An upgraded stereo makes it feel like she has a whole new car
In the 1950's, I'd take the family television's vacuum tubes down to Willow Grove Radio and TV Repair, check them with the giant tester machine, buy new replacement tubes, and reassemble the repaired television, so my mom and dad could enjoy their precious, respectively, Dean Martin and Red Skelton shows. In the 1960's, I studied radio and electronics at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. After college, in the early 70's, I joined a rock 'n roll band as the soundman, learning how to operate the electronics that make music sound good. Then, I worked in a music store in Austin manufacturing, installing, repairing, and operating sound systems and components for recording studios, nightclubs, and touring bands. I moved back to Charlottesville permanently in 1984 and opened a little demo recording studio. I also attempted to put to practical use the creative writing degree I had picked up along the way. In 2006, I finally came to my senses and got this job at Crutchfield where they actually pay me to ramble on, rant, and explain the things I love about music, electronics, and getting good sound.
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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.
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:
Kenwood Excelon silk dome tweeters, part of the component set, produce stunning realism with smooth high notes that are crisp, but never shrill.
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.
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.
The family minivan — a 2005 Toyota Sienna