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Old 11-01-2018   #1
 
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Default New Headunit vs Modifying factory unit

Hi, so I have a 2010 Vauxhall Insignia, I was looking to buy a new double dinn radio , cant post a link due to post count but it was a basic fm/am 4x50w kenwood double din for about 160gbp, had camera input but i dont have a reversing cam and had a screen too of course

but i looked around for the fascia plate, wheel control interface and harnesses and it was almost the same price as the radio, so I was thinking, would it better to just install a bluetooth module into my factory and run the factory hu through an amp maybe 4x50 or so and then maybe the money saved could go towards an active sub in the boot ?

I don't need aux or usb input as I used to only use bluetooth in my old car.

Its my first post so sorry if I got any of the standard post layout wrong!
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Old 11-01-2018   #2
 
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Default Re: New Headunit vs Modifying factory unit

Quote:
Originally Posted by ILikeMilk View Post
Hi, so I have a 2010 Vauxhall Insignia, I was looking to buy a new double dinn radio , cant post a link due to post count but it was a basic fm/am 4x50w kenwood double din for about 160gbp, had camera input but i dont have a reversing cam and had a screen too of course

but i looked around for the fascia plate, wheel control interface and harnesses and it was almost the same price as the radio, so I was thinking, would it better to just install a bluetooth module into my factory and run the factory hu through an amp maybe 4x50 or so and then maybe the money saved could go towards an active sub in the boot ?

I don't need aux or usb input as I used to only use bluetooth in my old car.

Its my first post so sorry if I got any of the standard post layout wrong!
It all depends on expectation.

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
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Old 11-02-2018   #3
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Default Re: New Headunit vs Modifying factory unit

I would say if you have a car that still allows you to swap to an aftermarket head unit, do it. I know factory head units have gotten better, but mostly its all the bell and whistles integrated into them that stops people from swapping out. I would believe in most cases head to head, an aftermarket head will sound better than a factory head unit before any type of processing. It is really about getting the cleanest signal down to processors or amps.
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Old 11-02-2018   #4
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Default Re: New Headunit vs Modifying factory unit

Quote:
Originally Posted by ILikeMilk View Post
Hi, so I have a 2010 Vauxhall Insignia, I was looking to buy a new double dinn radio , cant post a link due to post count but it was a basic fm/am 4x50w kenwood double din for about 160gbp, had camera input but i dont have a reversing cam and had a screen too of course.

but i looked around for the fascia plate, wheel control interface and harnesses and it was almost the same price as the radio, so I was thinking, would it better to just install a bluetooth module into my factory and run the factory hu through an amp maybe 4x50 or so and then maybe the money saved could go towards an active sub in the boot ?

I don't need aux or usb input as I used to only use bluetooth in my old car.

Its my first post so sorry if I got any of the standard post layout wrong!

Welcome to DIYMA.

If you will be completely happy just streaming music from your Smartphone or Tablet via BLUETOOTH, I would just buy an AMPLIFIER that has a Built-in BT Receiver. Kill two birds with one stone. DONE!

The link below is to all of the Bluetooth Streaming Amplifiers that are available at Crutchfield. The 5-Channel JBL GTR-7535 seems like one of the better options there with decent power and its included dash-mount remote with a built-in Microphone for hands-free BT calling capability.

It would power all of your front speakers and a decent subwoofer as well. But I could not find what Bluetooth version or audio codecs they are using, so it's unlikely that these use the higher quality Apt-X CSR streaming system.

Crutchfield JBL GTR-7535.html

Crutchfield - Bluetooth Streaming Car Audio Amplifiers

ZAPCO also has a line of BLUETOOTH Streaming Amplifiers.

Zapco ST-D BT series Amplifiers

I couldn't find any information on Zapco's website or in their downloadable user manuals that stated which version and type of Bluetooth they are using for these BT Streaming amps either. That makes me suspect that they are might not be APT-X capable, but you never know.

None of Apple's current iOS Smartphones or mobile devices support the Apt-X CSR protocol, while *most* current Android devices do. But Apple's current implementation of the Bluetooth AAC codec sounds very good...though still not quite as good as Apt-X.

And now there are Apt-X HD BT receivers that will provide Hi-Res streaming quality such as the small hockey puck one from Astell & Kern. Samsung's Galaxy S8/S8+ and S9/S9+ and Note 8 & 9 already have APT-X HD built-in. Actually, any Android device using Android 8.0 or higher support Apt-X & Apt-X HD.

You could also just install a separate BT Receiver as you mentioned, and wire that into your amplifier(s). I would search for a Bluetooth Receiver that is at least BT v4.2 which has all of the latest codecs & protocols just to be somewhat future-proof.

There are a plethora of very inexpensive, tiny, and lightweight BT Receivers on the market. Some offer both Analog RCA outputs as well as an Optical Digital Toslink output if you'll be using a DSP, etc. Some have a Coaxial Digital Output as well, or in lieu of the Toslink Optical output.

Many are internal battery powered and can also typically be powered by a simple microUSB cigarette lighter smartphone charger. However, some of these USB cig port chargers will introduce a lot of EMI/RF power switching noise & static.

You can buy inexpensive hardwired USB power supplies such as the "USBbuddy" which are tiny and can be mounted under/behind the dash. These are usually a bit better quality and less noisy compared to the standard cigarette lighter type.

I use an Arcam rBlink BT Receiver (no longer made) which has Apt-X, incredible range, a solid connection with no dropouts, and excellent SQ. The Arcam unit has a very strong, clean, low-noise analog output stage coming off of the DAC which is much better than most of the cheap, low pre-out voltage op-amp chips used on the inexpensive BT receivers.

One that is similar to the Arcam is the AudioEngine B1. If you have a high-end system that is very resolving, you will hear the difference, mostly in the form of a higher noise floor on the less expensive BT receivers. But in everyday typical listening while driving you are highly unlikely to hear the difference.

If going the BT Streaming route, I would definitely advise you to get a setup that is Apt-X enabled if your Smartphone supports it. IME it makes a noticeable difference in SQ.

Going with a BT Streaming setup leaves the USB or Lightning charging port free and available on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, so charging your device is never a problem. You will tend to want the Screen On a lot in this type of setup, and that drains the battery quickly.

Hope that helps.

Last edited by bbfoto; 11-02-2018 at 07:14 PM..
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Old 11-02-2018   #5
 
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Default Re: New Headunit vs Modifying factory unit

bbfoto covered everything.
I just want to bring my perspective from using a BT receiver, single din and wireless carplay.
having only the BT receiver was not fun because all you see on the radio display is AUX IN.
and will not resume the music,only the BT connection was automatic
having a single din was better ,music will resume but the display was not fun to read scrolling or not.
carplay wireless is the best, nice background picture ,nice interface is all I need.
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Old 11-03-2018   #6
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Default Re: New Headunit vs Modifying factory unit

Quote:
Originally Posted by cutienoua View Post
bbfoto covered everything.

I just want to bring my perspective from using a BT receiver, single din and wireless carplay.

having only the BT receiver was not fun because all you see on the radio display is AUX IN.

and will not resume the music, only the BT connection was automatic.

having a single din was better, music will resume but the display was not fun to read scrolling or not.

carplay wireless is the best, nice background picture, nice interface is all I need.
Good info. I definitely agree that it is great to have a good visual GUI for playback.

Yeah, if he just uses a separate BT Receiver into the AUX input on his factory HU, the OEM HU just acts as a "blank" front end with no GUI or playback controls.

In both of my examples above, he would be completely bypassing the Factory/OEM HU and would stream music via BT directly from his Smartphone or Tablet to either the BT Amplifier or a separate BT Receiver connected directly to an amplifier or DSP.

The Smartphone or Tablet would act as the DISPLAY and control playback, or in the case of a BT Amplifier, some of them have a front mounted display/playback control panel and some have a built-in mic for Hands-free BT calls.

But I guess I overlooked mentioning that he should put the money saved by not buying a new HU and the extra install accessories needed to mount it into purchasing a decent BT AMP that will make a larger impact overall for his speakers and/or a subwoofer.

Some of the newer Android smartphones and tablets allow you to Pair & Connect to Two BT Devices concurrently. And there is a BT Steering Wheel Control interface called the JoyCon EXR+ that allows you to control the Playback Functions & Volume of your Smartphone or Tablet via BT. However, it requires that you preconfigure the functions of each of the SWC buttons and program the interface via a Windows PC computer prior to installation.

I agree that installing an aftermarket HU with good BT built-in and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto would probably be a better option. But as he stated, the Dash Kit, Harnesses, & SWC interface etc that he would need for his vehicle to do so adds up to as much money or more than the HU itself. :/

If he was going to get an amplifier anyway to power his front/rear speakers and maybe a subwoofer as well, I still think that the simplest and most cost effective solution would be to get an amplifier with a built-in BT receiver.

I don't think he has mentioned what type of smartphone or device he is currently using as a BT streaming source?

There are so many options these days that it's "Horses for Courses".

Last edited by bbfoto; 11-03-2018 at 07:30 PM..
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Old 11-07-2018   #7
 
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Default Re: New Headunit vs Modifying factory unit

Sorry for the late reply, i was out of town, I'm currently using a samsung galaxy s7.

I looked at the crutchfield amps but the problem for me is that I'm in ireland and the import charges from america is quite high for my low end budget. Driving a 2L CDTI and being 20years old is quite expensive insurance wise.
Edit: I don't think they even ship to Ireland.

I was doing some research on my phone while I was travelling and I found an amp ( Kenwood KAC-PS404 500 Watt 4/3/2 Channel Bridgeable Performance Amplifier ) and an active sub ( FLI Underground FU12 ACTIVE 12" Enclosure ) that i was thinking of purchasing since I can get them from the UK.

I was also thinking about the bypassing of the factory hu by using a bluetooth amp and wouldnt that make my steering wheel controls virtually useless ? I think a better solution might be to wire a bluetooth chip into my factory hu. Maybe i could hook a remote up for the bluetooth and mount it near the wheel for control, since i wouldnt be able to change songs off the factory hu and would need to use my phone while driving, which i dont support!

Also, assuming someone else like my gf or mother maybe drives my vehicle and doesnt know how to set up the amp properly , wouldnt they just be driving in silence or is there an option to send the fm or am source to the same amp via speaker level or rc cables ?

also a wiring question - im thinking the wiring for the power might be something along the lines of
Battery-> 4awg wire-> 60a fuse-> 4awg->distribution block-> 8awg unfused ->amp
-> 8awg unfused -> sub amp
would that be ok? or should i run a 80a fuse at the battery and 2 60a fuses by the distribution block?

Thanks for the answers!

Last edited by ILikeMilk; 11-07-2018 at 10:37 AM..
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Old 11-07-2018   #8
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Default Re: New Headunit vs Modifying factory unit

I only provided the Crutchfield link to show you what might be available as far as Bluetooth amplifiers go. I didn't mean to suggest that you purchase through Crutchfield.

The Galaxy S7 has Apt-X Bluetooth, so I would try to get a Bluetooth receiver, amplifier, or head unit that has this capability. The SQ is much better than standard BT.

And I wouldn't discount having or using the USB input. Having all of your music files on an inexpensive removable thumbdrive is great. And most double-DIN head units have a decent interface for this. In addition, USB will always sound better than the same files played over Bluetooth, unless you are using crappy compressed files to start with.

Regarding your setup, although more expensive overall as you discovered, a good aftermarket head unit with all of the features that you want built-in, plus the necessary SWC interface, Dash Kit, etc, would be the simplest and best solution as far as ease of operation & all-around features, without being confusing for other drivers to operate. It will also most likely be much better as far as SQ is concerned when compared to the OEM head unit.

Some of the Bluetooth amplifiers that I suggested have the separate Controller/Display unit that you can mount up front, so that somewhat remedies the problem of losing your steering wheel controls. But that might be somewhat of a fugly set up for some people, or there may not be a good place to mount it. These are more of an option for people who cannot replace their OEM head unit due to it having other integrated vehicle controls, such as the AirCon & Heating, etc.

Regarding that FLI Underground 12" Active Subwoofer, reviews look mediocre at best from what I've seen. I would wait & save up your money for a decent trusted name brand such as the Alpine Type R 12" or a JBL GTO + maybe an inexpensive Rockford-Fosgate amp. I would always try to steer clear of the lesser known brands that don't have a long-term proven track record & reputation.

That 4-channel Kenwood amp looks decent, but I'd probably want something more in the 75-watt x 4 range. For some reason I've never been impressed with any of Kenwood's amps. But I haven't tried the newer X801-5 & XR901-5, but I'm told that they're much better than Kenwood's other amps...Quite Expensive though!

But a decent 5-Channel amp would be perfect for your setup. It would simplify wiring as well. We have a 5-channel amp available here called the NVX JAD900.5 that is excellent for the money...about $220 USD. I know that several other manufacturers have this same amp with their name on it that are probably available in the UK...PPI, Soundstream, Hertz, Polk, & Nakamichi.

As far as decent car audio gear, I think that it's much better to save up and "Buy Once & Cry Once", especially if you plan to keep the vehicle for any length of time. Start with as good of gear as you can afford, otherwise you'll find that the cheaper stuff probably will not satisfy you and you'll need to spend more money again.

I would really suggest to check the Classifieds & For Sale section of the UK car audio forums such as Talk Audio UK. Gents are ALWAYS upgrading or changing their gear and you're bound to score some good deals on better equipment than you could afford otherwise. This goes for power wire, RCA cables, distro blocks, battery terminals, etc.
Just make sure that the seller has been on the forums for several years and has a good reputation.

Regarding your proposed wiring, what you've outlined is pretty good, but whenever you Change Wire Size, the smaller wires need to be fused separately because they cannot handle the current that the larger wire can carry. The fuses in the amplifier are designed to protect the amp, and you need the fuses on the actual wires to protect the wire itself, and your car.

Make sure that whatever power wiring you buy is real OFC (entirely copper) and not CCA (copper clad Aluminum). Sometimes you really have to dig through the fine print to make sure.

If you can, I would run 4 gauge power wire the entire way, even splitting off from the distribution block (if your amplifiers will accept it).

If going with an aftermarket head unit, try to get one that has Front, Rear, & Subwoofer 4V RCA preouts. These will generally be better made and provide a cleaner, noise-free signal to any amplifiers that you add.

You could simply run your existing car speakers from the HU, and just by a true 350-500 Watt subwoofer amp, until you decide to upgrade later.

Are you just using the OEM factory speakers that are in the car now?

Hope that helps.

Last edited by bbfoto; 11-07-2018 at 05:29 PM..
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Old 11-07-2018   #9
 
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As far as I can tell, the oem headunit doesnt have the controls integrated into the radio but some buttons have a corner cut into the trimming, so because of the traction control button and parking sensor buttons, a universal or vauxhall specific fascia plate doesnt work for my model. And I can only find 1 company who makes a fascia plate for this model and its not cheap. The harness and steering wheel interface are also expensive since again, only one company seem to do it.

I'll try and find a bluetooth receiver with apt-x, the aux wire dangling around is driving me crazy.

See the main reason that I went with this sub and amp now rather than waiting is that the oem system is going to give me an aneurysm. I used to have a little hatchback with a pioneer hu and 2x 2 way pioneer components with 2 pioneer coaxials in the rear and the sound wasnt amazing by any means but its far superior than my current cars oem system. I drive multiple hour trips regularly so I kind of just wanted to get it done as soon as possible. I have absolutely no bass and the mids and highs are so shrill that i cant even turn it up without causing my ears to bleed.

The kenwood amp with the 4x75 range is because its currently going to stock speakers and when I do upgrade them, i'll probably be looking around the 75rms bracket as well price wise. I'm currently in college so there goes all my income!

The fli sub was the only non-ported sub box i could find in my range and my boot has one of those flimsy almost cardboard lids attached to the actual bootlid so i kinda need a sub box.

The entire system including the wiring kit, fused distro box and fuses comes out at roughly 300dollars with delivery so its quite cheap even for a starter system!

So I need to fuse my 8gauge separately. Im assuming a 40a fuse into each component is plenty, they're both close enough to 300rms and 40amps * 12v is a good bit more than 300watts.

One thing that i cant quite figure out is, my amp has speaker level inputs, so if i ran the wires to the amp, and then ran the wires back towards the headunit, would the distance be too long and would their be noise ? Im also assuming the wiring for an amp is along the lines of cut the wires coming from the harness, send the radio side to the amp and the amp back to the other side of the cut? Anytime i look it up, people just skip the wiring and move on ! Would it be better to use a line output converter and just use rca? Or maybe even just cut the rca wire and splice it inline ? I was thinking about trying to mount the amp under a seat, and then tap the wires for the sub input and just splice a rca cable onto the end of a wire since the sub doesnt have speaker level inputs. Is this a terrible idea?

I'm getting so much info from this, thanks so much.
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Old 11-12-2018   #10
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Default Re: New Headunit vs Modifying factory unit

Quote:
Originally Posted by ILikeMilk View Post
...See the main reason that I went with this sub and amp now rather than waiting is that the oem system is going to give me an aneurysm. I used to have a little hatchback with a pioneer hu and 2x 2 way pioneer components with 2 pioneer coaxials in the rear and the sound wasnt amazing by any means but its far superior than my current cars oem system. I drive multiple hour trips regularly so I kind of just wanted to get it done as soon as possible. I have absolutely no bass and the mids and highs are so shrill that i cant even turn it up without causing my ears to bleed.

FRONT SPEAKERS:

If you say that the mids and highs of your current OEM factory speakers are so shrill that you can't even turn it up without causing yours ears to bleed, then I would first put your money into REPLACING your FRONT SPEAKERS. Adding an amp to shitty speakers isn't going to improve that aspect whatsoever.


So I need to fuse my 8-gauge separately. Im assuming a 40a fuse into each component is plenty, they're both close enough to 300rms and 40amps * 12v is a good bit more than 300watts.

YES. A 40-amp Fuse on each 8-GA power wire should be just about right.

One thing that i cant quite figure out is, my amp has speaker level inputs, so if i ran the wires to the amp, and then ran the wires back towards the headunit, would the distance be too long and would their be noise ?

You should not have problems with noise when using long runs of wire if they are at speaker-level.

I'm also assuming the wiring for an amp is along the lines of cut the wires coming from the harness, send the radio side to the amp and the amp back to the other side of the cut?

YES, that is basically correct but I would try to use a "T-Harness" if one is available for your car and head unit. (read below).

I was thinking about trying to mount the amp under a seat, and then tap the wires for the sub input and just splice a rca cable onto the end of a wire since the sub doesnt have speaker level inputs. Is this a terrible idea?

YES, you could do this, but you would need a "LOC" (Line Output Converter) to feed into the RCA Inputs on your subwoofer amp if it cannot accept Speaker-Level inputs.

So Yes, you can feed your front 4-channel amplifier that you want to place under the seat with the Speaker-Level wires that come from your head unit. Then, at the under-seat amplifier, make a "Y" from the 4-channel amplifier's Speaker-Level inputs and connect them to a "LOC" and use RCA cables from there to connect to your subwoofer amplifier.



IDEALLY you would want what we call a "T" Wiring Harness to wire up your OEM head unit's speaker outputs to your amplifier's speaker-level inputs, and then run the speaker output wires from the amplifier back into the other side of your HU's wiring harness. Check the "CarAV" brand for a compatible T-harness.

The "T" Harness has both the OEM Male & Female connectors. One male plug on the T-harness goes into your HU, and the Female connector plugs back into the Male OEM harness that was originally plugged into the back of your OEM HU.

The wires that make up the 3rd leg of the "T" section of the harness have the Speaker Output wires that you can extend to run to the speaker-level inputs on your 4-channel amplifier. And it also has the wires that feed back to your OEM speakers so that you can connect the amplifier speaker outputs to them. The "T" harness lets you keep the original OEM wires and OEM harness/plug intact without having to cut or splice into them. (See the YouTube video below.)

If you can't find a ready-made T-harness for your car & HU, you can usually buy the male and female harnesses separately and make your own "T".

Ideally your 4-channel amp for your front speakers would have had a pair of Line Level RCA Outputs to feed to your subwoofer's amp. Since it doesn't, and your Subwoofer amp does not accept speaker-level inputs, I would splice in a LOC near your front 4-channel amp that would allow you to run Line-Level RCAs from there back to your Subwoofer amp.


IMPORTANT: Do you know if your OEM HU actually provides a Full Range Signal??? And/or if it has any OEM Volume-Dependent EQ that reduces the low frequencies as you turn the volume up (in order to protect the cheap OEM speakers from blowing)? Perhaps that is why you don't have any bass frequencies in your OEM system? Check the specific user forums for your vehicle.

On some OEM HU's, the Front L&R speaker outputs are Not Full Range, but sometimes the Rear L&R speaker outputs are. In that case you would need to use the rear L&R speaker outputs to feed your subwoofer so that it receives all of the lower bass frequencies down to 20Hz or 30Hz or so.

If you were using a Single amplifier to power both your front speakers AND the subwoofer, you might need an OEM interface Module that will SUM the Front & Rear speaker output signals together in order to provide a full range signal, and some have basic EQ to help provide a FLAT signal to your amplifiers. Most of these Summing/LOC units will also provide Line Level RCA outputs to feed to your amplifiers. Some examples would be the Audio Control LCxx units or the JL Audio FiX.

Audio Control Knowledge Base - Line Converter Comparison

An example of a basic LOC would be the PAC Audio LP5-2 https://pac-audio.com/catalog/audio-interfacing/lp5-2

If you decided to use a LOC for your front 4-channel amp as well AND you want to keep your Front-to-Rear FADER control, you would need a 4-Channel LOC.

But it seems as if you have already purchased the Kenwood 4-channel amp and the FLI Subwoofer setup?

In retrospect, I probably would have held off on the Subwoofer, and first put your money into Good Front Speakers. Good 6.5" Front speakers can actually provide a great deal of Midbass if installed properly, in addition to smoothing out the overbearing highs and mids. 85% of music that we listen to is adequately covered by Mid-bass, Midrange, and Highs.

I'm not sure if the Kicker Brand is easily available in the UK and/or if it is one of the more expensive brands there because it's a "U.S." product line. Kicker products are relatively inexpensive here in the States.

I would have looked into using the tiny Kicker KEY180.4 amp which has very similar power output to the Kenwood you chose, but the Kicker has Digital Delay/Time Alignment, EQ, and Crossovers. It includes a Microphone to AUTO-EQ your system.

While it's not a full-fledged DSP, for the price you are getting a decent DSP+AMP that can do a really good job for a system like yours.

Watch this Video where they go over the installation in a Ford Escape SUV keeping the Factory HU.

+ YouTube Video
ERROR: If you can see this, then YouTube is down or you don't have Flash installed.

Last edited by bbfoto; 11-12-2018 at 09:26 PM..
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