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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So, I know that this sound of the engine on a great day is like music, but it's not music and I really need good music. I was pretty unhappy with both of the stock options so I decided to spend a few bucks on a stereo upgrade from my non-Bose setup.

Most of this could've been DIY'd but frankly I'm in the middle of a big DIY wiring project at work and I'm sick of it. Add that to the fact that I live in NYC and have nowhere to work on my car and an 8 hour tear down and rebuild is a challenge.

Basically we swapped out the four speakers, added a nice amp, and a dsp box to flatten out the frequency response of the system.

From the head unit first the is the JL audio Fix82 which is a dsp box that flattens and time aligns the speakers. Basically, you tune it by sending a series of tones through the system and the tuning software listens and corrects the equalization to deliver as flat a response curve as it can. It also time aligns the speakers which has a huge effect on overall reproduction by in part, largely eliminating phase issues.

Then we go into a nice but not crazy expensive Alpine amp, (I've got to grab that model number and fill it in here).

Finally we replaced the speakers with Alpine SPR60's bi-amped to a pair of Alpine x series tweeter and crossovers. The speakers fit easily in the stock locations. The tweeters have a slightly rounder profile but they look like they belong there.

We also covered the interior of the door with dynamat to defeat most of the resonance from the open area behind the trim panel.

I left the headrest speakers alone (so far) because for me they mostly handle phone calls anyway.

The results are great. I can now drive with the top down with the stereo at about half way up the volume bar and hear really well. There is a reasonable amount of mid bass and the highs are much improved without any of the ice pick in you ears harshness of the stock system once you turn it up. The soundstage in accurate and the overall quality is really excellent. I'd hesitate to say that "this is the way it should've come from the factory" because frankly this is a much better system than most factory offerings on reasonably priced cars. I'm pretty fussy about sound...

That said, I think I could still add annother level of EQ (sooner) to get a bit more preference tuning and possibly some 8" subs behind the seats (later) but I'm really happy with the upgrade now so I'm gonna live with it for a while first.

The parts were about $1100 and labor in NYC is about $175/hr which may sound high but these guys are pros and they took great care of my car. I trust their work. Everything is hidden and there is really no way to tell unless you look at the tweeters or turn it on!

i can't wait for the weekend!

Steve
 

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When you're ready to take it a step further, start looking at a DSP with crossover capability. That will allow you to scrap the passive crossovers and lift the sound stage by measuring 3rd order harmonic distortion to cross the tweeters as low as possible. With some very robust tweeters like the Seas Prestige on a 48db/octave crossover, you can cross comfortably into the 1800-2000hz range.

I'm personally a huge fan of the miniDSP series. While they don't offer automatic tuning like some of the mobile audio branded products do, they do offer far greater tuning power with custom crossover points and slopes, and also offer parametric equalization, which is far more powerful than the 30-band graphic equalizer built into the JL unit you purchased. The only caveat is that you need a measurement microphone, laptop, and software to use one, but the results are in another league altogether.

By having a DSP that can control crossovers, you also achieve time alignment between tweeters and midbass drivers instead of just between left and right channels, which is something you don't currently have. This significantly clears up the crossover range, which can otherwise be a bit muddy.

Overall, you did better than the overwhelming majority of people I see go into a car audio shop and just slap some compos in their doors and sills, and run an amp.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks. I agree about the dsp crossovers. Funnily, the passive crossover points seem to be pretty good so far but there is still smearing in the high mids/highs and more alignment would definitely help. I'm thinking about trying the next part of the JL chain with their TwK unit which does offer crossover dsp and higher end eq choices including a parametric, not sure how many bands though. Or I might try some other processor choices.

I'm pretty familiar with audio processing and do have a laptop to run tuning software so that may happen soone than I thought... :)

Steve
 

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Thanks. I agree about the dsp crossovers. Funnily, the passive crossover points seem to be pretty good so far but there is still smearing in the high mids/highs and more alignment would definitely help. I'm thinking about trying the next part of the JL chain with their TwK unit which does offer crossover dsp and higher end eq choices including a parametric, not sure how many bands though. Or I might try some other processor choices.

I'm pretty familiar with audio processing and do have a laptop to run tuning software so that may happen soone than I thought... :)

Steve
As a big of background, I design home speakers as a hobby and have tuned my fair share of mobile audio systems that have dropped jaws for less money than you spent. It's all in the tuning. For $125, the miniDSP offers more power than anything at even 3x that price point can with a mobile audio label on it. The smearing the high mids and highs is exactly where your crossover region is.

Unless you are dead set on mobile audio brands, I can help you find some "raw' audio drivers that will greatly outperform mobile audio parts for a fraction of the cost. Drivers like the ScanSpeak Revelator, for example.

Mobile audio companies won't spend the money required to steepen the crossover slopes on their drivers, so you end up with a shallow slope and a high crossover point. If you can get a steep crossover slope like a 36db/octave or 48db/octave (what I use in the Cruze), you can cross super low and lift the sound stage to where it almost competes with a 3-way system. The results are very impressive if you use a robust tweeter. I have a pair of CSS LD25x tweeters that may find their way into my Abarth 124 Spider. These are now discontinued but have a super high 1.85mm excursion with a crazy 3.1mm xlim, an XLB motor structure (rare for a tweeter), a neo motor, and an extremely smooth response. I can probably dig those down to 1500hz with a steep slope, maybe lower. I'll have to see what my harmonic distortion measurements show.

Take a hard look at the miniDSP 2x4. You'll find that it does everything more expensive mobile audio DSPs do, for a fraction of the price. 36 bands of parametric EQ (including shelf filters, which are useful on pillar-mounted tweeters), time alignment, crossover slopes up to 48db/octave with both high and low pass filter options for each driver (good for crossing the midbass over to a sub), and even custom programmable filters.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for that. I'd be happy to look anywhere for solutions and your input is greatly appreciated.

As a bit of my background, I'm a sound designer and recording engineer for Music/TV/Film by trade and I own a post facility and recording studio in NYC. We've got some pretty good awards and credits :)

This is a work in progress for me so I'll definitely be updating the system and I'm always looking for a better way. My problem with the products that are not specifically made for cars is usually the power requirement. Granted, I have not done this in a long time but back when I did I seem to remember the hardest part for me was finding and tapping power and add to that the different power requirements of products designed to plug into the wall and I'm not sure I'm qualified to dig into that. I'm guessing that has changed a bit by now though but I'd definitely have to do some research.

Steve
 

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Thanks for that. I'd be happy to look anywhere for solutions and your input is greatly appreciated.

As a bit of my background, I'm a sound designer and recording engineer for Music/TV/Film by trade and I own a post facility and recording studio in NYC. We've got some pretty good awards and credits :)

This is a work in progress for me so I'll definitely be updating the system and I'm always looking for a better way. My problem with the products that are not specifically made for cars is usually the power requirement. Granted, I have not done this in a long time but back when I did I seem to remember the hardest part for me was finding and tapping power and add to that the different power requirements of products designed to plug into the wall and I'm not sure I'm qualified to dig into that. I'm guessing that has changed a bit by now though but I'd definitely have to do some research.

Steve
The miniDSP is powered by a 12V source and is perfectly suited for autosound applications. In fact, there is even a miniDC isolator you can purchase for $12 for autosound applications, which not only cleans up the power source but also delays sending the remote power signal the amplifiers for 3 seconds after it receives power in order to allow the miniDSP time to boot up. It's a very robust DSP.
 

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Now that sounds like a good amount of work that got done and from what I can try and translate through text, it sounds like you're really happy and that's the main thing! Would have loved to see some photos of the process and tear down. Sounds like a fun time haha!
 

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I am glad I read this post because I thought I was crazy. The 'ice pick in you ears harshness of the stock system' is something that really bothers my ears. I started wearing noise cancelling ear buds plugged into my iPhone and I am very satisfied except it cuts out the high RPM engine noise so I miss a few shifts now and then.
 

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Thanks for that. I'd be happy to look anywhere for solutions and your input is greatly appreciated.

As a bit of my background, I'm a sound designer and recording engineer for Music/TV/Film by trade and I own a post facility and recording studio in NYC. We've got some pretty good awards and credits :)

This is a work in progress for me so I'll definitely be updating the system and I'm always looking for a better way. My problem with the products that are not specifically made for cars is usually the power requirement. Granted, I have not done this in a long time but back when I did I seem to remember the hardest part for me was finding and tapping power and add to that the different power requirements of products designed to plug into the wall and I'm not sure I'm qualified to dig into that. I'm guessing that has changed a bit by now though but I'd definitely have to do some research.

Steve
The miniDSP is powered by a 12V source and is perfectly suited for autosound applications. In fact, there is even a miniDC isolator you can purchase for $12 for autosound applications, which not only cleans up the power source but also delays sending the remote power signal the amplifiers for 3 seconds after it receives power in order to allow the miniDSP time to boot up. It's a very robust DSP.
I haven't the single foggiest idea what the heck you two are saying, but the end result sounds (or rather reads) fantastic. XR, and I sensing another "how-to" thread on audio system upgrades for the Spider? I prefer the lower profile look of my base radio system above the dash compared to the upgraded audio package, but to achieve the sound output that you two are talking about would be great. I don't know if I could trust a local car audio shop to perform this work to get these results without them just snowballing me with expensive stuff that doesn't preform as advertised. Maybe if I at least had a detailed grocery list of components, that could get me in the right direction.

Steve.
 

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I haven't the single foggiest idea what the heck you two are saying, but the end result sounds (or rather reads) fantastic. XR, and I sensing another "how-to" thread on audio system upgrades for the Spider? I prefer the lower profile look of my base radio system above the dash compared to the upgraded audio package, but to achieve the sound output that you two are talking about would be great. I don't know if I could trust a local car audio shop to perform this work to get these results without them just snowballing me with expensive stuff that doesn't preform as advertised. Maybe if I at least had a detailed grocery list of components, that could get me in the right direction.

Steve.
You just opened up not a can of worms, but a 55 gallon drum of them.

One of my hobby specialties is audio, both home and mobile. I have more fun in home audio as I have more control over positioning and the environment, and woodworking is a joy in itself. That said, I can be convinced to put some effort into mobile audio.

In my Cruze, I was the first to run not one, but two 18" subwoofers. The reason was to duplicate the sensation of being in the front row of a rock concert, and I used pro audio Peavey "Black Widow" Low Rider subs to achieve that effect successfully. I've been invited to DIY home audio events to show off the car sound system because nobody had seen something like that done before. Once all was said and done, I still retained 75% of my trunk space.

The key is being able to use raw audio drivers that don't have a mobile audio brand name. If you know what you're looking at, this affords you world class quality drivers for a fraction of the price you'd pay for something branded by Focal, Morel, HAT, or Hertz. Since any proper audio install utilizes an active crossover for the front speakers, the lack of passive crossovers in raw audio drivers over mobile audio components isn't an issue.

On the CruzeTalk.com forums a few years back, I had concluded that people were getting hosed on mobile audio install prices and were getting sub-par results. This is to be expected by an industry that overwhelmingly solves problems by throwing more expensive parts at it. As a result, I provided a list of front stage components (tweeters and door speakers) for both a high value and mid range price point. I personally tuned those speakers on a mini-DSP with my measurement microphone and adjusted the equalizer settings and time alignment to produce a neutral frequency response on those drivers and address the anomalies of that specific cabin. The best part of it all is, I published the tunes for both of those driver combinations, so anyone could simply mount the drivers, upload the tune to their miniDSP, fine-tune the gains, and achieve the same results I had spent many hours designing without the need for a miniDSP or complex knowledge of how to read frequency response charts or take 3rd order harmonic distortion measurements. The most impressive part of this is that the entire configuration was completely stealth; one could not tell, even with a trained eye, that any work was done to the car. The factory head unit was utilized, speakers utilized factory locations without modifying the surfaces, and amplifiers were tucked away.

I hadn't yet planned on touching the audio system on the 124 Spider, but I could be convinced to do the same for this platform. I have the wiring needed, I have super compact amplifiers, and I have a spare miniDSP to tune with. If I do end up making a DIY for this, it will not be short.

Have a look at what I did over on CruzeTalk.com. If there's enough interest in me doing the same thing here, I might start designing a system for this car as well.

http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/36-gen1-audio-electronics/11204-sq-car-audio-thread-v2.html
 

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Uhhh...

I, uhhh... I'm in shock. Like I opened the rear door on a dock truck and 10 tons of worms fell onto me.

Not quite the Pioneer AM/FM/cassette deck of my youth. Wow. I'm afraid to say I'm interested.

I know lots of folks are really jazzed by this kind of stuff and I respect that, but this is so far beyond my capability... To achieve what I just peeked at, I would need a system that is fully designed and pre-built, stuck into a cardboard box along with written step by step Spider specific instructions, with complementing photos, sent to me with a big ribbon tied around it. I'll admit my unwillingness and inability to become an audio/electrical engineer to get better sounding music from my car. If your system were designed, as you've outlined it, to be plug and play, well, maybe that is different.

Then there is the whole matter of the top being down, traveling at high speeds, etc. Concert hall quality in a hardtop, yes. But is that realistic in a ragtop?

Steve.
 

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Uhhh...

I, uhhh... I'm in shock. Like I opened the rear door on a dock truck and 10 tons of worms fell onto me.

Not quite the Pioneer AM/FM/cassette deck of my youth. Wow. I'm afraid to say I'm interested.

I know lots of folks are really jazzed by this kind of stuff and I respect that, but this is so far beyond my capability... To achieve what I just peeked at, I would need a system that is fully designed and pre-built, stuck into a cardboard box along with written step by step Spider specific instructions, with complementing photos, sent to me with a big ribbon tied around it. I'll admit my unwillingness and inability to become an audio/electrical engineer to get better sounding music from my car. If your system were designed, as you've outlined it, to be plug and play, well, maybe that is different.

Then there is the whole matter of the top being down, traveling at high speeds, etc. Concert hall quality in a hardtop, yes. But is that realistic in a ragtop?

Steve.
The hard work is the design and tuning. Once someone has all that work done for you, all that's left to do is plug everything in. There is a small learning curve required for installation and for adjusting gains on the amplifier, but that's to be expected for even the most basic mobile audio installs. You can't really get around that unless everyone uses exactly the same equipment. Most people have their own preference on amplifiers though.

You can't get concert hall sound quality even in a hardtop. You can make significant progress, but the car is such an imperfect listening environment. The benefit to it is you are able to get sound quality that, whether the top is up or down, provides you a remarkable level of clarity and tonal accuracy at both low and high volumes without the listening fatigue usually accompanied by loud music. The improvements exist in both environments.
 

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Uhhh...

I, uhhh... I'm in shock. Like I opened the rear door on a dock truck and 10 tons of worms fell onto me.

Not quite the Pioneer AM/FM/cassette deck of my youth. Wow. I'm afraid to say I'm interested.

I know lots of folks are really jazzed by this kind of stuff and I respect that, but this is so far beyond my capability... To achieve what I just peeked at, I would need a system that is fully designed and pre-built, stuck into a cardboard box along with written step by step Spider specific instructions, with complementing photos, sent to me with a big ribbon tied around it. I'll admit my unwillingness and inability to become an audio/electrical engineer to get better sounding music from my car. If your system were designed, as you've outlined it, to be plug and play, well, maybe that is different.

Then there is the whole matter of the top being down, traveling at high speeds, etc. Concert hall quality in a hardtop, yes. But is that realistic in a ragtop?

Steve.
I have some good connections in the industry. Say I were to develop a plug-n-play solution, with a T-harness that connects to the back of the radio into an enclosed unit that manages all of the DSP processing capabilities, which means no splicing, cutting, or permanent modifications. Say this kit included amplifiers, tweeters, and door speakers with brackets, and was precision tuned for a neutral sound by myself to maximize sound stage, using world-class drivers that compete with some of the best mobile audio has to offer, in a completely stealth install that adds a minimal amount of weight.

So, we're talking front tweeters and door speakers, brackets, an all-in-one plug-n-play DSP unit that connects to the back of the factory radio, perfectly tuned for optimal sound stage, time alignment, and the specific anomalies of the 124 Spider/ND Miata's cabin, including amplifiers and wiring. How much would you pay for such a kit, knowing all of the tuning work is already done for your specific car, and you don't need to make any modifications of your own?
 

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XR- Out of respect for your time, pocketbook, and the need to make a living, I'm not sure how much I'd have to offer, knowing that it is the right price (i.e. guilt free knowing I paid you right/honestly) for such a setup, but that it would quite likely be outside my reality to spend, unfortunately. (I'm not one to low-ball a guy who is doing the right thing the right way the first time. If someone does right by me, it's reflected in the compensation/barter I give back. It's a pride thing, I guess.) Not to mention the shock value to the household keeper of the books. (I'm sure she would love the results, though.) I have no doubt that you'd design and assemble a great configuration, one that you'd be proud to install in your own car and be happy with. I'm betting it would be too much coin for me. I think I saw a dollar figure in that Cruze thread you linked, so I'm using that as a basis for my thoughts here.

If I may spin it around, if you were to take time to design, itemize, assemble, and tune such a system, ready to ship, what sort of ballpark would you be in for pricing? (Honestly, I'm clueless, but I'm confident it would be serious money. As it rightly should be.)

Steve.
 

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XR- Out of respect for your time, pocketbook, and the need to make a living, I'm not sure how much I'd have to offer, knowing that it is the right price (i.e. guilt free knowing I paid you right/honestly) for such a setup, but that it would quite likely be outside my reality to spend, unfortunately. (I'm not one to low-ball a guy who is doing the right thing the right way the first time. If someone does right by me, it's reflected in the compensation/barter I give back. It's a pride thing, I guess.) Not to mention the shock value to the household keeper of the books. (I'm sure she would love the results, though.) I have no doubt that you'd design and assemble a great configuration, one that you'd be proud to install in your own car and be happy with. I'm betting it would be too much coin for me. I think I saw a dollar figure in that Cruze thread you linked, so I'm using that as a basis for my thoughts here.

If I may spin it around, if you were to take time to design, itemize, assemble, and tune such a system, ready to ship, what sort of ballpark would you be in for pricing? (Honestly, I'm clueless, but I'm confident it would be serious money. As it rightly should be.)

Steve.
I'm already committed to paying $1400 to an audio place and I'm getting much less than that - just sound deadening in the doors, an amp and two new speakers...
Thanks for that reply.

The reality is that mobile audio is expensive unless you do it yourself (tuning included). Good tuning, which involves precision measurements and a capable DSP, is more expensive still. I heard of one guy charging $300 an hour to do it, and he would go around to shops in his area and tune cars.

For something like this, I would probably charge $1,500-$2,000 and would make it available to both 124 Spider and ND Miata owners. To get something comparable from a mobile audio shop, you'd easily spend double and would not get the same quality components. Once you throw a capable, fully active DSP into the mix, you enter a totally different league of mobile audio usually reserved for SQ competitors or people with deep pockets.

To put that into perspective, my solution would probably utilize factory wiring for the speakers, so all that would be required would be to run a power wire, a T-harness to the back of the radio, and replace door/pillar drivers. It would include integrated amplification, which would provide a solid 400W RMS of power, in a compact aluminum package. I've actually run through the requirements for such a product and as long as I could source a molex T-harness for the factory radio or BOSE amplifier, I could make it happen. Factory integration is always the most difficult part. I have access to high-efficiency Class-D compact amplifier circuitry, and could have an aluminum enclosure designed in AutoCAD to house all of the components and have it CNC machined specifically for this platform. Heck, I could even throw the 124 Spider logo on it.

As with most things though, there's no point in making a product if the market isn't there.
 

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XR- as I feared, I'm priced out of the market. You'll be the first to know if I win the lottery, though!

Thanks,
Steve.
 

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Thanks for that reply.

The reality is that mobile audio is expensive unless you do it yourself (tuning included). Good tuning, which involves precision measurements and a capable DSP, is more expensive still. I heard of one guy charging $300 an hour to do it, and he would go around to shops in his area and tune cars.

For something like this, I would probably charge $1,500-$2,000 and would make it available to both 124 Spider and ND Miata owners. To get something comparable from a mobile audio shop, you'd easily spend double and would not get the same quality components. Once you throw a capable, fully active DSP into the mix, you enter a totally different league of mobile audio usually reserved for SQ competitors or people with deep pockets.

To put that into perspective, my solution would probably utilize factory wiring for the speakers, so all that would be required would be to run a power wire, a T-harness to the back of the radio, and replace door/pillar drivers. It would include integrated amplification, which would provide a solid 400W RMS of power, in a compact aluminum package. I've actually run through the requirements for such a product and as long as I could source a molex T-harness for the factory radio or BOSE amplifier, I could make it happen. Factory integration is always the most difficult part. I have access to high-efficiency Class-D compact amplifier circuitry, and could have an aluminum enclosure designed in AutoCAD to house all of the components and have it CNC machined specifically for this platform. Heck, I could even throw the 124 Spider logo on it.

As with most things though, there's no point in making a product if the market isn't there.
I'd pay $1,500 but I'm an audio fanatic. Example - I still use my Linn Sondek turntable at home. :)
 

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Hi XR, My first post. I think the price is in the ballpark

Thanks for that reply.

The reality is that mobile audio is expensive unless you do it yourself (tuning included). Good tuning, which involves precision measurements and a capable DSP, is more expensive still. I heard of one guy charging $300 an hour to do it, and he would go around to shops in his area and tune cars.

For something like this, I would probably charge $1,500-$2,000 and would make it available to both 124 Spider and ND Miata owners. To get something comparable from a mobile audio shop, you'd easily spend double and would not get the same quality components. Once you throw a capable, fully active DSP into the mix, you enter a totally different league of mobile audio usually reserved for SQ competitors or people with deep pockets.

To put that into perspective, my solution would probably utilize factory wiring for the speakers, so all that would be required would be to run a power wire, a T-harness to the back of the radio, and replace door/pillar drivers. It would include integrated amplification, which would provide a solid 400W RMS of power, in a compact aluminum package. I've actually run through the requirements for such a product and as long as I could source a molex T-harness for the factory radio or BOSE amplifier, I could make it happen. Factory integration is always the most difficult part. I have access to high-efficiency Class-D compact amplifier circuitry, and could have an aluminum enclosure designed in AutoCAD to house all of the components and have it CNC machined specifically for this platform. Heck, I could even throw the 124 Spider logo on it.

As with most things though, there's no point in making a product if the market isn't there.
I would like to see a napkin style wire diagram of the connections and placement of the added components. I also think you could make these units as piggy backs like the EC or Maddness tuning kits. with choice of speakers from low end to higher end.
That would give you a little room to move the pricing up or down.
Or make a low end Plug and Play and a higher priced PnP kit

Thanks
 

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I would like to see a napkin style wire diagram of the connections and placement of the added components. I also think you could make these units as piggy backs like the EC or Maddness tuning kits. with choice of speakers from low end to higher end.
That would give you a little room to move the pricing up or down.
Or make a low end Plug and Play and a higher priced PnP kit

Thanks
With some experience with mobile audio, you could guess what the wire diagram would be. Built in line out converter feeding into a miniDSP, feeding into compact class D amplifiers, powered by a built-in 36V inverter. Outside of the kit, you'd have a T-harness connecting to the back of the factory radio and an 8 gauge power cable coming from the battery into the unit. That's all you'd really need.

Speaker options won't make a consequential difference in price. A pair of Seas Prestige tweeters are $40 apiece and they compete with the likes of Focal and HAT for a fraction of the cost. If we go cheaper, it won't make a difference. Even if we run ScanSpeak Revelators in the doors, which are $125 apiece, we wouldn't save much money going to a lower cost option.

The price is not due to just component costs, it's due to the engineering time required to put it together, to tune it, and the cost to get a limited run of enclosures CNC cut so the whole package would look professional and could be assembled and serviced professionally. Do it right or don't do it at all.
 
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