Video: Upgrading Your Factory Stereo, part 2
Make a full audio upgrade
I've written about car audio for Crutchfield since 2003, after four years as Crutchfield Sales Advisor, and 10 years as a music teacher. I'm an avid music listener, with a real love of classical and film music. I love having a great system in my car, and I'll still match the system in my 98 Ford Ranger (may it rest in piece) up against anything else I've heard for great SQ. I attended West Virginia University, where I received a Master's Degree in Music Performance and a Bachelor's Degree in History. Let's Go Mountaineers!
More from Ken Nail
I've been with Crutchfield since 1999, where I began as one our advisors, helping our customers choose new gear. After a couple of years, I moved to the writing team where I spent a decade researching new products and getting hands on with car stereos, amplifiers, speakers, and subs. Yeah, I've been doing this for a while.
For the past few years, I've been the managing editor of Crutchfield's Car A/V web article content. I couldn't ask for a better job — we get to play with car audio gear every day! I'm a Virginia native from the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Outside of work, I love listening to music, playing board games, and installing new audio systems for my friends.
More from Robert Ferency-Viars
Just because you can't replace your vehicle's factory stereo doesn't mean you have to live with a poor sound system. In this short video, Crutchfield experts Ken and Robert take a look at how a fellow employee dealt with this situation and created a high-performance car audio system. His system includes high-quality speakers, a 4-channel amplifier, and a powered subwoofer. He finished it off by using the JL Audio CleanSweep™ to create a pristine audio signal. The end result is a sound system worth bragging about.
The other videos in the series look at two additional ways to improve your factory sound system without changing the factory stereo. In part one, we show you one of the easiest ways to get a dramatic improvement in your car stereo's sound quality. Then in part three, we discuss ways to enhance your factory stereo by adding other features and sources of music.
Robert: Now we're going to take a look at a car where the owner, who happens to be an Advisor here at Crutchfield, gave the audio system a complete upgrade while retaining the factory stereo. I was hoping Ken would be here to tell us a little about it, but we'll just go ahead and start without him.
Ken: Hey what took you so long? This is a great system, we've gotta go check it out.
Robert: I'm all ears, tell me about it.
Ken: Well, let's go around front and start taking a look.
Robert: I'll meet you up there
Robert: As we mentioned before, the factory stereo is built into the dash, all in one piece, there was really nothing Lex could do to change it, and that's why he went about designing his system the way he did. Tell us about the speaker setup.
Ken: Yeah, the first thing Lex did was to change the speakers. He put new speakers in the front door and in the rear deck. In both cases he put in JL Audio two-way speakers — great detailed sound, beautiful dynamic range, a lot better than factory speakers.
Ken: To power it, he used an Alpine amp in the trunk.
Robert: I caught a glimpse of that earlier.
Ken: Well, I got an up close and personal look at it. You want to check it out a little further?
Robert: I would, let's go.
Robert: Here we are at the trunk, and inside we have the subwoofer and amplifier.
Ken: That's right — to have your system sound good, you need enough power. To drive the speakers, Lex has a 40 watt x 4 amplifier here, so each speaker gets forty watts. Over on the right, you've got the subwoofer. It has its own amp, two hundred and fifty watts of power. So there's plenty of power to get good sound. But there's more than just power to this system.
Robert: Lex has a little something extra back up in the glovebox.
Ken: That's right, it's called the JL Audio CleanSweep processor, and it's a pretty nifty device.
Ken: Here's what I was talking about — the JL Audio CleanSweep.
Robert: Ah. A little magic box. How's it work? What's it do?
Ken: Yep, that's your black box, all right. The CleanSweep takes the sound that's coming from the factory stereo, and makes a flat signal. Flat doesn't really sound that good, but what we mean by that is that it takes out all the peaks and valleys that the factory radio has in there to compensate for bad speakers, and gives you a pure sound you can send back to the amplifiers.
Robert: All right, and how difficult is installation? I see it's tucked away over here.
Ken: Yeah, here it is installed. There's only a few things you really have to do. You have to get output for the factory radio — these are the speaker wire outputs, they're just hooked into here — and the output comes through out of these RCA cables and goes back to the amplifier. And power, ground, it's just tapped off the back of the factory radio.
Robert: So it's all connected to the factory stereo's outputs; it's not actually interfering with anything the factory stereo is doing, it's just taking the sound that comes out of it and cleaning that up.
Ken: Exactly. Like Lex said, he's getting aftermarket sound from a factory radio and it's not interfering with any other electronics in the car.
Robert: Great. And what about setup, was that difficult?
Ken: Setup was easy, thanks to this. JL Audio provides a disc. Once you set up — put everything together, you put the disc in, the CleanSweep analyze what it hears, sets it up, you don't have to touch a switch.
Robert: All right, sounds pretty simple.
Ken: Lex said that was the easiest part of the whole process.
Robert: That's good to hear.