questions about car audio be sure to send us a message with your car audio related question below. Each month we’re going to select 1 Tech Talk reader’s questions to answer here on the DDownlow, so be sure to check in next month to see if your question gets answered.

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DD Audio Recognizes Top 10 Domestic Dealers and International Distributors of 2017


Oklahoma City, OK, February 14 2018 — 2017 is a thing of the past and the year of the Earth Dog is on the horizon. With the wisdom and momentum gained over the last year, DD sees 2018 as a wide-open road that will be filled with better audio than ever before.

Both DD and our retail partners have willingly chosen a difficult path in today’s market by investing our livelihood in brick and mortar businesses. We all believe in this business format because we are truly passionate about custom car audio, and other humans that share that passion. It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway, we literally couldn’t do what we do without our dealers.

As in years prior, DD has had the privilege of directly working with some of the best custom car audio shops and international distributors around the world. Once again we will celebrate our top performing partners with a small token of our appreciation.

We will be presenting the Top 10 Domestic Dealers and Top 10 International Distributors of 2017 with custom commemorative plaques. For this year’s plaques, we commissioned YouTuber, Instagrammer and accomplished maker, Winston Moy, to turn some wood, metal, and carbon fiber into custom works of art. This is not so different from what DD Dealers do for their customers on a daily basis.

To everyone who had a hand in making 2017 an awesome year for DD Audio, we say thank you. Now, let’s all start heading down the wide open road that is 2018.

Domestic Dealers:
Tweet Shop – Mobile, AL
Poptronics Distributors – Baltimore, MD
Hotwired Car Audio – Jonesboro, AR
Audio Extremist, LLC – Oklahoma City, OK
Audio Express – San Antonio, TX
Custom Sound Works – Lubbock, TX
HID Unlimited – Orlando, FL
Performance Car Audio – Beaumont, TX
Joker’s Audio – Marietta, GA
Extreme Soundz – Lumberton, NC

Oy Audio Import – Europe
NCMB – China
Autorama – Argentina
Audio World – United Arab Emerates
DD Audio Russia – Russia
Davisa – Panama/Columbia
Murtas Elektronik – Turkey
Pro Audio – Mexico
Reference Audio – South Africa
Ellite International – India

DD Audio Top 10 Dealer Plaque

Install Highlight: 2013 Dodge Charger


Most of us lucky enough to have a driver’s license fall into a group of people who are either loved or reviled by all. I’m talking about car customizers. Now for some, this could be as slight as adding that little guardian angel pin to the sun visor to watch over your travels. That however, does not suffice for some folks like RaShawn Maynard. Who could blame him? When you are a member of one of the country’s biggest and most revered car clubs, like Swift Car Club’s OKC Chapter, you have to stay on your toes and keep your vehicle impeccable. For this go around, RaShawn sought out a local fixture on the OKC car scene, Brian Bohannon of Audio Extremist, LLC to upgrade his sound.

Since there was no stone unturned in building the rest of this rolling showcase, Brian and RaShawn worked up a plan that would allow the sound of this rolling eye candy to match its enhanced appearance. Since the vehicle already had to contain a good amount of equipment for other mods done around it, it was decided that keeping the system compact but powerful. Taking Brian’s advice, the equipment selected is as follows:

  • Three sets of DC6.5’s (front doors)
  • Two sets of DC6.5’s (rear doors)
  • Two sets of DX6.5’s (rear deck)
  • Two 2508 ESP Subwoofers
  • Three D4.90 4Ch Amplifiers
  • One DM2500 Monoblock Amplifier
  • One DSI-1 Signal Processor
  • One X1.1 (not used but has power for leds)

All of this equipment was integrated in a way that absolutely conforms to the aesthetic that RaShawn sought out. He stated that for  upgrades in the future, he knows just who to talk to.

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Dealer Spotlight: Reference Audio Video of Great Falls, Montana

Shop Name: Reference Audio Video
Shop Location: Great Falls, Montana
Owner’s Name: Lee Secora

DD: How long have you been in business?
Lee: The shop first opened in late 2006. After working here since October of 2007, I purchased the business in May of 2014.

DD: How did you get started in car audio?
Lee: Growing up, my friends and I were always moving gaming systems from one house to another for all night benders or all day binges. With that, it seemed I was the one who was always hooking up the A/V cables, theater speakers, and so on. As I grew older my love for cars and music also grew, so I went from hooking up TV speakers to car speakers. In a small town there is not a lot of choices for who to go to when you want your amps or speakers installed, or any at all really. So many of my friends would bring their car over to my house or we would clear out their parents garage and we would put in old radios their parents had laying around, or an amp and sub that an uncle gave them, and everything just grew from there.

DD: What made you decide to do car audio for a living?
Lee: With high school coming to an end, like most kids I had no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had an absolute passion for music, and really enjoyed in our small town rock band we had at the time and knew I wanted something to do with music. But the odds of a career there was small, so we had to re-adjust the picture a little bit. The only other thing I really enjoyed was working on cars, so I started exploring my options in that field. I was putting in radio in an old Chevy pick-up I had one day and it just sort of hit me. I enjoy this, it’s the perfect combination of my two passions, music and cars, so what the hell, let’s give it a try. I knew college was not going to be a fit for me, so I checked into tech schools and found Mobile Dynamics in Phoenix, Arizona.

My cousin owned a body shop in the “big” city down the road and had mentioned to my Dad that his friend Dave was in the process of opening a new shop and that I should go talk to him. So I did and Dave told me that once I completed school he would have a job for me. Flash forward several months, I graduated Mobile Dynamics and started my first day at this new shop on the block, Reference Audio Video. The first few months were rough, very quickly I learned that I knew nothing, but Dave was patient with me and allowed me the time to learn. After the first year when things started to flow more naturally to me, I knew that this was my career path and something that I would enjoy doing for many years to come.

DD: Does your shop specialize in anything specific?
Lee: We don’t have any one real specialty that holds high rank over another, but we touch on a lot of things. In the market that we have, you don’t get the opportunity to do a lot of wild and crazy builds, or super high end speaker setups, so we put our focus on making sure our customers are getting exactly where their money goes. Understanding that the very cheap stuff that they can find online lacks in many ways to what quality equipment does for not very much more money, but not pushing them to products miles outside their budget. If we had to nail down our specialty, I would say it is making sure our customers leave with the knowledge and confidence that their money was well spent on quality equipment, and professional work.

DD: How long have you been a DD Audio Dealer?
Lee: Since January 2018! So we are pretty fresh still.

DD: Where did you first hear about DD and why did you decide to become a DD dealer?
Lee: I have heard rumblings through the years about DD, we would get customers in from time to time asking about what we knew about different products and lines after they did some online research into builds for their cars. Our answer was always the same, DD makes some really loud subs! That was all that we knew at the time, it was a name that came up a ton with bass competition guys hitting high dB levels.

After having a conversation with Douglas at DD, I was enlightened on how much more DD has to offer other than just competition level products. And of course, you have to love the company policies like no online sales, it shows they care about and support their brick and mortar stores. It also gave us the opportunity to consolidate some of our underperforming lines we had at the time. We let Douglas know we were 100% interested in DD, we just had to clear out some inventory first. Once December was coming to a close, we were ready to commit and are very excited to see where this journey takes us!

Staff photo Left to Right: Travis Ryan (Install Technician ), Lee Secora (Owner/Install Technician), Alvin Bartels (Sales).

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Características de Productos: Amplificadores DM1500 y DM2500

¡Las últimas adiciones a la Serie D de amplificadores están específicamente diseñadas para hacer lo que DD Audio hace mejor, crear un gran bajo (bass)! Solamente que ahora con la incorporación de los nuevos DM1500 y DM2500 a las filas de la Serie D, ¡ese gran bajo es más asequible que nunca! El DM1500 está especificado para entregar 1500 watts RMS y 2300 watts dinámicos a 1 Ohm. El DM2500 está especificado para entregar 2500 watts RMS y 3000 watts dinámicos a 1 Ohm. Ambos amplificadores proveen el sólido poder de DD Audio a un valor nunca antes visto sin comprometer su calidad. Estos amplificadores tienen todas las características que un verdadero amplificador de bajos debe tener, haciendo la instalación, configuración y operación muy simples.

DM2500 amplifier


  • Terminales de Poder Calibre 0
  • Terminales de Altavoces Calibre 10
  • PCB FR4 de doble cara
  • Filtro Pasabanda Variable de 24dB/Oct
  • Conexión Enlazada
  • Control Remoto
  • Circuito de Protección de 5 vías

Las secciones de poder y salida de los amplificadores DM utilizan los mismos excelentes componentes que se encuentran solo en los amplificadores de bajos de más alta calidad como la Serie M de DD Audio. También diseñamos la estructura de ganancia de los preamplificadores DM para conjuntarlos fácilmente con los autoestéreos y convertidores en línea (Alta/Baja) del mercado secundario actual, los cuales se caracterizan por tener salidas de bajo voltaje RCA. El nivel de atención al detalle de DD y la calidad de construcción permiten a los amplificadores DM superar a muchos de los llamados amplificadores de competencia de otras marcas a un precio competitivo.

Para comprar, encuentra a tu distribuidor local.


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