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Old 09-20-12, 09:55 PM   #1
Phucpholuc
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Default loving the car stereo... after gutting it out

Yeah, I've finally had it with my gas guzzling Scooby Doo. Loving this CT200h!

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After some success with installing the paint film myself, I thought I give the audio a shot. Instead of doing it myself, I succumbed to confusion and finally solicited some professional help. Now my previous experience to upgrades of any vehicle in our family has been nothing more than changing floor mats or buying a new set of tires at Costco so bear with me if I sound amateurish. And for the record, I thought my factory stereo in an old Subaru Forester XT sounded great. Iím not picky. Oddly enough, my experience with home audio is a bit more extensive. Current products at home include Anthem, Emotiva, Bryston, M&K, B &W, Revel and Velodyne. There are bits and pieces of Klipsch, Onkyo, Sherwood, and so forth. Home audio and video is a topic I could go on and on.
This whole process started because I thought the plain audio system that comes with the CT200h basic model just plain sucks. For starters, the left speaker was slightly muffled ( off by 3db) and was replaced by the dealership. Even though the balance was restored, the entire audio system sounded shrilled without any soundstage. I wasnít too concerned about the bass as there wasnít any. Iíve heard the premium audio and it wasnít much improved. Again, Iím not trying to be picky but there was just something missing.
There 6 speaker system was replaced along with the head unit. A 5 channel amplifier and subwoofer was added. The internal speaker wiring was upgraded to 14 gauge with 12 for the subwoofer. What was there before looked like 20 or 22 gauge. It was pretty thin.

Hereís the list:
Alpine INE-S920HD receiver
Alpine SPR 60C component drivers for the front dash and doors
Alpine SPR 60 coaxial drivers for the rear doors
Alpine MRX V70 5 channel 60 watts (4ohm) x 4 and 350watt ( 2 ohm) x1
JL Audio CP108LGW3V3 subwoofer 8 inch
Sony XA-R800C rear view camera
Metra Axxess ASWC steering wheel control interface
Toyota TWH-950 harness
Metra 40-LX11 Antenna adapter
Various cables, wires, and amp kit

Hereís a few notes:

1. Head Unit - Iíve was going to initially go with a Pioneer or Kenwood. The way the CT200h console is shaped, there will be some difficulty with any dual din unit that has a raised or removable face. The high end Kenwood would suffice, but you have to be careful not to go greater than a 6 -6.5 inch screen. Any single din unit would be fine.
The S920HD has navigation that uses Navteq maps. It reminds me of a Garmin product. I really didnít want any Nav so I canít comment on how useful it is. The Bluetooth works flawlessly. Iíve included pics of the microphone installed just above the rear view mirrior. The real gem of the Alpine unit is the Time Correction and the Parametric equalizer. I learned from another forum how to adjust the Time Correction and pinpoint the soundstage to the driver seat. With a DVD Essentials ( or an AVIA dvd) and a digital SPL meter, I was able to have a fairly flat frequency response at the driver seat. Holy crap, the sound is pretty amazing.

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2. Amplifier Ė There was a toss-up between the Alpine versus the JL Audio equivalent. The Alpine seems to fit better under the front passenger seat. For a moment, the amplifier was to be installed in the rear inside the Styrofoam tray but I was concerned about the heat dissipation. The amp has plenty of crossover settings. I kept them fairly open so I can fine-tuned it via the head unit.

3. Speakers Ė There were three choices: Focal, Morel, or Alpine. I got great deals on the Morel, ditto on Alpine. Focal stayed full price. The Alpine Type R speakers were of pretty thin profile. Theyíre actually 6 ĺ inch but can fit into a 6 Ĺ inch. The CT200h has 6.5 x 9 inch profile speakers. The magnets on the Alpine ďfeltĒ at least 3-4x as heavy as the factor speakers. I wished I had a photo before they were installed.

4. Subwoofer Ė There was a earlier option to go with an Alpine swr 823D 8 inch sub and a custom enclosure. I was actually able to compare this and the JL Audio CPL108 W3 in roughly same volume boxes and I thought the JL Audio had tighter bass. Oddly enough, the JL Audio box fits perferctly right under the metal cargo bar. Iíve enclosed a picture of a mod to the subwoofer that when the left rear seat is back in upright position will secure the speaker. There is almost no loss of any cargo space in the trunk of the car and the subwoofer is very easy to remove when needed.

5. Rear View Camera Ė The Sony CCD unit is very clear and with great sensitivity at night. I like the colors. I find the rear view camera idea novel and not very useful personally. Wife canít live without hers in her car.

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6. Speaker Wires Ė The factory wiring was so thin I almost fainted. Upgrade to 16 gauge at minimum. 14 or 12 gauge is best. Brand doesnít matter as long as there is sufficient shielding material.

7. Steering Wheel Access Control Ė There are two choices. The Metra Axxess ASWC or the Pac Audio SWI-RC. The Metra has a better chance of success of being programmed. Both companies say they do not have any controls that will work with the CT200h. Everything would be experimental. If Iím not mistaken, the steering wheel controls go to some other controller/chip and then routes to the factory receiver unit. Itís a bit different than the other Lexus or Toyotas. Iím too busy this month, but might decide to splice into the wiring and give it a shot later. In the meantime, Iíve resorted to an Alpine remote control so I donít have to take my eyes off the road. Itís simple and it works.

Not that anyone is asking, but hope this info helps out. This is my first post here so go easy if thereís some inaccuracies. I cross posted this in the CT200hforum as well.

(whoa, i didn't know there's a limit of 5 pics to upload. oh well.)
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Last edited by Phucpholuc; 09-21-12 at 01:39 AM..
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Old 09-20-12, 11:47 PM   #2
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Very nice. I have the premium with upgraded audio to 10 speakers and I actually think it sounds pretty awesome, but I'd still like to add and make it better. I like your setup. How much that run you?
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Old 09-21-12, 01:14 AM   #3
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Thanks intheOC. Costs were about mid 2k. I went with authorized parts bought separately, but an authorized installer did the work. I was surprised how much labor cost.
I don't know if the additions to a current system would be that noticeable except for more bass. Speakers would always be a good start, but a 10 speaker replacement might make the weakness of the other components more noticeable. A sub might add more bass, but the factory head unit has to be able to seamlessly integrate it into the rest of the system. Maybe it has the controls or power to do so already? The factory headunits are Pioneer I think.

Best bang for buck might be the front components. Then, a dedicated amp. Then a sub upgrade.

The dealer/installer had a 10 inch JL Audio sub, the dual 8 inch JL sub, and even Focal 16 inch subwoofer ( ran $1500 or so; temp placed into an enclosure so can fit into trunk ) we had fun experimenting with. I think the one I went with did fine. It has very good usable low freq extension when the doors were closed.

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Old 09-21-12, 01:46 PM   #4
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Hey can we see more pics of the double din? I want to see if its something I would like to swap too TIA
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Old 09-21-12, 03:09 PM   #5
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How did you integrate the DD in? I was told there was no adapter at the moment to do so.

Edit just realized you said basic stereo, wish they would come up with an adapter for the premium sound one.
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Old 09-21-12, 03:11 PM   #6
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That looks sweet. I love JL Audio. I've got a F112 Fathom at home.

My wife had a Forester XT. You're right on with the gas guzzler comment.

Yes, more pics of the head unit please.
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Old 09-21-12, 04:40 PM   #7
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Default It's tilted for a reason

The Alpine DD was a tight fit as it is. It sits flushed to the dash on the top portion but I had it tilted, with the bottom more receded, for a couple reasons. First, it'll be tough to get a dvd into the darn thing if it sits perfectly flat as the dvd will hit the dash above when it pops out. Second, the left part of the faceplate is removal ( I guess it's a security feature, lol). Also, the right console panel actually curves into the right lower hand corner of the face plate. I don't think any dd with a removable faceplate will work. Smaller DD will need to have bigger gaps around the faceplate filled in, larger screens will be an even tighter fit. The Alpine does have a matte black custom plate to go around the faceplate but that's another little project when there's time.

Why Alpine? i think it fits better. Originally, i wanted a Pioneer one without Nav. The Kenwood might work but it's pretty wide.

The way it is now, the DD is actually in the middle with a 2-3mm or so gap on the left and on the right so it's symmetrical in the middle. If you recede the unit deeper, then you can completely flush the right vinyl console panel more but it'll develop a bulge in the middle. The right side will always have a gap as that's the width of the metal cage that behind the DD. Psychologically i like it balanced on the right with a same size gap too. But there's plenty of matte plastic ( faceplate) panels out there to customize the way you like it.

The guy who did my install is pretty amazing. Even though I had the service manual and watched along while he literally took apart the car, he actually never read any manual and intuitively knew which clips were where, etc. I don't even know how he knew what harness went with the receiver. The steering wheel control is a bit odd so i decided not to start cutting any wires to experiment. Nothing was irreversibly modified in the car except for a small hole inside the armrest console.

Overall, it's the speaker and the amp install that was the more labor intensive. I become pretty fond of JL Audio. The XD700/ 5 channel amp would be a great choice. The Morel speakers sound so sweet. Ditto on the focal ones.

The ct200h has a fairly tiny battery. So would a larger amp put that much more stress on it? I noticed with all the new hardware, there seems to be a 2-3mpg hit. But then, it might be just me as I've only put 900 miles on the car.

The whole goal was to just replace the speakers. But the factory headunit just couldn't cut it. So the whole thing ended up gutted I suppose.

I really didn't expect that much improvement but I'm glad to be wrong. Still, it was cheaper than adding just the Nav I guess.

If everyone on this forum calls or email Metra, maybe we'll get that Steering Wheel control soon!

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sorry about the poor quality of the photo. As a pro photographer in another life, it's no excuse.

Last edited by Phucpholuc; 09-21-12 at 04:45 PM.. Reason: spelling
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Old 10-26-12, 09:49 AM   #8
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Very nice, I got the 10-premium speaker, but decided to get a JL audio 900/5 HD amp and a Prowedge JL 10W7 the amp is powering my factory speakers and it's a concert hall in my car loving your sub bow btw
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Old 10-26-12, 10:32 PM   #9
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Very nice set up
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Old 10-26-12, 10:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ice73625 View Post
Very nice, I got the 10-premium speaker, but decided to get a JL audio 900/5 HD amp and a Prowedge JL 10W7 the amp is powering my factory speakers and it's a concert hall in my car loving your sub bow btw
yes, definitely a good upgrade
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Old 11-02-12, 09:25 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ice73625 View Post
Very nice, I got the 10-premium speaker, but decided to get a JL audio 900/5 HD amp and a Prowedge JL 10W7 the amp is powering my factory speakers and it's a concert hall in my car loving your sub bow btw
Replace the speakers and you go up a couple of levels more in sound quality. Amp is first step; severely underpowered with stock amps.
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Old 11-02-12, 10:17 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by midcow3 View Post
Replace the speakers and you go up a couple of levels more in sound quality. Amp is first step; severely underpowered with stock amps.
Hehe. I'd say why stop there? Gut stock head unit and get a nice DDin with decent equalizer or dsp. Replace the dental floss wiring and go at least 14g with superior shielding. Watch that noise floor drop like a rock. Sum of parts will be a huge improvement than just a few parts here and there.
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Old 11-02-12, 11:20 PM   #13
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that is a beautiful install in the dash - looks amazing!
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Old 11-03-12, 01:21 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmikel View Post
that is a beautiful install in the dash - looks amazing!
hey thanks.

So after a few months living with the alpine, I'd thought I give some feedback. And ask for some advice.

The 920HD touchscreen is nowhere as smooth as any smartphone. It's not glossy but matte. It's what I noticed among other Nav Headunits as well from other manufacturers. I miss buttons but I've learned it's safer not to fuss with controls and drive at same time.

I've never had any aftermarket car audio equipment before. This one's ability to channel separate, equalize, sub time delay, and custom input settings make music so much sweeter.

I intended to listen to free HD radio. But since I'm close to maxing out my ITunes Match, I rarely ever listen to radio anymore. Also, I've discovered the USB pandora built in app in the 920 gets rid of the Ads altogether and let's me control the stations on the touchscreen instead. I could be wrong, but many of the songs seem to be higher than 128k. Is it possible that stream may be 192 instead ( the paid subscription one without the Ads)?

There is a noticeable difference between the Pandora and Songza quality. I like some of the unique stations on Songza app though.
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Old 11-03-12, 11:26 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phucpholuc View Post
Hehe. I'd say why stop there? Gut stock head unit and get a nice DDin with decent equalizer or dsp. Replace the dental floss wiring and go at least 14g with superior shielding. Watch that noise floor drop like a rock. Sum of parts will be a huge improvement than just a few parts here and there.
Phucphooluc,

Don't disagree with you , but then you start getting into some serious dollars in the $3,000 plus range. I not sure everyone wants to spend that much.

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