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Old 07-11-2013, 05:49 PM   #1
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Expensive aftermarket products, worse sound

Hi All,

I bought a new 2013 Wrangler Unlimited Sport with the stock/base model sound system this weekend. Today I had a new Pioneer AppRadio 3 and 4 Alpine 6.5 speakers installed.... and it sounds terrible. There is no depth or "warmth" to the sound, no vibrations so to speak, the music sounds like it's coming from an elevator speaker. It could be the EQ but I messed with that for 45 minutes and am still not getting even the sound I had with the stock system. Any ideas?

The AppRadio 3 is comparable to other aftermarket HU's with 15 RMS and 40 Peak

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Old 07-11-2013, 05:56 PM   #2
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I need an amp don't I.....

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Old 07-11-2013, 07:36 PM   #3
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And a powered subwoofer. Sorry to confirm what seems to be your worst fear.
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Old 07-11-2013, 09:37 PM   #4
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It get's plenty loud, it just feels... flat, dead, cold. However you want to put it. I thought subwoofer for a minute but the question is how does 800 dollars worth of good equiptment sound WORSE than the stock set up? I would understand it not sounding good "enough" but how did it get worse?
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Old 07-11-2013, 09:48 PM   #5
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Your solution is in one main thing. You absolutely NEED an amp going to those speakers. 15watts rms is nothing close to what they can handle. Buy a good quality amp too! An alpine pdx series would compliment it great.

In addition i would go back in an dynamat the speaker pods as well as the soundbar and fill with polyfill. The dynamat will prevent unnecessary vibrations and the polyfill will fill up all that hollow empty space for the sound to bounce around in behind the speakers in the front as well as the soundbar (the soundbar is a horrible acoustic environment for speakers).

This should help, i upgraded my headunit with a Pioneer avhp8400bh and got JL C2 series speakers in all locations and a JL slash 300/4 to power them. Sounds fanastic! But now i need a sub. Yours will sound great and no worries all is not lost, just needs some tweaks, an amp, and some insulation in those pods! If you have any questions ill be happy to help!
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Old 07-11-2013, 10:04 PM   #6
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So what I'm understanding is while the stock system is lower quality the powering is consistent, and now my upgraded speakers are starved for power that a new HU without an amp cannot provide?

I did have the dynamat and poly fill done already, so that's knocked out
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Old 07-11-2013, 10:13 PM   #7
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So what I'm understanding is while the stock system is lower quality the powering is consistent, and now my upgraded speakers are starved for power that a new HU without an amp cannot provide?

I did have the dynamat and poly fill done already, so that's knocked out
Well the stock speakers are powered to their full or at least optimised potential with all the original components.

You said you got 4 alpine 6.5's so say i assume you got 4 alpine type r 6.5's, those speakers have an rms rating of 110 watts. With only 15 watts of power coming from the headunit they are only operating at roughly 14% of the power they are best operated at. This means the speaker is severely underpowered so it wont sound as great as you were expecting.
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Old 07-12-2013, 05:23 AM   #8
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Hi All,

I bought a new 2013 Wrangler Unlimited Sport with the stock/base model sound system this weekend. Today I had a new Pioneer AppRadio 3 and 4 Alpine 6.5 speakers installed.... and it sounds terrible. There is no depth or "warmth" to the sound, no vibrations so to speak, the music sounds like it's coming from an elevator speaker. It could be the EQ but I messed with that for 45 minutes and am still not getting even the sound I had with the stock system. Any ideas?

The AppRadio 3 is comparable to other aftermarket HU's with 15 RMS and 40 Peak
You need a sub. The front speaker pods are a bit undersized so you will not get much bass from them. The soundbar is about the worst speaker enclosure found in any vehicle because it flexes, leaks and vibrates. I went to the extreme and rebuilt the inside of the soundbar to divide the two chambers, make it more rigid with fiberglass and air tight. Now it sounds very good. I have 85 watts going to each speaker.

Back to the sub, it is what provides depth and "warmth" to your system. I built two Sundown 10" subs under my front seats and they are excellent with the top on or off. I have 550 watts going to each sub.

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Old 07-12-2013, 05:26 AM   #9
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Sorry, my previous post showed my old subs under the seat. Those were RF subs. I rebuilt them with Sundown 10". Here is the test fitting...

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Old 07-12-2013, 06:22 AM   #10
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Really appreciate the help so far. Last question: im more of an outdoor guy as opposed to an audio guy. Just want better sound. Can I get that by adding an amp or is the sub crucial?
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Old 07-12-2013, 06:37 AM   #11
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Really appreciate the help so far. Last question: im more of an outdoor guy as opposed to an audio guy. Just want better sound. Can I get that by adding an amp or is the sub crucial?
My wrangler sounds great without an amp. I love bass so obviously im wishing i had a subwoofer, but the vehicle is still MUCH better than stock with the headunit, speakers and amp upgrade.
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Old 07-12-2013, 07:45 AM   #12
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Riptide you mean WITH an amp not without correct?
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Old 07-12-2013, 09:01 AM   #13
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Riptide you mean WITH an amp not without correct?
Yeah I meant sounds great without a sub. My bad lol.
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Old 07-12-2013, 09:03 AM   #14
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$100 Lanzar powered slim subwoofer w amp did the trick for me. Get cheap wiring kit w it off amazon. Easy to wire or have a guy from bedt buy tgrow it in for 75 bucks. 8" model pumps but i wish i got 10"
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Old 07-12-2013, 10:58 AM   #15
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Think speaker too low of a speaker's Sensitivity rating for this problem, at least there is a 99% chance that is the cause of the lower quality sound.

A speaker's Sensitivity rating is a measurement of how much power a speaker requires to sound good. Speakers with a lower Sensitivity rating are designed to require large amounts of power, other speakers are more 'sensitive' (have a higher Sensitivity rating) & don't require as much power (watts).

Installing speakers with a low Sensitivity rating, like say 83 or 84 dB, means they require an fairly powerful auxiliary amplifier to provide the watts required to make them sound good.

For installations without an aux amplifier, where the head unit is providing all the power for the speakers, you need a speaker with a high Sensitivity rating, like one that is at least 90 dB. For example, the Polk DB series of speaker has something like a 92 dB (decibel) rating. So that speaker will be easily driven to its full volume without distorting.

So you could have installed superb speakers & they would still not sound as good as far less costly speakers if the "superb" speakers were designed to require more power (a low Sensitivity rating) to operate properly and the less costly speakers were designed with a high Sensitivity rating.

So unless you also install an aux amplifier, you need speakers that have at least, no less than, a 90 dB Sensitivity rating.

In summary... a $500 500 watt speaker with an 83 dB Sensitivity rating will not sound nearly as good when driven by a typical 18 watt (RMS) per channel head unit as a $75 speaker will with a 50 watt rating but with a 92 dB Sensitivity rating.

And each 3 dB difference in Sensitivity means you need 2X difference in power to produce the same volume. So a speaker with an 83 dB Sensitivity rating will require 2X the wattage power to drive to the same audible volume level as a similar speaker that has an 86 dB Sensitivity rating.

You can easily find a speaker's Sensitivity rating somewhere in its Specifications listing. Don't confuse the speaker's maximum power rating with how "powerful" or loudly it will play, that is only how much power (wattage) it can take before it starts distorting... not how loudly it will play when compared to other speakers when connected to the same head unit or amplifier.
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Old 07-12-2013, 12:06 PM   #16
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Think speaker too low of a speaker's Sensitivity rating for this problem, at least there is a 99% chance that is the cause of the lower quality sound.

A speaker's Sensitivity rating is a measurement of how much power a speaker requires to sound good. Speakers with a lower Sensitivity rating are designed to require large amounts of power, other speakers are more 'sensitive' (have a higher Sensitivity rating) & don't require as much power (watts).

Installing speakers with a low Sensitivity rating, like say 83 or 84 dB, means they require an fairly powerful auxiliary amplifier to provide the watts required to make them sound good.

For installations without an aux amplifier, where the head unit is providing all the power for the speakers, you need a speaker with a high Sensitivity rating, like one that is at least 90 dB. For example, the Polk DB series of speaker has something like a 92 dB (decibel) rating. So that speaker will be easily driven to its full volume without distorting.

So you could have installed superb speakers & they would still not sound as good as far less costly speakers if the "superb" speakers were designed to require more power (a low Sensitivity rating) to operate properly and the less costly speakers were designed with a high Sensitivity rating.

So unless you also install an aux amplifier, you need speakers that have at least, no less than, a 90 dB Sensitivity rating.

In summary... a $500 500 watt speaker with an 83 dB Sensitivity rating will not sound nearly as good when driven by a typical 18 watt (RMS) per channel head unit as a $75 speaker will with a 50 watt rating but with a 92 dB Sensitivity rating.

And each 3 dB difference in Sensitivity means you need 2X difference in power to produce the same volume. So a speaker with an 83 dB Sensitivity rating will require 2X the wattage power to drive to the same audible volume level as a similar speaker that has an 86 dB Sensitivity rating.

You can easily find a speaker's Sensitivity rating somewhere in its Specifications listing. Don't confuse the speaker's maximum power rating with how "powerful" or loudly it will play, that is only how much power (wattage) it can take before it starts distorting... not how loudly it will play when compared to other speakers when connected to the same head unit or amplifier.
Thanks Jerry!! I had never thought of that, mine are at 88.3, and using a 14/80 HU, so, I have ordered an Alpine amp, and also a 10" slim pioneer Sub.

However I've also gotten a lot of suggestions on a car audio site that it might be an issue with the polarity, any thoughts there?
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Old 07-12-2013, 01:39 PM   #17
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If all of the speakers are not in phase with each other, that is to say the speaker cones are not all going in & out together at the same time, that can cause the speakers to not sound as full or rich... with an odd-feeling "hollow" space between them. You won't get as much bass when the speakers are out of phase with each either either.

To fix that, work on one pair of speakers at a time... like just the fronts first. Turn the radio to an AM radio station that is monaural. Trying to do this with a stereo signal is nearly impossible. Turn the fader all the way to the front so only the front speakers are playing. Does the sound sound centered without sounding odd like a hole is between them? If not, reverse the wiring to just one speaker which will put the left & right speakers back in phase with each other so the sound does sound centered between them. Then turn the fader control to the rear to do the same thing. Reversing the wiring would be the same as reversing their polarity.

Remember that if a pair of speakers is out of phase with each other, you only reverse the wiring to one speaker to put them back in the correct phase with each other.

Now then.... it's possible that both the front and rear l/r speakers are individually in phase with each other, but the front pair of speakers may be out of phase with the rear speakers. That is to say that the front l/r speakers are in phase with each other, and the rear l/r speakers are in phase with each other, but the front pair & the rear pair could be out of phase with each other. Make sense? If that were the case, you would reverse the wiring going to both the left & right speakers of either the front or rear speakers, so they would then be in phase with the other pair of speakers.

The point is that if you were to be playing a monaural source, like an AM radio station, all speaker cones should be going in & out together.

It is also totally required that you check the speaker phasing with a monaural sound source... which means put your radio on an AM radio station. That will make it easy to check the phasing between the speakers. Check only two speakers at a time... put your head between the speakers & reverse the wiring to just ONE speaker to see which wiring connection 'centers' the sound between them. That correctly phased position will also produce the most felt bass.
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Old 07-15-2013, 12:15 AM   #18
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Wow lots of great info. OP I think you need an amp to power those speakers and you will be a happy camper.
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Old 07-17-2013, 09:44 PM   #19
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I would tweak Jerry's phasing instructions just a bit - do what he suggests with an am station and the front speakers, but then set the fader to the middle and the balance control all the way to one side - left or right; doesn't matter, and repeat the 'looking for a hole in the sound' front to rear on the side you've selected. After doing that, and correcting if necessary (by switching polarity on the REAR speaker if they're out), recenter the balance and go fader full to the rear and check the back speakers.

The reason I suggest this sequence is that if you do front then rear in isolation, you could wind up phasing front and rear 180* out. Done as described above, you are always using a common reference (one of the front speakers) for initial phasing.

If one or more speakers are out of phase, bass will tend to be very weak.

Good luck.

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Old 07-18-2013, 06:51 AM   #20
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Good information above. I agree with all of it. Especially the dB information as a lot of people don't pay attention to that. It is one of the key elements to consider in speakers.

IMO a good, clean and tunable HU is what you need first and foremost. Nearly all aftermarket speakers want additional amped power to produce great quality sound, so the power output of the HU is not as important. The amp will power the speakers. Let the HU just put out clean sound.

Also keep in mind that there are 6 speakers running off that HU power without an amp. 2 tweeters in the dash and the 4 woofers. I went with a Pioneer HU, JL C2 components up front, C2 coaxials in the sound bar, JL XD/700 5-channel amp to drive them all and a JL W3 8" sub. All together it sounds amazing. The HU puts out clean power, has 3 sets of RCA outs on the back that go right into the amp. All new wiring from the amp to each speaker. A bit of work, but the payoff is amazing sound with or without the top on at highway speeds.

Another thing I do is set up the system so there is minimal bass from the speakers (woofers) and the sub carries that load. Tweets are passively crossed over, so automatically no bass, but with my amp and HU combined, I can really fine tune what each woofer sees for input. The High pass and Low pass frequency filters on the amp combined with the EQ ont he HU really nail down the best sound going to the speakers. Plus you can adjust the power to each to blend the rears.

So again an amp will bring up those nice speakers and fill that sound up.
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Old 07-18-2013, 06:28 PM   #21
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Good information above. I agree with all of it. Especially the dB information as a lot of people don't pay attention to that. It is one of the key elements to consider in speakers.

IMO a good, clean and tunable HU is what you need first and foremost. Nearly all aftermarket speakers want additional amped power to produce great quality sound, so the power output of the HU is not as important. The amp will power the speakers. Let the HU just put out clean sound.

Also keep in mind that there are 6 speakers running off that HU power without an amp. 2 tweeters in the dash and the 4 woofers. I went with a Pioneer HU, JL C2 components up front, C2 coaxials in the sound bar, JL XD/700 5-channel amp to drive them all and a JL W3 8" sub. All together it sounds amazing. The HU puts out clean power, has 3 sets of RCA outs on the back that go right into the amp. All new wiring from the amp to each speaker. A bit of work, but the payoff is amazing sound with or without the top on at highway speeds.

Another thing I do is set up the system so there is minimal bass from the speakers (woofers) and the sub carries that load. Tweets are passively crossed over, so automatically no bass, but with my amp and HU combined, I can really fine tune what each woofer sees for input. The High pass and Low pass frequency filters on the amp combined with the EQ ont he HU really nail down the best sound going to the speakers. Plus you can adjust the power to each to blend the rears.

So again an amp will bring up those nice speakers and fill that sound up.
Sounds like we have nearly the same setup haha. I just need some bass!!!
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Old 08-21-2013, 02:50 PM   #22
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Thanks for all the help. I added a 10" sub in a slim box, and an amp, and everything sounds bad ass. They guys at the shop were pretty pleased with themselves for sure. Definitely worth the investment.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:08 PM   #23
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Good that you got it working well! Time for some pictures!
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Old 08-25-2013, 02:33 PM   #24
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In my humble opinion,loud is not better. If your system sounds horrible at low volume, an amp will not fix it. You will just be amplifying your horrible sound. It might sound better because it is louder, but it is not actually better and you are probably adding distortion as well.

The trick to good sounding audio, as I've heard someone mention, is the head unit.
A great head unit can make even average speakers sound great.

This is solved by listening to the HU before you buy it. I listen to many head units. I listen for exactly what you mentioned. I listen for a live feel. Some of the best HU units just sound dead to me too. I immediately ask if there is an amp, sub or EQ attached to the head unit in the display rack. If there is, I ask them to remove it. I want to hear the pure sound of the HU.

Once I find a good sounding HU at flat response(NO EQ), I then look for the EQ. I adjust the EQ and see if the sound actually changes with different frequencies. I then, check the loudness button. For example, does the loudness button add a bunch of distortion?
Then, most importantly, I look for HU specifications. The key is THD(Total Harmonic Distortion). If the radio has a THD of 10% at full volume, it is useless. If the radio is rated as 50watts and it says, 1%THD at 25watts, it is useless. This means that the radio will sound horrible above half volume. The best HU will have a 0.1% THD at full volume. 1% THD at full volume is acceptable. This is the key that most average audiophiles don't know. If you go into a audio shop, and start asking to hear the radio, and what the specs are, they are going to give you a snobbish look. Because, they know that they won't be able to sell you high priced crap. If they tell me that the radio is rated at a certain THD, I ask to see the spec sheet. Most of the time, they figure they can just lie to you, or tell you "what they think". Then, if you buy it, and come back later, it is too late. They will say, "I thought it was 1% THD, from my experience. These are normally great radios". It was a lie. They just wanted to make a good sell. Always ask to see the spec sheet. They normally don't mind pulling the spec sheet out, if you ask nicely, and yet insist that you can't buy the radio until you see it.

Then, I will add a sub to their display rack, and see how it sounds with a sub. If they can't supply a sub, it isn't a major point. Most amp's can be tuned, and if the radio sounds good, I am good with buying it. But, I don't base my opinion on their setup. I may have my own opinion on amps and subs from my research. Always do your own research. I go into a audio shop looking to hear certain HU's, speakers, subs, and amps. If they say certain speakers sound better, I say, "that is great. Let's hear them". If they say, "they don't have it set up", then their "opinion" is useless to me.

The THD on a amp is also very important just like the HU. Great Speakers are good too. But, I also look for speakers with built in crossovers. I don't want a tweeter that is getting all the frequencies. It will sound like crap. This is the reason Infinity Kappa tweeters sound horrible. I also look for speakers that can handle the RMS of my amp and radio. A 25RMS speaker in a 50RMS head unit will not work. A 110RMS speaker in a 50RMS will work. You won't blow your speakers this way. If you can listen to the speaker in an audio shop, this is best too. I would never want to buy a speaker or HU, without hearing them first.

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