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Mk7 '09 Zetec Sound System Upgrade


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#1 PointyB

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 02:16 PM

I have had my car for about a year and a half now. Although I was initially very happy with the sound system (I have see many other cars with terrible sound systems unless you buy an expensive one), I am now looking to change it for something a lot better. The issue I currently have with my one is that the door (or at least the car) tends to rattle when there is average-high bass. On top of that, I just want something that sounds a lot better than the current one.

Would anyone recommend what to get installed (I will want it done professionally)? Would someone like Ford or Halfords have services to upgrade my sound system? If so, how much might it set me back, including installation? Links would be great too :)

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#2 fryboi

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 03:26 PM

I agree, the standard system is pretty awful. The speakers in the doors are going to rattle unless you get some sound deadening but that's pretty expensive. Best bet is to turn the bass all the way down to -8 on your head unit and get a subwoofer for your bass. this means you can crank up the volume on the stock speakers without them vibrating as they are only producing mid and high frequency sound. If your looking for it to be louder then your going to need to replace the stock speakers. pioneer do speakers designed to go into the fiesta speakers these would be suitable to use with the standard head unit or an aftermarket head unit. If your planning on getting an aftermarket head unit you will need a fascia and obviously a head unit. Pretty much any head unit you buy will be superior quality but make sure you have at least 1 pair of RCA ouputs as this will make connecting the subwoofer a lot easier.

#3 AntonyJ

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 09:12 AM

I have had my car for about a year and a half now. Although I was initially very happy with the sound system (I have see many other cars with terrible sound systems unless you buy an expensive one), I am now looking to change it for something a lot better. The issue I currently have with my one is that the door (or at least the car) tends to rattle when there is average-high bass. On top of that, I just want something that sounds a lot better than the current one.

Would anyone recommend what to get installed (I will want it done professionally)? Would someone like Ford or Halfords have services to upgrade my sound system? If so, how much might it set me back, including installation? Links would be great too :)

This comes up regularly, see e.g. my post (with pics!)
You need some decent speakers (pretty much any 6.5"/17cm speaker will be better than the originals) and they need to be mounted properly to the doors (you'll see I made my own rigid rings out of ply). The main driver in the front and the dual-cone driver in the back is easy to replace (do you have rear speakers?) but the front tweeter is more complicated. The ones fryboi linked to might be a bit easier than mine, which I put on top of the dash.
Some sound deadening is helpful, I added some to the outer skin of the door and to a few points on the inner shield. I also added sound absorbing foam to the back of the door card to eliminate the rattle and help cut road noise. Foam draft-proofing strip from Wickes was useful to fill gaps.
Replacing the head unit would be an expensive undertaking and you'd loose the integrated features of the original (e.g. the steering wheel controls). These days I don't think there's much difference in the quality of the source units anyway - they all use the same chips, and any difference will be masked by the problems of listening in a car. It might be worth adding an amplifier between the head unit and the speakers as the one in the head unit is a bit weak. If you're into bass, then definitely add a subwoofer, either something subtle under the passenger seat, or sacrifice half your boot space if that's your thing.
As for fitting, I did all the work myself. If you need help, then I'd get a local specialist installer rather than Halfords or your dealer where it's pot luck whether they'll have someone competent. And adding sound deadening and generally making sure the install is done right takes time so won't be cheap.

#4 sparticus5

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 12:44 PM

I have to disagree with the above post. In general, OEM speakers are far more suited to the OEM headunit. If you install different speakers then the likelyhood is they'll sound 'tinny', you won't get anywhere near the same bass.

There are two problems with the latest Fiesta + upgraded audio, well three actually:

1: decent quality aftermarket speakers need power to work and most OEM headunits seriously lack power. If you were to install say even the most basic Alpine headunit with the OEM speakers currently in your car then the sound would be much improved. Of course that's not an option.

2: The signal output from Ford's headunit (as with most OEM) is awful. The Bass and Treble controls are pretty dire, as for that mid-range setting! It's a poor excuse for an equaliser.

3: You can't install a decent aftermarket head unit in the latest Fiesta.

So what do you do? Well I'm afraid not much to be honest. Yes you can start mucking around with the various sub options but that'll only mask the poor sound, it certainly won't improve anything. If you seriously want to improve matters then I'm afraid it'd cost a fair bit of money. Assuming you have rear speakers in the car, I'd suggest looking for a decent amp which accepts speaker level input and one which has a variety of adjustable gains. I'd run the front speaker input's into the amp, let the amp boost the signal then feed that back to a set of components in the front (the power of which match the amp's output). Those components must come with a standalone crossover. I'd fit the mid-range units in the doors and as mentioned by someone above, mount the tweeters on the dash as far forward as possible.

I'd forget all about rear speakers - if you setup your system correctly you won't need them. I'd feed the rear speaker wires into the amp, bridge them then send a single output to a sub. (chosing the correct sub for your car / system is a whole new thread's worth). Again you'd have to chose an amp with a decent built-in crossover. If you have enough control over that amp then you should be able to adjust the soundstage so that your whole car is filled with music - ie rear speakers aren't necessary.

Of course the downside is those speaker level inputs for the amp - no matter how good your amp is, RCA input's are superior but as your head unit doesn't have RCA outputs, you're knackered I'm afraid.

Sorry for the long post but achieving decent sound from any car which has a unique fitting head unit in neigh on impossible.

#5 AntonyJ

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 02:46 PM

I have to disagree with the above post. In general, OEM speakers are far more suited to the OEM headunit. If you install different speakers then the likelyhood is they'll sound 'tinny', you won't get anywhere near the same bass.

That's not been my experience. The new speakers give a much improved sound in every area. Some of this, in particular the imaging, may be down to the relocation of the tweeters. But the new bass driver goes much deeper than the originals, the mid-range is "cleaner", and the top end is smooth and totally lacks the nasty harshness that meant I had to turn down the treble. I think also the addition of sound deadending and stiffening has helped get the best out of the new speakers. I have to ask if you have tried upgrading the speakers in your Fiesta, or if this is speculation?

1: decent quality aftermarket speakers need power to work and most OEM headunits seriously lack power. If you were to install say even the most basic Alpine headunit with the OEM speakers currently in your car then the sound would be much improved. Of course that's not an option.

The speakers I chose are relatively low efficiency (88db/w/m) and I'd expected to need to add an amp, I only find the OEM amp struggling with rock music. With all other styles I find it OK and not distorting. But I listen at around level 10-12, so others who like their music louder would probably need to an amp. The problem is then where to fit it - I would probably get a tiny Vibe LiteAir or similar and fit it out of sight below the glovebox.

2: The signal output from Ford's headunit (as with most OEM) is awful. The Bass and Treble controls are pretty dire, as for that mid-range setting! It's a poor excuse for an equaliser.

Have you measured this with a spectrum analyzer, or are you just looking at the lack of EQ settings compared to high-end head units? I leave the bass/mid/treble settings at 0, and I don't use the DSP options. I prefer the music unadulterated

3: You can't install a decent aftermarket head unit in the latest Fiesta.

You can, but you loose the integration with the car, and it costs a lot to do. Personally, I think a better option would be to use a laptop plugged in to a decent amp to feed the speakers if you want full EQ/DSP/time control over the sound, and leave the head-unit/message centre alone. It's less likely to attract unwanted attention as well.

So what do you do? Well I'm afraid not much to be honest. Yes you can start mucking around with the various sub options but that'll only mask the poor sound, it certainly won't improve anything.

6.5" drivers won't produce anything much below 50Hz, no matter what head-unit and amp you use. The only way to get the bottom end is to add a sub. I haven't added one as it's not essential for what I listen to most of the time, though I might in future.

If you seriously want to improve matters then I'm afraid it'd cost a fair bit of money. Assuming you have rear speakers in the car, I'd suggest looking for a decent amp which accepts speaker level input and one which has a variety of adjustable gains. I'd run the front speaker input's into the amp, let the amp boost the signal then feed that back to a set of components in the front (the power of which match the amp's output). Those components must come with a standalone crossover. I'd fit the mid-range units in the doors and as mentioned by someone above, mount the tweeters on the dash as far forward as possible.

Now this bit I do agree with.

I'd forget all about rear speakers - if you setup your system correctly you won't need them. I'd feed the rear speaker wires into the amp, bridge them then send a single output to a sub. (chosing the correct sub for your car / system is a whole new thread's worth). Again you'd have to chose an amp with a decent built-in crossover. If you have enough control over that amp then you should be able to adjust the soundstage so that your whole car is filled with music - ie rear speakers aren't necessary.

Rears shouldn't be necessary and there's a strong argument that they muddy the sound as their timing will be different to the fronts. That said, although I fade several notches to the front, if I disable the rears I do notice the reduction in sound pressure levels - maybe that just means I should amp the fronts ;-).

Of course the downside is those speaker level inputs for the amp - no matter how good your amp is, RCA input's are superior but as your head unit doesn't have RCA outputs, you're knackered I'm afraid.

Sorry for the long post but achieving decent sound from any car which has a unique fitting head unit in neigh on impossible.

I disagree. Of course it depends on your definition of "decent". But with the tyre roar from the 17" wheels, I wasn't attempting to match the sound quality of my high end separates system in my lounge, just produce something pleasant to listen to fpr a couple of hours each day - which I think I've achieved - but I'm not planning to enter any SQ competitions.

#6 kabz77

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 07:47 PM

You need to look at my set up, I've fitted an aftermarket Alpine SatNav Unit and I CAN USE MY STEERING WHEEL CONTROLS - you need to by a canbus module.

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