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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, it isn't news to anyone here how horrid the Beats audio upgrade was in these vehicles. Fiat really didn't put much of anything into the parts, the interior design is difficult to tune at best, the locations aren't great, the noise in the cabin certainly doesn't help. and we don't need to talk about that thing they very generously call a subwoofer in the back. I've done those things we often read and talk about here or on Facebook groups. Swap the dash speakers, swap that baby subwoofer for the Kicker, put different speakers in the doors. Many of these things do little more than make the sound from the dash louder while the quality continues to tumble as the whole system was tuned for specific drivers with specific loads. The whole front stage is tied together in a passive crossover network in the OEM amp, so swapping any of those drivers would be detrimental. Once I understood that... it all had to go.

Step One: The head unit! Android Auto was a must, especially wireless. I needed to keep access to the vehicle settings, so we needed the Maestro RR unit for that. Staying stock looking was ideal, knowing how terrible the stock dash kits were. I was considering doing a custom fabricated adapter, but then I learned that a shallow double-DIN head unit can work with the OEM radio bezel for the smaller screen OEM radios and the Metra 95-6518B dash kit for Dodge Ram trucks. A Pioneer DMH-W4660NEX wound up being shallow enough that it fit perfectly with a very stock look!

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Boom! It worked like a champ! The factory USB ports didn't work because I have multiple and there is a proprietary hub in the board next to the cigarette lighter. An easy fix! Some Rene's have only one USB port, so it was just a matter of swapping to the simpler board, which is just a USB passthrough. Here's the board for reference:

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Unfortunately, AUX through the OEM board isn't in the cards, but I may tackle that another day.

Well, after finishing all of this up I tried fiddling with the built in equalizer to see if I could get some sort of improvement to help limp along while planning the next phase... but no luck. Dr. Dre left us a terminal patient. One other fun bit here is that due to a bug with the Pioneer and how it works with the Maestro, it will not consistently tell the Maestro to turn on the factory amp unless you are wired in. Testing with a multimeter showed me that audio was always going out the RCA's, so all the more reason to rip out the rest of the factory system.

Phase Two: Amp and Speakers!

Oh boy. How wrong I was when I was putting two or three way Kicker or JBL speakers in the doors and another set of two-ways in the dash. It's far enough in the past that I can laugh about it now. Why would I put tweeters in the doors so they can fire away at my legs?

I wound up going with:
JL Audio VXi 700/5i 5-channel amplifier
JL Audio C5 two-way passive component sets
JL Audio 10TW3-D4 10" subwoofer to go somewhere discrete in the back

Much of this was installed by a local shop. Given that the order went in during the height of COVID in the northeast, it took time for these parts to arrive. While waiting, I went down the rabbit hole and worked on squeezing the sub somewhere out of the way...... I had too much time on my hands. Clearly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
The subwoofer enclosure. I had some priorities here. It had to be a REAL subwoofer that could dig down low, it had to sound good, and it needed to tuck away someplace so I could keep my storage space. Many of us flip our full-size spare wheels over for a bit of storage space in the Trailhawk and I had seen some people build enclosures to tuck away in there, so I ran with that idea. I live in a condo, so I just wasn't up for fiberglassing the inside of that thing for maximum space. Instead, I wound up using a router and a sheet of baltic birch to build a round enclosure formed by stacked rings. It worked out perfectly! The airspace is probably a smidge small for the shallow sub, but it still kicks the ever-loving crap out of that little stock thing. No comparison at all. I found the right thread size for the screw that secures the stock wheel into the well and wound up building one into the bottom of the enclosure so that it won't go flying forward in the event of an accident and bonk me on the head.

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Now, I was concerned that the excursion could hit the floor of the cargo area, so I went to also try and modify that for some more room to move. Carving into it revealed a cardboard honeycomb core with fiberglass and carpet all around to give it some strength while saving space. It was a pain to work with, for sure. I wielded my Dremel and a circle cutting jig to core out the bottom side and then glued in another birch ring with a rabbeted groove for a metal grille. Closing it all up, I covered that underside with leftover carpeting from the box and I think it came out looking great! End result:

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And this is about the state of things when I went to drop it off with my installer, who had finally gotten in some of the very last batch of JL Audio C5's to ever be made. They since terminated their relationship with the manufacturer... Oh boy. Hope they turn out okay!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Before dropping the car off with the installer, I had some a bit of sound dampening in the cargo area. I scraped up what I could of the factory "deadener", which had hardened to a solid by now. I opted for Resonix sound dampening after a bit of research and finding it to be the best product all around. I knew I wouldn't be able to get the dampening material at 100% coverage, so I wanted to use a better product to try and offset some of that. Holy crap, I can't say enough good things about Resonix and how great of a job it does. I'll be back grabbing more later on, for sure.
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The installer wound up finding VERY discrete places for the amps and front crossovers. With the little baby subwoofer no longer required, he gutted that enclosure out and mounted the amp there. I can even access some of it through the grill on the side, mitigating some of my concern about having to service it down the line. The passive crossovers went into the space where the factory amp was on the left side behind the panel. Those, sadly, couldn't be reached after install.

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The rear doors have one wire coming in for both the door speaker and the tweeter, so he placed the passive crossovers for those on the dry side of the factory door card.

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Sadly, with the window mechanism attached to that middle door card, applying dampener to the outer door metal would prove to be difficult. Resonix was applied to anyplace reachable through the speaker position and thank goodness for that! Those midbasses can push some serious air!

All in all, it came out great! The installer did some basic tuning for it all, but I could tell it still was not where I wanted it to be. It turns out that having tweeters in the rear doors is a TERRIBLE idea. They wind up messing with the center image up front and, well, having a tweeter shooting from behind right into your left ear is not pleasant. But, that gets solved in the next phase of things....
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Phase Three: Tuning Round One!

Oh dear. If only I knew how deep the rabbit hole goes when it comes to tuning! Well, the first thing to do was to change the crossover frequency for the rear speakers to cut out the tweeters. Crossing those speakers at 3000 on the high end immediately eliminated the biggest problem. From there, I went a bit further and reconfigured them to act just as rear fill. This meant I would have a purely left signal going to the left and a purely right signal going to the right. How do we do that? We route both left and right to both speakers, but on the left side we subtract the right signal from the left and on the right side we subtract the right signal from the left. Now, once we add some delay and attenuate the speakers, we get sound that won't interfere with our center image up front and will add some ambiance to it all.

Boom. We wound up with somewhat of a center image already. I nabbed a UMIK-1, paired it with Room EQ Wizard, and set to matching the frequency response of the front stage.

Rather quickly, I learned that passive crossovers are not your friend when the tweeters are in the dash and the midbass speakers are in your doors. Odds are that the speakers were out of phase, but also both were having difficulty playing to fill the gap in the middle, creating harshness. Midbass in the doors with a center console also leads to a big null around 500Hz. While things were sounding DRAMATICALLY better than Beats, I knew I could push this further...

Phase Four: Fully Active Front Stage!

Clearly we need to go full active on the front stage. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? So, we'll just need four more channels to go to an eventual fully active three-way front stage. If only I knew ahead of time, I could have just gotten an 8-channel VXi and a more basic mono amp for the sub. Alas! You live and you learn! Buy once, cry once. So, I call my installer up and order a four-channel VXi to be connected via toslink for a digital signal connection. The amps can network, so my volume/sub/preset control nob will be able to control both.

This amp wound up installed where the passive crossovers were and just BARELY fit there. After a quick firmware update... it works! One USB cable gets me a connection to both amps for tuning! The front speakers work! Which I maybe swapped over to Audiofrog GS25's. I chose these speakers because they are widebands and GREAT drop in replacements for OEM speakers. I could then cross them MUCH lower than the tweeters, around 300 or 350, and completely mitigate that 500Hz null that is created by our center consoles. (We all have this null. It is inherent in putting a midbass in a door and having it cancel itself out at that frequency by the reflection off the center console. Putting midbass in kick panels can fix that, too.) Anyways, the GS25 can also play way up high well enough that I can keep them in the dash for now until I can squeeze tweeters in somewhere.

I wound up fabricating some mounts for the GS25's out of acrylic. I 3D printed a router template and used that to get clean lines for the baffles. The other benefit of using the acrylic is that you can drill and tap it for screws to go in cleanly. Adding a bit of closed cell foam on the bottom of the baffle and between it and the speaker made this thing absolutely perfect!

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Output device Camera accessory Audio equipment Gadget Electronic device

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And, this is reminding me I need to pop some closed cell foam on the underside of the OEM grills to keep them from moving at all.

Closed cell foam and Tesa tape are possibly the greatest things ever made. I have been using these all over the Rene to take care of little rattles!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
At some point, I crossed a boundary into Sound Quality territory. Warn your kids, everyone. Car audio ruins lives just like drugs.

In the name of constant improvement, I tore the front doors open again to get cleaner sound out of the midbass speakers and be able to push them a bit harder. I was able to reach a few more spots on the inside of the door to apply another sheet of Resonix inside the doors and get some butyl rope along the top of the crash bar to further absorb resonance in the metal. I went and applied some more to the inner door card, liberally applied Tesa tape to anything that might rattle, and then tossed closed cell foam on the door panel to reduce panel-on-panel noise. When summer rolls back around again, I'll give these doors another pass with even more work. With door rattles... It's all about being meticulous. I keep learning more tricks following other build threads out there.

Anyways, with the acrylic I had, I made new baffles to mount the 6.5" midbass speakers. The 3/8" acrylic was way more solid than the ABS originally used. Once again, drilled and tapped with CCF between speaker and mount as well as between mount and door. I also made some speaker rings around them to help direct sound out into the cabin. WHAT. A. DIFFERENCE. A quick round of retuning brought these things to life!

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Things are finally where I am honestly happy with them. The bass can shake the mirrors when I want, the imaging on the dash is spectacular, and each drive now feels like I'm at a concert with the band out there on the dash. I'm still playing around with tuning to keep squeezing more out of this and am slowly planning the next phase for when summer comes around. Custom A-pillars with tweeters mounted to finally hit three fully active channels. Black hole tiles in the doors to push the midbass even further and cleaner.

That said, this car sucks to tune and is built like crap. Thank goodness for that lifetime warranty from Mopar? Car payment ends in March! That means more money for speakers, right?
 

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My stock radio sounds juuuuuuusssst fine. :)

But your Jeep, your rules.

And you did one helluva job !!
 

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You're giving me ideas. Fortunately I have a ways to go with mine. I don't have quite your budget unfortunately but I can do some of that; particularly the sound deadening work. I'll just have to put up with the tweeters, lol. You've done a great job, very well thought out!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My stock radio sounds juuuuuuusssst fine. :)

But your Jeep, your rules.
Right on! Always love seeing the things everyone is doing to their Jeep!

You're giving me ideas. Fortunately I have a ways to go with mine. I don't have quite your budget unfortunately but I can do some of that; particularly the sound deadening work.
Good luck! Any spot you can get to outer body metal is a great place to toss deadener. Have clips on hand for when you pull body panels off! They will break. Always. The plastic gets more and more brittle with time, so it's inevitable. I found them invaluable after the dealer dropped my headliner to service my sunroof. Mechanics never replace clips... A roll of Tesa tape is super cheap and is sooooo useful. Tape the clips down in their mounts on body panels and they won't be able to move and rattle. A great little trick! The window button control box that you remove to pull off the door panels creaks and rattles like mad. I wound up putting a ton of Tesa tape all over each of the clips and around the edge of the whole thing. It worked wonders! Honestly, a bit of deadener in the doors had a noticeable impact on road noise. I was impressed there.

I really want to try and get some treatment on the front wheel wells and maybe some of the floor...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Another day, another small improvement! I cut some thin strips of closed cell foam and slapped them onto the dash speaker grills. The foam that comes with the GS25's maaaay be getting pressed down against the speaker surrounds, so odds are I should pull them both out and redo that with CCF. SIGH. There's always something more, isn't there?
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Speaking of which, I dove on in to retune the GS25's since I was getting some harshness. Borrowed a better measurement microphone from work and... Crap. It's looking like the dash corners in this car just aren't good. The far side has some crazy reflections that mess with phase, causing a dip around 370Hz. So.... mids now have to go in the pillars? Is that what I'm hearing?

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Right on! Always love seeing the things everyone is doing to their Jeep!



Good luck! Any spot you can get to outer body metal is a great place to toss deadener. Have clips on hand for when you pull body panels off! They will break. Always. The plastic gets more and more brittle with time, so it's inevitable. I found them invaluable after the dealer dropped my headliner to service my sunroof. Mechanics never replace clips... A roll of Tesa tape is super cheap and is sooooo useful. Tape the clips down in their mounts on body panels and they won't be able to move and rattle. A great little trick! The window button control box that you remove to pull off the door panels creaks and rattles like mad. I wound up putting a ton of Tesa tape all over each of the clips and around the edge of the whole thing. It worked wonders! Honestly, a bit of deadener in the doors had a noticeable impact on road noise. I was impressed there.

I really want to try and get some treatment on the front wheel wells and maybe some of the floor...
I just got out of the back doors in mine a couple of weeks ago and did have to replace a couple of the clips. I've been in other doors in previous cars I have owned 20+ years ago, but this is the first of the newer ones for me. My own experience with the clips on the Rene is that they are complex compared to what I would have found say on a 70s vehicle, and not as fragile as I would have expected. I found some replacements on Amazon for the doors but had to go to the dealer for the ones on the dash bezels. My stuff went back together pretty tight. I was going to do sound deadener in the doors when I had them open but it has been wet and cool so decided to wait until I either get some time indoors or the weather improves.

I saw what you did with the door panels, and will have to find some of that CC foam to line those. Next time I open the doors when it is warm I will line them with deadener. I am also going to do the cargo area. I am thinking about doing the headliner but am worried about that one; gonna go slow when opening it up and not any more than necessary. I think there is a lot of gain to be had with that if it gets done right but need to be careful of weight and adhesive.

I think I have pretty low expectations for making any vehicle a perfect acoustic environment; part of how I approach that subject comes from how I handle audio; most of my experience comes from home audio so I make things work as good as can be done with existing structure. I have never had the option of building a perfect space for that so have had to make do. The other part comes from my past; I remember the days of AM radio and a rear speaker in the back deck of a sedan. Later we got FM radio, 8 tracks and cassette players. Coming up that way I was just glad to have ungarbled sound where we could understand the lyrics in the car and happy to have a deck that was in good repair so the tape didn't get "eaten". What is doable now in a car is nothing short of a miracle to me. Hence I approach audio as a kind of subjective experience. I need to like what I am hearing above all. I'll tune it until I get it the way I like it.

Thanks for sharing what you're doing; there's a lot to be learned here for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I am thinking about doing the headliner but am worried about that one; gonna go slow when opening it up and not any more than necessary. I think there is a lot of gain to be had with that if it gets done right but need to be careful of weight and adhesive.
Yes! The dealer dropped my headliner to replace my busted MySky track. The velcro they built the headliner with gave out only a year or so after getting the car, that knocked out more, and they broke a ton of clips doing the work. I've replaced some of the velcro, but who knows how long it will hold for. The rattles up there drove me mad.

Totally agree that it's come a long way! I've been amazed at how things are able to sound. The car is now my favorite place to listen, even over my headphones!
 

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Yes! The dealer dropped my headliner to replace my busted MySky track. The velcro they built the headliner with gave out only a year or so after getting the car, that knocked out more, and they broke a ton of clips doing the work. I've replaced some of the velcro, but who knows how long it will hold for. The rattles up there drove me mad.

Totally agree that it's come a long way! I've been amazed at how things are able to sound. The car is now my favorite place to listen, even over my headphones!
I have no rattles, amazingly. Of course I have no MySky either. Mine is just a Sport so everything is simple. Base radio, base climate system, no power seats. I think having the base model turned out pretty well.

I bet that headliner is a tough one to put back right. Nevertheless I would have been all over that dealer. I was a wrench back in the 90s and was good at it, and my work didn't come back. I figure these guys are being paid enough, the materials they use now are way past what I had available when I worked, and their level of training and support should be the highest possible. There really is no excuse for half assed work out of a dealer. Much of what I see reflects this, but things happen sometimes. they should have made it right.
 
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