Installing a stereo and powered subwoofer in a 2008 Scion tC
A surprise car audio makeover
I began my Crutchfield career in 1997 as a Sales Advisor, helping customers find the gear that best fit their needs. Ever since Dad purchased a stereo system from Crutchfield in the '80s, I've been interested in electronics. My passion for movies and music also fueled my desire to get the most out of the gear I hook up.
In 2013, I moved to the Creative department as a copywriter for the mobile electronics division, possibly because of the suggestions I constantly sent them. This great move also let me learn more about the gear we sell. And as part of our Demo Days crew, I get to share this knowledge with Advisors so they can better help you.
More from Dave Delamere
Back in September, as we tossed around some ideas for a car A/V installation story for our Holiday catalog, we decided to do something to show appreciation to the incredible crew at our warehouse. So we selected one worker at random and upgraded his vehicle’s audio system...without him knowing it.
Here's a short video summarizing the project. Check it out then read on for all the details!
Our lucky winner, Howard, is a 5-year veteran with Crutchfield’s Distribution Center (aka the “DC”). He's part of a group that’s responsible for getting all of our shipments out the door and into your hands as quickly as possible.
Howard's smiling face is one of many at our warehouse, where people move like lightning to get packages out the door.
A little trickery to get the car
With the help of Chris and Treva, longtime leaders at the DC, we put our plan in motion. We wanted to make this a holiday gift that Howard wouldn’t forget. To get Howard's 2008 Scion tC over to our garage, we used the ruse of borrowing it to confirm some vehicle data we'd missed in our database. Howard graciously agreed to help us, and even joked about us putting a new system in if we felt the urge. We had to do our best not to laugh at that.
So far, so good. Howard's car is ours.
The new stereo and powered sub
We did some advance scouting on Howard’s Scion, which still had the factory audio system. We wanted to deliver a great surprise, but we didn’t want to alter the car in any way. So we chose a new Kenwood Excelon DDX9903S multimedia receiver with lots of features and great sound, and a Sound Ordnance B-8P 8" powered subwoofer. These items fit without modifications to the Scion.
The Kenwood Excelon DDX9903 receiver and Sound Ordnance B-8P powered sub make a winning combo.
Prepping the Kenwood stereo
We knew time would be limited on installation day, so we made a game plan well before the clock started ticking and did some of the work before we even got the car. Great ideas for anybody thinking about an installation!
We prepped some of the wiring for the radio the previous afternoon. We used iDatalink’s Maestro interface for this installation, along with the Scion-specific harness, and "flashed" it for Howard’s Scion and the Kenwood. We were ready for the physical installation of the stereo once we got the car.
In addition to connecting the receiver to Howard’s vehicle, the iDatalink interface provides Howard some cool onscreen features, like engine diagnostics, tire pressure, and various gauges.
iDatalink's Maestro interface paired with this Kenwood shows off some cool vehicle info right on the stereo's display.
Following the timeline on installation day
We had a 6-hour window to do the job. That's how much time we had before Howard's shift ended. Taking care of the stereo harness the day before was a big help, but we still had lots to do. So the elves — Travis (my designer), Matt (my editor), and me — got to work.
10:45 am: I took the first step, which was to disconnect the negative lead on the Scion's battery to protect the vehicle's electrical system while we work.
10:50 am: Just like our customers do when they order their gear from Crutchfield, we took full advantage of the great info included in the exclusive Crutchfield MasterSheet instructions. Travis began removing the trim panels around the factory radio. Once they were off, he removed a few screws and slid the radio out of the dash.
11:10 am: Matt headed to the engine compartment to begin running the power cable for the powered subwoofer. He found an accessible grommet and fed the cable into the interior of the car.
Meanwhile, I went to the Scion's cargo area to prep the subwoofer and begin running the RCA cables and remote turn-on lead wire back towards the radio location.
With the power cable through the firewall, Matt moved to the interior to run the power cable under the door trim panel on the passenger’s side.
11:45 am: We started running the cables for the powered sub. It’s important to keep the electrical cables separated from the audio cables (RCA and speaker wires) as much as possible to avoid the potential for noise in the system.
We had to remove some of the Scion's trim panels to provide channels for these cables. Travis and Matt discussed the best way to route the cables.
Matt and I feed the cables under the seats using a Pro.Fit Wire Worm.
1:50 pm: We begin to make the connections between the iDatalink interface, the Kenwood receiver, and the factory wiring plugs. We also prepare the stereo to be mounted in place of the factory radio by using the factory brackets.
We removed the factory brackets from the factory radio and screwed them to the chassis of the Kenwood.
Travis works on running the USB cables, Bluetooth microphone, and the powered subwoofer connections to the dash cavity, where he'll connect them to the receiver's rear panel.
Oh yeah! No post-lunch sleepiness here. We're good to go!
2:55 pm: Time for a sound check! We connected all wiring and mounted the receiver in the dash. We reconnected the battery and ran some preliminary sound checks with the system. Success! Since we'd heard the factory system before we started, we were eager to hear the results with the new gear.
The Kenwood produced an immediate bump in power and clarity to the Scion's factory speakers. And what was once muddy bass now became much more accurate and punchy.
We tested the Bluetooth® functions, USB connections for Android Auto™, and other sound settings to make sure everything was ready to go. We all started smiling, because now the real fun began.
I get prepared to narrate our video spotlight on the story.
The Sound Ordnance sub looks and sounds great in Howard's tC.
Revealing the makeover to its new owner
4:10 pm: With the installation complete, we gathered an audience of coworkers, our photographer, and video crew outside, and contacted Howard’s bosses to bring him over to pick up his car. As they walked around the corner and heard his new system blaring, Treva told us later that Howard asked, “Why did they put a bow on my car?”
Howard was a little stunned at first. We told him about our little fib, and he was ecstatic to learn that he was getting new gear for his Scion. We described the installation, and offered to put his old factory gear back in if he wanted. We got the impression he didn’t want that…at all.
After the dust had settled on the surprise, all Howard wanted to do was listen to his gear. “This system is awesome!” he told us as he started learning all it can do. And to cap it off, Treva gave Howard a hug and told him he could have the afternoon off to go play with his new toys. Howard said “You don’t have to worry about me showing up for work; you’ll hear me coming now!"