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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently picked up a low mileage 2012 GTI to use as a fun commuter so as to keep mileage off of my two other cars.

My commute is about 60 miles each way, with my commute to work having a bit of traffic towards the end, so a bit of time is spent in this car daily.

I like to listen to alternative/rock (Taking Back Sunday, Greta Van Fleet, Incubus, etc) and some hip hop (Nas, Mobb Deep, etc.)

Right away I felt like I needed to upgrade the stock stereo system, it sounded like I was in a 25 year old car.

One of my other vehicles is a 2016 F150 XLT with the base audio system which I ‘upgraded’ by adding the Kicker VSS plug-n-play system that is specific to my truck. It utilizes an 8” sub and an additional amp that adds oomph to the stock speakers. This system has sounded great to me and is exactly what I’m looking for in this new commuter.

My GTI has the RCD510 head unit which I’ve been told can be very underpowered for the stock speakers.

Seeing some deals, I picked up a Kicker Key 200.4 mini-amp and (4) Kicker KS 6.5” speakers. After install I have NOT been impressed, the bass is ok’ish and they sound very bright and turning the volume up is ear scorching, NOT in a good way.

Utilizing the Kicker Key 200.4 mic really did not help at all and the stock head-unit EQ has me adjusting all over the place, I can NOT get it to sound right.

Now I’m not sure what to do…
Add a powered sub to the current set-up?
Leave the Key 200.4 installed and swap the stock speakers back in?
Add a powered sub to the stock speakers?

I did a full system years ago on a Grand Cherokee that I had and felt like it was a big waste of money, it never impressed me and I’d rather not go down another rabbit hole like that.

I do not want to spend a ton on this car as it is my beater commuter. But, I DO love the Kicker VSS plug-n-play system in my F-150.

Thoughts???
 

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You need to get your hands on a Vagcom tool and recode the OEM head unit. The OEM head unit has some processing going on that you'll want to turn off, and you'll need the scan tool to do that.

Are the new Kicker speakers coax or component? If coax, are you still running the OEM tweeters?

Describe the issues that you're having in the best detail you can. Even if the new amp and speakers are working well, you won't get nearly enough bass to be satisfied unless you add a sub, especially since the OEM head unit is filtering out some bass to protect the OEM speakers.

Also, if you haven't already, make sure you check to see if the car has the updated timing chain tensioner. If you have the old tensioner the engine will fail, you need it updated yesterday.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
You need to get your hands on a Vagcom tool and recode the OEM head unit. The OEM head unit has some processing going on that you'll want to turn off, and you'll need the scan tool to do that.

Are the new Kicker speakers coax or component? If coax, are you still running the OEM tweeters?

Describe the issues that you're having in the best detail you can. Even if the new amp and speakers are working well, you won't get nearly enough bass to be satisfied unless you add a sub, especially since the OEM head unit is filtering out some bass to protect the OEM speakers.

Also, if you haven't already, make sure you check to see if the car has the updated timing chain tensioner. If you have the old tensioner the engine will fail, you need it updated yesterday.
Thanks for all of the pointers

I do not have VAGCOM, but I do have OBDeleven Pro, can I ‘fix’ the head unit signal with this?

The Kicker KS’s are coaxial, stock tweeters are disconnected

I have 63k miles and do NOT have the updated tensioner, I was planning on doing that in the spring
 

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you can use vagcom to tell the radio it's got a factory amplifier (choose volkwagon soundsystem) and you'll get a variable low-level output, upwards of 4vrms. there's some linearity/auto-eq issues. they're really apparent when the volume's above 20. so i'd adjust gains as if 20 is maximum volume.

you can grab an aftermarket radio and a idatalink maestro to keep the factory controls, it's probably the best way to better source. then into your amplifiers. down the road, add a sub and dsp.
 

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@Jcway16

What model Kicker KS 6.5" coaxial speakers do you have? IME, some are just "okay", and some are...garbage. :(

No disrespect, but I've never been all that impressed with any of Kicker's component sets or coaxials that I have heard. Some of their subwoofers are nice, though.

@nadams5755 Do you know what the mounting depth limitations are for the 6.5" OEM speaker locations without any modifications or custom baffles? I don't always trust Crutchfield's data.

Once you get the Source Signal's quality in order (full-range, flat, & unmolested), I would definitely plan on adding a Subwoofer to your setup. It just adds so much more life and enjoyment to the system and to your daily listening! And I'm not talking about a ground-pounder setup, just something to give your music some authority and punch in the low end.

Bass guitars or synthesized bass and the drums are an important aspect of most music. Without the punch and impact of these instruments, your music will just not motivate or move you emotionally. And you mentioned that you listen to rap/hip-hop occasionally, and I can't imagine that without at least some type of subwoofer.

To add to this, most Kicker components and especially the coaxials I've heard are somewhat anemic when it comes to midbass. And their tweeters were not to my liking either. :(

Proper installation and some sealing/sound deadening treatment in the doors with a solid mounting baffle/ring will help any speaker that's mounted there perform its best. But IMO, you're still going to want a subwoofer.

A good single 10" or pair of 8" subs that don't take up too much space on just 300-500 watts can do the trick. For these types of vehicles I like the shallow down-firing enclosures and preloaded enclosures that allow you to still place groceries or cargo on top of them, if you don't want to build something that is built into the rear cargo floor.

The 10" and 12" Kicker and Kenwood eXcelon pre-loaded down-firing subwoofer enclosures can be a good option. Or it would be fairly simple to build a basic down-firing carpeted enclosure for the subwoofer of your choice.

If you only use this vehicle for commuting and not family outings, a subwoofer that is placed in the front passenger foot-well can work extremely well, but will involve building a custom enclosure to optimize the usable airspace in that area. And it would be more visible to "prying eyes" unless you get creative and disguise it somehow.

I used a foot-well subwoofer for a while and kept one of those large-ish blue Trader Joe's soft insulated cooler bags on the floor in front of it to hide it. I simply flipped the top lid of it open so it rested "naturally" against the glove box door. It was wide enough to cover it completely. I had also made the enclosure so that the subwoofer faced into the foot-well and firewall, not directly towards the passenger seat.


The Kicker KEY can work well in the right setup with decent speakers. It can't perform miracles, though. There are several different modes and settings that you need to configure properly during setup to make sure that it is configured to fix & correct the OEM head unit's nasty processing. So double-check that.

But if the OEM head unit has a built-in roll-off in the low frequencies, it can't replace them. And it can't actively correct the OEM head unit's volume-dependent EQ & processing. You would have to run the Kicker KEY's auto-tune when the volume set to your average daily driving volume. And if you change the volume, the OEM head unit "undoes" what the KEY had fixed. :(

As @nadams5755 and others suggested, this is another reason why you'd want to at least reprogram the head unit with VAGCOM, or better yet, replace it with an iDataLink Maestro compatible head unit (minimum 4v RCA outputs) and the Maestro RR (Radio Replacement) interface module. You could get a head unit with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as well which offers better sound quality compared to wireless Bluetooth streaming.

I installed an older 2018 model Kenwood eXcelon DDX9905S double-DIN Touchscreen head unit that cost $325 (originally $850) in a friend's vehicle and used it to power a front set of inexpensive passive components and the factory rear speakers.

We added a small, inexpensive sub amp and 10" sealed subwoofer. With the unclipped high-quality 5v RCA preamp outputs, combined with this head unit's excellent built-in Time Alignment, Crossover features, and EQ, his system sounds absolutely fantastic without a huge investment or lots of complexity. It's not comparable to what could be achieved using a standalone DSP, but it produced a much better than average wide and eye-level soundstage with great tonality and impact.

The OEM Head Unit:

Obtaining a good, clean source signal is the foundation of any SQ system. Garbage In = Garbage Out, so I would concentrate your efforts there first and foremost, then go from there. I think that you'd be surprised how much of a difference this will make.

To test this, you could get a 3.5mm male stereo to L & R male RCA adapter cable and connect your smartphone's headphone output to the kicker KEY's inputs. Switch off the KEY's processing via the button on the microphone.

Use a high quality music file or good track via high-quality streaming on your smartphone to test the SQ. Note the difference in tonality and clarity compared to the OEM head unit.

Then you could run the auto-tuning process via the KEY with your smartphone as the source and see where it gets you. And the quality of the sound should not change when the volume is adjusted! It is a relatively simple test that doesn't take much time, but can be revealing. ;)

Quite a few here have adopted the use of a portable DAP as their "SQ" source to bypass the OEM head unit, such as a FiiO, iBasso, Astell&Kern, Cayin, etc. You can obviously use it to listen to your music with headphones or earbus/IEMs on-the-go. And you can easily connect the DAP to play through your home system as well. Some of them have digital outputs, as well as a good Line Output.

IMO, using a DAP in the car isn't as convenient as a good, "do-it-all" integrated aftermarket head unit, but it's a viable option if your OEM head unit is crap but you don't want to (or can't) replace it. The DAP could be connected directly to the Kicker KEY and the signal split off to your subwoofer amp.
 

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i was able to fit an image dynamics idq 62 in the doors, which were 2-7/8" deep. however, i needed a 1-1/4" spacer to do it. glued together 3/4" and 1/2" rings together to get 1-1/4" spacer. i also ground down some plastic ribbing behind the speaker grills.

1" baffle wasn't deep enough, 1-1/2" baffle was too much. 1-1/4" was just right.

that basket thing in the door sucks.

i couldn't get the window motor assembly to stop resonating in the doors. i could minimize it by wedging some CCF under the motor assembly. i aborted door-mounted midbasses to kick panels.
 

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i was able to fit an image dynamics idq 62 in the doors, which were 2-7/8" deep. however, i needed a 1-1/4" spacer to do it. glued together 3/4" and 1/2" rings together to get 1-1/4" spacer. i also ground down some plastic ribbing behind the speaker grills.

1" baffle wasn't deep enough, 1-1/2" baffle was too much. 1-1/4" was just right.

that basket thing in the door sucks.

i couldn't get the window motor assembly to stop resonating in the doors. i could minimize it by wedging some CCF under the motor assembly. i aborted door-mounted midbasses to kick panels.

Thanks Nick. That's valuable information for the OP and others wanting to do a system in their GTi.

I remember that you had extensively sound deadened the doors to try to eliminate resonances, going so far as to add a full coverage of thin lead sheeting and CCF as a barrier/decoupler/vibration damper after having installed the CLD mat. And you kept it all in place even after installing the 8" AD Neo midbass drivers to the kickpanels and not using any speakers in the door. (y) (y)

I can fully understand why @Jcway16 is so underwhelmed with his system when using those shallow-mount Kicker 6.5" coaxials in the OEM speaker locations, most likely with no sound deadening treatment at all.
 

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close, no sheet lead in the doors. if i had to do it again, i'd try it. sheet lead's easier to work with than mlv. :)

cld on the door frame and door card. ccf+mlv sandwich behind the door card. JT put a layer of cld over the factory 6.5" openings.

cld, ccf, and mlv on the floors. sheet lead and extra ccf on the front floorpans as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all of the info, some of which may be further than I’d like to delve in to with this car.

Looking at the Eonon GA9453B and it seems VERY promising.

I wanted to stick to the stock RCD510 head-unit for aesthetics (even though it looks very dated) and it’s smooth functioning, but this Eonon unit could look ‘updated stock’ in the car.

My thought is picking up the Eonon GA9453B
and running these Kicker KS 6.5’s off of that, returning the Kicker Key200.4 and possibly adding a powered sub.

What are everyone’s thoughts on the Eonon GA9453B?
Is it glitchy at all?
Will all of my steering wheel controls still function as normal?
Should I add the powered sub under the passenger seat, spare tire area or side of the rear hitch area tucked away?
 

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a couple friends have the chinese radios. their price is appealing but the software is pretty inconsistent. the cpus are insufficiently cooled so they thermal-throttle.

i wanted a volume knob, so i went w/ a sony xav-av210 and later with a stinger heigh10. the stinger's plastics match the mk6 interior quite well. variable optical-out to the dsp works good.
 
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