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Why does my new head unit sound so bad?


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#1 of 22 OFFLINE   Todd Stout

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Posted August 11 2007 - 04:24 PM

I installed my brand new Alpine CDA-9885 yesterday afternoon in my 2001 Toyota Tacoma but I didn't have enough time to install my new Infinity Reference series speakers (6810cs components for the doors and 6812cf coaxials for the X-Tra Cab). I've been driving around the past day or so with the Alpine connected to the cheap factory speakers and it sounds pretty bad to me. There is almost no bass and the midrange is really harsh. It almost sounds like there is some sort of crossover cutting off the low frequencies but I have the subwoofer set to "off" in the setup menu. Turning the loudness function "on" makes things a lot worse with a little more bass but a lot more midrange harshness.

The factory head unit sounded a lot better when connected the the factory speakers but I'm not sure why. The sound was a lot more balanced with at least some low end and no hint of harhsness to the midrange.

Do I have my new Alpine set up incorrectly or does it just not like my cheap factory speakers? I'm guessing things will improve once I get my Infinitys in place but I'd think the Alpine would make even the cheap factory speakers sound better. Why does this thing sound so anemic? What do you guys think?

#2 of 22 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted August 12 2007 - 12:26 AM

The factory HU may have had some built in EQ to compensate for the speakers and setup of your car. You have removed that with the new HU. Rockford Fosgate, Alpine and others now have black boxes that can simulate this EQ or even make it sound better. But they aren't cheap. Also, don't use Loud or any other bass boost without knowing what it is doing to your system. Elemental Designs has a great video tutorial on what bass boost does to your system. They show how a little boost will clip your signal a lot.

Add your speakers and see how that improves the sound. An EQ and RTA session may be necessary.

-Robert

#3 of 22 OFFLINE   Todd Stout

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Posted August 12 2007 - 07:18 AM

I had a feeling there was some sort of equalization going on but it's amazing just how different my Alpine sounds. If it doesn't get too hot today I'm going to install the Infinity speakers I have for my doors and see how different they sound over the cheap factory paper models.

After hearing how bad things sound with the loudness engaged on this head unit I don't think I'd ever use it. It really sounds bad. I had a Pioneer head unit back in the 90s that had a loudness that wasn't too bad at lower volume levels but this Alpine's is certainly a much different circuit.

I plan on buying an amplifier (or two) and a pair of 8" subwoofers (probably Image Dynamics ID8s) in the very near future so things should start sounding a lot better soon.

#4 of 22 OFFLINE   Todd Stout

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Posted August 12 2007 - 03:03 PM

I guess I'll have to wait until next weekend to find out what my new speakers really sound like. I pulled one of my door panels off and the new Infinity wouldn't quite fit in the plastic speaker mounting plate. The metal basket around the woofer was just a bit beefier than the factory 5x7" speaker. It looks like a few trims to that plastic mounting plate will allow my new speaker will fit.

I did connect one of the coaxial speakers I have (that will eventually reside in my X-Tra Cab) temporarily and it does sound like quite an improvement over the stock speaker.

#5 of 22 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted August 14 2007 - 12:57 AM

Rather than trim the plastic, create a new baffle from MDF. That's pretty much the standard practice when upgrading speakers.

-Robert

#6 of 22 OFFLINE   Todd Stout

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Posted August 15 2007 - 08:15 AM

I guess I could do that. I'm not really sure where to start however. What I have now looks similar to this only it was designed for a 5x7 speaker and the opening for the speaker sticks out about 3/4 of an inch. I guess I could use some thinner MDF to make the backing plate and then make a ring out of some 3/4" MDF. Here is an exploded view of my door. Mine is the version with power windows and door locks.

Can you point me to any photos or tutorials that show how these things are designed and built?

Thanks.

#7 of 22 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted August 15 2007 - 11:31 AM

Some examples here and here. Just trace the shape and mounting holes of the original onto a piece of MDF or hardboard and go from there. Doing custom work on a car install takes a little imagination to get things to fit sometimes.

-Robert

#8 of 22 OFFLINE   Todd Stout

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Posted August 15 2007 - 02:14 PM

Thanks for the links Robert. What I was picturing for my doors is something sort of like the Scion xB baffles.

I called Crutchfield (which is where my Alpine CDA-9885 came from) and asked the person who answered if he had heard of anyone not liking the sound of an aftermarket head unit with their stock speakers. He told me that he had never heard of such a thing but didn't seem surprised. He did tell me that I still have a few more weeks to exchange the head unit if there is something wrong with it. I told him I was going to get the Infinitys installed this weekend and see what that does for the sound quality first.

On a side note I found an Arc Audio dealer about 10 minutes from where I work. Their new KAR series looks pretty nice. I'm thinking about picking up the new KAR 300.4 and using the front two channels for my door speakers and then bridging the rear channels and using that for the subs. I'll probably just leave the rear coaxials connected to the head unit. Of course I could pick up the forthcoming KAR 900.6 and have more power than I know what to do with. I'm guessing the 300.4 will be plenty for my Infinitys and a couple of 8" subwoofers.

#9 of 22 OFFLINE   Jason Kirkpatri

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Posted August 15 2007 - 02:20 PM

The MDF trick does work (I had to do the same on my front door speakers). Just be aware that this will make the interior trim a tighter fit when you go to pop back on the door panels. 3/4" sounds doable, but it might be a tight fit.

A jigsaw will make this a 10 minute job for a quick test to see if your door can handle the extra thickness of your MDF speaker ring.

#10 of 22 OFFLINE   Todd Stout

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Posted August 20 2007 - 01:17 PM

Well, I got the rear speakers installed yesterday but ran out of time so the door speakers will have to wait until next weekend. I must say that the Infinitys sound MUCH better than the crappy OEM speakers that I pulled out of there. I faded the Alpine towards the rear and actually heard some bass coming from my new speakers (which seems to be increasing slightly as they break in). The midrange has mellowed out considerbly and there is actually some detail in the high frequencies now.

Next weekend can't get here soon enough. I really want my door speakers installed now!

#11 of 22 OFFLINE   Todd Stout

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Posted August 27 2007 - 03:47 PM

I got my front component speakers installed over the weekend and I'm really underwhelmed with the results. The sound of my system is very hollow and seriously lacking in any sort of bass from the front stage. The rear speakers do put out a little bass but it pretty much gets lost when the front speakers are active. I realize that I'm not running a subwoofer (or subwoofers) yet but I would think that an Alpine CDA-9885 connected to a set of Infinity Reference speakers would sound a lot better than they do at the moment.

The woofers for the componets are sitting in the stock plastic mounting plates down low in the doors (they fit with some modification with a Dremel) and the tweeters are in the stock location higher up in the doors. The cheap factory speakers didn't sound this hollow or lacking in bass when connected to the OEM head unit so I'm really at a loss at the moment. Granted the Infinity speakers sound better than the factory speakers with the Alpine but I was expecting better sound than what I am getting with this set up.

Any ideas as to what the problem is? Will using Dynamat (or a similar product) in my doors help? Will adding an amp and a subwoofer or two help? Are these Infinity Reference speakers designed to sound this hollow and lacking in bass? Is my Alpine perhaps defective? Did I maybe install something wrong? I still plan on adding an amplifier and a subwoofer or two but I'd like to figure out where the weak link is before I toss more money at this.

#12 of 22 OFFLINE   Marty M

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Posted January 19 2008 - 03:24 AM

I recently installed the Alpine 9883 in my 97 Camry, with only the factory speakers. I am very happy with the sound. This is the third Alpine I have installed in the car and everyone has sounded very good with just the factory speakers. This unit also controls my iPod very nicely, as well.
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#13 of 22 OFFLINE   Buckethead78

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Posted January 27 2008 - 06:16 AM

I had an Alpine H/U which currently resides in my Wife's xB. I was very impressed with the sound when I had it installed in my Si with factory speakers.

Check your user manual for the EQ settings. Alpine has a few proprietary settings that will definitely help out your speakers (besides the basic bass and treble).

#14 of 22 OFFLINE   GregC

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Posted August 21 2008 - 02:26 PM

Try hooking up the rear speaker output to the front speakers. If you get nice sound than it is probably faulty front channels and you will need to get a new head unit. If you connect the front channels to the rear speakers and they sound fine .... well, maybe there is a speaker wire problem in the front channels? It could also be the settings for the front channels ... check them out.

Anyway, good luck finding the problem.

#15 of 22 OFFLINE   penchuin

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Posted August 22 2008 - 09:11 PM

There might be a problem in the speaker wire. So please check it out first.

#16 of 22 OFFLINE   Brandy S

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Posted September 07 2008 - 10:28 AM

You are running the new speakers off of the Alpine head unit correct?
You won't get much good sound without an external amp, as your HU isn't going to put out more than 10-15 clean watts per channel, and it's definitely not enough for Infinitys. They are probably less efficient than your factory speakers, and need more power to really sound good.

Cliffnotes: you're running out of juice.

#17 of 22 OFFLINE   atoprak

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Posted November 18 2008 - 11:06 PM

Hi Todd,

This is typically a setup problem.
Please check the speaker connections are proper. The positive and negative plugs are too important dont confuse them.

If you confuse them, the sound becomes as you have described above.

#18 of 22 OFFLINE   sdguy55

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Posted November 19 2008 - 04:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by atoprak
Hi Todd,

This is typically a setup problem.
Please check the speaker connections are proper. The positive and negative plugs are too important dont confuse them.

If you confuse them, the sound becomes as you have described above.
First off im going to say that Alpines are a VERY reputable brand when it comes to HU's. So the problem isnt your HU. Now your problem not going to like this...but the problem is your Infinity speakers. Infinitys have a really harsh top end and very lil mid-bass and basically zero bass. No amount of dynamat will solve this. And when you hook it up to your amp they are just going to sound worse. Now i do believe in whats sounds best to your ears you should get but just remember that when demoing speakers on a sound board they sound NOTHING like they will in your car.
If i could make a suggestion i would get rid of the infinitys and pick up a diff pair of speakers. If you are interested in a different brand some top of line names in car audio are Dynaudio, CDT, Focal, Alpine (the Type-X series) just to name a few. If you have any questions you can pm me but i would suggest just starting over with the speakers.

#19 of 22 OFFLINE   atoprak

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Posted November 19 2008 - 05:31 AM

sdguy55;


I don't agree that the infinities are that bad. May be they are not on the same level like Focal, Dynadio, or MB Quart but they are generally smooth and clean sounding speakers.

I am sure that there is something wrong on wiring or general setup of the system.

#20 of 22 OFFLINE   sdguy55

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Posted November 19 2008 - 01:49 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by atoprak
sdguy55;


I don't agree that the infinities are that bad. May be they are not on the same level like Focal, Dynadio, or MB Quart but they are generally smooth and clean sounding speakers.

I am sure that there is something wrong on wiring or general setup of the system.
They might be when it comes to home audio (i am newer to this but i am by no means new to car audio) but in car audio i have repeatedly heard from many different people, many that have heard many, many, many different setups that they are this exact way. Even when comparing Infinity's to Alpines (which arent bad, more middle of the road) you can tell a difference on a soundboard.
To the OP i would audition some more speakers. What is your budget?





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