A Devils Lake man approached us about fixing up his current aftermarket sound system in his 2010 Tundra 4-door. When it came to us it was sounding under the weather, so I went to work. A pair of DB Drive amplifiers, Focal rear 6.5″ speakers, and a JL Audio Stealthbox subwoofer were kept, and a high end Pioneer in-dash touch screen radio ran the show. Our Toyota Tundra Stage 3 3-way component speakers were chosen to give a major boost to the overall balance and staging and imaging.
The radio outputs and the amplifier’s outputs were checked with an oscilloscope and a test CD to find the maximum safe volume position and proper gain settings. This alone can make a big improvement to the sound and it also helps to ensure the speakers will last for years to come. Your car audio shop must have the right tools and training for the job, just like your auto mechanic.
We recently freshened up a 1998.5 Dodge Ram pickup truck’s sound system. We were told with much pride that this is the owner’s dream truck, and this build was tackled with attention and care as if it were ours. A new sound system is just one step in a series of upgrades inside and out, and we delivered big smiles.
Out With The Old, De-Cluttering
A triple gauge pod needed to come out and some of the wiring under the hood was in bad shape. We removed the gauge pod and associated wires and tubes, and the dual batteries were removed for cleaning and ground and power wire replacement.
The New Audio Equipment Featuring Cerwin Vega Mobile
The vehicle received a load of Cerwin Vega equipment, a Pioneer in-dash head unit, SiriusXM sat radio, and a long range Solace two-way remote auto starter kit. Next we will show you the treatment the doors received. The outer and inner skins were lined with Cerwin Vega Bass Mat. This cuts down on vibrations, insulates from heat and cold, and it improves bass. The front doors don’t have the clearance for the Vega series 6×9 speakers, so ABS 1/4″ adapter plates were fabricated to fit Vega 6.5″ speakers.
The Amplifier – Compact and Seemingly Endless Power
Not flush with extra interior space, the only logical choice was a small 5-channel amplifier. Cerwin Vega delivered big time with V1100.5, which is rated to produce 80W x 4 at 4 ohms and 500W at 1 ohm on the subwoofer channel.
The bass is provided by a pair of Cerwin Vega Vega Pro Shallow 10″ subwoofers. These are rated at 300W RMS. A ready made enclosure isn’t good enough, so we put NET Audio of Wichita Falls, TX to the task of designing and building a fiberglass ported enclosure. They did an outstanding job, as usual. The rear seat still latches, the bass is killer, and our client was blown away.
This job came from a father-to-son referral for Blake C., with his 2009 GMC Sierra extended cab pickup truck. I had previously upgraded another vehicle for him, doing a radio + 4 speaker installation. That turned into a bit more than I expected, as it was discovered the rear window had been shattered, then replaced poorly. However, it was all smiles when they took delivery and he came back for a second round of audio work on a newer vehicle.
What Blake wanted was more bass. Our design philosophy is to keep things stock looking as much as possible, and a subwoofer enclosure under the rear seat is a great solution without sacrificing seats. We have partnered with NET Audio of Wichita Falls, TX, to provide custom built sub enclosures. A pair of Pioneer shallow 12″ subwoofers, a Pioneer bass amplifier, a DB Link amplifier installation kit and some miscellaneous wiring bits rounded off the parts list.
The owner of this vehicle came to us after Barry had worked on his son’s vehicle. That feeling from good music in the car is infectious, right? It was time to put some money into making this F-150 a more enjoyable ride, and we agreed on a bass package and a GPS navigation head unit for the dash. The factory sound system was a total letdown, and it was time to do away with the satnav box stuck to the windshield.
Barry was given a budget and told to do what he thought was best. This meant going with some products that have stood the test of reliability, ease of use, sound quality and bang-for-your-buck. These factors matter more than the brand names, but it’s a Clarion head unit, CDT Audio subwoofers, T-Spec power and signal cables, a Precision Power amplifier, and an Atrend perfect fit enclosure.
One of the most important goals for any amplifier installation is safety. There’s a big difference between a functional installation and a factory fit installation. Cutting corners can get you back on the road quickly, but you want your money going to that extra labor to do the job right. Every aspect of the wire routing and fuse holder placement under the hood is to keep it neat and tidy, for life. Several ground wire connections were improved by removing paint and sealing the joint with silicone or rubberized undercoating to prevent corrosion. A supplemental 4 awg chassis ground was added between the negative battery terminal and the firewall. At this time there was not enough money in the budget, nor adequate current draw from new equipment to justify the full Big 3 upgrade.
Every aspect of the wire routing and fuse holder placement under the hood is to keep it neat and tidy, for life. – Barry Schanz
The customer has already discussed bringing the vehicle back for more upgrades. There was a great improvement to the sound with the added bass and the Clarion head unit. The future may bring all new speakers, another amplifier, and an equalizer. There’s room next to the i650.1 for a matching i520.4 4-channel amplifier.
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Welcome to Part 2 of Basic Car Audio Upgrades. We’re back to work on the 2008 Honda Civic EX. This time I’m adding a 4-channel amplifier and replacing the rear speakers. I’m also running wires to the trunk for a future addition of a powered subwoofer. I will also be using the new speaker adapters made by car-speaker-adapters.com to help get this product to market. Speaker adapters help out when the factory speaker isn’t mounted straight to the panel the way an aftermarket speaker gets mounted.
The amplifier chosen for this upgrade was the Precision Power Phantom P900.4. This is our best selling amplifier. I will be mounting it under the passenger seat. It’s small enough to fit within the footprint of the base of the seat and it provides quite a bit of power without placing a heavy load on the alternator.
Power is brought into the cabin with 4 gauge cable from a dB Link CK4Z amplifier installation kit. This kit features a wafer style ANL fuse, 17 feet of Superflex Soft Touch power cable, 3 feet of ground cable, 25 feet of 16 gauge speaker wire, and more. I used a pair of 6 foot 2-channel RCA cables by Tsunami, part number RTP950-6.
The original system plan included a pair of CDT Audio ES-6CFX 6.5″ speakers. In the Alpha Damp photo those are the speakers shown. They didn’t work out as this particular car had a clearance issue that would have required cutting of the sheet metal. This wasn’t an option for this car.
I finished the sound deadening for the rear deck lid by hot gluing some closed cell foam to the underside of the cover. This puts a barrier between plastic and metal to prevent vibrations from the new speakers and the subwoofer that is coming soon.
The car will be coming back to get the front speakers replaced. With new speakers in the back and more power for the front speakers the sound is greatly improved. There’s a welcome addition of clear treble from the JBLs plus the stock speakers in the front doors are finally showing signs of life. The extra power really gets the door panels vibrating. That will be addressed with Alpha Damp and possibly other products.
If you’re wondering how to make your music sound better in your car you’re possibly stumped because of all the options. I often hear from people who get the idea that the whole sound system is trash and so it all has to get upgraded at once for the best improvement. There’s a more simple and affordable way to approach this, which is why I’m going to show you an affordable upgrade path demonstrated on a popular car.
The customer came to me with a 2008 Honda Civic EX sedan. This is from the 8th generation of Civic which includes model years 2006-2011. We agreed early on that the entire factory audio system would be upgraded, but I have been doing the installation in stages. The first thing to go was the head unit. I used a dash kit by Metra, p/n 99-7871T.
A dash kit allows a factory radio to be replaced with an aftermarket radio. A replacement radio will be sized as single DIN or double DIN. This Civic has room for a double DIN radio to fill the entire dash opening but my customer decided to use a single DIN radio. The opening is filled in with a storage pocket below the radio. The buttons, knobs, and vent are transferred over from the factory panel for an OEM feel and functionality.
What you’re looking at above is the top model of single DIN radio for Clarion in 2012, the CZ702. The suggested retail price is $249.99 and the street price is around $220. This unit offers direct iPod/iPhone control and charging by USB, Bluetooth hands-free calling and stereo music streaming, aux input on the front, Pandora, HD Radio Ready and SiriusXM Ready, 3-way active crossover option and digital time alignment. This is an excellent sounding radio that is ready to control a 2-way component speaker + subwoofer system with a high amount of flexibility for crossover frequency selection.
When you get a new radio installed you also need a wire harness and an antenna adapter. This car required Metra p/n 70-1721 for the wire harness to connect to power, ground, and the speakers, as well as Metra p/n 40-HD10 to connect to the Honda factory AM/FM radio antenna. These are essential parts for the upgrade but they come at a moderate price. Expect to pay anywhere between $20 and $40 for the two parts. Sometimes these might be discounted as part of a shop flat rate installation fee, but that will vary.
When I stopped here the Civic had a more lively sound to it. The customer now had a way to plug in their iPhone or iPod by USB plus Bluetooth. In articles to follow I’ll show an amplifier installation, speaker upgrades, some sound deadening treatments, as well as a powered subwoofer upgrade.
This is a brief build write-up for a local customer, Troy O., with a 2000 Jeep Wrangler soft top weekend toy. He expressed an interest in keeping the costs reasonable, and I kept this in mind while planning out a system that would utilize stock speaker locations. I wanted to give him the best value and performance for the bass possible given the space constraints and the 117 amp alternator.
This is the first time I’ve used speakers and subwoofers by American Bass of Solon, Ohio. I gave them a call to ask for a recommendation on the size and model of subwoofers to choose. Bob, the man I spoke to, was very helpful every time we spoke. We settled on the XD line in a 10″ size to work best with the 1.25 cu. ft of sealed air space available from the custom fit box I chose. I also used American Bass speakers to fit the factory locations. These feature a swiveling tweeter and carbon fiber cones for good sound quality.
The subwoofer amplifier was a no-brainer. The Precision Power P1000.1 had the small form factor I needed to fit under the rear seat, plus it’s got the power-to-dollar value that’s unmatched in this size.
Kenwood KDC-152 Head unit: CD/AM/FM/Aux in. Very solid product.
Precision Power P1000.1 amplifier – 1,000W at 1 Ohm, bass boost knob
American Bass SQ 46 4″x6″ coaxials
American Bass SQ 52 5.25″ rear coaxials
American Bass XD 1044 10″ dual 4 Ohm subwoofers x 2
Custom fit dual 1.25 cu. ft subwoofer enclosure coated in bedliner
DB Link CK4Z amplifier installation kit
The vehicle had the carpet removed and the floor was coated with a bedliner product. I provided the customer with a subwoofer box that’s coated in bedliner to match. This makes for a very durable setup that’s easy to maintain.
What we are featuring in this article is a complete car audio system install in a customer’s 1998 Pontiac Firebird. This is an incredible vehicle which came to us with a 600 HP engine fully upgraded with supporting modifications. It is truly a ferocious muscle car, but the audio system was sorely lacking. The customer decided it was time to replace the 10-speaker Monsoon premium sound system. If you want to skip the text scroll down for the photo gallery with full annotations.
The car is owned by a local young Langdon resident named Justin J. He came to us with a list of gear and a good idea of what kind of performance he wanted out of his stereo. We did our very best to give him the best equipment to match his preferences, vehicle constraints, and budget. Happy customers keep a business afloat.
Minimize lost hatch space
Maintain stock appearance
Improve sound quality
Clean music without excessive bass that can overpower engine and exhaust noise
JVC Arsenal KD-AR815 AM/FM/CD Receiver with Bluetooth
PAC SW1-JACK steering wheel control interface module
Some modifications were required to fit both the front components and the rear coaxials. The factory Monsoon system has a tweeter and small woofer mounted on either side in the hatch, which we did not use. The “sail panels” in the back seat area got the CDT Audio HD-65NX coaxials. The screw holes did not line up so I drilled 2 new holes per speaker. The front doors house an oversized 6.5″ woofer, but the CDT Audio HD-6 woofers have a basket that will not fit the stock brackets. We had 1/4″ MDF baffle rings on hand that we used for clearance. Further clearancing was performed on the inside of the door panel. The main tweeters merely required their grilles to be removed, after which modification they dropped into the factory tweeter locations.
The amplifier mounting solution was a critical step that had to be executed in a very small amount of space. The photos will explain quite well what was done with the Massive Audio Nano Block amplifiers. The factory amplifier bracket was used with the new amplifiers sandwiched back to back.
A standard dash kit was used to mount the JVC head unit, so there wasn’t room to mount the Precision Power equalizer. The customer requested to have the EQ mounted in the center console, and he got what he asked for. He retains most of his storage space while gaining additional tuning and level adjustments. Passersby won’t see anything but an aftermarket head unit.
What follows is a build photo log. I apologize for the photos not being in chronological order and the size and quality changing, but they came from 4 different sources. This project was a collaboration between Roger Schanz and Barry Schanz. Roger somehow managed to not appear in any photos. Thank you for visiting our web site.