Car Audio on a Budget, The $1000 System

The $1000 Budget System. {mos_fb_discuss:4}
The $1000 budget unlocks a lot more potential to build a great system. At this price point you’re looking at adding amplifiers and subwoofers to your system, so you are in “big aftermarket” territory now.

$1000 a bit much ? Click here for the $500 plan !


Head-Unit:
$150-$200

I can’t see too many reasons why not use one of the head-units listed in the $500 system, most have the features needed. But I will give you a few more examples of what is available for a little bit more $$$. Note: if you’re after something with a USB input and IPod compatibility etc (some may require an additional adaptor for an IPod), I have provided links to those models too. All of these models come with some type of detailed sound tuning ability, for example low/high pass crossovers and an EQ. This gives you more precise "fine tuning" of the sound and will make even stock speakers sound better than when they were running off the stock head-unit.

Clarion iPod / Bluetooth:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B001OQAC5M

Kenwood iPod / Bluetooth:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B001Q9ER76

Pioneer iPod / Bluetooth:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B001PA9GX6

Alpine iPod / Bluetooth “Ready”:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B0011E7OXU

 

Front Speakers
$80-$120

Alright, this is where the system will differ from the $500 one. Because you have the extra cash, you can treat you and the other front seat passenger too much more detailed sound, I’m talking about split system speakers, or "component" speakers. These models don’t have the tweeter mounted in the centre of the speaker like coaxial do. Instead they use a separate tweeter that can be mounted higher or off axis (facing higher) to the woofer, and they also have a dedicated crossover network which splits the different sounds (low/mid to the woofer, high to the tweeter) to each component. The end result is ALOT clearer sound; you'll notice vocals and symbols etc are easier to hear which means the speakers don’t have to work as hard. 
Below are just a few examples of what is available. I will have to stress that it is really important to try and listen to as many sets as possible in a store using the same source (head-unit / amplifier) and song. More than likely you'll find a set that sounds great to you, don’t listen to what anyone else has to say, be it the salesman or even a friend....the best judge of what you like is you and your ears.....nobody else!!
$120-$150 will be enough here, but if find a set that’s you absolutely love the sound of and they’re like $180, go with them.

Clarion 6.5” Component: 
http://decibelcar.com/detail/B0032FOJKW

Kenwood 6 ¾” Component:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B000OOKYFI

Pioneer 6 ¾” Component:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B0015NRQ5S

Kicker 6.5” Component:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B0013TRCA8

MB Quart 6.5” Component:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B001JT5CWM

 

Rear Speakers:
~$50

now rears aren’t going to be really important here, as you will rarely be sitting in the back seat.....also, when sitting in the front; you won’t hear much of the rears if the system is tuned properly. They are only for rear seat passengers, so if you often have them I would suggest going with a cheap pair of 6" coaxial (~$50) if you rarely have people in the back and have stock rear speakers, leave them as they are and spend more money on the more important components!!!


Speaker Amplifier:
$100-$150

this is for the front splits only and in my opinion is important. You won’t be getting the full potential of almost any brand of splits unless they’re given adequate power. A typical head-unit will be able to produce around 18wrms, which isn’t enough to get some good volume and clarity which is what splits is basically designed for!
Once again, here are only some examples of what is available. When looking for an amp, power ratings are a big factor.....most will give you a rating like this - "60wrms x 2 @ 4 ohm 0.05% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) ". Some only give "max" or "pmpo" ratings which are meaningless in the real world. As a general rule of thumb, if it isn’t a name brand amp and doesn’t state its power output in "rms" then it’s best to stay clear of that amp. Also, you'll need an amp with high pass filters, which filter out the low frequencies of the music (which a subwoofer is designed to do). You’ve probably already noticed that when you turn up a stereo (which doesn’t have high pass filters etc) the bass notes are the first thing to distort. That’s because a speaker has more trouble reproducing bass than any other frequency. Back to high pass filters, once they are set properly for your speakers, they will allow the speaker to play the band of frequencies it was designed for. 

So you'll be looking at 2ch. amps around the $100 - $150 mark.

Clarion 2 x 90wrms: 
http://decibelcar.com/detail/B0013BY1LO

Pioneer 2 x 125wrms: http://decibelcar.com/detail/B001NFFYWK

Kicker 2 x 75wrms:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B0017MUI5C

Alpine 2 x 150wrms (when bridged): http://decibelcar.com/detail/B0013TVALU

 

Subwoofer / Sub Amplifier:
$250-$400

a lot of brands these days provides a "combo" solution to adding a subwoofer. These will typically include a subwoofer and a suitable enclosure (box). One thing to take into consideration is the room the enclosure will take up in your boot, some of these enclosures will be differently shaped, and that will allow them to be positioned in such a way to minimize the room they take up. For example, an enclosure may be too high to fit under the parcel shelf, and therefore needs to be placed in the rear of the boot and dramatically decreases the available cargo area. 

Also you’ll need an amplifier to power this subwoofer. Generally the best choice is a “monoblock” or single channel model; these are designed exclusively to power subwoofers and are more efficient than a normal speaker amplifier. What does this mean for you? More bass – less power being drained from your battery!
Around the $250-$350 mark will get you some decent bass.

Kenwood 10” Compact with Amp: 
http://decibelcar.com/detail/B001ECR3G2

 

Kicker Package, Sub / Box:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B001CIETKQ

Suitable Kicker Amplifier:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B0013FHJ8C

 

Rockford Fostgate Sub / Box:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B0027GX9WG

Suitable RF Amplifier:  http://decibelcar.com/detail/B001P86SMK

 

By all means mix and match the subwoofer / box with the monoblock amplifier. I only linked matching models for aesthetic purposes. Also, there’s many, many more possibilities in Our Webstore, feel free to how a good browse through and find something that suits you within the allocated ($250-$400) price range for a subwoofer / box and suitable amplifier.

Installation:

Important: I really can’t stress how important a quality installation is, basically you could spend several thousand on components and they would sound like crap unless they are installed properly. Big chains have been known to do some poor quality work, but there are some stores out there that are exceptions....if they have a good rep or you’ve seen / heard their work, then it shouldn’t be problem to take it there. If you haven’t, it’s best to steer clear and head to a specialist car audio dealer. I’m not saying every single specialist store performs perfect work, but your chances of getting a rough job are minimal.
I would imagine if you were to buy all, or even most of the components from the same place that’s going to install it that a cost of $300 - $450 including wiring is about right. Although, if they charge a little extra that’s up to them, that’s just an average.


OK, that totals between $870 and $1350 fitted. Now I know, I know, I said $1000......but that is using all of the most expensive components I’ve suggested, and being charged the most for wiring / installation (which I think is highly unlikely).

Special Note:
If wanting to install it yourself, as you feel confident enough and have the required tools and plenty of time (I would expect it take up most of a weekend for the average Joe)......then go for it, just take your time removing and installing the various interior panels, routing the cables through the car (use the stock cable routes where possible) and making the wiring connections to the head-unit, speakers and amplifiers / subwoofer. Also spending a good half an hour tuning the system, listening to a wide range of music will go a long way to making a good system great!!!

Before undertaking a DIY install, be sure to check out our DIY, Installation & Electronics sections.