New Speakers Sound Bad. Stock HU's Fault? - 2004 to 2016 Mazda 3 Forum and Mazdaspeed 3 Forums
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-07-2017, 11:15 PM Thread Starter
number1alex
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New Speakers Sound Bad. Stock HU's Fault?

Hi All,

I finished the painstaking process of upgrading the stock audio in my '10 3i Touring (non-bose), and I did not get the improvement I was hoping for.

Symptoms are as follows:
  • Highs sound incredibly harsh/piercing at moderate volumes
  • Vocals with S's and T's sound like they are clipping/distorting
  • Mids are sludgy and very indistinct. It's hard to tell they're even there.
  • Low bass (from sub) sounds great as long as it's not cranked
  • Light hissing/static noise comes from the tweeters when no music is playing (volume of the noise increases and decreases relative to the head unit's volume, and disappears when volume is turned to zero). The noise also disappears if I unplug the RCA cables from the amp, so this leads me to believe that the amp is providing clean power to the speakers and my issue lies in the audio.
  • Virtually no headlight-dimming or other symptoms of voltage drops. Problem is persistent whether or not the subwoofer is plugged in. This also leads me to believe that the power is fine.
All these problems appear at moderate to high volumes (28+ head unit volume), and are not as bad at lower volumes. Bass plays clean up to about 38 volume with +4 bass; that's plenty of punch for my taste.

Audio upgrade was installed with the following items:
  • Kenwood XR400-4 Amp
  • Rockford Fosgate R1X10 10" Sealed Subwoofer
  • Infinity Kappa 60.11 Component (front speakers)
  • 4-Gauge battery/ground cables (solid ground connection to sanded bare metal under the rear seat bolt), 14-gauge speaker wire
  • I didn't see an immediate need to upgrade the stock head unit, so I purchased the PAC AOEM-MAZ2 converter and got to work.
Some additional notes:
  • Audio source is Google Play music streaming @ high quality
  • Audio device is Samsung Galaxy S7 over bluetooth (AUX input produces similar issues)
  • I EQ'd out some of the high-end harshness by taking the 5k-8k ranges by one or two notches. This makes it playable at higher volumes, but it just isolates the issues with the mids even more.
  • The Kappa component crossover has a +3db button for the tweeters, but this button is turned off on both sides
TLDR;
I'm hoping that someone can lend their experience with their audio upgrade. Have you had success with using the stock HU or PAC converter with upgraded speakers? Has anyone noticed a different in sound quality after replacing their HU, but keeping everything else the same (amp, speakers wires etc.)? What kind of HU did you use, and would you recommend it?
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-08-2017, 09:50 AM
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you have to properly set your amp tuning. the gain knob is not volume. read this: How to Adjust Amplifier Gains Using a Digital Multi-Meter | Learning Center | Sonic Electronix

this will tell you how to properly set your gains on your amps. also you need to find the 75% of max volume number on your headunit on the stock (if the non bose uses the same numbers volume with 65 max) the spot you want to set yours is 49 then adjust the amps from that setting. 49 will be your new max. (you do this as most headunits introduce clipping above 75% of rated max power) infinity speakers will have very harsh treble to them its almost unbearable which is why I don't use them, the rest of them is ok but the highs are too high, alpine speakers have a more muted tweeter made of soft materials instead of hard ones like the infinitys and to me alpine speakers produce a better mix of mids and highs together then infinitys do.

Rockford fosgate speakers are similar to infinity that they use hard materials in the tweeters but they have better crossovers in them (coaxial, you have component and have not compared the 2 brands component sets) that keep the harshness down some, though they are still harsh to me. infinitys are the absolute worse for harshness of the reputable brands, turn your treble down. are you using this amp to just power the front 2 speakers and a sub? if so disconnect the back speakers from the system, this will help with sound quality as you most likely cant even hear the rears and wont miss em. (in the stock bose I can tell when the rears are on because the rears do some of the mid and mid bass work for the system, the fronts only do a slight bit of bass and mids most is handled by the rears and sub) you also want to set crossovers in the system use around 140hz high pass or hpf to start on your speakers and 120hz low pass or lpf on the sub after you get the gains set then adjust up and down until you have the door speakers only doing highs and mids and the sub only doing bass (you should hear nothing like guitars or vocals from your sub) and the door speakers should not be doing but some of the higher notes from a bass guitar. so thats a good starting point for adjusting an eq. im willing to bet your issues lie in the tuning of your amp, follow the guide I linked above to properly set them and then adjust the crossover on the amp as stated above.

remember 75% of max volume on the stock headunit is 49 (48.75 actually but round up) so set your head unit to 49 to tune and this will now be your max volume. also while doing the setup make sure your treble and bass adjustments on the headunit are at +-0 and set the gains and crossovers with a flat eq. then you really only want to use the eq to turn down frequencies that are too over bearing, not boost those that are too weak. so if the highs are too much go - on the treble and do the same on the eq on your phone if you use it to set the audio, start flat and then after all the adjustments are in set it how you like but its better to go down on the eq on frequencies too overpowering to match them to the rest then boost ones that are too weak. the crossovers keep the speakers playing what they are designed to play so you use a high pass on the door speakers to cut bass off, 140hz is usually good when you have a sub in the system, depending on your tastes and system you can usually go down to 100hz or so and be ok but keeping it higher gives your sub more range and helps prevent the door speakers and sub from playing the same tone and making it sound off, it also protects your speakers as you start going higher in volume, bass is harder to produce clean then treble (big reason subs take more power) and tweeters typically only use a few watts.

the lower the frequency the more power is needed to match the volume of the rest of the musical range, so keeping that in mind you also want to keep your sub from playing too high range as this can damage it, subs are not built to play above 150-200hz usually. and on a 10" you want it higher frequency to catch more (smaller sub size usually gets more mid bass out of it at the sacrifice of low end bump because it cant move as much air, per example my old alpine type r 12" moved 46L of air in free air while its equivalent 10" counterpart only moved 28L so that extra 2" of cone area moved almost double the air volume) so your small door speakers are not designed to move a 60hz tone like your sub is. and at higher power the lower tones do the most damage when played in speakers not designed for it, again that's why in a stock system people tend to blow door speakers more then the tweeters as the tweeters are not over working the door speaker is to produce any semblance of bass, the bose system has frequency cuts like crossovers for each channel (fronts have it set high, middle one above vents is set very high (treble only, its basically a big tweeter, with some mid playing capacity, the rears play a more full range then the fronts to help the staging and do the mid bass for the system) as the "perfect" car audio system would sound like the band is playing a concert on your dashboard for you.

so think of a concert you face the band and they play in front and the bose system does this well, for some too well, but I like it (its not too powerful hell the whole system has less power then your kenwood amp) but it can beat and turn heads when you tune it right, and I used to have a 2000 watt system in my 08 3 before it got totaled, the bose is 265 watts overall then on your sub you use low pass to cut the mids and highs out again 120hz is a good starting point for a 10" sub, then usually go down to match it and keep it from playing mids but also pick up the mid bass most aftermarket door speakers don't like to do. and again this protects the sub at high volumes. also the human ear can pick up location from high notes better then lows (why the tweeter is up top close to you) and as the frequency lowers the ear has a more difficult time telling where the sound is coming from, this is why the subs are in the back as the human ear cant usually tell the sound is coming from behind with bass it just sounds like its all around. but you know where your tweeters are and how loud they are because they have that high pitch piercing noise.
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Last edited by kms1990; 03-08-2017 at 11:01 AM.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-08-2017, 10:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much, this post was very informative. I had set the input sensitivity (gain) to 2.5v, because I read in another post that that is the head unit output. HOWEVER, the PAC module has a note on the back that claims it "Provides 2:1 gain and infinite attenuation." If this is true then the correct setting is 2x2.5=5. I retuned the amp to 5v input sensitivity, which happened to be the minimum setting, and the speakers sound MUCH cleaner. Duh, I can't believe I didn't think of that before. Now I can turn the volume up to 47 (75% of the 63 max on my system) with a flat EQ and it sounds loud, but not nearly as distorted. Backing the volume off a touch makes the whole system sounds great!

There are still some imperfections, and I can still hear a trace of the "hiss" coming out of the tweeters at high volume if the music is muted, but it's very manageable compared to before. The system actually sounds like a real aftermarket system now. LPF and HPF are set to 200hz on either side, but I may play around with this more now that the system is actually pleasant to listen to.

Thanks again for the informative post. Cheers!
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-09-2017, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by number1alex View Post
Thank you so much, this post was very informative. I had set the input sensitivity (gain) to 2.5v, because I read in another post that that is the head unit output. HOWEVER, the PAC module has a note on the back that claims it "Provides 2:1 gain and infinite attenuation." If this is true then the correct setting is 2x2.5=5. I retuned the amp to 5v input sensitivity, which happened to be the minimum setting, and the speakers sound MUCH cleaner. Duh, I can't believe I didn't think of that before. Now I can turn the volume up to 47 (75% of the 63 max on my system) with a flat EQ and it sounds loud, but not nearly as distorted. Backing the volume off a touch makes the whole system sounds great!

There are still some imperfections, and I can still hear a trace of the "hiss" coming out of the tweeters at high volume if the music is muted, but it's very manageable compared to before. The system actually sounds like a real aftermarket system now. LPF and HPF are set to 200hz on either side, but I may play around with this more now that the system is actually pleasant to listen to.

Thanks again for the informative post. Cheers!
yeah turn down those crossovers, for the hpf on your door speakers turn it to 140-160hz and set the sub around 100-120hz lpf to start and then adjust to your liking. crossovers are not like brick walls (unless at +-24db then its almost a wall but these are rare and not used for musical applications much)where at that set frequency no sound gets by, they roll off in a slope, most amps do +-12db slope which is a decently soft slope set your gains as the linked instructions in my first post say, then set your crossovers this will help you get the most sound out of your equipment and play it at a higher volume. set your gains at the 47 volume level and then you will have nice clean music at 75% max and have it louder then you probably want/need but I know from loud after having a 2000w system in my 08 3, a 6000w competition grade 6 sub setup in a 98 pathfinder with 8 coaxial door speakers 2 per channel on a 4 channel amp at 1000w 2 optima yellow top batteries and a beefed up alternator putting out almost 200 amps at 2k rpm it also had several capacitors between the batteries to act as charge holders for the rear battery to charge better off. I won a few local competitions with that setup, it beat a 10,000w rated car with 4 subs and 10 door speakers I got to 198db with the windows up on the sound drag he got to 196db that system was so loud it would do the youtube video thing if a girl with long hair sat in my car it would blow their hair everywhere it was also so loud I would pull up to the local autozone and start knocking light bulbs and car wash stuff off the shelf it vibrated so hard I could not even listen to it near competition volume as it hurt tremendously. I did it once and never again with people in the car.

anyhow, with your input matched now it sounds like your gains are a bit high, so set them as linked in my above post and then set your crossover and you will be good to go.


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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-12-2017, 12:16 PM Thread Starter
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Quick update on this.

Despite the system sounding better after setting the amp to 5v input sensitivity and 0 gain, I was still getting some awful distortion and a hiss/static noise at higher volumes. After hours of troubleshooting, I concluded that it was most likely the PAC module or stock HU. I finally bit the bullet and bought a new Kenwood receiver and the difference in sound quality is seriously night and day. Now I can make the Kappas scream at higher volumes and the static/hissing noise is 100% gone.

Lesson of the day: PAC modules are garbage - or at least mine was. Stock head unit is also probably leaving a lot to be desired in terms of sound quality.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-13-2017, 09:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by number1alex View Post
Quick update on this.

Despite the system sounding better after setting the amp to 5v input sensitivity and 0 gain, I was still getting some awful distortion and a hiss/static noise at higher volumes. After hours of troubleshooting, I concluded that it was most likely the PAC module or stock HU. I finally bit the bullet and bought a new Kenwood receiver and the difference in sound quality is seriously night and day. Now I can make the Kappas scream at higher volumes and the static/hissing noise is 100% gone.

Lesson of the day: PAC modules are garbage - or at least mine was. Stock head unit is also probably leaving a lot to be desired in terms of sound quality.
it was probably just your stock headunit as I have used tons of PAC stuff and its always been fine. The stock unit is not really that great at signal processing which is why the bose systems have the signal processing built onto the amp. You also said you where using Bluetooth to get music, my bose stock system will introduce some static in the Bluetooth stream (only really noticeable when no music is going) I think the bose system mitigates this somewhat while playing music, and its not there in call audio. kenwood units are superb (well the excelon line) I have had many kenwood units all where satisfactory-outstanding, some lacked features I wanted at their price which is why only satisfactory. most recent one was a kdc-x998 unit in the 08 3, tons of features, its still siting in my closet, I may get around to doing the headunit swap soon because a usb port would be nice again, plus it has a 13 band eq pro eq features, higher sound quality and many more features then stock. but im kind of to the point if im going to spend the money to rip out the headunit and replace it, im going to rip out all the bose and just do things my way, which is why I have not done so yet, don't want to spend $1000+ right now.

PS the 75% max setting on kenwoods is 27 FYI


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Last edited by kms1990; 03-13-2017 at 09:17 AM.
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