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I figured I would rant for a minute as I now know why this industry is slowly dying out. Back in the day, I could buy some mid level gear, install it all and be good to go. It seemed to sound incredible. I believe the reality is that stock car stereo’s sounded terrible back then but that’s not entirely true today. Today’s stock stereos are tuned by professionals and most sound decent - may r

Now it is incredibly expensive and labor intensive to purchase the equipment and get it to sound good. You can spend a fortune on great gear (I have) and have a system that sounds ok or worse than stock. Unless you are a sound engineer or eternal car audio hobbyist forget about getting it to sound great. You can pay for a tune if you can find someone that can do it but its unbelievably hard to find someone that can do it well.
 

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As someone who does this every day, I'd like to break this down and give my thoughts if you don't mind.


Back in the day, I could buy some mid level gear, install it all and be good to go. It seemed to sound incredible.
Maybe. Customers tell me this all the time, and what they end up telling me is something along the lines of "Yeah, I had some components and a 2 channel amp and a 12" sub and it was SO good". Me personally, I still to this day feel like I haven't heard a car as good as my past 300ZX. But I know one thing. Nostalgia is a *****, and lies to you. I know damn well that their basic and probably hacked install from 25 years ago didn't sound good, just as my first major install while learning how to tune probably wasn't incredible either. Don't discount that your standards have probably gone way up since then, and what you thought was great back then, wouldn't cut it for you now.


I believe the reality is that stock car stereo’s sounded terrible back then but that’s not entirely true today. Today’s stock stereos are tuned by professionals and most sound decent - may r
Yes, older OEM systems were terrible, and todays are getting better. But I'd be lying if I said any of them weren't worthy of bothering to upgrade. Not a single OEM system has impressed me to the point where I wouldn't bother swapping anything if it were my car (and I'm very tolerant of what I consider acceptable when it comes to my own personal car), and I have only heard maybe 2 or 3 that were actually decent. But, my standards here don't matter. It's our clients who make that call, and yes, more of the general population is now content with their OEM system. Thankfully, more of the higher-end cars surprisingly come with very crappy OEM systems, and those guys have money to play with.



Now it is incredibly expensive and labor intensive to purchase the equipment and get it to sound good.
It is definitely a bit more expensive and labor-intensive, but how could you expect it to not be, ya know? Newer cars are a bit trickier to work on, especially luxury and exotic vehicles. Integration is harder due to more complex OEM systems and not being able to swap radios, but frankly, this shouldn't be a problem for any professional. Not saying it isn't, but it shouldn't be.



You can spend a fortune on great gear (I have) and have a system that sounds ok or worse than stock.
Install, tuning, or integration problem. Or a combination. it is extremely easy to do better than stock. One of our common upgrades that we dont post about much is our "Stage-1" upgrade, which is just a DSP amplifier on OEM speakers. Integrate it to the OEM system, tune it, and bam. 6 hours or less of work and you have something thats much better than the factory system. Its nothing crazy, but definitely a major improvement.


Unless you are a sound engineer or eternal car audio hobbyist forget about getting it to sound great. You can pay for a tune if you can find someone that can do it but its unbelievably hard to find someone that can do it well.
Yes, it is definitely hard to find someone good at tuning. But, in modern car audio systems, tuning isnt the only factor here. OEM systems need to be integrated into properly. I have seen so many systems, from hobbyists and shops alike, that did an incorrect or flat out terrible job at integrating into the OEM system and it wont matter how good the install, equipment, or tune are. It cant be saved. But yes, for a hobbyist, this can definitely be daunting depending on the vehicle. Take my car for example (2019 Volvo S60 R-Design with the HK system). I'd bet most pros would struggle integrating into it properly and getting it to sound great, let alone hobbyists who dont have much OEM integration knowledge or experience. So this is also partially what keeps people coming to shops.. things being more complicated and they dont want to mess with it themselves and know their limits.
 

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I threw some $15 vifa tweeters, $30 silver flute mid ranges and a used $120 80prs head unit and it sounded great without even sound deadening and just with the auto time alignment.

What gear are you using now? Most if not all off the shelf gear is pretty disappointing and over priced.
 

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What we remember from "back in the day" is not how the system sounded, but the feeling we had in those cars; that feeling is not reproducible, regardless of how much you spend.
As someone who is a victim of nostalgia, I understand what you're saying, but I know objectively that it's not real.

The one aspect that I agree has gotten more expensive and difficult is replacing or integrating to the OEM HU. Back in the day it was super easy to buy a HU and replace the OEM one. Today you need integration devices and a lot of knowledge to do it effectively, if you can even replace it at all...and that certainly comes into consideration when deciding if an aftermarket upgrade is worth it.
I have not heard super high end OEM systems, but I can tell you that the "premium" OEM systems are easily surpassed by even a relatively inexpensive aftermarket install. My wife's Kia Stinger, for example, has the HK premium system with, like, 180 speakers. It's boomy, lacks detail and the stage rainbows down to the doors but it's loud and dynamic, which is what most people equate with good sound. That sound, is what many of us back in the day were trying to achieve with aftermarket systems and so when we here it in OEM systems today we feel it's good.

As for cost of aftermarket today, the speakers, amps and signal processing, are available in better quality at lower prices today, even if you use automotive speakers, and the results that can be obtained today with even a cheap DSP (e.g. a miniDSP CDSP 6x8 or Dayton 408) and basic gear far exceed what you could achieve back then with even expensive amps, speakers and signal processors, even if you're not a professional. The tools (inexpensive microphones and REW software) and the knowledge (e.g. The AF tuning guide, countless videos and this forum) allow even a beginner hobbyist to achieve amazing results quickly and effectively that far exceed what you could back then.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I threw some $15 vifa tweeters, $30 silver flute mid ranges and a used $120 80prs head unit and it sounded great without even sound deadening and just with the auto time alignment.

What gear are you using now? Most if not all off the shelf gear is pretty disappointing and over priced.
Audiofrog GB10, GB25, GB60
JL stealth box 13tw5
JL VXI 800/8
JL XD 600/1
JL Fix 82 for integration
Processing done with Tun
 

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Good sounding stereo in a modern car = hard?

Perhaps having so many choices makes it hard, but if you make good choices, it is quite doable and easy...
 

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Audiofrog GB10, GB25, GB60
JL stealth box 13tw5
JL VXI 800/8
JL XD 600/1
JL Fix 82 for integration
Processing done with Tun
what year/make/model vehicle is this in
 

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Sadly, for us older folk - I'm 56 - many of us simply don't have as good of "human" auditory systems as we did when we were younger, and they only grow worse over time, as well. Unfortunately, we music lovers are the ones who typically beat up our hearing from so much loud music.
 
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I think sometimes this may be the "spread" between the OEM system and the aftermarket. What I mean is when I first got into car audio, the OEM systems were pretty bad. Even the stuff that was supposed to be the cream of the crop, didnt come as advertised. Simple tweaks and few pieces of aftermarket equipment made a huge difference. Depending on the car today, the OEM stuff is considerably better. So those simple tweaks and basic pieces arent perceived to make as much impact. In every car I have upgraded stereo, I have been able to hear/perceive the difference. The only thing I note is the "spread" is not as great with the newer cars I have had. A system like some of my first cars (head unit, two amps, comps up front and sub) might only be marginally better than some of the newer cars that I sat in. I would have to step up in equipment, add dsp, focus on install more to get much more appreciable difference in sound. This is why you sometimes hear former car audio guys say that depending on the car, they arent going to touch it. The amount of time and money you may have to spend to improve over the OEM to some isnt worth it.

Also as we get older, you value and place money on other things. I have a buddy that went into a stereo shop after a number of years. Basically the shop told him, he would be in the 3K to 5K range to upgrade. He basically walked out and said 5K is an set of dirt bikes/atvs for his kids or a really nice family vacation. It wasnt worth it to him to drop the cash on something he didnt think was that bad to start with that already has every connection feature he wants. To others, the outlay of cash works for them. Again, it is where you feel comfortable spending your money.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I think sometimes this may be the "spread" between the OEM system and the aftermarket. What I mean is when I first got into car audio, the OEM systems were pretty bad. Even the stuff that was supposed to be the cream of the crop, didnt come as advertised. Simple tweaks and few pieces of aftermarket equipment made a huge difference. Depending on the car today, the OEM stuff is considerably better. So those simple tweaks and basic pieces arent perceived to make as much impact. In every car I have upgraded stereo, I have been able to hear/perceive the difference. The only thing I note is the "spread" is not as great with the newer cars I have had. A system like some of my first cars (head unit, two amps, comps up front and sub) might only be marginally better than some of the newer cars that I sat in. I would have to step up in equipment, add dsp, focus on install more to get much more appreciable difference in sound. This is why you sometimes hear former car audio guys say that depending on the car, they arent going to touch it. The amount of time and money you may have to spend to improve over the OEM to some isnt worth it.

Also as we get older, you value and place money on other things. I have a buddy that went into a stereo shop after a number of years. Basically the shop told him, he would be in the 3K to 5K range to upgrade. He basically walked out and said 5K is an set of dirt bikes/atvs for his kids or a really nice family vacation. It wasnt worth it to him to drop the cash on something he didnt think was that bad to start with that already has every connection feature he wants. To others, the outlay of cash works for them. Again, it is where you feel comfortable spending your money.
Yep, this is where I was going with this. Back in the day big impact from simple changes. Now it really takes a professional and a ton of money to get marginal gains.
 

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2019 F150 non B&O
Hmmm, I'm not to familar with the non-B&O versions. Im struggling to believe that this isnt an integration and/or tuning issue though.


Yep, this is where I was going with this. Back in the day big impact from simple changes. Now it really takes a professional and a ton of money to get marginal gains.
Large gains can be had in today's world with careful planning and correct execution.
 

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I think a lot of when we're perceiving as better in the past is that we weren't as trained to good sound as when we started. Adding a set of 6x9 in the rear deck of my 84 Buick made a world of difference but then again compared to what? Now, as OEM systems have gotten better, we are getting used to the better sound from them so an upgrade isn't necessarily as mind blowing as before. Also as we train our ears to hear better we end up expecting that betterment but don't always realize it's not as easy as before. For instance had a 17 fusion OEM Sony system and I didn't ever touch it was it was "ok" for me. However my 13 non Sony, I only added a sub and i was fine.

I've yet to sit in a properly sounding car to see what it's like. I can say that my, admittedly poorly tuned system, sounds worlds better than the OEM. Looking forward to one day getting it tuned properly by someone capable and hearing what that difference is.

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I've yet to sit in a properly sounding car to see what it's like. I can say that my, admittedly poorly tuned system, sounds worlds better than the OEM. Looking forward to one day getting it tuned properly by someone capable and hearing what that difference is.
It is definitely worth your time to try to set this up. My big eye opener was listening to a few cars at Spring Break Nationals in Daytona a couple of years ago. That gave me a very good idea of what very good sound is like.

...and I know that my various audio systems from back in the day don't hold a candle to the sound I have now. But, they were a lot of fun!
 

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Hmmm, I'm not to familar with the non-B&O versions. Im struggling to believe that this isnt an integration and/or tuning issue though.
Non-B&O in Fords is really easy. Just get ForScan and reprogram the ACM to variable line level output and connect front left&right output to the DSP, set gains, done.
Flat output after reprogramming the ACM and up to 4V of variable line level output. Couldn't be better for a stock headunit.
 

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Sadly, for us older folk - I'm 56 - many of us simply don't have as good of "human" auditory systems as we did when we were younger, and they only grow worse over time, as well. Unfortunately, we music lovers are the ones who typically beat up our hearing from so much loud music.
huh? what?
 

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I'm in South Florida (Miami) and the shops around me don't seem to have a clue as far as tuning. Took it to one when I had my Audio Control D6.1200 and bumping the sub frequencies was the "tuning" performed for $200. Called a few different shops and "uuhhhh...." was the answer. And the local meet and greets have been SPL oriented. Maybe time to take a longer drive, LOL
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
^^ lol this. No one near me has a clue. I would readily pay someone, but there’s no one to pay. I have tried remote tuning twice and wasn’t happy with the results. I feel I have some phase issues somewhere that will require another level of tuner.
 
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