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Old 15th August 2011, 02:37 PM   #1
diyAudio Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Default Requesting expert advice.

I just purchased a '99 Mazda Miata. So far, I'm loving the car, but I commute two hours to and from work every day, most of which is highway driving with the top down. I need to be able to hear my music without sending this ugly distortion to my speakers!

Currently, I have factory everything except the head unit.

I've built several computers, so I know my way around electronics, but audio has always been just complex enough to be a little over my head. I've done some research, which has really provided more questions than answers, so I decided to try getting some professional opinions from such lovely folks as yourselves!

I originally posted this question on the miata.net forums, in the hopes that they would be able to give me some information specific to the model of my car, but I also wanted to ask a community that was more technologically oriented.

Here is the original post, so you all know what I'm looking for. Sorry in advance for so much text =P

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasongalambos View Post
TL;DR version: I recently purchased a '99 Miata. I need a new audio system. My car is currently the only place where I can turn the volume up to 11, and the type of music I listen to almost requires it. I've built several computers and done some soldering in my day, but my knowledge of audio equipment is limited, and would like some suggestions.

Detailed version


My taste in music:
Here are a couple examples of the type of sound I most commonly put my poor speakers through on a regular basis.
The Last Crusade Live - Epica - The Classical Conspiracy - YouTube
Rhapsody - Eternal Glory - YouTube

As you can see, I play with a wide mixture of sound that pretty much makes it necessary for me to turn the volume up very loud just so I can hear everything that's going on at once. The typical track of music includes a full symphony (full strings, full brass, full percussion), full choir for vocals, and one or more heavy guitars typically playing in what technically falls under the "metal" category - in short, pretty much everything short of the metal "roaring" which I hate even more than rap. Then and again, I also regularly listen to music like this:
Spectrum Of The Sky :: Break Of Reality - YouTube
which is even more difficult to hear properly at top-down high speeds.


Current work:
Of course, my first problem was that my Miata came with a head unit that only took radio and CDs. My taste in music is so far out of the mainstream that this was unacceptable, but I was a bit strapped on funds (I had just spend several thousand dollars on a car, after all) so I just went with the cheapest unit available that did what I wanted. Probably a bad decision in retrospect, but I commute a total of two hours to and from work 5 days a week, thus was more concerned with just being able to hear my music than how well I could hear it, and, well, we all know what they say about hindsight.

Other than that, I haven't installed any aftermarket electronics into her.

Now, I'm no audiophile, so I'm not too terribly concerned with sound quality.... but when I turn the volume up loud enough to clearly hear the music, with the top down, going 70-80 mph on the highway, it's almost at the maximum, and boy does it sound awful.

First priority: New speakers.
Just about the only things I know about decent speakers are as follows: Bose is bad, Polk is good, and if someone is buying speakers and only pays attention to the watts, they're an idiot. From what I can tell, my Miata is equipped with a front-door woofer and tweeter set. I'm assuming this means it would be best to purchase a component system rather than just purchasing a set of speakers and a set of tweeters individually. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

Based on how I'm going to stress the speakers, admittedly with more focus on wide range of sound rather than sheer volume, I am thinking I'm going to need a reasonably high wattage range AND sensitivity, but don't really care about maximum wattage.

My main problem with figuring out what I should be looking for in speakers is that I have no reference number. Even if I did look up the formula for finding the maximum output of a speaker based on wattage and sensitivity, the number would mean nothing to me unless I could compare it to the output I regularly put my speakers at. And when I say "maximum output," I'm not sure what I should be saying, but I'm assuming that I'm using the wrong phrase because I think I should be paying more attention to the "x-y watts RMS power range" rather than the peak.

Do any of you more-versed folk know of a way of finding the power output I am using my current speakers at, based on the year of Miata, the model of my head unit, the fact that I usually keep it at around 40 out of 46 max volume (with iphone docked), and the fact that I'm using factory speakers? At least then I'd have a point of reference to know what kind of numbers I should be looking for in my new speakers.

Bottom line with new speakers:
The fastest way I learn is by example. Crutchfield's (by the way, you might be excited to learn that I live right next to an actual physical Crutchfield location, so picking this stuff up won't be an issue) website recommends this component system for top-notch sound, and this system as a "budget-friendly" alternative. If you can tell me why I would or would not want to go with either of these options based on the information on my preferences I've given, that would go a long way to helping me understand what I'm trying to find in my speakers.

Possibility: Subwoofer and Amp? Or possibly Subwoofer+Amp?
I know that eventually I would like to put a subwoofer in her. My memory of watching Lord of the Rings with a subwoofer for the first time confirmed that for me. The challenge here, of course, is figuring out where to put the thing. I know I need all of what little space the trunk has, so that's not an option. Based on the garage I think I'd like the cabin-trunk tunnel option with a Bazooka tube. I'm not too confident about messing with the car's steel structure, so I'd prefer to find space for it rather than make space.
The spare-tire replacement sounds promising too, as I'm paying a premium get rescued if I have car trouble - including, I've noticed, a tire blowout. While I'm not wild about the idea of needing to call my insurance company if I ever have a tire go poof, if I can get a better sound experience because of it, it might be worth it.
The other thing to consider, of course, is the amplifier. I'm not entirely sure I want one, but if I do decide to get one, I think I'd prefer to go with the subwoofer+amp configuration, just to make things simpler.
My only real concern about the subwoofer (and possibly amp) is whether or not I need to tailor my speaker-shopping based on whether or not I'm getting one/them. Any opinion on this would be helpful.

Bottom line with subwoofer/amp:
I think I'd like the Bazooka tube in the cabin-trunk tunnel the most. If anybody has had any experience with this, let me know! I know an amp makes a significant difference in sound quality, but based on what I'm going to be using it for (not necessarily serenading the next block over, but clearly hearing some fairly complex audio in highway-driving, top-down conditions), especially considering the mediocre head unit I have, can I have some opinions on what people think I should do?

Head unit - revisited!
As mentioned, the head unit I'm using could be better. Is it worth getting a new one, after I've upgraded my speakers and possibly thrown in a thumpin' sub? I'm sure it would be a huge difference if I decided not to put in an amp, but if I do opt to throw in the extra juice, does the head unit really make that big of a difference?



If you've managed to slog through this much of the dreaded wall-o-text-o-doom, I want to thank you. I apologize if I'm asking too many questions, but I was amazed to discover this little community dedicated to the car that I stumbled upon completely by accident, and even more amazed to find that for a relatively smart guy like myself, half the discourse I've read over the past week or so I don't even understand! I'm extremely impressed with the collective intelligence of the community, and hope that you all can deliver.
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Old 15th August 2011, 05:13 PM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Anchorage AK
well, for starters, just what head unit do you have? does it have rca outputs for sub and front/rear, or just a single? one thing about upgrading the mids is that you pretty much sacrifice sensitivity. generally low wattage factory speakers have the most sensitivity you are going to get, but many times, an aftermarket head unit is all, or more than they can handle. if you can live with the head unit, and it has at least 1 full-range output, you could probably get away with a decent 5/6-channel amp and an 8" in the trunk with aftermarket mids if you need the bass to keep up with the mids. if you don't need the bass quite as powerfull, you can get some new mids to perform as low as 50hz loud and clear from a 4-channel amp, or you could even run 2 mids and a sub of a 4 channel (just noticed you mentioned you only have the 2 door components) either way, you are looking at getting amplified to gain clean volume. head units are limited to the max that about 11vac can push, since they do not have transformers, and that's usually the best efficiency output voltage result. you seem to already have a liking to polk, and they are a decent general brand, not garbage, so i would say you'd be happy picking those up for your doors, and try to match the amp to the rms of them. while bazooka tubes are convenient, there are far better options out there, and custom enclosure is usually the best rout, unless you are going sealed and find one sitting on the shelf that matches your needs just right. now, if you are ok with a ported bazooka tube, then you would be happier with a ported or even band-pass fired through your hatch door, and there is also the option of a free-air baffle permanently mounted in the opening, if you want to go that far. just keep in mind, that sealed enclosures generally offer the best flat response, ported/vented are louder, but have a little less range, and band-pass generally pick up about even with ported/vented, and can be made more efficient, while narrowing the range in the process. bad-pass usually take up the most space, and sealed the least. well, i'll pause the info for now, and wait to hear on the answers to the q's about your needs as far as how low the bass response has to go, what h/u you have and it's hook-ups, space constraints, budget, and how far you want to go.
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Old 16th August 2011, 03:31 AM   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Wow, thanks for the speedy response =)
Quote:
Originally Posted by AKHeathen View Post
well, for starters, just what head unit do you have?
I did link the head unit I purchased in the post, but it's so long I can't really blame you for missing it.
Here:
Dual XML8110 In-dash iPod dock/receiver at Crutchfield.com
Quote:
does it have rca outputs for sub and front/rear, or just a single?
I'm honestly not sure. I thought I remember seeing rca outputs for a sub, but the specs sheet on Crutchfield is saying no.
Quote:
one thing about upgrading the mids is that you pretty much sacrifice sensitivity. generally low wattage factory speakers have the most sensitivity you are going to get, but many times, an aftermarket head unit is all, or more than they can handle.
Definitely more. When I turn the volume up to the max, it sounds like a cat being disemboweled while spitting up the world's largest hairball. I'm not too concerned about the sensitivity sacrifice, I just need to be able to put out enough power to clearly hear the music at top-down highway speed conditions.
Quote:
if you can live with the head unit, and it has at least 1 full-range output, you could probably get away with a decent 5/6-channel amp and an 8" in the trunk with aftermarket mids if you need the bass to keep up with the mids.
Not sure what you mean by "full-range output." Do you mean the "Preamp Output" specification? If so, it's 4-channel. Probably not what you call full range, full range is six, right?
Quote:
if you don't need the bass quite as powerfull, you can get some new mids to perform as low as 50hz loud and clear from a 4-channel amp, or you could even run 2 mids and a sub of a 4 channel (just noticed you mentioned you only have the 2 door components) either way, you are looking at getting amplified to gain clean volume.
I don't necessarily need HUGE BASS. I'm not looking to make the other cars around me vibrate. If I do end up putting a sub in, all I want it for is to give the music that little bit of extra kick that the mids just aren't delivering right now. The low-range mids is an interesting option. I'll have to do some research.
Quote:
head units are limited to the max that about 11vac can push, since they do not have transformers, and that's usually the best efficiency output voltage result. you seem to already have a liking to polk, and they are a decent general brand, not garbage, so i would say you'd be happy picking those up for your doors, and try to match the amp to the rms of them.
Sorry, don't forget you're talking to an audio noob, I don't know what 11vac means. Since you seem to be very familiar with speaker brands, are there any out there that I should consider that might be better than Polk, for a decent price? Also, is my assumption that I need component speakers as opposed to all-in-one correct, since I need two mids and two tweeters?
Quote:
while bazooka tubes are convenient, there are far better options out there, and custom enclosure is usually the best rout, unless you are going sealed and find one sitting on the shelf that matches your needs just right. now, if you are ok with a ported bazooka tube, then you would be happier with a ported or even band-pass fired through your hatch door, and there is also the option of a free-air baffle permanently mounted in the opening, if you want to go that far. just keep in mind, that sealed enclosures generally offer the best flat response, ported/vented are louder, but have a little less range, and band-pass generally pick up about even with ported/vented, and can be made more efficient, while narrowing the range in the process. bad-pass usually take up the most space, and sealed the least.
I can't say I really have an opinion on what specifically I want from my sub. I'm not even entirely sure if I want one. Refer to the original post where I talk about subs. Frankly, because I'm so green with speakers and audio in general, I don't want to touch building my own enclosure with a ten-foot pole. I doubt I'd have the tools for it either, unless all you need are several sizes of magnetic screwdrivers (almost all you ever need for working with PCs). My idea with the sub is to figure out if I should leave the possibility open... which I think I want to do... then purchase the mids, then see if I just can't live without the extra bass rumble. Also, since I want so little from my sub - in comparison to you guys, at least - I think it's a matter of what I'm willing to settle for. That's why I'm leaning towards the Bazooka tube. Another reason is I have barely enough trunk space as it is, so throwing something in the trunk is really not an option. I suppose I could fit something behind the passenger seat - the only person I give rides to is my girlfriend and she's even shorter than I am. I dunno. Waiting on more information before I develop my opinion on a sub.
Quote:
well, i'll pause the info for now, and wait to hear on the answers to the q's about your needs as far as how low the bass response has to go, what h/u you have and it's hook-ups, space constraints, budget, and how far you want to go.
I hope my answers were at least somewhat helpful. As a pc tech I know how frustrating it is to try and explain something and the person still has no idea what you're on about. A little of that went over my head but I'll try to keep up as best I can. Budget, frankly, is just a matter of time. I'm willing to deal with my current speakers for a few months if it means I have to save for the perfect setup that I'm going to be using for the next 130,000+ miles. But my overall plan is to just upgrade the speakers first - I have no intention of going out and buying everything all at once. That will also help the budgeting issue if I end up spending a lot of money.

Thank you for the details, and your willingness to work with me, by the way - this is exactly the kind of help I was hoping for.
I'm pretty tired and have to get up early so I might have missed some things. Just let me know, I'll try to answer to the best of my ability.
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