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Freyja the OEM+ Mk7.5 Fiesta

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I've owned Freyja from new having collected her at the end of March 17.  She's a Mk7.5 Zetec Nav 1.25 so probably considered a runout model given Ford was gearing up to produce the Mk8 at Neihl by this stage.  My plan is to keep her pretty OEM looking with most of my work going into the audio side of things.  Mods so far include window tints (dealer fit as part of the "deal"), replaced bulbs inside with LED's and outside with Philips WhiteVision dipped, XtremeVision Main and SilverVision indicators (all "mods" in my signature).  On the ICE side I recently fitted a Hertz compact subwoofer in the boot and a couple of Vibe "micro" amps under the passenger seat - this sounds much easier than it really is!!!!  Next on the list is a Pioneer DSP (on order) and Hertz Cento front components (already here).  I've created this thread to document how I have gone about upgrading the factory sound so others can see what it entailed and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes I have made.

Anyway, without further ado a picture of her on the day I collected her:

 

 

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Ok so bulbs and things have been well covered elsewhere so no need to document those again!

NOTE:  THE BELOW GUIDE/INSTALL WAS WRITTEN A FEW WEEKS AGO AND IS HERE FOR INFO ONLY.  I INTEND TO REVISIT THIS INSTALL IN THE COMING WEEKS AND TOTALLY RE-DO IT WITH A DSP.

As a few of you will have read on the Fiesta subwoofer install guide comments that I have been planning to upgrade the audio on my 2017 Mk7.5 with the Vibe Powerbox mini class D amps and a small subwoofer.  This was originally going to be a guide, but to be frank the installation rapidly escalated and to be honest unless you have some knowledge of vehicle electronics and competence with a soldering iron I wouldn’t bother!!!!  While I wouldn’t by any stretch consider myself an ICE expert I have a number of installs under my belt, a BTEC in electronics, and some VW electrical training from my Saturday job in school and to be honest found this install quite frustrating (a dodgy back didn’t help either).  Anyway, this is my story….

 

The Equipment:

 

·     Vibe Powerbox 400.1m mono-block amplifier

·     Vibe Powerbox 65.4 4-channel compact amplifier

·     A Passive Subwoofer (I used a Hertz ESK F20.5 Compact passive radiator sub-box)

·     Wiring kit (s?)

·     A T-Harness (also called an SOT Lead amongst other things).  Make sure you get the right one as early Mk7’s used different connectors.  This saves you having to touch the factory stereo wiring at all as well as complete all the soldering away from the vehicle (which given the amount of plastic in the dash is a very good idea).  The connects 2 part number is CT10FD09

·     Soldering Iron, solder, and heat shrink (more on this later)

·     Speaker cable (I used 16 awg though its only CCA rather than OFC)

·     Loom tape (also known by some as Tesa tape), as used by Ford to bundle the wiring together tidily.

·     Ford Owners Club Premium Membership Halfords Discount Card (Very handy)!!!

·     Patience!!!!!

·     A cold beer or three for afterwards (you’ll have earned it)

At present both Vibe amplifiers are on offer at Halfords plus there’s also the premium member discount on top!  If you were buying both amps the money saved would actually pay for your premium membership and then some!

 

Heres what comes in the 65.4 box.  The wires are the harness which comes with the amplifier.  This is designed to take the audio and power from the factory wiring and so should be plug and play.  Unfortunately Ford have other ideas....

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And the 400.1

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They say:

The plug and play Vibe Optisound Micro Sub Amp bass amplifier fits easily into your original car manufacturer's equipment system to give a simple installation of Vibe Passive enclosures and a range of Optisound bass upgrades. Giving a huge power output from a micro-sized amplifier, this micro sub amp will give you the flexibility to install using an Optisound wiring kit via either ISO, Rapid fit or a standard amplifier wiring kit.
 

·       Autosense for original car manufacturer's equipment wiring installation

·       High level input and low level input via RCA

·       Level remote control

The plug and play Vibe Optisound Micro 4 Channel Amp fits directly into the original car manufacturer's equipment wiring harness, and will give you the control and boost required for the perfect set up in your car. Its ultra-small size design allows for it to be hidden away easily, as to keep your wiring simple and tidy. The ISO connection allows you do have a direct fitment to factory head units using T Harness adapters. The Vibe Optisound Micro 4 Channel Amp is perfect for building an upgraded audio system without changing the factory head unit, or to function with aftermarket replacement head units too.
 

·       Fits directly into the original car manufacturer's equipment wiring harness

·       Small design allows for it to be hidden away

·       Frequency Response - 20Hz-20KHz

·       Peak Power - 520 Watts

·       RMS Power - 4 x 65W

I say: Arrrghhh!

Ford say: LOL with a devil face emoji (probably)

Key to this installation is the SOT harness.  This is the connects2 version though autoleads also do a version (generally I prefer autoleads products but their version of the correct fiesta harness seems to be harder to get hold of).

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The plug on the bottom left recieves the factory plug insterted into the radio while the plug on the bottom right goes into the radio.  The plugs on the top allow you to tap into the factory wiring without actually cutting any wires!  Unfortunately in the Fiesta there is very little space around the radio and so the plugs need to be cut off and soldered to the harness which comes with the amp - in a car with space you would simply just connect the amplifier harness to the sot harness and you'd be done!  Not so in the Fiesta.  Theres also the fact that theres nowhere in the dash to put the amp which means the Vibe supplied amplifier harness is not long enough.  Something I will cover more later.....

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First steps

The first step is to access the head unit.  This is well documented elsewhere so no point in me repeating it.  Halfords sell a pack of plastic tools for removing panels which are great, but I got mine (identical) for £1.99 delivered on eBay rather than paying the £16 they are asking for!

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Installing the speaker amp (Powerbox 65.4)

According to the marketing blurb put out by the various manufacturers (not just vibe), these micro amps will fit totally hidden from view behind the dash on your car.  Not on a Mk7.5 Fiesta they won’t!!!!  There are two major problems (which are related).  There is a total lack of any significant space behind the dashboard (I even had a look underneath the centre console and the trim back to behind the handbrake).  Secondly, the design of the head-unit means that the T-Harness ISO connectors are too short as well, as the wiring for the head-unit actually comes from behind the unit and below it but there is no space for the ISO connectors there.  The powerbox 65.4 does NOT come with standard wiring connectors but its own loom which inserts into a cars ISO connectors – the ones that don’t physically fit behind the Fiesta dash!  This loom runs to a 20 pin connector which is the only way to get power to the amp.  On an aftermarket headunit in a car with some space in the dash this kit would be amazing though!  This is where the soldering iron, heat shrink, and patience come in!

After much head scratching, I decided to chop the ISO connectors off and hard wire the amplifier harness to the (SO)T-harness as I could not see any other way to make the harnesses fit.  I would not recommend using crimp connectors for this as not only will they possibly not provide as good a connection, but they will also take up more space and space is very much at a premium.  There is a pocket of space where the dash protrudes forward under the air vents for the extra cabling (not really under the vents themselves though despite appearances due to the way the facia inserts into the dash).  There is another caveat however and unfortunately things aren’t quite as simple as they seem – because there is no room behind the dash for the amp the harness is not long enough.  The harness consists of 19 x 18awg wires and you will need to extend up to 18 of them (the remaining wire is the remote output which goes to any additional amp – in my case the monoblock).  I extended all the wires by about half a metre to get enough length to install the amp under the passenger seat, but in hindsight a metre would have been better and I will be going back in to hack at the harness again anyway (more on that in a sec) so will probably re-make my extension as I thankfully had the foresight not to cut too much of the original wire in the Vibe harness.  There is no quick way to do this and how long it takes will depend on your soldering skills.  Just take one wire at a time and make sure you use suitable wire for extending (the vibe loom uses 18awg).  After taping with loom tape you can feed the harness through a hole under the air vent which is just bigger than the connector on the end of the harness.  I then fed the harness behind the glove box and under the centre trim (you need to remove this – one screw and a tug but good luck getting it back on!) and ventilation unit.  Once you have the loom extended and soldered it’s actually a very quick installation. However, I would have done things a bit differently as I will detail later.


This is how the loom would look if connected using the connectors (prior to taping)

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A quick test nothing works...  Seems I blew the stereo fuse somehow!  Easily replaced - its in the fusebox behind the glovebox.

Once I reset the stereo the sound through the factory Speakers is much better.  Now on to the main reason for this install - the subwoofer

 

Installing the monoblock sub amp (400.1m)

The monoblock is very straight forward to install by comparison and just requires an RCA input (which you can take from the 65.4), power, ground and of course the remote feed from the 65.4.  If you havent already please disconnect the negative terminal on your battery before proceeding.  To get things up and running I used a fuse tap in the fuse box (before people slate me this is what one of the Vibe wiring kits for this specific amp does!), but with the 65.4 looking like it will be fed from the battery anyway it makes sense to just power both amps from the battery and so take the strain off the OEM wiring.  I’m also not too happy about pulling an additional 20 amps with a fuse tap in any case!  It is important to stress that in anything but “low power” 4 ohm mode a fuse tap will not be sufficient for this amp anyway – something Vibe do stress in their documentation.  

There is an earth point on the passenger side below the trim which runs along the door sill – I have also run the power cable along here from behind the glovebox.  Ford also helpfully (at last!) provide a gap in the trim around the same spot – I assume this is something to do with models that have more electrical connections going to the seats than my Zetec.  

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Unfortunately, it seems Vibe have made the amp terminals from cheese or a material of similar strength and they are VERY easy to strip. Not wanting to buy another amp I used an appropriately sized self-tapping screw in the speaker terminal I managed to strip!  

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As a side note I decided to go overkill and use 8 awg power and ground cable – there is nowhere near enough room in the terminals for cable of this thickness and so I had to thin the cable at the end.  All cables have crimp connectors which I have soldered as well as crimped on and heat shrinked – bare twisted copper wire WILL work its way loose from these terminals which rely on the pressure of the screw alone to hold the wire in.  These will be replaced with proper ferrules once the amazon fairy delivers them.

Once the power is connected its just a case of feeding speaker wire from the terminals to your passive subwoofer, reconnecting the battery, and putting everything back together.

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What would I do differently/next steps

 

I’m actually very impressed with the two amps and so I will definitely retain them for the time being   They pack a great punch for their size and seem to be efficient as they barely produce any heat.  However, I would do a number of things differently and as above plan to revisit the install in the near future:

 

·       Firstly, I gave myself half a day to do this and thought I was being generous.  In reality I have already spent the best part of 4 days on this so far, though a lot of that was because I was feeling my way with the layout of the car and equipment for which the documentation is quite minimal but better than some.  A dodgy back and not having everything I needed on hand also contributed to the length of time needed.

·       Next time I will extend the 65.4 loom by another half metre (so a metre in total) this is to allow sufficient room to be able to lift the amp from under the seat to make adjustments without straining the cables and connector.

·       I will also split the 65.4 wires into separate “looms” coming from the connector to make replacing the trim to the side of the console easier and allow the power and ground to be separated from the sound wiring.  This will take the form of a “down” bundle from the head unit to the amp, an “up” bundle from the amp back up to the head unit connector, and a power bundle for the live and ground wires to go to the passenger side door ledge.

·       As above I will run all the power directly from the battery using a distribution block behind the glovebox to split the power and separate ground cables going to the same ground point I am using for the mono amp at present.

·       I intend to put ferrules on the end of all the 400.1m monoblock cables.  This requires a specific tool (and the ferrules themselves).  It does make for a more solid connection though (the Vibe specific wiring kits for the monoblock does have these fitted)

·       At present I am using a lengthy 5m RCA from a wiring kit to feed the mono amp from the 4 channel front RCA output.  This lowers the volume on the front channel as it appears to effectively split the front channel input in 2.  I have already sourced a couple of 2 male to 1 male RCA y type cables to take the left and right feed from both the front and rear to feed into the sub amp.

 

I will post pictures of the amended install once it is done.  I am waiting on the distribution box, a battery strap/cable, and the ferrules and tool coming from amazon.  I could have got the battery strap and distribution block from Halfords but having visited there (I’ve lost count) times in a week for various things and being on first name terms with some of the staff in 2 branches as a result I am sick of the sight of the place!!!!!!  On the plus side they are now well drilled on how to process a forum discount card :D!  I have some 4 awg cable and appropriate fuse holder already from a previous install but need something to get the power from the battery to the fuse holder.  This brings me neatly to…

NOTE

 The above was written a few weeks ago and I intend to revisit the install completely in the next week or two.  This will entail installing a Pioneer DSP to feed the system.  While the factory Speakers are much better amplified than powered from the factory radio, I am also going to be upgrading these as well with Hertz Cento components.  That's the problem with ICE - once you start it can get addictive (and costly). 

 

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A note on power and ground cables/wiring kits

Most of the charts you will see online for cable thickness versus current carrying capacity are for OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) cables.  Many wiring kits available (especially at the sub £40 mark) do not use OFC cable but CCA (Copper Clad Aluminium).  CCA can be as little as 60% as efficient as OFC meaning you need a thicker cable as a result.  Despite what the marketing teams would like us to believe, a 10awg CCA cable is never going to be able to power a “2000 watts” amplifier!  It’s usually quite easy to tell if a cable is OFC as the manufacturer will shout about it (they are significantly more expensive to produce). If you don’t see OFC anywhere in the blurb then the cable is almost certainly CCA.  A good (but not entirely full proof) indication of what cable you need is to take the total of the supplied fuses IN the amplifiers you intend to use and pick a wiring kit which includes at least a fuse of that value. The reason I say this is not entirely full proof is less reputable manufacturers may exaggerate the capabilities of their kit – I advise you do some research and stick to known brands (not eBay from China).  Halfords sell Autoleads and Vibe wiring kits.  Autoleads is a respected brand while I have had good experiences with Vibe kits (especially the “Slick” branded ones), and of course premium members get 15% off.  KnuKonceptz is another good brand but more expensive, but they offer both CCA and OFC based kits and are honest about their power ratings.  Likewise with speaker cable, a lot of what is out there is CCA rather than OFC so you might not be getting as good a cable as you think! If it looks to good to be true it probably is as copper is at a premium (hence why people keep stealing cables from railway lines!).

 

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On the inside, I've added this (metal?) surround to the light switch which lifts the rather dull stock interior a little.  

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