Minivan makeover

An upgraded stereo makes it feel like she has a whole new car

By

Buck Pomerantz

Buck Pomerantz was born and raised in Philadelphia. His parents bought their first television set when he was born. He figured out how to run it by the time he was two. Besides athletics, his formative interests included electronics, amateur radio, music, and stage crew work. He got his BA in writing from Brown University. Then he joined a rock 'n roll band as their soundman and moved to Charlottesville, Virginia. After that venture failed, he spent time in Boston, New Orleans, and Berkeley. He worked in a music store in Austin manufacturing, installing, repairing, and operating sound systems for recording studios, clubs, and bands. He moved back to Charlottesville, ran a little recording studio and finally joined Crutchfield as a copywriter. He has 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren, but after a good nap he can still rock out.

More from Buck Pomerantz

Teenagers enjoying the minivan's new stereo

It was embarrassing

Morgan, like most high schoolers, didn’t particularly enjoy getting stuck driving the family minivan. Luckily, she’s the daughter of Charlie, one of our car A/V editors. He told us that she’d at least be able to tolerate the van if it sounded better and gave her a place to plug in her iPhone®.

A minivan isn’t a place you’d normally think of to put in a rockin’ aftermarket sound system, but sometimes it’s better for family harmony to just go ahead and spoil the teenager a little. Besides, Mom and Dad will get to enjoy their music better when they drive it on family excursions.

Kenwood DDX419 DVD receiver

The Kenwood DDX419 DVD receiver gives Morgan complete control over the music from her iPhone — which is exactly what she wanted.

Kenwood to the rescue

Thanks to Kenwood, we were able to overhaul the system entirely, installing a new receiver, component speakers up front, full-range speakers in the rear, a subwoofer, and a 5-channel amp. Three of us writers jumped in and installed everything in one day. It turned out awesome — the sound is amazing, filling the van with bass, clearing up the vocals with the new tweeters, adding excitement to the music. Here's the gear list:

Morgan and an Excelon tweeter

Kenwood Excelon silk dome tweeters, part of the component set, produce stunning realism with smooth high notes that are crisp, but never shrill.

Tweeter placement

The Sienna came with factory tweeters mounted in the corners of the dash by the windshield, but we mounted the new tweeters closer to the woofers on the door by cutting holes in the sail panels. This makes the stereo image, the “picture” the speakers make of the instruments’ positions on an imaginary stage, sound stronger and more realistic than when the tweeters are mounted farther away from their woofers. We did not forget to bypass the old tweeters so we wouldn’t get too much high end, especially echoing off the windshield.

Kenwood Excelon X700-5 amp and XW10 sub

The compact 5-channel Kenwood Excelon X700-5 amplifier powers all four speakers and the subwoofer from its neat home in the van’s rear side pocket.

The rest of the installation

Thanks to Crutchfield’s vehicle selector and MasterSheet instructions most of the equipment went in easily. We found the perfect spots for the front speaker component crossovers inside the door panels, on a little shelf below the armrests. They are actually accessible without having to take off the door panels, in case crossover adjustments need to be made later.

The only hitch in our installation involved the mid-rear side panel speakers. The hole pattern in the Sienna’s speaker bracket didn’t quite match our speaker and bracket assembly, so we had to do some finagling with different mounting screws and how they were angled.

The family wagon gets its rock on

The results exceeded everyone’s expectations — especially Morgan’s. She and her younger sister now often just sit in the van in the driveway and crank it up. When Charlie heard it, he considered reclaiming the van for his daily commute. But there’s no way that Morgan’s about to give up her new favorite place to listen to music.

Toyota Sienna

The family minivan — a 2005 Toyota Sienna

Products in this article

Find what fits your car