Overhauling a factory stereo system
Laying the Foundation, Part 1
Michael is Crutchfield's senior creative director for mobile electronics. As a lifelong performing musician and composer, he has released seven albums for Breezeway Records and appeared on many others. His band, Sokoband (formerly "Soko"), was an active part of the Charlottesville's creative music scene in the 1990s, and has continued to record and occasionally perform. Sokoband releases have included contributions from musicians like Leroi Moore, Tim Reynolds, Steve Kimock, David Darling, George Brooks and David Matthews. An avid consumer of non-fiction and a choosier consumer of fiction, Michael loves reading, writing, philosophy, science, technology, and language.
More from Michael Sokolowski
As you might have read in Crutchfield's Winter/Spring 2009 catalog (read article), I'm in the midst of a piece-by-piece overhaul of the factory sound system in my 2002 Yukon. While I have owned a few cars in my time, and have been a car audio hobbyist since high school, I can safely say that I've not been faced with a project remotely like this one.
See, the thing is that I've never had a car with a body bigger than that needed to house a 2.4 liter, 4 cylinder engine. Anyone reading this who knows me is likely to be more than a little surprised that I'm driving something about the size of a studio apartment. As it turns out, my folks got a new truck and I got the fantastic deal only their child could get.
And truth be told, I'm digging the comfort level and the surprisingly quiet ride. Even my anti-SUV, environmentalist children have found a way to grudgingly appreciate the leather seats, generous leg room, and plethora of reading lights. While the factory stereo sounded better than I thought it would, it wasn't nearly good enough to feed my music obsession.
I'm a musician in my other life, and at the moment my band, Sokoband, is working on a new album. (I still use that term; why not? "Album" doesn't mean "vinyl," either.) So for the next few months, I'll focus on my own music every time I find myself around a playback device. In addition to my home studio, I'll be listening to our works-in-progress on my home stereo, my iPod®, my daughter's boom box, my friend's high-end system, and any other piece of gear I can hijack. Since I do most of my music listening in the car, it's a no-brainer that I'll need to outfit the Yukon with the best possible gear I can afford.
The first step in the upgrade process was to replace the factory in-dash radio/CD player with an Alpine CDA-9887. In addition to its ace iPod control capability, I chose the Alpine for its high-fidelity characteristics: 24-bit Burr-Brown digital-to-analog converter for more detailed and lifelike sonic resolution, sophisticated onboard signal processing, and — what I'm particularly excited about — the ability to add their KTX-100EQ IMPRINTTM sound-tuning kit. IMPRINT is a super-powerful equalization technology that corrects your system's performance to compensate for your vehicle's specific acoustical anomalies. (Trust me, your car didn't roll of the assembly line engineered to have the sonic sensitivity of a concert hall.)
While I'm tempted to try out the KTX-100 right now — it's sitting on my desk, looking at me — I'm going to hold off and wait to complete the full installation of the new system before fully tweaking it. After all, part of the goal of this blog is to share with you the incremental sonic improvements I'll be making as I add speakers, amplifiers, subwoofers, acoustical treatments to the doors and side panels, and an improved power generation system.
Read the entire Building a Mobile Listening Lab series:
- Laying the Foundation, Part 1
- Laying the Foundation, Part 2
- Laying the Foundation, Part 3
- Dynamat installation and pre-wiring for amplifiers
- Installing the front door speakers
- Video: factory vs. aftermarket speakers
- Rear speakers, amplifier, and subwoofer
- Report on the Yukon system's performance
- The ultimate in system tuning
- Video: Alpine's IMPRINT signal processing in action