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Old 06-17-2009, 07:42 AM
Location: Earth
4,235 posts, read 22,555,964 times
Reputation: 2237


$200 might buy you a really nice subwoofer. Without the box or amp.
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Old 06-17-2009, 07:55 AM
Location: Central Texas
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I disagree that the first thing to replace is the headunit. The single worst component of most basic OEM systems is the speakers.

My son drives a 2004 Element and I am familiar with its sound. It is pretty loud, but I would not call it high fidelity.

The OP said he cringes at boom systems and that is a good thing. Most of the systems we "hear" on the road are absolutely not high fidelity systems. They are very loud and with tons of single not bass.

Depending on the goals and budget, I would do the following:

1. Replace the speakers with good ones. A good coax is a reasonable choice but a component set is probably better. The rear speakers are not as important. Do not waste your money on 3-way "triax" speaker. More is not better.

2. If the volume is not enough, add an aftermarket 4 channel amp, maybe 4x35 or 4x50 watts. Choose one with speaker level inputs so it can be used with the original headunit.

3. If more bass is needed, add a subwoofer. This is a topc of its own and depends greatly on what the Fusion interior is like. The Fusion may have a place for a subwoofer (if an upgraded factory system has one) and you may be able to take advantage of it. Subwoofer integration is usually easier with a headunit that has a subwoofer output.

4. If the sound after #1 and #2 is not acceptable or your headuniit is missing features you want (like a USB input or iPod integration), then replace the headunit.

Oh - I agree with the recs for Crutchfield. They are a great company to do business with. Not the cheapest, but outstanding service.
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Old 06-17-2009, 08:14 AM
Location: San Jose, CA
7,688 posts, read 26,978,913 times
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Thanks for all the advice so far. For the record, "more bass" is not a target I would ever specifically pay money for. The whole thing just sounds hopelessly tinny and limp-wristed.
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Old 06-17-2009, 08:35 AM
11,407 posts, read 47,433,114 times
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Originally Posted by M3 Mitch View Post
Generally, I am somewhat put off by an aftermarket stereo system in a car, usually they are installed by "zip tie and Scotch-Lok bandits" and the dodgy wiring eventually causes trouble. And don't get me started on nitwit DIY setups that involve wire nuts...

But, if the system was put in using a Crutchfield kit, probably it's OK, these kits have adapter wires that allow everything to plug directly into the factory wiring with no cutting or splicing whatsoever.

I'm a little surprised they don't have any really serious competition; although competing with them would not be for the faint of heart...
They have some very serious competitors in the marketplace, although they don't advertise in the aftermarket like Crutchfield.

I've bought speakers, radios/CDplayers, direct plug-in wiring connections, mounting adapters ... all pro quality, with the same full-service support for wiring diagrams, easy install, etc., from a number of "wholesale" to the trade but "open to the public" folks who show up on an internet search as "pro mobile audio" suppliers. Happy with the results, and I've bought the same Sony, Panasonic, and JVC gear as the local car stereo shops install for much less money.

Last time, I spent $132 ... including freight .. for a system that the local car audio specialists wanted almost $300 to install. The radio almost falls out of the dash in a Subie, and with the plug-in wiring kit and mounting plate, it took all of 20 minutes to install. I don't mind paying reasonably for professional services that I can't do ... but over $100 labor to install that radio was exorbitant along with $80 for the "install kit" which cost me $17.
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Old 06-17-2009, 08:30 PM
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If you replace the speakers, the one major thing you should look at is the speaker sensitivity. If you keep the existing head unit, it probably has a low-moderate amount of power, but a higher sensitivity speaker will be louder with the same power than a lower sensitivity speaker. You should look at ones in the 90+ range dB/W. The ones below 90 may "drain" your headunit amp and not provide enough sound level or start distorting.

I don't know how the current headunits are designed, but I suspect many/most use a class D type amp, so there's not a lot of difference between models in the same price range. So changing a headunit to another similar price unit may not be any better.

Also, changing speakers should be a lot easier than changing the head.
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