Hello everyone. I came in here last week and posted a couple messages. I got some advice from a couple great forum members, my thanks to them although I ended up going with a local shop rather than internet dealers. I got some pretty decent prices on my new gear, better than Crutchfield offers on some of it, although I ended up paying that back as installation costs. Thought I'd show what I ended up with.
Alpine CDE-HD148BT - Crutchfield price $249.99 I got it for $199.99
JL Audio C3-650 - Crutchfield price $429.99 I paid $399.99
JL Audio XD500/3 - I paid the Crutchfield price of $429.99
The dealer is letting me try different subs. I'm on the second set now. The first one I tried was the Pioneer TS-SWX251. It's a 10 inch flat woofer in a sealed enclosure. The one I'm listening to now is the JL Audio CP108LG-W3v3 8" ported woofer.
In the 90's I used to have a Honda CRX SI with MB Quart reference series 6.5 components powered by a Carver 75x2 amp, a Clarion head unit, and an 8" powered Bazooka subwoofer. I loved that system, it seemed perfect for the little CRX. I sold the CRX because it was getting old and maintenance costs were getting oppressive, and replaced it with a brand new Honda Civic EX in 2002. The Honda Premium Sound system was not as good as the stereo I'd had in the CRX, but it was very decent for a stock system and I opted to run with it. About 2 years ago the head unit started acting flaky so I replaced it with the Sony CDXGT360MP. It was a cheap unit that cost me $79.95 at the time, but which did the job of playing CDs. It was an immediate improvement in sound quality over the old receiver.
A few weeks ago a friend bought a new Alpine receiver for his classic MG car, and I started critically listening to the system in my car. It certainly didn't sound as good as it did when I bought it, and I decided to start researching car audio to get a nice system in the car. I decided that I wasn't going with a "price is no object" system, and was determined to get a great system for ~ $1500.
I went to a local shop with a good reputation and selected the JL speakers and amplifier. I seriously considered some Kenwood Excelon XR-1800P speakers, but was warned the install would be tricky (and expensive) and in my research I found they weren't very efficient speakers. The JL component speakers were a bit more efficient. I opted against replacing the factory speakers in the back and decided to not run with "rear fill" at all and had them disconnected. I also opted to have the system professionally installed because those guys can do a lot better job than I can.
At the end of the install the owner told me to come listen to it. Wow, what a difference in clarity! Power aplenty so I could turn it up ridiculously loud if I wanted to, and no background noise at all. I was pleased I opted for the JL components, although they were pricier than I originally intended to spend. I was pretty impressed, and the owner asked if I wanted them to slap a sub box in it for a few days to see what I thought. They put the Pioneer box in the trunk, hooked it up to the amp and set the gains. Since I didn't have a separate output for the subwoofer the bass on the component speakers was also affected when I changed the bass. Even so the subwoofer enhanced the sound quality, but I wanted something I could feel a little better. The owner said that a head unit with 3 outputs at 4v would allow for precise control of the subwoofer output (which is something I also read on this board) so I told him I'd come in a few days later to select a head unit. I went back to the dealer 3 days later and selected the Alpine receiver. It was installed and I was called back to listen to the difference. I couldn't believe the cleaner sound on the CD player...I have always labored under the assumption that the difference between players is insignificant. I was wrong. As promised, the better control over the subwoofer improved the sound quality as well since I could change the subwoofer output without raising the bass input of the front component speakers. The owner asked if I'd like to listen to another box and I readily agreed. The JL 8" ported speaker was popped into my trunk and hooked up. Vastly better performance, but I did notice that I had to set the "subwoofer" option to +10 at the head unit in order to "feel" the music. The sound quality is surprising to me. I had a pair of Kenwood 8" woofers in the 80's that didn't come close to the output of that single 8" JL woofer. In fact, I replaced the 8" Kenwood woofers with 10" Norman Lab woofers back then, and those 10's didn't come close to the 8" JL. The owner told me that there was another ported box with 2 of those 8" woofers if I wanted more bass, and that there were other options as well. I'm not into the gangsta scene or anything, but I do enjoy "feeling" the music from time to time. I'll try the dual 8" box, and maybe a ported 10" or 12" box as well before making my final decision.
To sum it up, I'm astounded at the difference in quality over the previous system. The JL amplifier is tiny yet powerful, and the JL components in the front are crystal clear, though at high volume levels I had to turn down the treble a bit because they seemed a bit too bright to me. The Alpine head unit is the best sounding unit I've ever had and I used to have a Nakamichi tape deck back in the old days. That receiver has everything, even a 9 band equalizer I haven't really learned how to use yet. Wish me luck on my subwoofer selection guys, and hope you enjoyed my posting.