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2020 Ram Crew Cab - Focal Utopia M, JL Audio VXi

21791 Views 276 Replies 36 Participants Last post by  MythosDreamLab
Time to start the new build thread. I’ve been looking forward to this upgrade, and equipment is starting to trickle in. I’m not an installer, far from it. I can certainly do basic things, but the knowledge needed to pull off a quality build surpasses my skill set. I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit this…this is why we have great professionals like the many that post here on DIY regularly. That being said, I’m taking vacation and will be at the shop from open to close throughout the build, and helping as much as possible. I’m most interested in learning more about quality electrical layout and tuning. My local shop is excellent (average tenure of installer is about 20 years). I’ve known the owner for about 25 years and he’s a close friend. This will be at least the 8th full build he’s done for me. This will be the best “vacation” of my life. 😊

Vehicle: 2016 Ram Crew Cab 1500 4x4 Big Horn. There’s nothing fancy about the truck, but I love her. Exterior is basically stock. I added a leveling kit and slightly taller tires. Interior is stock, except the stereo. Windows are tinted dark. Along with this upgrade, I’m having the windshield tinted with see through UV tint and ceramic coated. I’m also adding a nice dash pad (would like suggestions on brands if you’ve used these before). The UV tint is primarily to protect my midranges and the dash pad is for SQ enhancement. The truck has 77,000 miles on her and I’ll never part with her. She’s all mine and a part of the family at this point. She’s my daily driver but may one day be retired to just competition use. I’ll let her be a “trailer queen”. Seriously though, I love my truck. 😂 Here’s a pic:

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Current Build: I currently have Hertz ML 165.3 components in the front (tweets in dash and mids in door), ran passively, Hertz MP 6.5 coaxials in the rear doors, an Alpine Series R 12 under the rear seat (passenger side) in a Fox Box (ported). I’m using a RF T400X4ad running front and rear speakers and a RF T750X1bd on the sub. I used a JL Audio Fix 82 to integrate with the factory non-alpine uConnect 8.4 HU. Signal is sent optically to a JL TWK D8 for processing. The truck is sound deadened nicely throughout.

This has been an enjoyable system and my tuner knocked the tune out of the park. He was able to work magic, even with the SQ limitations. I’ve really enjoyed the Hertz components and the sub has performed well, again, given the limitations. I could not be happier with these small RF amps…never an issue, clean sound quality, and very impressive power from such a small footprint.

All of this will be going in my sons truck now. I used this fact to help talk myself into the upgrade.

Here’s a few pics of the current build:

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I won a few of these competing MECA SQL competitions in the Street class with this very simple system. The magic is in the tuning! I made some new friends and had fun dipping my toe into the “competition scene”.

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The Upgrade:

Signal Interface:
1. PAC AmpPRO AP4 CH- 41 - toslink to master amp (JL Audio VX600/6i)

Front Stage:
2. Focal Utopia TBM tweeters - Sail panels - Updated to A-pillars
3. Focal K2 Power M 3” midrange - Dash speaker location - Updated to Utopia 3.5WM midranges - A-pillars
4. Focal K2 Power M 6.5” mids - Front doors - Updated to Utopia 6WM woofers

Rear Speakers
5. Focal EC 165 K2 6.5” Coaxial - Rear doors (disabled on SQ tune)

6. Focal E30 KX 12” D4 sub - custom sealed enclosure under rear seat, passenger side

Amps and Processing:
7. JL Audio VX600/6i - driving tweets, midranges, and rear speakers
8. JL Audio VX400/4i - bridged two channel driving mids (200 watts per channel at 4 ohms)
9. JL Audio VX1000/1i - 2 ohm load driving sub
10. JL Audio VXi-HUB - links the three amps for joint tuning

Just a peek:

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This will be interesting. Looks like I’ll learn how to use fiberglass.

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The Ram trucks respond so well to simple installs it’s almost cheating. My 2012 R/T killed it for a couple of years until I sold it and Theresa Bruno’s Ram just annihilates most things it competes against.
As for the dash cover I tried multiple brands and Dash Designs was by far the best for my current car. The Sedona Suede material looks pretty nice too.
Those look very nice! Just picked one out (went with the brushed suede in charcoal) and sent it to the wife for a Christmas gift idea. Thanks!!
My tuner is in a different part of the state. Not Drew.
I will never say the words “ I’m going to keep this truck forever” again. Lesson learned.

Change of plans. I updated the thread title. My beautiful 2016 Ram is no more. 😢 The check engine light came on Friday morning as I was driving to the office. At lunch, I went to AutoZone and checked the code. “Bank One Air/Fuel mixture issue”. Ok…no big deal, probably just an 02 sensor or something like that. NOPE! I took it to my mechanic on Monday morning. They told me cylinder number three was misfiring and it needed a new coil. No problem…I had them change all the spark plugs while they were in there. Once everything was buttoned up, the “tick of death” started. Cylinder 3 was dead. You could hear the lifter clanking on the cam from 50 feet away. Crap! My guy doesn’t do lifters, so I took the truck to three different shops to get a quote. They all agreed that the noise was caused by a bad lifter(s) and it would need to be fixed asap. They all also believed the cam would need to be replaced.

As I was leaving the second shop and heading to the third, something strange happened. The ticking all but went away. The third shop checked it out and agreed that I should have them tear it down and see what’s going on. All the shops quoted a cost of $5 to 6 thousand (assuming the cam needed to be replaced). Screw that! I could see where this was going. I’d be throwing money at this for the foreseeable future to keep this truck on the road. Nope. Since it basically sounded normal now (for some reason) I made an on-the-fly decision to upgrade.

So, now, this new system will be going in my “new to me” 2020 Ram Crew Cab 4x4. 😊 It’s blacked out and a little sexy looking (IMHO). I love the new interior and there is so much room under the back seat for the soon-to-be-added custom enclosure. There are no “bins” in this truck under the seat, just lots and lots of real estate for the sub and amps. It has the ridiculously huge HU and some switches that look cool. I really like the new center console too. It came with automated hideaway side step bars, a hideaway rear bumper step, and a folding bed cover. The paint, body, and interior are all but flawless. The previous owner appears to have taken good care of her. I’m having the dealership add a leveling kit and some new BFG AT K2 tires to finish her out.

I had no intention of upgrading the truck for a few years, but things fell in place nicely and now I’ll be taking a newer, current generation, Ram on the road in 2023 for competitions. 😁

So, the truck will be throughly sound deadened, and all of the equipment listed above will still be used. This truck has the damn “Alpine” stock system, so signal integration will be a little different, but no big deal. The sail panels will need to be fully custom and I should be able to display all three amps and Hub under the rear passenger seat (this one is a 60/40 also, but again, no stupid bins!).

So, that’s the story of why the 2016 Ram build is now a 2020 Ram build. I finished pulling all of my current equipment out of the old truck at 1:00AM. It’s been a long day. I’m still waiting on the 6.5” K2 Power M woofers and 3” midranges. Here’s a few pics of the new truck. I’ll post a couple more after the leveling kit and new tires are on her. Stay tuned. 😁

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She’s officially mine! I like this truck, a lot. The ride quality is amazing. They obviously changed something with the suspension in the new generation. She rides “like a Cadillac”. The new seat design is very comfortable, and all of the amenities are nice to have. It’ll take a few days to figure out all the bells and whistles.

I added a leveling kit and a new set of BFG AT K02s. I don’t really know of anything else I could do to dress her up. She’s already so pretty…😊 I have a nice dash cover ordered.

When the rain stops, I’ll get to work taking the interior out, down to bare metal throughout, and begin adding sound deadener. I figure it will take three or four days to complete this first task. System install will start right after Christmas. The nine speaker OEM Alpine system sounds okay, I guess, but I’m already having withdrawals for proper SQ. It’s light years away from sounding the way it should. I’m still waiting on the K2 Power M woofers and midranges. They should be in soon, according to Focal.

Without further ado, here’s my new baby girl with her nose leveled and wearing her new kicks! 😁

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Are you implying handicapped folks can’t drive big trucks? 😎
Broke my back and neck when I fell out of a helicopter. The Marine Corps and VA have pieced me half way together. Appreciate the concern, but I’m able to get in and out, as long as I’m careful. The fold out step bar ends up only few inches from the ground. Once in, it’s like sitting in my recliner. I even found a way to have a productive career and be successful, after the Corps medically retired me, so I wouldn’t be reliant on the freaking government’s handout. My team is everyone on the second and sixth floors of that building. I draw the line at walking up and down stairs, thankfully the fancy building has elevators. Again, appreciate the concern, but I’ll be alright.
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After a weekend of driving the new truck…wow! I never knew a truck could have such an enjoyable ride quality. I logged about 150 miles in two days and am extremely impressed.

When I purchased it, I wasn’t afforded time to do my typical due diligence. It was the most impromptu major purchase of my life. My head’s still spinning a little..LOL. I discovered today that I have purchased a Ram with the 5.7 Hemi “eTorque” engine. It’s like a baby hybrid. I knew the alternator looked strange when I inspected it, but I did not know the little box next to it was a lithium battery pack. Apparently, I don’t really have an alternator. I have a “belt driven motor generator”. There’s also a much larger battery pack on the back wall of the truck. The electric motor ( the alternator/generator thing) augments up to130 HP at specific times, for different purposes. It’s all supposed to help with fuel economy without sacrificing any power. Breaking and deceleration apparently help charge the batteries. The engine is restarted after “auto-stop” using the electric motor. Cool…whatever, as long as it doesn’t break I’m fine. I disable the auto-stop as soon as I start the truck, so whatever benefit I would get with it I’ll just have to do without. When I purchased it, I switched the batteries and put my expensive AGM battery in the new truck (I just purchased the AGM a month ago). I assume it’s okay to use this type of battery with this eTorque set up. 🤷🏼‍♂️ Everything seems fine so far. I can’t get over the ride quality though…just wow. 😊

I’m glad we redesigned the system layout and will now have plenty of room under the driver’s side of the rear seat to mount/display the three amps and HUB. With that battery pack on the rear wall, there isn’t room for amps. My rear seats recline! How cool is that? Right now, I’m still planning to put the midranges in the factory dash locations and the tweeters on the sail panels. We’ll have to do some fabricating to the sail panels though. They’re tall and flat in this truck. Even the TBMs are too deep. It will take me another few days to figure out exactly what I’ve purchased. 😂

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I need a little advice on how I plan to mount the TBMs. I want to use the sail panels, but the sail panels in the new truck are nothing like those in the previous truck. I ordered some prefab pods for the old truck that we planned to lightly modify to work with the TBMs. It’s not going to be so easy with the new sail panels.

New Ram sail panels:
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This Is what the prefab pods for the old Ram look like:
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The prefab pods fit over the older style sail panels like a sleeve. They obviously won’t fit over the new panels.

My installer is slammed with projects for the next three weeks. We’re planning on starting my instal around January 15. If we’re going to stay on schedule, I’ll need to build these sail panels myself. No one that I’ve spoken with can build them without having the truck on-site. The new panels are built into the door’s window trim (one piece that starts at the top of the door, goes over the window opening, and back down to the top of the door), so taking them off for an extended period of time may not be an option. I don’t believe the doors will seal properly without the trim in place.

What would be the best way to join these pods to my existing sail panels? I’m thinking I can trim prefab pods to fit the TBMs, trim the pods down semi-flush around the edges, glue them to my existing panels, and body work with bondo until they look like one piece. This should give me approximately 1.5” of space in the cavity created. I could open up the existing panels to have a little more room behind the tweeters. Once sanded smooth, I would apply texture, then paint the entire trim piece.

Would glue and bondo be enough to hold the two panels together long term? Once the prefab pods are trimmed, there wouldn’t be much of lip to glue. Maybe I should also use a few screws to ensure both pieces are securely attached. The bondo would hide the screw heads.

I’ve never done body work, but it doesn’t look overly difficult. I would just need to be patient and ensure there were no cracks or weak points. Before gluing the two pieces together, I would need to ensure the pods were symmetrical and the tweeters were aimed correctly (I would probably aim them about midway up the B-pillars). It seems like something I could do over a couple days…maybe.


If anyone knows where I could find prefab pods for a 5th generation Ram, please let me know. I’d much rather mate a pod to the existing sail panels, and just clean up the edges, than try making these pods work.

Maybe I’m wrong and the doors will seal okay without the trim piece in place. If so, I’d happily ship them and pay handsomely if someone could find the time to build these for me. 😁
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In the picture above, the TBM is just balanced on the opening of the prefab pod. We were going to open the hole up and mount them flush either way. The pod was just to give us a little head start in the fabrication. I would never mount them sticking out like that. I want it to look semi-OEM. I took that picture just to show how much larger the TBM was than the normal sized tweeter hole. I’d kick my own ass if I ever thought about mounting the TBMs like that. 😂

I’ll buy another set of panels if it would help. I could just keep these in place and send the others to be fabricated. If I fabricated them myself, I probably wouldn’t need the extra set. But if someone could build them for me, I’ll send them new ones to work with.
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Just sitting here dreaming about the new install…Merry Christmas guys!

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I do have a small update. I’ll get flamed over this, but I don’t care 😂

I won’t be making the sail panels after all. Turns out MTI Acoustics makes really nice a-pillars and pods for the midranges and tweets. I spoke with Jim down in College Station and my new pods are being made. This served two purposes, I don’t have to learn how to fiberglass and I don’t have to worry about the TBMs being rained on. It rains a lot down here in the swamp. Since the pods have been predesigned and they 3D print the base, there’s no need to send my a-pillars to them. I’m very pumped about these! Having the midranges out of the dash will hopefully result in an improved sound stage and imaging also. The bottom picture are the “pods” but mine will look more like the top picture (grey trim instead of red), which are full pillar builds.

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Merry Christmas to me! 😊
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Hell, I need those handles myself to get in and out. They weren’t going anywhere either way. 😂
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I’ve heard the same, but after a few days to ponder on it, I’m not comfortable putting my $2,000 tweeters on the doors where they’ll get rained on. I just can’t do it. 🙂

I’ve been told that they’d be fine, but I’ll sleep better if they’re not getting wet as often as they would be down here. The tweets are inboard on the pods, and will be angled back toward the the driver’s seat a little. My tuner feels the tweets will perform just as well on the pillars as they would in the sails. Overall, the tuning will be much easier for him since he won’t have to deal with the midranges reflecting off the windshield. He went into a lot of science and theory (drew several diagrams even) that honestly went way over my head, but he seemed excited, which makes me excited! 😂

I guess we’ll see soon!
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I'm probably about to forgo the K2 Power M midranges and woofers and upgrade to Utopia Ms. It appears to only be a $600 difference between the two, and I don't think anyone can argue that the Utopias will outperform the K2 Power Ms. That, and it is looking like the earliest the Power M stuff will ship is the end of the month. I need the install started by then so that it is done by the first week of February. I'm tired of waiting...patience is not one of my virtues.

Making my decision now...I can probably have the Utopias here by this time next week. Of course, I'm still waiting on the a-pillar pods and sub enclosure, so...tick tock, tick tock. At least all of my equipment would be in hand and ready to go. Ugh.
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Done. Full 3-way Utopia it is. No going back now. 😊
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No…I’m loving the positive reinforcement of my splurge!

I didn’t set out to spend as much as I have, but the further I’ve gotten in this build, the more I’ve decided to “go big or go home”. You Only Live Once! **** it! It’s only money. 😂

These speakers should be in soon. I’ll get all the equipment together and do my best @RickWilson impression and get some pictures. 😊

I blame all of you and @AudioGal. Freaking next-level peer pressure!

Now I’m just waiting on the sub enclosure/amp rack and the pillar pods. The waiting is the freaking worse part.
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