Jumping into the wild world of aftermarket audio! [Archive] - Honda Element Owners Club Forum

: Jumping into the wild world of aftermarket audio!

05-22-2003, 11:31 AM
Well, here I am, contemplating a bigger plunge into car modification than I've ever considered in my life.

I listened to the EX factory system. I had never sat in a car with a subwoofer before, and I thought it sounded big and exciting.

But upon learning of what Honda will charge for a CD-changer and installation, I cringed. Just the briefest shop-around on Crutchfield told me that I could do better for price if I just wanted the CD-changer, or I could opt to spend the same amount of money and all kinds of groovy stuff.

So I've researched this and at least figured out some things. I know what I want:

-- an in-dash CD player that has MP3 capability so I can burn 100+ songs on one disk when I want to (this will get my toes wet in MP3 use before I get a separate MP3 player, which I will someday)

--Sirius-ready - I can't go XM. They don't have NPR.

--a simple CD changer for the CDs I already have or for home-burned CDs I swap with friends.

--plus whatever is needed to complete the system so it sounds good. I'm told that the EX factory subwoofer doesn't work if I replace the head unit. Crapo. I suppose I'll need another, and an amplifier. Speakers too.

I listen to NPR, world music, Moby, 80s music, Sting, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Ella Fitgerald, classical, pre-Renaissance music, ambient, techno-tribal and sometimes bluegrass. I want something that sounds crisp, clear, true, and is appropriately loud and bass-y for this type of music.

I don't need supercrankaboomboom that sounds like the Jolly Green Giant is farting. :lol:

So the head unit I like is:


I like it because it doesn't have a lot of buttons or visual clutter. Can't stand that. I might or might not go ahead and install the Sirius. Definitely will get a CD changer.


looks like a good choice. Can do home-burned CDs.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

How do you go about choosing an auto-electronics seller and installer? Will an installer work on products I get elsewhere, or should I plan to one-stop shop? I realize you guys do your own install - you have my admiration. That's beyond me.

Can I sit and watch the installation? Or does that piss people off? I'm not trying to tell them their job - I'm just interested in seeing how it all works and if something went weird later, I might have a clue about it. Might.

Am I just a blithering idiot that should go with her factory unit and be grateful? :P

Talk to me!

and.....as always..........Thanks! :D

05-22-2003, 12:08 PM
I was bummed that XM doesn't have NPR as well... But I decided that XM is better overall for me (just my opinion) and I still listen to NPR on the good ole radio when I want.

I know the users of each are pretty polarized, but the thing that made the decision easy for me is that the XM SkiFi allows me to have a single receiver (and thus a single subscription) that I can use at home, in the car, at my office, and at the beach.

Not trying to change your mind, just relating my own decision process. The big difference between us is that I am sticking with the stock head unit for now.

05-22-2003, 07:58 PM
Hi Luscious,

First of all, don't buy from Crutchfield if you'll have it installed at a auto stereo shop - you'll get better prices on the equipment, the install and longer warranties if you buy the equipment from the installer. Crutchfield is great however if you want to install everything yourself.

Plus, you may be unaware of certain limitations that could impair the installers ability to properly install the stuff you buy in your E.

I recommend that you find a qualified dealer/installer of the equipment you like on crutchfield by visiting the manufacturers web site and using the dealer locator feature. Better yet, get a personal recommendation for a shop from someone you trust. If you can't - try this link...


Oh yeah, all installers hate people watching them.:roll: They will probably ask you to drop your car off for the day - be prepared for that. If you want to learn about car audio in general here's a few resources for you...


You should not have to pay more than $40/hour labor rate for the basic install of any type of aftermarket audio equipment and they should be up front with you about how long it should take.

Here's some examples of real world install times based on my own experience over the years:

Head unit: 1 hour
Satellite head unit: up to 2 hours
CD changer 1-2 hours
Speakers (per pair) 1 hour
Component speakers - 2 hours
Amplifier - 2 hours
Basic security system - 2 hours

And then there's the fees for any installation materials like speaker wire or dash install kits, speaker adapters, etc. A dash install kit should'nt cost more than $20 bucks and speaker wire shouldn't coost more than a buck a foot although there may be exceptions.

I don't know who told you you could not use the factory sub or amplifier - that is untrue. You just need a couple things to do it the right way, a RCA to line level converter and a head unit that offers an independant separate subwoofer control.

Keep in mind that if you buy the equipment from the installer you'll have more bargaining power. You should get a healthy discount on the equipment, a reduced cost install, or free installation materials at the least. And the installer should personally guarantee his installation for the life of the car.

As someone who routinely spends thousands of dollars on this addiction, I can assure you that if you follow the general guidelines above you'll be very happy with your car audio. :D

05-22-2003, 08:08 PM
One more thing,

Avoid Panasonic. If you want Sirius Radio + MP3 in a package that doesn't look like it was designed by an alien with a neon cartoon fetish check out a Clarion head units like this...


Also, their CD changers are pretty good too...


Also, Alpine makes good stuff too but I prefer the feel and durability of Clarion plus Alpine is XM not Sirius.

Hope this helps.

05-22-2003, 11:00 PM
At this point I'm thinking my very best audio selection option is to fly EMass down here, give him a dollar figure, my E key, and my blessing, and see what drives (thumps!) back into my driveway.

No, seriously, your help is absolutely fabulous.

Oh and I have to ask this of someone who knows:

I'm a Sony girl for my home electronics (DVD, TV, VCR, TiVo, etc.) and I found a couple of Sony units that seemed promising. (CDXMP70) (no Sirius, XM, but I could live with local NPR I s'pose). Any thoughts?

05-23-2003, 12:06 AM
At this point I'm thinking my very best audio selection option is to fly EMass down here, give him a dollar figure, my E key, and my blessing, and see what drives (thumps!) back into my driveway.[/quote:0ddaa57bfa]

Hehe - kinda like an audio pimp. :shock:

[quote]No, seriously, your help is absolutely fabulous.

Why thank you. :D

Oh and I have to ask this of someone who knows:

I'm a Sony girl for my home electronics (DVD, TV, VCR, TiVo, etc.) and I found a couple of Sony units that seemed promising. (CDXMP70) (no Sirius, XM, but I could live with local NPR I s'pose). Any thoughts?

I too like Sony for certain home AV equipment like video and still cams, TV's, and even thier computers aren't bad, but I personally am not a big fan of Sony car audio products and not many "true" car audio shops carry it.

You'll find Sony mostly at large chain store like Best Buy and Circuit City. Sure, these places have installers but you won't be able to negotiate pricing and install fees with them and they tend to do a higher volume of installs therefore the attention to detail can lack severely. I've heard more than a few horror stories about these types of places.

I would also rather build a long term relationship with a local install shop since over time you will get even better service and pricing as a repeat customer. Larry, the pimple-faced college sophomore working at the local mega electronics store doesn't care if he ever sees me again and probably hopes he never does since he decided not to ground my head unit because he has to get back to the frat house for a party in an hour. :lol:

And there's always the good karma around giving money back to the small businesses in the local community and avoiding the Wal Mart mentallity.

Anyway back to topic - so I don't love Sony but certainly some people do. My hands-down personal favorite head units are Eclipse - these are kind of a boutique brand since mostly only people who have been into car audio for a while know about them.

Eclipse makes units that are not phenominally expensive and they have beautiful understated looks, a really intuitive interface, and the best sound quality I've ever heard, and they're not any more expensive than any other competing brand like Clarion, Pioneer or Alpine...

The good news: These units play MP3's, have an AUX input that can be connected to the AUX jack in the E, plus they have an indepent subwoofer control in case you want to hook it up to the Sub.

The bad news: the unit is not satellite radio ready.

Here's the Eclipse web site:

And here's a site for lots of head unit reviews:

06-12-2003, 09:36 PM
EMass, I checked out the Eclipse site, and your right, their units are cosmetically beautiful and all the ratings are great even better than Alpine. I think I am going to put the Alpine on hold and find a dealer near meI like the CD8443 for its onboard amp and dot matrix display. By any chance do you know what this unit sells for. I did a web search and there is not too much info on this brand. Another thing I noticed is that Eclipse is a Fujitsu company and I know they make great products and they also make the stock stereos for toyota as well.

T Mac
06-12-2003, 11:33 PM
My dad is an electronics wholesaler. He told me recently that the new Pioneer head units are no longer XM ready. Why? Well, apparently the buzz in the industry is that XM is thinking of going the way of cellular phone services... sign a contract and get a free receiver. Obviously I haven't heard anything official about this yet, but if Pioneer's heading that way, you have to think others may follow suit.

So, getting a XM-ready unit may be a good idea now, actually.

Kayakin' Dan
06-13-2003, 03:42 AM
For sound quality, vs. volume, I installed the following in my E. I don't want XM since I'm also a cheap bastard, I don't see spending $10/month to listen to the radio. I don't have cable either. I have 22 gig of music, so why would I want to pay for it?
For the dash:

for the back:

For the front:

For under the seat:

06-13-2003, 12:39 PM
I just had a 6 CD Changer installed in my EX under the passenger seat. I have the unit on the FM modulator connected to the factory radio. My intaller tells me he can't get the bus cables. The sound is weak. How can I avoid this set up for my EX and get a better sound....please excuse my low tech vocab. :oops:

06-13-2003, 02:22 PM
[quote:e4b1b68e2a="Albuquarkee"]I just had a 6 CD Changer installed in my EX under the passenger seat. I have the unit on the FM modulator connected to the factory radio. My intaller tells me he can't get the bus cables. The sound is weak. How can I avoid this set up for my EX and get a better sound....please excuse my low tech vocab. :oops:

I don't know what kind of CD changer did you bought or if you had it hooked up to the factory stereo or an aftermarket one but...

In general it's difficult to hook up non-factory CD changers to factory stereos without using FM mod unless you buy one of these kits specifically meant to integrate with factory stereos - they all come with all the proper cables and act just like the factory CD changer option:


09-23-2003, 10:14 PM
I just had my Sirius H2 unit installed today and after many hours I finally left listening to the wonder that is Sirius. The problem is that I hear an electricy static sond when I accelerate my E. It will continue until the E slows down. The Sirius unit is running thru a fm receiver behind the glove compartment. Any ideas? Is it possible that the fm receivers "output" is set too high?
Thanks in advance.

09-23-2003, 10:17 PM
If anyone can help that would be great, I didn't mean to single out eMass. It just seemed to know alot. So if anyone can help I'd be greatfull.

09-24-2003, 10:12 AM
It's been a long time since I've done car audio stuff but if I remember correctly that sounds like altenator "noise". You could buy a filter to fix that. I believe they call them "noise suppressors" these days. Last time I looked you could get one for under $20.

It could also mean a loose ground maybe?

09-24-2003, 11:09 AM
Sounds like you have a bad ground and you may need a ground loop isolator, u can pick one up at Radio Shack for pretty cheap.

09-24-2003, 08:37 PM
Grrrr. Well I was initially told that they culdnt run the Sirius thru the Auxilary Audio input, which I found out today was wrong. I went to RadioShack bought a male to male sterio cable and *poof* It worked without a problem..and the sound was much much better. No noise this way at all. So I call BestBuy and explain the problem, and how the installers told me that I couldnt run Sirius through the Aux. That also caused me to spend $50 on a fm receiver and $70 on an install. The guy said that I could return the FM receiver no prblem, but that I might not get a refund on the labor install. Now Im slightly pi$$ed. I tried to xplain that it wasnt like I changed my mind and decided that i wanted to change the setup, that if they had did it right I wouldnt have had to buy a receiver or install. He said I'd have to wait unil the Manager came back the next day ( tomorrow ). I better get my money back. All of it. Ok rant is done. BestBuy might suck, might not depending on the resolution to this matter. Anyone give me any tips on how to handle the manager? BTW the install guy was nice enough saying that the manager would probablly do what is right to make me a happy customer.

09-25-2003, 11:33 AM
[quote:d7d44f6a42="Gelement"]BestBuy might suck, might not depending on the resolution to this matter.[/quote:d7d44f6a42]

The way I see it, either way they suck because they just ran you around ragged for absolutely no reason at all. If thier installers had even a small clue, you would not be in this position.

They should ABSOLUTELY refund you ALL of the install price unless they mounted the unit or did things unrelated to the connectivity of the signal. In this case they should give you a partial credit.

They MUST refund your money for the FM modulator.

This is a perfect example of why not to use chain stores for installs. Everyone take note. The guys doing install work at these chains are a bunch of clowns.

09-25-2003, 02:27 PM
OK thanks a bunch. I expect to only get refunded for the FM unit then. They did install it, its not permanitly mounted but they did hook it up behind the glove box and ran a toggle switch around to under the dash near the fuse box. The toggle is for the FM units power, I had them run it that way so I would not see it and didnt want them to do any drilling. Total rage has passed, now I am educated enough not to have them install anything in the future. On a better note I really likr Sirius Radio, although the treams do seam very repeditive so far, but no more so than anyones local radio stations I think. Oh oh eMass, would I notice any differance if I used a better quality sterio cable ( the one that runs from my Sirius H2 to my E's Aux port?
Thanks again.
If I never found this site and its forums I probablly wouldn't have bought my E. I love my E, so a whole hearted Thanks goes out to everyone who has posted on this site.

09-25-2003, 02:32 PM
[quote:67ca0f5c1b="Gelement"]Oh oh eMass, would I notice any differance if I used a better quality sterio cable ( the one that runs from my Sirius H2 to my E's Aux port?[/quote:67ca0f5c1b]

It depends on who you ask. Some say yes, some say no, some say there is a difference but it's not audible enough to notice. I fall squarely in the camp that says not audible enough to notice. YMMV

09-25-2003, 03:18 PM
How about an apple ipod? They are pc comptable now. I'm getting one for christmas and now they have a remote for it so you don't have to worry about reaching over the car or looking down. They are a bit expensive but in the long run you are saving money by not burning disks and if you have a mac (I do) you could use itunes to make playlists for you. They are making itunes for the pc also. I think it comes out at the end of this year.

09-25-2003, 04:04 PM
That sa really good idea, and I might get one...well another one. I had one for about 3 months before Apple changed them to the newer model and made them work for both PC and Mac atthe same time. But I was building a PC so I could play games ( macs arnt good at all for games ), so I sold it for almost what I paid actually. I have mac, so itunes and such is no problem. I hindsight I wish I would have just bought a new one instead of Sirius. Do not get me wrong I love Sirius, but the cost added up fast...could have got a 10 gig for cheaper than I have paid so far. And really 10 gig is enough for me. Anyway...That is a great idea and recomend an iPod for anybody. IMHO no mp3 player out there comes close to an iPod. Sure you could get a RCA Lyra 40 gig for about 300...or any othersd for cheaper but they arnt as good. Point blank. Its like comparing a Diamond to the ( forgive spelling ) cubic zirconia. Sure they look the same but there not.

09-25-2003, 07:19 PM
Woo Hoo. I was refunded the 69.00 for labor and the 49.00 for the FM unit. THe spervisor came out said because it was their fault he'd do what he had to to make me a happy customer. Im happy about it.
Thanks all.

09-25-2003, 09:54 PM
I'm glad to hear that.

10-07-2003, 11:27 AM
What is my best choice for speakers to fit in the doors and that I can get the most bass out of, because the sub is coming out and I cant put real subs in the back. I like the bass but I still need clearidy

10-07-2003, 06:28 PM
Look for full range coaxials from polk, pioneer, alpine, and the like.

12-06-2003, 03:27 PM
I just installed a Eclipse 8443 for the fact that it has 8v preouts and its nice and clean looking. panisonic and alpine just have too much of the "alien cartoon fetish thing" going on.

I went to a high end shop that carries only jl eclipe and zapco for the most part. They buggered the F outta my dash and the tray is sitting about 3/8" inside the dash while the actual hu is sittin about 1/2" inside the dash.

kinda like this

...l dash
...l dash
.l HU
..l Tray
...l dash
...l dash

looks like shiznit. I am makin the shop replace the dash piece they screwed up.

I was thinking of spending about 4k on my stereo at this place and this is the crap i get with my first purchase lol. Anyway, I recommend meeting the installer and talkin to him. Make sure he is not the frat boy from best buy, tweeter/hifibuys, circut city that got the job at the installers.
Shop around. Accidents happen and broken parts happen but good shops will tell you and not just hand you the keys in the dark and hope you never come back.