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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm looking to eventually upgrade my sound system. I got the 6 cd disc system in my 2004 escape. I listen to music a lot and I drive around a lot as well and the sound system just isn't loud enough for me anymore. I usually have it maxed out and after a certain point on my volume knob it just seems like there's more noise coming out of my speakers, not really more volumed music. I don't need a system that is going to blow away the people driving next to me but a decent system to bump to without a lot of distorted sound... I don't know a lot about car audio but I understand I'm probably going to need a new head unit, amp, sub, speakers, and maybe sound processor? Any suggestions? Is it possible to do it for about $ 300/350 without getting cheap unreliable equipment? Do you have to worry about putting in a high power alternator with the sound system? Does it need that much power?

Eventually I'd like to sound dampen my car because it is loud but for right now I just want to get a better sound system in there.
 

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Zepp774 said:
I'm looking to eventually upgrade my sound system. I got the 6 cd disc system in my 2004 escape. I listen to music a lot and I drive around a lot as well and the sound system just isn't loud enough for me anymore. I usually have it maxed out and after a certain point on my volume knob it just seems like there's more noise coming out of my speakers, not really more volumed music. I don't need a system that is going to blow away the people driving next to me but a decent system to bump to without a lot of distorted sound... I don't know a lot about car audio but I understand I'm probably going to need a new head unit, amp, sub, speakers, and maybe sound processor? Any suggestions? Is it possible to do it for about $ 300/350 without getting cheap unreliable equipment? Do you have to worry about putting in a high power alternator with the sound system? Does it need that much power?

Eventually I'd like to sound dampen my car because it is loud but for right now I just want to get a better sound system in there.
Your budget is quite low, and your issue with the alternator won't be a problem. That doesn't really happen until some major draw is added.

I come from the more extreme side of high sound quality audio enthusiasts, so my suggestions are for those who wish for a big bang for the buck.

$200-500 buys a decent head unit
$100-200 buys deadener so you can dampen and seal up your doors
$100-300 buys a quality set of components or coaxials to put in the front. Most times rears are an unnecessary upgrade since they should be playing at ~20dB BELOW the fronts in volume (to keep the sound stage locked up front.)
$100-300 buys a basic, quality amp. On these basic levels of systems, a simple 4ch or 5ch would be the right call. That will let you power up the fronts, and a modest sub.
$50-150 buys a basic quality sub.

~$100 in materials and wiring on the most basic level to construct.

Generally speaking, I would budget $800 for a system if you are doing the labor all yourself. So you aren't too far off the numbers, but those little things here and there add up quick and the ~$800 range will be where you actually end up. The payoff is that if you do it once, correctly... you will have something to enjoy for a long time to come.
 

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I was going to make a few suggestions but in order to recommend a proper speaker (a good first step in planning a system), I need to know how you like your sound.

Generally speaking, speakers make the biggest acoustic difference in how things can sound, right behind the quality of your install of course. So, picking some brands will give you a more aggressive, more critical sound, and some will be more laid back. You can sort-of draw out your styles like this:

Pick a number that suits your style between each ranking.

Intricate / sharp / edgy 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 smooth / forgiving / dark
Up front / dominant 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 laid-back / ambient
Concert / live sound 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 DJ/ Premixed sound (meaning do you prefer your music live and natural, or do prefer things that have been typically studio recorded, with boosted and cut areas to accentuate the music?)
Loud - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 Subdued
And for the dollar spent, whatever that number might be:
Power/volume 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 Clarity/Detail

With that figured out, then I can make some suggestions.

Edit:

With some experience at doing this, I now feel that I can add to my usual ranking list a few other things that you should evaluate. I'd like you to rank each one of these things in order of importance to you, from 1 being most important and down from there:

A. Center image / the acoustic illusion of 3D space of sound in your vehicle (this is a top priority of builds I do)
B. Tonal accuracy / how true to the source your sound system will be compared with the original recording.
C. Midbass punch / how important is it to have that feeling of impact in your chest and body, just like a real concert. Many think your subwoofer provides all of this, but in reality the midbass region is usually responsible.
D. Resistance to fatigue / some systems tire the listener out after short durations, some systems can be listened to indefinitely. This is a tale-tale sign of install problems but some people are more sensitive to it (like myself), so I figured I'd ask.
E. Maximum output / how much do you want your system to just go balls to the wall, and how often.
F. Stage height / an unknown to newbs in the car audio world, but something natural in home audio, when listening to a good car audio system the instruments, vocals etc. should come from dash height or slightly above. Having an accurate stage height plays into the center image concept, but is slightly different. In home audio, its normal but in cars it is a problem to make stage height ear level. (For me, stage height is 2nd priority.)
G. Anything I may have missed, feel free to add and rank it where you feel it counts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Intricate / sharp / edgy 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 smooth / forgiving / dark I'd say 2? Not too sure on the terminology here.
Up front / dominant 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 laid-back / ambient 2
Concert / live sound 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 DJ/ Premixed sound (meaning do you prefer your music live and natural, or do prefer things that have been typically studio recorded, with boosted and cut areas to accentuate the music?) I do like occassional concerts/live music but most of the music I listen to recently is from the studio, So I'll say 4
Loud - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 Subdued 1 or 2
And for the dollar spent, whatever that number might be:
Power/volume 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 Clarity/Detail I would like a good balance between both so I'll say 3

A. Center image / the acoustic illusion of 3D space of sound in your vehicle (this is a top priority of builds I do) 1 - yes this is very important
B. Tonal accuracy / how true to the source your sound system will be compared with the original recording. 2
C. Midbass punch / how important is it to have that feeling of impact in your chest and body, just like a real concert. Many think your subwoofer provides all of this, but in reality the midbass region is usually responsible. 3
D. Resistance to fatigue / some systems tire the listener out after short durations, some systems can be listened to indefinitely. This is a tale-tale sign of install problems but some people are more sensitive to it (like myself), so I figured I'd ask. 4 or 5 depending on F
E. Maximum output / how much do you want your system to just go balls to the wall, and how often. 6
F. Stage height / an unknown to newbs in the car audio world, but something natural in home audio, when listening to a good car audio system the instruments, vocals etc. should come from dash height or slightly above. Having an accurate stage height plays into the center image concept, but is slightly different. In home audio, its normal but in cars it is a problem to make stage height ear level. (For me, stage height is 2nd priority.) I'm not sure how this could affect my car system or be changed. I'm also pretty certain that my car only has 4 speakers in all, the door speakers. If this could be done cheaply I would place it at 4
G. Anything I may have missed, feel free to add and rank it where you feel it counts. 6 If possible and affordable I wouldn't mind putting a gps system in it. I got the double DIN set up I think.

7- I wouldn't mind keeping a 6 or multi-cd changer just because i'm so used to using cds and i have an extensive collection of them.
 

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OK I have a good idea of what to recommend now. Let's start from the beginning of what you responded to.

"Intricate / sharp / edgy 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 smooth / forgiving / dark I'd say 2? Not too sure on the terminology here."
This usually is how you attribute a tweeter's sound. A tweeter that is scored a 1 or 2 are very detailed, but can potentially be TOO detailed, giving way to harshness. The opposite of that is a tweeter that is less detailed, but also less potential for harshness.

Given a "2", I'd say you need to look out for a tweeter that is pretty bright and intricate, but not over the top. You might want to go with a metal-dome tweeter, or a ring-radiator tweeter.


You also want a more up-front sound, more aggressive and more in-your-face. You want a speaker that handles pre-mixed / DJ sound better than natural, and you want it loud and clear. At this point I've got three strong ideas, based on price. But before I discuss that, let's cover your needs on the other issues.

This part is really, really important If a strong center image is something you want. In order to pull off a strong center image, you need digital signal processing (known as DSP). You need active time alignment control (either from your head unit, from a "smart amp", or from a stand-alone processor. You need to factor this in if you want any chance of getting a strong center image. Secondly, if you value accurate tonality, you will want some EQ control to get the frequency response in line. This is another job for DSP. If you want strong mid-bass impact, you need to invest in door woofers that can dig pretty low and stay with the system. You also need to deaden and seal those doors. You say you have 4 speakers which basically I think you are saying you don't already have tweeter pods up in the door. This isn't a big deal. Those might be the right places for a tweeter, or the A-pillar might be good as well. You should experiment before doing any final install work. Velcro or 2-sided sticky tape will let you fiddle with different positions. Here's where stage height is so important however: If you after a strong center image AND strong stage height, you need to run an active crossover and amplify each speaker individually after processing. Alternately, you can run a strong coaxial set (speakers with each other, not separate), and doing this you will lose your stage height, but you won't need to run active. You will still want time-delay left to right, but you won't need 4 channels worth. Lastly, don't even worry about those rear speakers. Stock, or near-stock speakers with low power will be more than you need. That center image you want literally depends on a front-stage focus.

OK, so let's move on to solutions given what we know. If you want a strong center image, and relatively high stage height, you need either a 4ch amp and a sub amp OR a strong 5ch/6ch amp, a processor somewhere in the system, and a good head unit. You won't be able to use a head unit with internal active crossovers because you need active control + rear speaker control. Option 1: Buy the Kenwood X4R amp which has internal DSP with all the right things (got one myself!), or Option 2: Buy a Audison BitOne.1, JBL MS8 (when it launches), or Rockford Fosgate 3sixty.2 (I've got two of those in my garage.) For speakers for the type of sound you are going for, Focal, Hertz, Boston Acoustics, Diamond Audio, JBL, or Kicker might be the right ticket. You could also go separate drivers like ceramic Tang-band tweets, and SEAS reed-cone woofers, among thousands of other unique combinations. Main focus here would be strong tweeters, and very strong mid-woofers. Budget? I've got it pegged right at $900-1200.

Here's another solution, if you give up stage height. A solid coaxial / braxial set of drivers up front, active time control on the head unit (or the Kenwood X4R used in a 3ch mode with that 3rd channel being a sub), and you're good to go. This will run significantly less, giving up stage height, and a bit of mid-bass punch. Cost? Right at 800-1000.

We'll go from there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So I'd have to install a tweeter in my door for proper stage height? I am somewhat familiar with home audio systems and I do value a strong center image. So I need to find a head unit with dsp and 5/6 ch amp. Any recommendations on a sound processor? Is my head unit going to be doing the dsp and active control crossover work or does the processor do that?

How difficult is it to put a tweeter in the door? I really didn't know people did that in on their own to be honest and as far as the value of the tweeter being " 2 " I'd say it's more around a 3. The very last thing I want is one of those tweeters that are harsh and clangy.

Any recommendations on equipment. A head unit? I was actually thinking it'd be nice to get one with bluetooth capability.
 

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Zepp774 said:
So I'd have to install a tweeter in my door for proper stage height? You certainly don't have to, but I've found it is an effective way to get a higher, more natural stage. Its all about acoustic cues coming from those tweeters, generally from 3.5-4.5k+ and up. Its not the best idea, its better to have your mids and tweeters up high (like A-pillar setups) but most people don't want to take the time and effort to build a mid-tweeter arrangement that does it right. I am somewhat familiar with home audio systems and I do value a strong center image. So I need to find a head unit with dsp and 5/6 ch amp.A head unit can do it if you want to give up your rear speaker output. With a more modest head unit, and a very capable processor, you can send the processor just the front signal, power up the rear speakers directly via the head unit, and end up with a pretty usable setup. Any recommendations on a sound processor? Is my head unit going to be doing the dsp and active control crossover work or does the processor do that? There are a few decent processors out there: The Rockford Fosgate 3sixty.2, Audison BitOne.1, the now king of the hill JBL MS-8 just released, etc. A new contender might be the miniDSP company and their really neat stackable dsp cards, which is probably the coolest new idea ever, and the cheapest. You'd be blazing a new trail though, so its all experimentation.

How difficult is it to put a tweeter in the door?Pretty darn easy. I wouldn't even do them in the door if they sound better in the A-pillar. So that's something you have to test before committing to the door pillar. I really didn't know people did that in on their own to be honest and as far as the value of the tweeter being " 2 " I'd say it's more around a 3. The very last thing I want is one of those tweeters that are harsh and clangy.Stick with a tweeter that isn't a harsh metal and you should be happy. Zaphaudio's website showcases tons of tweeters and the tests performed on them.

Any recommendations on equipment. A head unit? I was actually thinking it'd be nice to get one with bluetooth capability.I love my AVH-P3200DVD. The AVH-3200BT is the same w/ bluetooth.
 

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I will jump in and say that the Pioneer AVH-P3200BT is simply awesome for the price. And you get BT installed - no need for an adaptor. It has front, rear and sub RCA outs, A/V inputs, microphone works great, takes PAC SWI to keep steering wheel control (if you have it) and has a decent EQ to get a very clean sound. Add in HP filters and seperate sub LP filter - pretty good deal for the $$. I love the Pioneer user interface.
 

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Yep, I find the 3200/4200 series to be a very nice, very capable machine as a whole. the touch screen is more responsive than my Avic in my Tribute, and if you don't need navi (or at least right away) the price break vs. the Avic lineup (like F and X series) is at least a couple hundred bucks less. It also has 4v preouts, so it will work very well with vastly upgraded audio setups.

I have been working on a few different systems in my garage lately, one of which is a super-budget setup for my brother in law. Though a budget of less than $1000 exists, his expectations are high since I've built several systems for him in the past. We went with Phoenix Gold RSd 6.5" components, a used set for ~$50 shipped from a DIYMA member. All I want to say is that those tweeters are awesome, and the woofer is decent as well. I wouldn't mind a more versatile mid driver, but I can't ask more of a tweeter in general. It always comes down to how much you wish to invest, and how wisely you invest it, but IMO sometimes there are some serious deals out there and you have to give it a shot.

I would highly recommend installing the tweeters in the A-Pillar, possibly in micro-pods rather than flushing them into the pillar. Pods can be made using PVC piping and PVC end caps, and some body filler, sanding, smoothing, etc. until you get a nice shape. Another possible trick is to use R/C plane propeller caps, which have a very smart shape for high frequencies (basically bullet-shaped.) Lots of choices, to say the least.

Anyway, I'm still a big fan of the Kenwood X4R amp, given its very, very capable built-in DSP already onboard the amp and the price of the units (~$200 refurbished.) So a 3200BT, Kenwood X4R, a quality sub amp (maybe the matching X1R? Its a lot of amp though), a decent tweeter / woofer setup, and a competent yet reserved sub stage along with requisite sealing / deadening / wiring and you should be exactly where you want to be system-wise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hmm looked up the Pioneer AVH-P3200BT and it seems like a sweet head unit but crutchfield says it will not fit my vehicle? it's a 2004 xlt.
 

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Zepp774 said:
Hmm looked up the Pioneer AVH-P3200BT and it seems like a sweet head unit but crutchfield says it will not fit my vehicle? it's a 2004 xlt.
On this forum a lot of discussion has been made about how to fit a double-din in there. Just a bit of trimming and you're good to go. Take a look around, and you'll see some pics of how to do it too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Okay so i'm thinking of going with that pioneer HU. I was thinking of doing this job step by step because of my budget. Meaning first going with a HU and then just changing the speakers. Eventually gettin an amp and a sub and sound deadening and whatever else i'll need to do. I hear that swapping the HU and speakers should improve my sound by itself because the stock HU doesn't give out good power supply? Thnking of going with Boston acoustic speakers. Any recommendations? Sorry but i'm an amateur at this stuff. :shrug:
 

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I would say that any speaker upgrade would sound better. I tried Infinity Kappas and they were like listening to music in a tin can. The highs made my ears bleed. If you go with a new HU you will notice a much cleaner sound, but you will be limited by the stock speakers. Not sure about your year model of sound, but the 2010 HU and speakers were pretty poor. Even doing a new HU and fronts will get you by for a bit.

Once you start to get into amp power, you will want a HU that offers RCA outs. In particular get one that has front, rear and sub RCA outs. That way you can control everything right at the HU for ease. Also once you go with more power, you will need to run some heavier guage wire to the powered speakers. Again depending on the year this may be easier than waht 2008+ owners had to go through with the Molex plugs. They suck in the 2010. But time, patience and lots of questions will get you through it.

I love my AVH-P3200BT. I recently added 500 songs to an 8 gig thumb drive and plugged into the HU (as opposed to the USB port through Sync). I love the touch screen navigation through the folders of music. Click, click, play. Awesome user interface.
 

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I can definitely dig your "phase"-built system.

Yeah, start with the HU, a pair of front components, and some mild deadening, and see how you like that. Then later on you can go active and and proceed from there with a true system.

I recommend the Pioneer TS-D1720C's which should run only ~$120 out there on eBay, legit. Do that, and order some RAAMmat BXTII and a couple yards of ensolite, and of course the HU. That should be a pretty good start and you can progress from there.
 

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Zepp774 said:
Fourth, where is the A-pillar exactly? lol :worry:
A pillars are the ones you are looking at when you look through your windshield.

B pillar is the one typically by your head, left and right.

C pillar is the rear ones that make up your rear window.
 

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fourthmeal said:
I can definitely dig your "phase"-built system.

Yeah, start with the HU, a pair of front components, and some mild deadening, and see how you like that. Then later on you can go active and and proceed from there with a true system.

I recommend the Pioneer TS-D1720C's which should run only ~$120 out there on eBay, legit. Do that, and order some RAAMmat BXTII and a couple yards of ensolite, and of course the HU. That should be a pretty good start and you can progress from there.
Glad to see an audiophile here :) Rick at RAAMaudio is a great guy and has awesome prices on his deadener. Check my profile and his forum is on that site with AWESOME prices.

Personally I am not a fan of Pioneer units due to output issues, but Eclipse backed out of the market and as of now I am trying out a few untis myself. JVC has a nice unit ( avx-77 ), I am just not a fan of the touch screen. If you can afford or find one, the Panasonic CQ-TX5500 tube unit is VERY nice.

Amplifier wise, the new Soundstream reference amps are great. Also take a look at Arc Audio, Audison, Zapco, Us Amps (AX series), and many more. Just be careful with the class a/b you choose, a lot on the market are noisey and if your ears are sensitive, you will hear it. Quality shielded RCA's help with noise to a point as well. Look for regulated power supplies as well to get the best out of your amplifier.

Components are VERY opinionated subject. I prefer silk dome tweeters and to crossover 6.5's around 60hz. Some swear metal tweeters sound as good, but to me they do not. Again this is opinion. I run Hybrid Audio Clarus myself and are very nice comps, but not cheap.

Subwoofers are more of my specialty. You will need to look at your music taste as well as enclosure you want to use to properly choose a subwoofer. Do you want to save space? What is your music taste? Don't forget total budget ;)
 

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All an amp does is amplify the head unit anyway so thats the best place to work from.. Clean signal out will make any amp perform better. Also don't limit your budget!! Once you turn to the dark side there is no going back! haha-
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I'm just tryin to be smart about it. I mean we are only talkin about money....

So i'm gettin pretty close to gettin that pioneer head unit but it is a little steep of a price... at least a little more then i was anticipating for a head unit but i'm takin fourth's recommendation because he seems to know it all. Any other recommendations for head units tho? I see that the pioneer has 14 watts RMS CEA-2006/50 peak x 4 channels. Isn't the 14 watts rms a little low? I seen a kenwood that has like 22. Just wondering what that means and if it'll really effect anything at all.

EDIT:
Also if i'm lookin at deadening and gettin RAAMaudio stuff. What specifically is the ensolite for? The doors?
 
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