I have mostly completed the installation of my stereo upgrades. I am still tinkering and fussing around with the tuning of the system, but so far I am very pleased with the results of the upgrades I have made, and wanted to start a thread to detail this installation, with the hope of maybe helping/encouraging someone else who might want to make the attempt. Edit to add: I've been alerted that this only applies to non-Bose systems, due to a different method of getting a signal out of the system...This initial post won't have many pictures, but those will be coming in later posts, depending on the level of interest.
I do wish to make this disclaimer: I am not a professional stereo installer. I am a machinist, so I am very mechanically inclined, but before doing this install I have never attempted putting together a system like this before. If I can do it, any mechanically inclined, reasonably computer-literate person could do the same.
So the details:
The factory head unit is still providing the tunes. I use the USB almost exclusively, with a flashdrive that I keep plugged in to the car all the time. Almost all of the music I own is on this flashdrive, and the stuff I listen to most is all in lossless WMA format. I don't know if these head units will play FLAC files, but ripping CD's to lossless WMA is something I had available. Stuff I listen to less is in high quality MP3 format (300 kbps or better).
- From the factory head unit, the factory speaker outs are spliced in with "Stinger Speedwire", which is a bundled cable that contains 9 wires covering FR, FL, RR, RL, and Remote turn-on signal. This Speedwire runs down the center console, under the rear carpet and rear seat, into the trunk (remote turn-on wire is not used. That function is handled by the DSP).
- The Speedwire feeds the input of a Digital Signal Processor. I chose to use the Audison Bit Ten, mainly by virtue of the fact that I scored a good deal on one. If you are not familiar with DSP, this is a unit that will take the factory speaker-level signal, analyze what sort of factory equalization has been applied to it, de-equalize that factory setting, and output a line-level eq-flat signal as input to your amplifier. Most of these units allow you to hook up a laptop computer and offer adjustments like full 1/3 octave EQ on individual channels, variable delay setting by channel to time-align your system (for proper stereo imaging), independent level controls, configurable crossover filters for each channel, etc. It makes the tuning of the system pretty complex, and I am still working my way through that part, but WOW are the results worth it! There are many different DSPs out there, with varying features, but I got this one for less than $200, and couldn't pass it up. It has all the functionality I need.
- The Bit Ten feeds a JBL Club 4505 5-channel class D amplifier. This is not a super-powerful amp, but it is adequate for my needs. I only listen to my music turned up LOUD occasionally. Most of the time I am just looking for good clarity and enough power to bring that clarity up over the road noise. The ratio between full range output power and subwoofer output power is quite satisfactory. I can get the bass to kick me in the chest if I choose, although I do not choose to do that very often. I am just looking for quality sound reproduction (but if that includes bass that hits hard, so much the better!)
- I started with the basic model 6-speaker non-Bose system, which means the fronts are component speakers. For the front speakers, I decided to stay with components, mounted in the stock locations. I chose Focal ISS 165 component speakers, based on reviews I have read, and on the recommendation of a friend who is familiar with Focal from doing custom home-theater installations. These will handle a lot more power than I am putting through them, but so far I am pleased with what I'm hearing, even at lower power levels. In a perfect world, I would use separate channels for the tweets and mid-bass speakers, and EQ them separately. Unfortunately, the Bit Ten has a limited number of channels available. One option would be to use them for just front components and a sub, and eliminate the rear door speakers. I chose to use the Focal-supplied passive crossovers, and use my available channels to retain front components, rear door coaxials, and sub (the Audison Bit One has more channels, but was much more expensive).
- For the rear doors I used the Focal ISC 165 coaxial speakers, which are essentially the same as the fronts, but with the tweeter incorporated into the unit instead of being mounted separately. I enjoy having the rear fill, and I also carry passengers pretty regularly, so I wanted to retain this configuration.
ISC 165 | Focal America
- The 12" sub is an Infinity Kappa 1200W, mounted in a sealed enclosure in the trunk. This sub gets pretty awesome reviews, even though it's an entry-level sub and is relatively reasonably priced. I have NO complaints whatsoever about the quality of sound it's been producing for me. I would definitely recommend it if you are trying to keep your costs under control.
So for this initial post, I will just post a few photos showing the installation. I must make another disclaimer at this point. I am also NOT a professional photographer. The quality of some of these photos will leave much to be desired, and for that I apologize. I have learned a lot through this project, and will provide more detailed photos in future posts, but I'm already taking enough time and using too many words here, so I will call it for now...
I elected to surface mount the tweeters. I am not as satisfied as I could be with this setup, and I may change this and mount them in the stock locations later. They are really bright, and I had to dial back the high end a bit to get them not to sound harsh. I did this because it was easy (I didn't have to make custom backstraps to mount them in the stock location). If I was doing it over, I would go ahead and put them in the stock location. They would still sound fine. This is also the ONLY thing in the interior that appears non-stock, or gives away that any modifications have been made (until you turn it on, of course):
The hardware components are mounted visible on the side panel in the trunk. This was a personal preference choice for me, just purely because I like to look at them! For anyone contemplating a similar install, there is PLENTY of space behind that side panel to mount the electronics, and it would be WAY easier to hide them. Don't do it the way I did it unless you REALLY like looking at them. If you put them behind the panel, you don't need to worry nearly so much about the appearance of the wiring, mounting, and connections. I spent significant time on custom pass-thru trim pieces and such, just to satisfy my personal taste. This is NOT necessary in any way for system performance, but it's what I wanted for mine. If you do hide them, just make sure you permanently install a USB cable so you can fuss with your DSP whenever you feel like it without taking anything apart (the cable trailing down towards the camera is the USB cable connected to my laptop. Easy to remove when done fooling around)...
The sub is mounted in a generic Sound Ordnance "bass bunker" enclosure I bought online. It's a sealed enclosure, stuffed with poly stuffing. I had to slightly enlarge the hole in it, since the Kappa sub is slightly larger than standard for a 12" sub. I also spent some time improving the sealing of the enclosure over how it comes from the factory. I felt like it was worth spending the time, if choosing a sealed enclosure, to make SURE it's truly sealed. It's just sitting in the trunk at the moment, but I'm going to mount some velcro on the bottom to keep it from moving too much, when I get around to it. I also have a protective grille to put on this, but that will take a bit of tinkering as well, because of the non-standard size and configuration of this sub. For now I am just being careful:
So I hope this hasn't been too exhausting as a thread-starter post. If so, I apologize. I'm kind of a wordy guy, and I have long since quit trying to be brief when I write. It's a futile effort for me.
I have a lot of photos of this installation, and will explain what I did and answer questions if anyone is interested. I will begin the follow-up on this soon with a more detailed description of how I spliced in the Speedwire, and installed it through the console and into the trunk. How much time I spend and how detailed I get will depend entirely on the level of interest and whether it will actually be useful to anyone.
For now, thanks for reading!