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EA81 stereo upgrade/build.


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31 replies to this topic

#1 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 01:43 AM

The factory stereo wasn't cutting it on my hatch. Hasn't cut it since I installed it in fact. Got the car with the typical missing radio console/cut wires, etc.

A few years ago I found a really nice bone stock radio console with OEM cassette deck, etc at a yard and kept it around - it was an obvious choice when I first got the hatch and started driving it. It gave me a radio - that's all I cared about for my 10 mile commute. The real-deal stereo is in my '91 SS anyway....

Well it finally became intollerable - either because I drive it more these days due to the SS needing a clutch or because the speakers were painfully blown with ripped up paper cone's, etc and it was hard to hear much of anything - let alone hear it while driving :rolleyes:

When I came across these shallow mechless decks in another USMB thread I realized that us EA81 owners had been handed the answer to our problem - all these years we have been without any suitible mounting kit for a full DIN deck and have been forced to either build something really ugly, or try and use the EA82 mounting kit and lose our ashtray, and pocket in the process. I didn't like this idea at all and so I had set out over a year ago to mount a DIN deck in the cassette/pocket location - only to find that it still needed about 1" of spacing to make it work. I had already made a nice aluminium backing plate for the deck but lost interest in finishing it when I realized it would have to be spaced out farther.

$37 + free super saver shipping brought me this little gem:

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I also needed to do something about the troublesome dash speakers - I know that putting speakers in the doors would sound better but I prefer to leave them in the dash where they are high and dry. Someday this will be a wheeler and with that in mind I wish to keep the doors free of electrical and leave all the seals into the jam, etc intact and unbroken.

A 3.5" coaxial actually fits very well into the odd driver's side dash speaker:

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More to come. I'll take pics of the other dash speaker (not nearly as tight as it's larger) and some of the rear's (which are not at all spectacular as they are just bolt-in 4" coaxials).

I'm considering going with a slimline sub with built in amp mounted on the headliner above where the rear seat used to be (ripped that out too - never use it and it will be better as storage space). Anyone with experience with these?

This is not a high-end stereo system install so don't tell me I need to spend a whole bunch of coin to just get something I can hear on the freeway..... that's not what this is about. I have less than $100 into the entire system as it sits right now - $37 for the head unit, $16 for the front speakers, and $39 for the rears (went with decent rears as they are hard to access).

Any sugestions or reccomendations welcome.

GD

Edited by GeneralDisorder, 30 August 2010 - 01:49 AM.


#2 sl33py

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 02:07 PM

Very cool GD.

If you replace the dash speakers with a nicer set, you may get better sound from the coax w/ a tweeter you can aim. Not sure if you will find them, but i've seen them on larger coax before. Aim a bit up and toward driver should help.

Are you talking about one of the powered subs like a bazooka tube?

Spending money on stereo is always good, but i think you have a reasonable target and expectation of what you are looking to achieve.

keep up the pics!

rob

#3 sl33py

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 02:10 PM

Also - i see you pulled your carpet. If you want to remove the tar boards down the road - don't use the heatgun/scraper - use dry ice instead.

I did this in my landcruiser and with a couple 5lb bags of dry ice it is WAY faster. Let it sit for 1-2 min and then hit it with a rubber or plastic head hammer. Big chunks come up at one time. then a screwdriver and tap for the stubborn bits that stick.

It will be a lot louder on the freeway unless you do something to dampen. My uncle builds hotrods and recommends a spray in liner called lizard skin. haven't used myself, but might be worth looking into.

hth!

rob

Edited by sl33py, 30 August 2010 - 03:33 PM.


#4 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 03:07 PM

Yes - I am going to try the dry ice method I think. I read about that in another post of your's. Where to get it I wonder?

GD

#5 sl33py

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 03:30 PM

Yes - I am going to try the dry ice method I think. I read about that in another post of your's. Where to get it I wonder?

GD


I got mine at a local Fred Meyer. Had to show ID and whammo... off to the races.

#6 Mykeys Toy

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 06:39 PM

I hope it works and sounds like you want GD. I really like this idea but I am cringing about that particular brand I have not heard anything from them that I deamed up to par but I do suppose that is still better than stock.

Mike

#7 ferox

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 07:59 PM

Where to get it I wonder?

Some Baskin and Robbins will also sell you dry ice.

#8 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 07:11 AM

I hope it works and sounds like you want GD. I really like this idea but I am cringing about that particular brand I have not heard anything from them that I deamed up to par but I do suppose that is still better than stock.


Actually it sounds just fine and works surpisingly well. The "issues" that most people have is typical operator error stuff - not organizing the media the way the deck is setup to handle it and not supplying it with a constant hot memory lead..... etc. It hasn't had any problems with my digital media and it loads the 500+ songs I put on an SD card in maybe 2 seconds.

Really all the head unit does is decode MP3's and tune radio stations. The rest is handled by the speakers and if I need to I'll just run them from seperate amps.

It's a bit underpowered for sure - but part of that is the cheap speakers I used in the front. And even at that it's easily 5 times as loud as the radio with blown speakers I had in there before. I'm probably going to go with a 4 channel speaker amp and a small self-powered sub. The HU is just the decoder that pushes the signal at that point.

GD

Edited by GeneralDisorder, 31 August 2010 - 01:19 PM.


#9 sl33py

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 12:51 PM

GD - i think this is a great "budget" build. Definitely a nice flush fit option. Upgrading even just the speakers w/ stock HU would probably be a huge improvement. Mine were completely shot as well.

Amp'ing them next should get you some clean volume to hear over road noise. But it's also the more expensive part of the upgrade. If you only have one set of RCA's from the HU you will need a line level output/line output converter.

You could jury rig split RCA's (simple RCA Y splitter), but will lose front/rear adjustment and typically one will be a degraded signal. Or get an amp with RCA output - to put another amp inline... OR get the PDX5 and get all 4 ch plus sub! hehehe

so many options... You're an electrical guru i have no doubt you will figure something out!

#10 Mykeys Toy

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 05:56 PM

Good idea but the pdx5 is kinda blowing a budget build :grin:

This is the one I drool over Sorry I forgot how to do the fancy link like Sleepy.
http://www.wooferset...r-Amplifier.htm

#11 sl33py

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 12:59 AM

Hey GD - couple thoughts!..

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It looks like there's a fair bit of room there. the bracket looks the most restrictive. I think you could fit 4" maybe even some 5.25" coax's! If you have depth enough for the speaker, maybe set the speaker back a bit (make sure your bracket isn't in the way of any speaker excursion.

Just thinking you may be able to get some decent sounding speakers here without too much trouble. Only you can see how much room is actually there, but that pic above really looks like an inch+ of unused room. cut out the sides of the existing bracket and fab a better one...

doable?

rob

#12 Mykeys Toy

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 07:25 AM

It is doable I was looking into 5.25s for my own car actually. The problem isnt just the bracket the opening will also be restrictive, then there is more space on the right and only maybe an inch or so on the left so the speaker will only blocked a little more there, however the extended freq response and added power handling may make up for some of it which is what I am hoping. I was looking into components and mount the tweets on or in the A pillar but there are a few ( very few ) comps out there that can actually mount tweets into the center of the mid but are wired seperatly so not quite a coaxial. My current hang up asside form cash at this moment is tackling the speaker bracket. I am thinking tin for a lack of better materials because it is bendable and easily trimmed with snips or a nibbler. But I wouldn't mind a piece of ABS but heating and bending may make it very difficult to work with on limited experience.

Mike

#13 Scoobywagon

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 08:41 AM

That amp has been out of production for about 3 years now, so they aren't warrantying it. Be careful there. On the other hand, Memphis DOES still make a big 5-channel amp. It is currently called the 16-mc5.1400. Retails for about $1100 or so.

**WARNING** many car stereo manufacturers do not honor warranties on equipment purchased over the internet.

Just FYI.

#14 Mykeys Toy

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 06:23 PM

Ya I know. I am verful about whom I purchase from.
The new one has pretty much the same specs or close enough. I have been dealing with woofersetc for 10 years and have had nothing but good experiences with them even on returns or DOAs. Besides the new version would cost me something very dear to me.. my home:grin: wifey just doesn't understand.

Mike

#15 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 07:10 PM

Yeah - I may try to put some 4" up front. That should be plenty for me. And I'm thinking about this guy:

http://www.amazon.co...83310611&sr=8-1

Only being 2.8" thick would allow me to mount it on the roof above where the back seat used to be. Keeping it high and dry as it my goal for the entire system. My first lifted Subaru's sub amp bought the farm the first time I hit water - under the seat is a bad location for an amp in a wheeler. And I need the cargo area for other stuff so it's got to be small and out of the way of both cargo and water. The roof location also puts the driver about 12" from your head :grin:

And I'm thinking this small 4 channel for the speakers - both for the line-level inputs and low-pass filter and the added clarity and power:

http://www.sonicelec...SSL F4.400.html

What do you guys think? I am not spending a ton of money here - that's not the goal or even needed - I want a little bit of bass, and enough volume to drown out the non-insulated chassis with aggressive tires on the freeway.

GD

Edited by GeneralDisorder, 01 September 2010 - 07:14 PM.


#16 Mykeys Toy

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 08:13 PM

I know what you are after, that said, I read the reviews and they should suit your purpose. However if you blow them up or they just give up the ghost you can always come back and ask for opinions there are a ton of those floating around.. I am not so mechanically inclined but I am a DIYer and stereos are no different I like to build and use my spendy program to find exactly which speaker needs what kind of box and how big.. I am fantasizing about my sedan sorry, wifey said I can have clean just not loud.

#17 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 10:00 PM

I am fantasizing about my sedan sorry, wifey said I can have clean just not loud.


I know what you mean about "clean" audio. Unfortunately most of my vehicles don't really benefit from this - either due to excessive road noise or due to excessive exhaust tone. My '91 Legacy SS has a 3" turbo-back, straight-through exhaust system and while it's not terribly loud due to the glass-pack style muffler and the resonator, it's still loud enough that it can be heard.

If I were building a totally mundane commuter that was quiet inside (can't see myself doing this :rolleyes:) I would be all over the cleanest sound I could get - and would be making sure the body didn't vibrate from the bass, etc. But as it stands there's nothing I'm going to be able to do about the road noise (let's be reasonable here - the idea is that I can HOSE out the interior) so the difference between a $1000 stereo and my $250 stereo is going to be lost in the translation I'm afraid. I need loud, clean enough to not distort the speakers to death, and some bass to cover for the low-pass filter that keeps the speakers from being overdriven.

But I can see where some of your are comming from and I have some friends who do such systems - just usually in Audi's and other semi-luxury vehicles that have really quiet cabins.

GD

#18 Mykeys Toy

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 12:14 AM

I just get a little obsessive. I know already I will spend more than $250 just for damping materials and it still wont be enough but if I can cut down outside noise by half or more I think I manage the rest with a small to modest budget for a stereo $500 or less but some of the stuff I have laying around and other stuff I traded for. I know that you mentioned having something nicer in the SS so sure you know that is chump change if one were to go crazy.

BTW if you you wind up ruining your amps and what not due to moisture JBL, Clarion and a few others make some fairly inexpensive Marine goodies granted it isn't $50 but just a thought Saw the JBL today for a little over $100 CEA 2006 compliant for I think 60 x4.

Mike

#19 sl33py

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 12:55 AM

I just get a little obsessive. I know already I will spend more than $250 just for damping materials and it still wont be enough but if I can cut down outside noise by half or more I think I manage the rest with a small to modest budget for a stereo $500 or less but some of the stuff I have laying around and other stuff I traded for. I know that you mentioned having something nicer in the SS so sure you know that is chump change if one were to go crazy.

BTW if you you wind up ruining your amps and what not due to moisture JBL, Clarion and a few others make some fairly inexpensive Marine goodies granted it isn't $50 but just a thought Saw the JBL today for a little over $100 CEA 2006 compliant for I think 60 x4.

Mike


I'm with you Mike normally, but i think the small amp he posted up earlier will work great (as well as the one you posted). The extra watts really should'nt even be needed for what he has. Getting the power and wiring all to the right spot really is the hard part. The rest is easy to swap down the road in pieces. If the amp dies or he wants more power (and has speakers to handle more) it should be easy to swap in more.

GD - this is a great budget build. I like your flat sub idea even though it's probably going to sound like a cheap sub at volume. It's still better than no sub at all. At lower levels it should be invisible (while giving you a bit of low end). If you push it you're going to notice it and probably not like it. Just my prediction.

I think you'll get the most improvement out of speakers once amp'd. Sub will be icing on the cake. can't wait for more pics!

rob

#20 eulogious

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 06:41 AM

Any body can build a budget build that still sounds good. Here's the breakdown of what I have and how much I paid (not all of this is installed in my car now).

I got a 50x4 RMS amp, a Phoenix Gold tantrum 500.4 for $40 of CL. This is a very clean sounding amp that will actually put out 50x4 all day long of good, clean sound. My sub amp was $100 and it's a PG ti400.2 that puts out 400x1 RMS all day long. You can pick up a good 8" for about $100, throw it in a small box and mount it to your roof. If you build your own box, you can design it to fit into your roof better as well. So for about $250, not including wiring, you can have a good sounding setup.

But you need to know what you are looking for, and keep an eye out on CL for the good deals. I won't buy amps new anymore, I just look out for and buy good quality used stuff. That's what I would do :)

I will agree that amping your front speakers is going to make a world of difference, especially if you get some good clean sound going to them. It's like night and day.

But if you are just looking for something to give you some sound, then it really doesn't matter and easier is best :D What you listed is some cheap stuff, but if that's all you are looking for, then who cares!

I don't have any problems with road noise at all. If I hear the road, I just turn it up :lol: In fact I can go down the freeway with all my windows down, and I still can't really hear the road noise :lol: No joke on that either :D There are times when my stereo is TOO loud :grin:

#21 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 11:47 AM

Yeah - if I knew what I was looking for I would probably surf craigslist for it. But I don't really have the time for that and then not knowing what I'm looking at or brands to search for really hampers that approach for me.

Plus opening things that are in brand new boxes is fun :lol:.

Just to clarify here. So far I'm at:

Head Unit: $37
Front Speakers: $16
Rear Speakers: $39

Total: $92

If I go forward with my two potential purchases above:

Powered Sub: $94
4 channel Amp: $60

Total: $246

That's for EVERYTHING and I would be done for less than the cost of a good head unit :lol:.

It's kind of an experiment to see how little I can spend and still have some decent sound. :)

Also - the Hatch originally cost me $250. So I still won't have spent more for the stereo than I spent to buy the car.

GD

Edited by GeneralDisorder, 02 September 2010 - 11:49 AM.


#22 eulogious

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 01:47 PM

That's awesome man. If you only paid $250 for the car, and the stereo is less than that, and it actually sounds OK, well you can't beat that :lol:

It has taken me a while to get the system I have now and lots of time searching for and researching stuff. Being a part of a car audio forum really helps as well.

To give you an idea of what I have into my system:

Headunit: 6 year old Kenwood that just won't fail :)
Front speakers: I had them kicking around, the tweeters I got in a trade for basically $10 give or take $5 :lol:
Rear speakers: Came with the car
4 Channel Amp (zx450): Traded my wii I got for my birthday 3 years ago for it

Now I start to "pay" for things :D

Sub amp: $40 after trading some sound damping
Subwoofer: Friend bought for me for helping him install his stereo stuff. I owe him some money for it, but like 30% of the price :grin:
BassCUBE: $100
RCA's: $10
Power Wire: $20
Random install crap (Relays, wire ends, battery terminals, etc): $50
Fancy distro block: $20

So all said and done I am in about $275 give or take a little as well, but it as taken me about 4 or five months and several trips to Portland and Seattle to get all of this stuff, and I am still not done. There is still more stuff I will upgrade. But so far it's been well worth the effort :) I should also mention that at the same time I have also pieced together enough stuff to fill my wifes trunk with amps and a sub as well in the same time frame, so I have been busy :) I haven't spent nearly that much on my wife's stuff though, more like $100 :D

But I must say I like you approach actually, and when I can ever get the money for a wheelin' rig I might follow your approach. Simple, cheap, but effective for what it is. I think you will be blown away in the difference in the sound, and that's all that really matters :) Especially if it's a wheelin' rig, there is NO use of putting a good stereo in a wheelin' rig. It would suck to be worrying about your gear all the time while trying to have fun in the mud and water :-\ It will be interesting to see what you come up with man!

If you need help installing your stuff, LMK, it would be fun to install some stuff into the roof :grin:

Edited by eulogious, 02 September 2010 - 01:52 PM.


#23 BEECHBM69

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 09:34 AM

Thank you GD for the outstanding info/ writeup.

Here's my version.

Posted Image

Not quite as neat with the bracing in the back, but I used what was there with minimal fuss. A little bending and drilling two holes. I probably could have cut the wings off but didn't go through the trouble.

Posted Image

The ash tray bracket had to be etched for clearance.

Posted Image

Bl/Y stripe is switched hot. Black is ground on the stock plug. I didn't want to cut anything so went this route. I used a fuse tap on the clock fuse for constant power.

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The finished product. Somebody had a switch in the panel to the right, I intend to put a switch there for radio operation with out the key in. I also didn't have an aluminum plate....... :)

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And in case anybody was wondering what is under the plastic in a hatchback, here's your free look.

Posted Image

Other observations:

Driver's side front is some oddball size. As GD pointed out, 3.5s will work great. I used a 4" with minimal fanfare bolted in the same way. The passenger side appears to be a true 4x6. Don't know what it would hurt to mix and match sizes, but just FYI.

The rears are 4", but the opening is a little bigger. 5.25's would probably fit with minimal effort.

Anyway, thanks again for the good info, and here's a bump to the top for anybody else searching.

Dan

#24 Mykeys Toy

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 10:43 PM

This should probably be sent to the USRM.. Good stuff and better than the usuall hack job and spacer crap.

Turbone make it happen lol

#25 Mykeys Toy

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 09:13 PM

Just outta curiosity have you got it all together yet GD?




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