Note: For some reason I can't include links to anything... sorry. My post gets rejected when I do.
I've got a 1998 Honda Civic (DX), and recently the cassette adapter I'd been using to hook up my MP3 player went on the fritz. Since the sound was terrible anyway, I thought I'd make a project out of adding an aux input to the factory radio. After a bit of looking around, I decided against getting a new head unit, because I couldn't find any that were basic enough. I don't want a USB port, SD card slot, CD player, or even a radio for that matter (and no, I can't just ignore the features I don't use, the simple fact that they're there annoys me). Ideally I just want an aux input with a volume knob, and maybe a few EQ knobs that I can twiddle. I discovered saw the Clarion EQS746, and thought I had found perfection. So I ordered it.
Sadly I suffer from a touch of dumb, and I didn't realize there was a difference between preamplifiers and actual amplifiers. Obviously (in hindsight), despite the fact that my EQ unit amplifies the signal voltage, it doesn't have the power to drive speakers. After I realized this, I tried various schemes to install my new EQ unit anyway, primarily by attempting to hack apart the 8-pin DIN cord from the old cassette deck and use it to connect the EQ to the factory radio (which clearly has some kind of basic amp in it). For reasons documented elsewhere, this didn't turn out to be as trivial as I thought it would be (there's a communications protocol between the cassette/CD player and the factory radio that must be adhered to, otherwise the radio won't allow you to switch to the tape deck input).
So as far as I can tell I'm left with three options...
1. Buy a premade aux input adapter for a 98 civic (PIE HON-AUX 1992-2001, ~$50). I'm pretty confident this would work, and I presume I could hook up my EQ in front of it, but it's the most boring solution. And for $50, it's not particularly cheap for what it does, and I'm guessing that going through the factory radio isn't the best thing for sound quality.
2. Buy a head unit with preamp outs/ins. I'd prefer not to get a new head unit... I'm somewhat worried about theft, and I think they're almost all ugly and bloated anyway.
3. Get an amp. This would avoid the factory radio... On the other hand, most amps look like total overkill for my purposes. I don't want my music super loud, just loud enough to hear comfortably while driving on the freeway, and installation for most amps looks intimidating at best (I haven't done any of this before), given that they're big and from what I've read are supposed to be installed in the trunk.
I've found the Pyle PLMRMP3A 4-channel (marine) amp, which I guess I'm ok with pricewise (also ~$50)... would this be powerful enough for my front/rear speakers? Would it result in better sound than using the factory radio amps through the converter I linked to in option 1 above? Does anyone know of another amp in the under $70 price range that I could install without having to run wires under the carpets to my trunk, drill holes in various places, and potentially run into power issues with my battery?
I haven't ruined anything too horribly yet (except the old tape deck, that's in pieces), so I wanted to double check here to see if anyone had any suggestions for the simplest way to wire things up that includes the EQ. Thanks in advance for any help!