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I will post pics of my installation in the near future. Hopefully this will clear up any misunderstandings with audio installation, or equipment.

Car Audio FAQ

Hello all, and welcome to my car audio FAQ. I will try to answer every question that I can in a semi-brief fashion. I have been doing car audio installations for about 5 years now, and know a great deal about the profession.

I. How to plan your audio system
II. What brands to go with
III. How do you want it to look
IV. Installation Techniques
V. Disclaimer

Section I, planning your audio system

To plan your audio system, you must first think about what you want out of it. Do you want to keep it simple with just an aftermarket head unit, maybe you want to add new speakers as well. Then there is the possibility of getting a little more advanced and adding amplifiers and subwoofers, tweeters and component speakers, and for those of you with amps over 500 watts, a capacitor.

The second thing that you have to do is set priorities on the items that you want to get. An aftermarket head unit is the best thing to start with. It will make your stock speakers sound clearer, as well as give them a bit more power. Next would be new speakers, followed by an amp and subs. After doing all of this, you may want to think about amping up all of your speakers.

Third and finally you need to find out how much you are willing to spend on this audio system. A mediocre system without subs will cost about 300-500 USD. A good quality system with subs will cost anywhere from 600-1000 USD. High quality will cost you about 1100-2000 USD. Finally an excellent sound system with component speakers, amps, subs, and a high quality head unit can cost up to about 5000 USD. I have never done a competition system for anyone, but I have heard they can get up to about 10000 USD.

To show you the expenses you might be getting into here is what I have done to mine:
Head Unit: Blaupunkt Key West MP36
Speakers: Blaupunkt Velocity Series, full range speakers all the way around
Soon To Be Added Speaker Amp: Eclipse EA4000
Subs: 2 Infinty Reference 1040w
Sub Amp: Audiobahn 8002v
Capacitor: Rockford Fosgate 1 farad capacitor

My entire system cost a bit over 2000 dollars with my box, wiring kits, materials, and the likes.

Section II, What brands to go with, or to stay away from

Here are the two best websites for car audio:

Some brands are good for certain aspects of audio, while being poor at others. An example of this is Eclipse. Their amps and head units are some of the best, but their speakers and subs aren’t that great. Hopefully this list will help you decide. Keep in mind, con doesn’t mean that the item sucks, it just means that it isn’t as good as some others.

There are certain brands that you should stay away from no matter what. These brands are: Sony, Emerson, Jensen, Boss, Bose, Visonik, Directed Audio, Soundstream, Bazooka, Fusion, Lightning Audio, Phoenix Digital(not to be confused with Phoenix Gold), Precision Audio, Treo, Profile, and Extreme Audio. All of these companies suck for car audio, trust me. The bolded items are those that are spoken highly of, but are of poor quality, both in sound and craftsmanship.

There are brands that have no flaws in my opinion: Clarion, Focal, Infinity, JL Audio, Boston Acoustics, Memphis, Phoenix Gold, Kenwood eXcelon, Pioneer Premier, Pyramid, Rockford Fosgate Power Series. The items in bold are brands that I push heavily.

My opinion on everyone’s favorite, Kicker. Kicker makes all of their products seem larger than life, and better than anything else on the market. Here is my “beef” with them. First and foremost, Kicker makes a square subwoofer, and they claim that it produces better sound. The problem with this claim is that sound waves are round, not square. Second, they claim everything to be “comp.”, which is another lie, because even their top of the line stuff cannot be seen at competitions actually winning any prizes. And lastly, they just flat out aren’t worth the cost. Infinity costs about the same and it is at least twice as good.

Alpine Pros: Speakers, Subs, Head Units
Alpine Cons: Amps

Audiobahn Pros: Amplifiers, Head Units
Audiobahn Cons: Speakers, Subs

Blaupunkt Pros: Speakers, Subs, Head units
Blaupunkt Cons: Amps

Dual Pros: Amps
Dual Cons: Head units, speakers, subs

Eclipse Pros: Amps, head units
Eclipse Cons: speakers, subs

JBL Pros: Speakers, Subs
JBL Cons: Amps, Head units

Kenwood Pros: Amps, Subs, Speakers
Kenwood Cons: Head Units

MTX Pros: Subs, Amps
MTX Cons: speakers

Pioneer Pros: Head Units, speakers, subs
Pioneer Cons: Amplifiers

Rockford Fosgate Punch Series Pros: Amps
Rockford Fosgate Punch Series Cons: Speakers, Subs, Head Units

Section III, How do you want it to look

Do you want your audio system to function properly, or do you want it to function properly and look good, or do you want it do be like a professional job? Are you looking to make things permanent, or do you change your mind frequently? These kinds of questions are what I ask the people who come to me to install stuff for them. A decent job that is done right, but not very professionally takes me about an hour. A professional job can take me anywhere from eight to 12 hours for me to do. I charge by the job, not by the hour, so time is not a factor for me. However, it may be for you. If you don’t feel like spending all day, or all weekend doing this, then you can do it the quick and easy way.

The quick and easy way: wire crimp connectors, wire caps, duct tape, the sorts of everyday items. The wiring looks like a mess, you can visibly see it in some places, and all and all it just looks like crap.

The semi-professional job: Electricians tape. The wires are hidden, but the locations for them aren’t good , I.E behind the pedals of your car. The items are screwed into place, no dynamat is used, and the connections could still be better.

Professional Job: Heat Shrink, solder, caulk, the works. Dynamat is used in every single panel, everything is seated perfectly or fabricated to do so. You not only screw the speakers in, but also you caulk them. Wires are first soldered, and then heat shrink is applied to make them look perfect. No wires are showing anywhere except right near the component hook ups, aftermarket grills are used, and no shortcuts are taken… well kinda.

Section IV, installation techniques

Some people make the mistake of wiring things wrong because the don’t have a harness, others have problems keeping their speakers from rattling, and still others drill thousands of holes into their firewalls trying to get that amp wire through. Well this is the section for those people. With my experience in car audio, I will help you to make your installation look as professional as possible. I do not have the time or resources to do vehicle specific installations for you, but if you PM I will try my best to help. This is meant for a really basic, professional looking installation. It will cover a CD Player, non component Speakers, Subs, a single Amp, and a Capacitor.

For Head Unit installations: My Recommendation, Pioneer Premier

First thing is first, when you buy your head unit from wherever, make sure you get a wiring harness specific to your vehicle and a mounting kit specific to your vehicle. Now then, go to your local hardware store and pick up a heat gun(a blow dryer on steroids). I believe that Sears and Home Depot have relatively cheap heat guns. While you are there pick up a material called heat shrink, you will need 20-16 gauge. You also will need a soldering gun and some solder, it is easiest to solder with a silver exterior, acid core.

Take your new head unit out of the box, and inspect it for any shipping damages. If you have a removable faceplate, I suggest you utilize it until you have the installation complete. The wiring harness you purchased should have a sheet with it, or say on the packaging what wires do what function. Your new head unit will have a plug of it’s own that goes into the back of it. Your new head unit should have marked on it somewhere(if not look in the owners/installation manual), what the wires for it’s plug mean as well. Write down the connections on a piece of paper, as to not forget, solder is nearly permanent. KEEP THE CHART YOU MAKE UNTIL YOU ARE DONE WITH EVERYTHING

Go home and get used to soldering on some extra speaker wire that you may have laying around. Try to make it very neat, go very slowly, but then again you must work quickly, once it cools down, there is no turning back.

Now then, once you have done that, you can start the actual connection process. Get all of the wires ready by stripping about half an inch to an inch off of their covers Place of piece heat shrink over the open end of the wire(on either harness), and let it slide all the way down to the bottom of the harness. Twist the two wires together, try to keep them in a semi-straight line, or the heat shrink wont fit properly when it comes time to actually shrink it. After you have twisted the wires together, very neatly solder them. The connection is very strong with solder, so you shouldn’t ever have to worry about it breaking. After you have soldered your wire, slide the heat shrink tube over the solder connection and use your heat gun to shrink it up. If you did it correctly, it will look very professional. Stand back and admire your work, and then realize that you have about 10-15 more of these things to do.

After you have finished linking the head unit to the wiring harness that you bought, you can plug it in to your car, attach the antenna, RCA cables and remote wires for amps, and last but not least, your ground wire. You have now finished your head unit… hooray. Now on to speakers.

Speaker Installation: My Recommendation, Blaupunkt Velocity for the speakers, Rockford for the wiring

Speakers are the easiest thing to do, but can be extremely frustrating at times. On my 1991 and 2002 Eclipses you have to pull of **** near every interior panel to get to the speakers. Every vehicle has a different way to get to the speakers, and as stated before, I won’t spend the time doing vehicle specific installations on this site. To make your speakers look like they have been professionally done, you must be very careful with your interior panels. Mitsubishi makes them thin, and they crack very, VERY, easily.

You will need to go to the hardware store and pick up some silicone caulk, then to the car audio store and pick up some speaker wire, preferably 16 or 18 gauge wire. You will also need your soldering gun/solder, and your heat gun/heat shrink.

The first thing you will need to do is look at your chart that you made for your head unit and figure out which wire is the plus and which wire is the minus on each speaker. Then, as I said earlier, very carefully undo all the panels needed to get to your speakers. Once your stock speaker is exposed, take it out, cut the old wires as close to the plug as possible, and strip the casings off of them.

To get your new speaker ready, you first will need cut about a six inch new section, then strip some of your new speaker wire, half an inch to and inch on both ends should be fine. Now, solder the connection to the wires running from your head unit, to the new speaker wires. Slide a piece of heat shrink over the open end and use your heat gun to tighten it up. Solder your wire to your speaker, and then caulk the edge of the speaker, making sure that you don’t cover up the screw holes. Push it down in it’s original opening, and finally, screw the speaker back into place. The caulk will make an airtight seal that will keep the speaker from popping, which will make it sound better. It also will provide a little more sound dampening, and will help to keep the speaker in place if a screw comes loose.

Subwoofer Installation: My Recommendation, JL Audio W7 subs, Rockford wiring

Subwoofers are easy as pie. Since they aren’t already in your car, you cant remove them, and you have one less thing to do. You need to decide what size subs to get. The size of the subs is based on what type of music you most often listen to. 8’s are good for rock, extremely poor for rap. 10’s excel with rock, and poor with rap. 12’s are decent for rock, and really good for rap. 15’s are horrible for rock, and excellent for rap.

You will need to go get some 12 or 14 gauge speaker wire for this job. You also will need the solder, heat shrink, and caulk again. You will need a box. Here is a list of box types and what they are good for:

(10’s and smaller) Sealed- best for tight, responsive bass. Good for punk rock, emotional, classical, classic rock, and old metal

(10’s and 12’s) Ported/vented- best for continuous bass, a little louder but poorer sound quality. Good for new metal, industrial, death metal, rock, techno, and the likes.

(10’s and larger) Band pass- best for continuous obnoxiously loud bass, extremely poor sound quality. Good for rap, that’s about it.

To install your new subs into their box you must do the same thing you did for speakers. You need to solder, heat shrink, and caulk them into place. Okay, you are done with that now.

Amplifier Installation: My Recommendation, Audiobahn Amp, Rockford wiring (like $150, ouch)

Your amplifier should supply no less than 50% of the max RMS of your subs. It should supply no more than 90% of the max RMS of your subs. Amps need to be placed in a Wiring kits need to be bought according to size of the amp:

<500 watts- 8 gauge
500 to 1000 watts- 4 gauge
1000 to 1500 watts- 2 gauge
1500 or more- 0 gauge

You will need wiring terminals for whichever size wire you have. Your local audio store should have them. The best materials are gold plated or platinum plated. You will need a pair of pliers to crimp the wire terminals to the wires, or if you are a weaker individual, you might need a hammer to do the same.

Okay, whichever side of your car the battery is on is the side that you will need to run your amp power wire and remote turn on wire. The opposite side is for your RCA cables. Do the RCA first, it is the easiest part. Just run it under your door-sill panels, next to the carpeting. It should tuck away quite nicely between the plastic and the carpet. Run it like this all the way back to the amplifier.

Now for your remote wire, run it the same way, but on the opposite side of the car, if it is going to run on the drivers side, make sure that you tuck it beneath the carpeting behind your pedals, if not, you may break the wire, or cause an accident.

Now for the power wire, which is the one that everybody always does wrong. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, DRILL THROUGH YOUR FIREWALL. Okay, now then, to the correct way. The side of your car that the battery is on, the same side you ran your remote wire for, is the side you will run for your power cable. Take off the plastic inside of your wheel-well, and you should see a bunch of holes going into your engine bay. Those are the holes that you will run the wire through. Take the non-fuse side of your wire, and run it down from the engine to the wheel well, via the holes that are there. Once you have ran the wire through the hole, you can proceed to pull it through, make sure you leave enough slack for your fuse side to connect to the battery. Open the door on the appropriate side of the car, you should see a black rubber hose running from your doorframe, into the car. Get a screwdriver and poke a hole from the inside of the vehicle to the outside. Attach the power wire to the screwdriver with some electrical tape and pull it into the cabin. Now, hide the wire underneath the paneling in the same fashion that you did the remote wire.

Finally, you can connect it all up. Plug in all the RCA, remote, and speaker wires in the back first, then the ground, and finally the power wire. After the back wires are in, you can plug the power wire into the battery.

And you are finished.

Section V Disclaimer

I am not responsible for any damage to your vehicle. Although I have been doing this for years, it is possible that I missed something. If you have any questions, or run into any problems with your car audio installation, feel free to pm me.
This guide is the sole property of me, C. Nicholas Ambs (aka,bobthecow). Any use or posting of this guide without my express written consent is prohibited. Good luck, and happy installing.
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