Car audio upgrade: '99 Infiniti i30 for cheap
April 1, 2005 6:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to upgrade my Infiniti sound system for cheap. Is there an order of importance/value to the various available upgrades (deck first, then amp, then speakers, then subwoofer, maybe??). If so, what is this order, and what are some particularly good components for their price? Are there any particularly cheapie ways to acquire components (in Los Angeles or on the internet)?

Extra stuff:
Listening: Classical music, Electronica and Audiobooks. Loud.

The weakest link in my sound system is currently my connection to my iPod. About 50% of my listening is through a tape adapter connected to my iPod, and I can either get tons of tape hiss from turning the volume way up on my stereo, or tons of distortion by turning the volume up on my iPod.

40% of my listening comes from books on tape, which I don't care about the sound quality, but it does mean I need some method of playing tapes if I upgrade my deck.

More weak links: There's a rattling sort of sound when I play cds with low bass or just a rich sort of sound. This leads me to think one of my speakers might be shot, but I'm fairly ignorant about such things.
posted by sirion to Technology (10 answers total)
 
Get a line-out adaptor for the iPod. Apple's dock will work, or something like this or this. Line-out is a hotter, fixed output level, which means you won't have to crank up the volume on your stereo. You won't have to change the volume on the iPod either, which makes it a lot more convenient to switch between headphones-listening and car-listening.

The tape adaptor is still less than desirable, though. If you look around you can probably find a new stereo which has a line-in jack and isn't terribly expensive. (I got one for $100 or so, although it only lasted a week before someone stole it...)
posted by xil at 7:33 PM on April 1, 2005


As xil said, line out on your Ipod is definately a better idea, not to mention the output quality will be noticeably cleaner.

Buy some old equipment. Many audio dorks describe the fall of great sound to have started around 1980 or so. I didn't believe a word until I listened for myself. Look around Goodwill for a Yamaha, H&K, Pioneer, Marantz, or a good Kenwood. Solid state at this point is pretty much your option as opposed to tube which honestly in your position....

I am talking about a reciever. Get a reciever at goodwill but google the model number before jumping onto it. I picked up a Yamaha CR-640 thinking it would suck. Boy was I wrong!

Next, look for some speakers. Polk is cheap and quite good for the price. If you see some Bang and Olufson get those for sure. Make sure the speaker has rubber instead of brittle crap; it is ok to run your finger gently across the speaker surface.

Subs and monoblocks will all come later. Audio is great because you can go only as deep as you want to.


Rattling: Probably not your speaker! Where is it in the room, is the stand or area it is sitting on wooden or loose feeling if you shake it? Move the speakers a few feet and try it again. Definately get the line out for your Ipod first, or at the very least get an RCA adapter from your ipod. Radio shack has them and it will cost you $7.99 for a respectable difference in audio quality.
posted by Dean Keaton at 10:55 PM on April 1, 2005


edit: Rubber instead of brittle crap is only in reference to the outer edges of the speaker. Paper loudpeakers are considered the best anyways because of the efficiency.
posted by Dean Keaton at 10:56 PM on April 1, 2005


I'm pretty sure he's talking about a car stereo, not a home stereo. Unless Infiniti has changed their market quite drastically recently...
posted by xil at 11:05 PM on April 1, 2005


huy boy. Sirloin, make sure that your Infiniti is not a year that has Bose equipment rebranded by Infiniti. A car audio geek forum should know this, or google around a little bit. The problem is that Bose, in their infinite wisdom of ways to do things better, decided that it didn't make any sense to have the amplifier in the head unit ... no, the head unit sends unamplified sound directly to the speakers, each of which has its own amp. You might end up having to replace the whole system in one gulp.
posted by SpecialK at 11:47 PM on April 1, 2005


Infinity made home audio. Probably not anymore, but definately at one time.
posted by Dean Keaton at 12:17 AM on April 2, 2005


He's talking about his car audio, one of the tags is "car."

That's all I got.
posted by MrZero at 6:32 AM on April 2, 2005


Line out adapters are out there for car installs. Even more clever are the ones that interface with the tape deck, making the iPod appear (usually) as a CD changer, thus, you can control the iPod to some extent (how much depends on the head and the interface) with the head. Some of the newest heads have iPod interfaces built in, or easily added.

Line out is a big improvement. It's at a fixed, known voltage, it isn't dependant on the volume setting of the iPod, and most importantly, it skips the final amplification and transformer stage of the iPod.

Your speakers may be shot, but more likely, one is just loose and rattling. The best check is visual -- pull off the grills and look at the speakers, both quiet and under power. If the speaker is loose, you can "fix" the noise just by pushing the frame against the mount. If that's the case, fix the mounting problem.

If a driver is damaged, you'll probably see it. If so, then replacement is the answer.
posted by eriko at 8:56 AM on April 2, 2005


Knowing your budget would really help, here.

You could call Crutchfield, tell them what you want to spend, and they would probably steer you right. They are trained, competent, and enthusiastic, IME.

If your speakers are 5 years old or older, they're not as good as they once were. Cars are tough environments for paper, plastic, and rubber. Four new speakers (don't know enough about your car to tell for sure, but the I30 seems to have 5.25" speakers in each door) will set you back around $150 - $300. These will probably do wonders.

Depending on the space available in your console, you can go two routes: either a cassette/CD combo head unit, or a cassette deck with a CD changer mounted elsewhere.

A: A head unit with CD, cassette, and aux-in (for the iPod) will set you back about $300, give or take.

B: A new deck cassette deck with changer controls and an aux-in for your iPod should set you back no more than $200. A changer will be an additional $200.

You can install all these yourself if you are patient, or with a friend's help. Should take you an afternoon.

* Subwoofer is great, but with your "cheap" constraint, it's low on the bang-for-the-buck scale.
posted by trharlan at 10:25 AM on April 2, 2005


Line out is a pretty fantastic idea. Thanks!

SpecialK: Uh oh..I definitely have *some* form of Bose in my car...

My budget is 'as low as possible for a significant advance in my system'.
posted by sirion at 11:22 AM on April 2, 2005


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