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Premium amp replacement with stock HU

pjm

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96 XLT 4WD
I've tried to find the answer for this using search and FAQ, but came up empty.

I found out yesterday that my 96 XLT with the premium sound system (not JBL, no sub) has an external amp for the four door speakers.

Has anyone ever tried replacing that amp with a good aftermarket 4 channel amp while keeping the stock HU? I'm assuming the stock HU must send line level signals (front and rear) to the factory amp which is then amped to it's spec of 20w/ch and 10% THD.

My other assumption is that if this amp was replaced with a clean 4 channel aftermarket amp the difference in sound quality would be huge while keeping the stock cd changer and HU.

Really appreciate all the info in these forums.

pjm
 


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maresca

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i did the stock amp bypass and it sounded so much better. my head unit is putting out 200 watts max. id have to say yes adding a different amp will help.
 




RammaR

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I'm thinking of doing the same thing, have you found out if it will work or tried it? I pulled out the stock amp tonight to check its connections, it has speaker level inputs - no RCA's. Would be nice to find an adapter so I wouldn't have to cut the factory harness. If anyone's done this please post any advice you have.

Thanks!
 




pjm

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I think it will work with an amp that accepts speaker-level inputs. But now I'm thinking twice about this. Given that the head unit is already amplifying the signal it is introducing it's own noise and distortion which would be fed to the amp. I was hoping the head unit fed a line-level signal but understand now that it does not. The stock system has 10%THD which is pretty "dirty". Not sure how much of that is attributable to the HU versus the stock amp. The Pioneer aftermarket HU I'm thinking about using has about the same power but half the THD - 5%. That's still high compared to a good amp which would be .5% or even .05%.
I just popped for speakers (Infinity Reference) and will replace those and check for improvement before I make another move.
Good luck and please post your results if you decide to do this.
pjm
 




RammaR

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well, I'd like to keep the CD changer / stock unit if possible so I don't have to upgrade the whole system. Was thinking of doing the amp / speakers first and then maybe down the road the HU and changer.. but not everything at once.
 




b

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Let me know what you guys come up with! I have been ready to upgrade both the speakers and the amp myself. Honestly, I don't even know where the amp is, but know that the sound can be improved and it's degraded since having the vehicle since 1998.
 




CDW6212R

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Adding an amp to a Mach radio

Gentlemen, I spoke with a radio repair owner through Ebay last week, about repairing my factory Mach HU display problem.

At the same time I asked him the question about adding amplifiers. He said that the Explorer Mach radios can't drive any other amplifier, because there is no low pass signal to trigger the amp.
He said that the Explorer Premium HU doesn't have the factory amp in the quarter panel, and will drive aftermarket amplifiers.

He wanted $160 to fix my display, and my non playing CD and casette, or $160 to trade me for a Premium HU. Both would include a good warantee, so it will help me.
The Mach HU is the one with the amp in the rear quarter panel, and an "RDS" button instead of a clock button.
Good luck,
DonW
 




tangoecho

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for $160 i would just start looking on ebay for a aftermarket HU.....
 




CDW6212R

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pjm, I forgot to mention my first car "stereo." You mentioned 10% THD for the stock HU, that is huge if that's accurate.

Anyway, in my first car I installed a cheap $33.00 no-name cassette radio, and a pair of 5.25" door speakers. It wasn't very loud, like stock, so I bought a Nakamichi 30W per channel amplifier for $200. It has .005% THD, and the stereo was as loud as you could want, at 1/4 turn of the volume. After that 1/4 turn, the volume didn't go up much, but the distortion did. With the volume at 1/4 turn, you could not hear anything except the stereo, including someone yelling from the other seat.

I believe the bottom line is that, a good factory radio won't produce too much distortion at the low volume settings that you would use with a high quality amplifier.

Now obviously this isn't going to win any stereo face offs, but I bet it would satisfy just about everybody. I have the steering wheel controls for my HU, and the controls for the changer(Phatbox). I want to keep the factory functions. Long ago I had bought another Nakamichi amp, a PA300(75W/ch, .003%THD). I will use these for my four speakers.
Good luck, :cool:
DonW
 




Hectanooga

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Like pjm, I put Infinity Reference's in my doors. Now, where is the amplifier in my truck so I can swap that out? What is involved? Are there any good sources on the internet for this?
 




CDW6212R

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The factory amp is either in the quarter panel with a subwoofer(Mach), or it's in the radio.
Don
 




Hectanooga

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I was under the impression that the Premium sound system had an external amp somewhere. Is this true?
 




pjm

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b,
I installed the Infinity Reference speakers several months ago and have been very happy with the sound. Speakers are very much a personal preference item. Some people have mentioned a loss of bottom end with these that they didn't care for. I noticed a slight decrease in bass which I compensated for by just bumping the bass setting up a couple of notches on the head unit.

Overall for me the clarity is so much better in the highs and the bass is so much tighter that I'm glad I made the change. The ability to rotate the tweeters to raise the soundfield really helps. And this is with the stock HU.

Have not swapped out the stock amp for a high quality aftermarket unit yet. Trying to decide between that and scrounging a used MTX Thunderform on Ebay.

Good luck, I definitely recommend focusing on the speakers first, then moving on to amp improvements - others will tell you to swap out the HU before considering an amp. But I'm pretty sure there's general agreement to upgrade the speakers first in any case.

pjm
 




pjm

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CDW6212R,

Thanks much for the info and your experience with amps and stock HUs. Based on your reply, I'm now seriously considering doing this again.

Ultimately I'll probably end up replacing the HU and changer, just not made of money and trying to get biggest bang for the buck along the way.

pjm
 




pjm

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Hectanooga,

My 96 with Premium sound system does have an external amp to the HU located in the right rear quarter panel.

You need to check your year, at some point the external amp was integrated into the HU for the Premium systems. I think the info is here if you search a little - I don't have it at my fingertips.

pjm
 




CDW6212R

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pjm, did your 96 Premium system aslo have the rear subwoofer as well as the amp? Does the HU have an "RDS" button, or the clock button?
I don't know much about the factory Explorer stereos, but I am fairly sure that only factory HU's with an "RDS" button are compatible with the special steering wheel controls. There may be more than one of the Premium HU, or the Mach HU.

I am sure that the signal quality is basically the same as any factory HU, and the Mach HU is the one with the display issues. For this 98 Mountaineer, I will keep a factory HU for the features. I just found a 20GB Phatbox, which will replace the changer.

My work vehicle, a 93 Limited, has a Kenwood MP8017(MP3 player), and I will be adding four speakers, and a five channel Kenwood amp. The subwoofer died last year, and I will mount the amp in its place.
 




pjm

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CDW6212R,

I have the clock button and no sub. Based on all the info here, I have the earlier Premium system with a separate amp in the right rear quarter. Later Premium systems (98 and on I think) have the amp integrated in the HU. I know I don't have the Mach system.

Looks like you can pick up a decent 4 channel amp on Ebay for around $100 or so (Alpine 40wx4, Audiobahn 60wx4). Do you have any recommendations for a decent quality (not audiophile, can't afford it) amp focused more on sound quality than pressure level? Is Kenwood your fav or do you like any others?

thanks again,

pjm
 




CDW6212R

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Sorry, I haven't personally tried many different stereo components, just a couple of each. I bought the Kenwood five way, not knowing how large it was. I will have to put it in the quarter panel, where the subwoofer was. I've been busy trying to get ready for my 93/99 body swap.

Someone on Ebay was selling a couple of Nakamichi amps, for the money. He swore that he wouldn't have parted with them if he didn't need the money.
I loved my small 30W+30W Nakamichi PA200; very, very loud, and clean. LOL,
Don
 




pjm

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Stale thread, but I thought I'd update in case anyone cares.

Bought a used MTX Thunderform off this site for 140 shipped. Bought an Alpine 4 channel amp (40w/ch) used off ebay for about 110. Removed the stock amp from the right rear quarter and mounted the Alpine in its place, with a little creativity. Everything fit.

The Alpine has a high level input so wired that up to the output of the head unit (using a wiring diagram from this site). Ran new 16 ga. speaker wire to all four doors from the Alpine. The Alpine has a pre-out so ran that to a crossover and an older 2 channel Phillips amp I had lying around - 150 watts bridged. These are under the back seat. The Alpine has built in high/low pass so have the door speakers crossed (high) at 80 hz. Sub is also crossed (low) at 80 hz through the external crossover.

Based on a tip on this site, bought Knuconcepts wiring kits for the amps - outstanding quality and good price. Ran 4 ga primary power down the drivers side to a distribution block under the back seat. Ran 8 ga to each amp from there. Fused at the battery and at the block. Set up a ground distribution block to a single ground point that I tested with a multimeter first.

So now I have the factory head unit and cd changer, but everything else has been upgraded: Infinity Reference speakers, MTX sub and amps for both. I've got the amp gains pretty close but still fine tuning a bit.

It sounds great! I know if I put an aftermarket head unit in it will sound even better, and that is a future upgrade. But for now it sounds better than it ever has, clean (relatively) and loud. This is by no means a top end system but I feel like I got really good bang for the buck with what I've done so far, and it sounds good to me.

Once again, thanks to all for their opinions and advice on this.
 


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TTG

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Chances are a new head unit with a built in amp and the new speakers woulds sounded just as good or better, for the same or less. I'm not sure why you ran new speaker wires either, you coulda cut the plugs for the old one and used them to wire up your 4 channel amp.

But hey, it's a good excuse to spend some quality time with the truck. :)
 




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