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Crutchfield: The Podcast Ep. 2

Darren and his VW Golf Alltrack audio system

In this episode:

Darren, a Crutchfield employee and car audio integration guru, walks J.R. through the "head unit back" audio upgrade he installed in his '17 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. Check out these articles to follow along with Darren's installation and his custom fiberglass work.

Some of the gear discussed includes:

After the interview, J.R. and Eric answer a question from the customer comments on our "What are line output converters?" article about where to tap into audio signal when keeping a factory radio in an audio upgrade.

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Read episode transcript

Hello and welcome to Crutchfield the podcast. I am your host. Jr I'm the training manager here at Crutchfield. Along with me in studio today. One of my favorite co workers. You are too kind. That's actually true. That was way too kind. Thank you so much for being here. Eric tell us what is Crutchfield? Well we sell electronics. I'd like to say to people that we sell things. You probably don't need. Some people like to argue with that and I love those people. But here we sell things like car stereos, we sell home a V receivers and televisions, fun things and more importantly than that, we like to talk about it. We like to learn about and we like to share that information with. Yeah I'm gonna take issue with you actually on that because I can't imagine my life without my car stereo. Absolutely need my car stereo. It depends on your definition of need, doesn't it does. Yeah it does. So that's what we do. Why do we have a podcast? We have about 600 employees at Crutchfield. Since we we know everything there is to know about all these products. Uh but seriously we know a lot, right? We do know a lot. We get our hands on the gear. We get to go to a lot of vendor trains. Probably more than the average joe right, What is it? We are choosing to buy and take home. What is it? We still got to pay for it. We don't just get this stuff for three. What do we choose to purchase? What separates us from our money. Each episode we're going to talk to an educated crutchfield employee about what they bought and why and what is their situation. We always want to know about the application and today we're gonna be talking with Darren, he started off in tech support, really shined, so helpful to so many of our customers. He is now in merchandizing. He now buys all of the products that it takes to install stuff. So he's not the guy that buys, ken, would pioneer Sony stereos. He buys all of the kits and harnesses and little things and the tools needed to install. Your ken, would your pioneer, your Sony and those pieces are needed without that? You don't have a system. So you're gonna hear eric and me interrupt from time to time just to add some context and clarity to some of the finer points. So here we go. This is my interview with Darren and Chris, another one of our training managers in Crutchfield southwest Virginia call center. Did you buy this car? Brand new? I bought it, certified used its Volkswagen 2017 Golf all track. Um, just has the base factory audio system in it. So it had about 40,000 miles on it when I got it. Um, and wanted to upgrade the audio system obviously, you know, it has a really nice head unit in it though. It has an integrated head unit. It's all kind of flushed in with the dash and it's all painted and matches the interior. Really really nice. You can replace the radio in that car but but it is not a big fan of the kid. It's solid black. This car has like all this painted gray dash has carplay, it has a Cd player, it has bluetooth, I can do my navigation through the carplay. It does everything I needed to do. So therefore I said let's just go ahead, you go back and do an audio upgrade. So Darren wanted to keep his factory look, why would somebody want to do that? We've been replacing factory radios for years. It's kind of what started our business. Right. It used to be that say 15, 20 years ago, you would replace the radio to get a cassette and then you would replace a cassette to get a C. D. And then you wanted Bluetooth for a lot of folks there sources are on their phone whether or not it's Pandora or Spotify. You know, we don't need to change out the radio to get that. Bluetooth is pretty much been a standard feature in cars for the last five years. Now. Some people, well today's dashes are so integrated with things like heating controls. Uh not everyone loves the way those aftermarket kits. Look sometimes in a lot of cars these days it's you can't replace that factory radio actually impossible in a growing number of cars to take the factory radio out without losing many very important vehicle functions. And some of those would be like the ability for the car to go, right, right, That's an important one. So we can still help people improve the sound in those vehicles. Uh, and one of the ways we can do it is with the DSP. So with the DSP, we're getting the signal from that factory head unit and then we're either amplifying it or being able to tweak it or just the crossovers to make it sound better. Exactly. And with Darren's car, this Volkswagen, he went with the least expensive base level factory system. So hopefully that simplifies the process. He'll need something to convert the speaker wires coming out of the back of the factory radio to a line level, which is the input level that an amplifier needs to see. And those, those outputs don't exist on factory radio. So that's why that line output converters needed, which would allow you to replace everything from the head unit back, meaning we were adding an amplifier. So we're no longer using the power built into the amplifier in the factory radio. And we're using our new amplifier to power new speakers potentially in this case, even adding a subwoofer as well. So keeps the factory look, which in this case there in like the factory radio, uh, and keeps it all integrated, all the vehicle functions working. But the performance, the sound you're listening to is all based on much newer, much better, much more powerful electronics than speakers. I would imagine when Darrin bought that car, he knew darn well that he wasn't going to give the dealership the extra money that he was going to make it sound better than their premium sound. So he's been in long enough, he's been here a while, he knows the drill. So I chose the DSR one to kind of serve as my line output converter. If you will DSR one, I'm just using it in analog mode. Um, some folks may not realize it, but you can use the DSR one with pretty much any basic, non amplified factory system or aftermarket radio and just clear that thing is advertised as a digital amp replacement module for factory stereos. Right Maestro A R, which I did not have to use. Exactly. So that's called analog mode. So that's like a universal standalone type mode. So basically I just run the audio outputs from my factory head unit into the DSR one. Um, and out of the DSR one into a hertz five channel amp. Um, and then I've got some hurts components, six and three quarter components up front and 6.5 inch co ax is in the back doors, components with the separate tweeters up front, two ways in the back, two ways in the back, the back doors had a spot for a component set, but I chose to do two ways in the back instead. Just to kind of keep that soundstage down in the back, I didn't want a bunch of high frequencies blasting from the rear and kind of destroying that good front soundstage. Gotta hurts 10 inch sub. I did a nice little custom enclosure over top of the spare tire. Well used a little fiberglass, I got it fixed to where it's completely under the rear floor. Um, so I didn't have to sacrifice any cargo space and the wagon basically, it's like a four door wagon vehicle. So I've got a little space in the cargo area and I didn't want to sacrifice that. So that's kind of why I did that spare tire is still there, spare tire is still there. So this kind of lift the box out to get the spare tire. Yeah, sound quality wise, That's kind of what I was shooting for was an SQ car, you know, wasn't going for a bunch of bass or anything like that. I wanted it to sound good and have a really good imaging and I definitely, I think I've achieved that DSR one is absolutely the star of the show there. S. Q. That's right. What's that sound quality? Well, that's way, way easier than it said that it should have been. Yeah. So in the industry, you know, there's a couple different types of contest where people will get these premium systems put together and then they'll go and get judged against other people's premium systems. So SQ is, is the contest where they are judging for things like imaging and sound stage, they're less concerned with, you know, being able to create a quarter flipping base. Now, that's a term I learned a long time because when you put a quarter on your trunk and there's so much base that it can actually flip that quarter different competitions for that as well. There is a lot of folks, you'll see videos of just insanity in cars and let's be clear, we totally encourage that. Absolutely. But he's differentiating this. He wants to, if he was going to enter this into a contest, he did not build this car for Spl or sound pressure level or monster loads of base. He built it to win a sound quality competition. So imaging Darren talks about imaging and he wants a nice front soundstage with good imaging upfront. He doesn't want the speakers in the back to overpower the ones in the front. What, what is imaging all about? So imagine for a second that you're in his car with your eyes closed, sitting in the front seat, we'll call it passenger seat for the sake of this again. All right. Just to be on the safe side. Um, the idea would be, if you're listening to a performance that you can picture that singer being dead center. You can picture the drum set in the high hat maybe being slightly off to the right, you feel like that guitarist is maybe over on the left a little bit. So if you're closing your eyes, you're not just hearing music. You're picturing you can, with your ears, you can picture the sound stage. And that's what we're talking about when we're talking about sound stage and imaging. And when you're driving a car, you want that band to sound like, not only can you sort of picture where they are left to right, but they're up on the hood of your car, not down in your foot wells where the sound sounds great for your ankle. You want it to sound good for your ear holes and holes are up higher your ankles, at least for most of us. Uh, and so to get good imaging takes a lot in a car a lot of times you have to overcome, um, really bad speaker positioning from the factory. They designed these cars to look cool and be awesome, but they don't always put the speakers in a place that allow them to give you good imaging, Let's be honest. If they, if we could pick, you know, as audio files, if you could pick where you would like those speakers to be, they'd be in the middle of the windshield, that's not ideal or up on your dash facing your face, but they're in the doors and one's closer to you. If you're the driver, the one on the left side of the car is much closer to you than the one on the passenger side of the car. And so somehow we have to overcome all of these obstacles and we can do that with good power. So a lot of power to the speakers helps them do their job better with the DSP, digital signal processing allows you to use time alignment and various other things to sort of trick the sound so that it sounds like it's coming out of the left speaker at the same time as the right speaker so that you actually have an accurate left and right image. It even allows them to place the sound up higher, even though the speakers are down low, it can sort of throw the sound up higher into your car. So there's a lot of power in the DSP and good amplifier and good speakers. It takes all of those to get good imaging and if you like music, if you like going to live shows and seeing a band play and sort of having any level of that experience in your car, this is what it takes. That's right. The way I have my crossover set up is I run full range, well, pretty much full range. I have the front components high past it like 100 or something like everything. But the deepest bass up front In the rear doors. I have those band passed at 100 from 100 to 10,000. So I chop those off at about 10,000. Just once again just to keep those high frequencies out of the rear. Okay. Okay. So he mentions band pass. Yeah, he's talking about the crossovers, right? If you know anything about crossovers there's low pass and there's high pass and there's band pass and you may not know about band pass. It's not used as often write a low pass crossover allows low frequencies to pass. It's the type of crossover you would put before an amplifier that powers your subwoofer so that only base goes to the subwoofer. High pass crossover would only allow high frequencies. Think about electric guitars, trumpets, female voices, things like that. You want those coming out of your tweeters. But if you don't want too much sound you take out the highest highs and they band pass, takes out the lowest lows and the highest highs. That's what he's talking about with his band pass crossover. So his front speakers, he wants to make sure not to send them too much bass. But he does want all of the mid range and all of the high frequencies to come out of those front speakers creating that beautiful front soundstage. He doesn't want all of those frequencies coming out of his back speakers, their two way speakers. They're not components, there's not a separate twitter. He doesn't want those back speakers to overpower the front speakers. He doesn't want to sound like the band is in front of him and behind him because they're not that way at a concert. Talk to me about hurts. It's not a widely known car audio brand. It's fairly new to Crutchfield. How did you decide to buy hurts after going to the hertz training and actually demoing listening to the speakers after that? I was highly impressed with the quality of the sound really what sold me on those is high sensitivity. We've got hurts, components that have in the 90 DB range sensitivity up in the nineties for a component set. It's pretty, it's pretty style. So you know, you really make use, make the most of, of your, your power that you have. Yeah, the hertz training, I remember there was like five speakers in a display box with a switching system set up so that we could listen to all different five speakers. Uh, and all sorts of levels from there at least expensive to their most expensive at the top. And they were all, they all sounded great. The ones that stood out were the ones right in the middle. That's the ones that those are the ones that chose was what I was gonna say. I was just like you said, not too shrill in terms of like a, like a hard dome tweeter or anything like that or overly sensitive or bright. Just a nice balance reproduction of sound thankfully that has translated over into the vehicle as well. It sounds as good in, in the car as it did on the demo. So he mentioned sensitivity. What are we talking about there? It's a pretty important specifications provided by most speaking manufacturers. It's a rating of just how efficiently a speaker converts electricity into sound. And so there's a measurement on almost every speaker we sell that is called sensitivity and a low sensitivity would be some number in the eighties. And so getting into high sensitivity speakers is somewhere in the nineties and up. And what that means is a three D B difference in efficiency meaning if you had a speaker that was rated at 90 and another speaker that was rated at 93 DB sensitivity, that means it's three D be more if it efficient than the other one, which is basically like doubling your power. It's a way to have more sound without needing as much power. So the benefit of more efficient speakers as you can go with smaller amps that may not take up as much space or draw as much current from your car. Let's, let's be clear though efficiency and or a high sensitivity doesn't mean the speaker sounds better hurts. Do sound really good. We know that because we heard them, Darren knew it because he heard them, but high efficiency should not always equal better sound. Right? That's right. In fact, some manufacturers, uh, specifically aren't necessarily efficient and they, they're just basically saying, hey, we want you to use a really good amplifier with our equipment. So, so they'll, they'll be the first to point out that efficiency isn't, it's certainly a factor when choosing a speaker, but does not necessarily on its own make a good quality. Exactly. If you're going to have a boatload of power, you don't need efficient speakers, You have to put a lot of dynamite in there to get it sounding tight or the Volkswagen build a car that's already nice. And Volkswagen build a pretty good little car. But I did add some Dyna mat. Um, so I did do Dyna mat behind all the speaker brackets, Dyna mat behind where the speakers are located pretty much all around the speaker location dynamited. I didn't do a complete door kit or anything elaborate, But I also use fast strings, strings, those fast rings preserve the mid bass and really did a good job. So as I was in the process of upgrading this car, I went ahead and did like, I'm gonna say the full range part of it first. So I added my aunt and my DSR one and all my main speakers and I got that done first. Whoa. I mean it was just unreal. The base that came out of those speakers and one of the things that really helped was the fast rings, you know, that, that couples, that speaker to the door panel and you get all of your bass frequencies out into the cabin, You know, nothing's just left. You don't have any standing waves hanging around causing distortions or anything like that. You know, they can, they come in a little bag, you just pop the little centerpiece out pills. Yeah, that goes between your door and your speaker. Pretty much put Dina matt on the door skin first, right behind the word. Like if you stuck your hand through where you touch the back of the door skin and then you peel the film off of the fast rings wave got stuck it on top of the Dyna mat and then you put your ring on the speaker and the way I dress, the way my car works is you have to use speaker brackets on this car. So you actually had to drill out the rivets on the factory speakers, get the factory speakers out and then you have to put on your new brackets and I actually put some dynamite around where the bracket would go, put the bracket on, put the speaker on. And the way these uh fast rings are made is they can actually go completely around the speaker. So I just put the fast ring completely around the speaker and the bracket so it still stood up in front of the whole assembly by about an inch so that when the panel goes back on, Hey jr, have you ever been at a light and heard the car in front of you license plate? Have I? Yes, I have, let's talk about sound ending. Yeah, I've also, I've also been at the grocery store where there's a dude out front in an old Chevy nova rocking some heavy duty bluegrass and he's got a subwoofer in his trunk and his license plate, his rear brake lights, everything on the back of that Chevy nova is vibrating ridiculously. It's all you can hear as you walk into the grocery store. Yeah. So, so sound ending does a couple of things for us. One of those things is it can make your system sound better on the outside of your car along with improving the sound on the inside of the rest of the world. Will thank you. That's right. So there's something called a resident frequency and cars are made out of things that have a resident frequency. Everything has a resonant frequency. That's right. So as this base is coursing through the metal in your car, it is just shaking things loose. It's making a lot of noise on its own. And the way to fight that is with products like Dina Matt. Yeah. So if you're getting vibrations in your doors from your door speakers, if your trunk is making noisy rattles, If any part of your car is vibrating because of the speakers and the vibrations they're creating. You probably want to make that go away. That's what dynamite is all about. It's like this thick gooey material that you stick on the metal of your car that just deadens it. It actually lowers its resonant frequency way out of the range of human hearing. So even if it is vibrating, you're not hearing it, it's not buzzing, it's not rattling. And because of Volkswagen, a newer one like Darren and his wife Kristen purchased is so well put together and knew he didn't really need much dynamite. The car sounds nice and tight as it is when he shuts that door. Imagine it goes thump, thump. Let's do that again, thump. Yeah, it doesn't sound like the Chevy Novas door when you shut it which is more of a yeah exactly. That car needs a lot of dynamite. If you were to put a great system in an older car, your little chances of you needing a lot of dynamite go way up compared to 2017 Volkswagen. If I got in your car and I wanted to throw some Metallica on what? It's still sound good or does it need to, the way I have this cartoon, I was able to use like an audio control R. T. A. And get a really nice somewhat flat E. K. You curve out of it. Um kind of starts a little high, it's a little, it's a little mid Basie at the bottom of the spectrum and then I kind of roll it off toward the top so it's not so bright, so anything you listen to sounds good and that's really what it should be in a properly tuned system, you know, one thing shouldn't sound better than the other, you know, and if it does, it's all because of the recording, but anything you play in there, it can handle it, it can keep up with it. So yeah, throw some Metallica at it. I keep getting amazed by, you know, how wonderful and awesome some songs and certain tracks sound that didn't really, you know, realize that before, you know, So is this your daily driver or this is our daily driver, my wife and I, whoever needs to do a lot of running around during the day gets to take the Volkswagen. Uh, so do you guys fight over who gets to drive the Volkswagen? Now we fight over the driver's seat now. Yeah, exactly. That's where, that's the sweet spot. Now, you know, I've done several systems over the years for myself and others and this is, I'm just highly impressed with this one. It's finally, you know, it's like all the cumulative work over the years I've kind of put together and put into this car and I'm very happy with. So that was my conversation with Darren merchandizing experts buying all things needed to replace car stereos and everything you want to do in a car? Yeah, he really knows his stuff. It's incredible. I wish we could get him to work here in my, in the headquarters building. So I had physical access to him all the time because you can't ask him a question about car, stereo that he doesn't just know. So now it's time to answer a question from an actual Crutchfield customer. We have many articles on our website that are insightful, helpful will help you understand all the issues with all the different stuff we sell. And since we're talking today about upgrading a factory car audio system, looking at the article, we call what our line output converters. We have a question from Grant. Now, first I'll answer the question, what are line output converters? These are devices that are designed to take the speaker level output from your factory radio converted to a line level, a lower level signal so that you can be sent into an amplifier and then ample The right way we have line output converters from $20 all the way up into several $100 depending on the level of complexity you need. So that's kind of in general what they are. And if you want to know even more, that article goes way into it. But we have a specific question posted on that article from a customer named grant grants. Question is from what I can understand. If you have a factory amplifier in your vehicle, you should always tap into the speaker wire after they've been amplified as opposed to tapping directly from the head unit. Is this correct? Well the word always kind of throws it off. It's not quite correct all the time. Usually in many cars and for many years this was pretty much always the way you would do it. The fact your radio sends signal music at some level to an amplifier and then the amplifier sends it speaker level, amplified music out to speakers in the doors, in the rear dash of your car. And that was usually the safest place to grab that mu intercept that music. Cut those speaker wires, put them into a line output converter converted to line level and send it to an amplifier. That's not always the right way to do it anymore. As cars become more and more integrated using like the door chimes might actually play through your speakers. Now we have to factor things like that in. And if you intercept that speaker wire after the amp, you may be missing out on certain vehicle specific features. So there's fancy ways to do it. There are interfaces made by several companies. I data link is one of the leading companies with this making interfaces that actually interface with the computer in your car. So they are actually fully aware of all of the things your car is doing and all of the sounds that it needs to play on your speaker system and all of the ways in which your stereo system in your car and that amplifier is integrated with the rest of the car. And so in those cases you were we want to actually replace the factory amplifier with an eye data link, a R Amplifier replacement module or something like it that grabs that speaker level signal as well as all of the control and digital magical stuff needed to make it even possible to replace an amplifier. Good news there as we got you covered. We do the research. Exactly. If you go fishing around enough on crutchfield dot com, you're gonna find article and videos on man just about everything we sell. That's right. We have tons of information on their archived going years back at this point to we actually did an article about Darren's car. It's called upgrading the sound in a Volkswagen Golf all track. And so you'll see Darren, you'll see his car, you'll get to see what we were talking about today. There's a link to that article in the show notes on the podcast page. Also, we did another article with Darren about tips for working with fiberglass. This dude knows how to make fiberglass boxes and custom panels and stuff, really knows his stuff. We thought we would call that knowledge into an article and again, you can find that in the show notes at crutchfield dot com slash podcast. So that's it. Another episode of Crutchfield, the podcast in the bag. Thanks for being with me here today. Eric, it's great to be here. It was a lot of fun talking to Darren and chris who you have heard in the interview. This is J. R. Thanks so much for listening

Last updated 12/5/2022

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