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Discussion Starter #1
Been working with a sales consultant at CrutchField and we came up with this list of items. The power of the RL BE audio is impressive but there is little substance within the music. Very flat.

I have not upgraded a car audio system in 15 years and some of this is very new to me.

  1. Amp / DSP lookign at the JL Audio VX700/5i however, I was hoping that I would not need to run new speaker wires throughout the truck, but thats whats been suggested so far.
  2. Focal Integration ISS 165 (Front)
  3. Kicker CompRT 43CWRT81 (Sub) Drop-in replacement.
  4. Focal Integration ISC 165 (Rear)
I'm not sold on having to replace the rear speakers however not opposed since the cost is semi-reasonable. However doing so requires another 2 channels on an amp. Opening the option for the 3 channel versus a 5 channel. I dont think I would upgrade the center, haven't seen too many people in the forum do so.

Ideally I was looking looking for a semi-plug and play option. I dont want to hack away at too much of the car, I would like to keep all my space intact.
 

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2019 RTL-E (white on beige) in central Texas
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Will you be installing this system and tuning the DSP yourself, or will you use a local installer?

We note that the VX700/5i supports 6 input channels; your BE (same as RTL-E) has 8 output channels for in-cabin audio:
  • Front tweeters L&R**
  • Front Midwoofers L&R**
  • Front Center**
  • Rear L&R
  • Sub
  • ** indicates channels transmitting NAV voice, phone voice, and/or vehicle warning tones
The VX700/5i has 5 speaker level outputs, one of those being for a sub.

What is the exact arrangement of input channels, output channels, and speakers you propose to end-up with (the input>output>speaker "routing")?

We note that any channel (speaker) you drive through the JL DSP will have an inherent processing delay, while any channel driven directly from the OE DSP will not be subject to that delay. Having some speakers on a delay and others not will almost assuredly yield an unsatisfying perceived sound - that's why one should not do that (ALL signals in a system should be routed through the added / aftermarket DSP so they are subject to the same processing delay / timing).

Do you propose to abandon some OE speaker locations to avoid this problem, or are you ready to put up with the likely unsatisfactory result if you run some channels (center and/or rear, for example) from the OE amp and the rest of the speakers through the (delaying) JL DSP?

Be aware that the various NAV voices, phone voices, and various vehicle tone are on your RTL-E center and front (mainly tweeter) OE amp outputs so abandonment of those is ill-advised.

I may be wrong but methinks there may be a lack of full understanding of the RTL-E / BE system and signal routing, and with that a lack of a solid plan for signal routing to preserve all of your OE features while actually improving music SQ.

Adding an external DSP to the RTE-E / BE system (distinctly different from lower trims) presents a particularly challenging set of circumstances; personally I don't think the VX700/5i supports an input>output>speaker routing configuration that's amenable to those particular RL trims (absent sacrifice of OE feature functionality).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
First off thanks.

Ok, if I understand correction the ideal situation would be to go with an external DSP separate from the Aftermarket AMP, so that DSP signaling is processed in aggregate, and not by separate units. This makes sense to me.

If I understand correctly this will allow me to retain portions of the factory AMP for Nav voices and such? I definitely dont want to lose the OE Nav functionality


Keep me honest but would the signal routing be as such?

HU -> JL FIX86 -> (OEM AMP & Aftermarket AMP) - various speakers
 

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Simplifying a bit, in the BE / -E there's two 'modules' in play for purposes of this discussion:
['HU'] > [OE DSP/amp]

All of the volume control, integration and routing of non-music voices and tones, muting of selected channels when non-music sounds are played, any EQ, filtering, etc, is managed within the single [OE DSP/amp] module.

While we might find it very desirable to 'ditch' or 'bypass' some of those signal alterations that occur within the OE DSP/amp module, that is not for any practical intents possible without forfeiting all of the features we like.

So, for practical purposes, we're stuck with a basic component scheme of:
{['HU'] > [OE DSP/amp]} > [aftermarket DSP (optional)] > [aftermarket amp(s) (optional)] > speakers
____

A lot of different aftermarket devices with a lot of different functional capabilities can be and are now generally labelled "DSP".

Let's look at the JL FIX86 in particular ….
It's conveniently described as accepting "8 inputs", but on closer examination we find what it really accepts is "4 stereo pair inputs". It treats the inputs as L&R 'pairs' and does not behave as one might like if you use any of those for a mono input (e.g. the RL center and the RL sub) because it isn't designed to accommodate that. f you try to use the two provided 'sub' inputs for center+sub rather than splitting single OE sub output to two as directed, you'll not get the output processing you expect or want or find desirable. So, that device, even when inserted after the OE DSP/amp, falls in the category of those 'not amenable / beneficial' to our BE/-E IMO.
___

A DSP capable of accepting all 8 of the OE DSP/amp outputs (3 of those being stereo pairs, two of those being 'mono channels') and: 1) supporting EQ correction of each input discretely; 2) supporting routing and mixing of each input to specified outputs discretely, would provide the ability to radically improve the OE signals while retaining all of the OE features. For the sake of discussion, let's call that a "Full Feature DSP".

Examples of "Full Feature DSP" are certain units offered by Audiotec Fischer (HELIX, MATCH brands), Arc Audio, Audison, among others. While offering tremendous opportunity to extract great sound from the BE/-E system while preserving the OE features, that approach involves a bit more money and IMO requires a lot of understanding and careful consideration to choose the specific DSP model, configure it to maximum advantage, and tune it to optimum effect.

So far in my following of threads on this forum I've not seen anyone undertake that effort on a BE/-E; most have been content to upgrade speakers and perhaps add amps between those and the OE DSP/amp module. I'm sure that done carefully that will yield some noticeable improvement in the OE sound. But no, it does not allow correction of all the shortcomings inherent in the OE system.
__

The above is somewhat 'simplified' for the 95% reader. There's many more than one way to 'skin this cat' and I've only touched on a few of the more simple approaches.

My (still ongoing) detailed study of the BE/-E system indicates it may be possible to 'capture' those NAV & Phone voices and vehicle generated tones before they enter the OE DSP/amp module for integration processing. IF that proves correct, that would open the door to an even more advantageous management of music output quality and those other features using a carefully selected "Full Featured DSP". But that's very different from the schematic you present - in my scenario the aftermarket DSP is after the [OE DSP/amp] with only the non-music sound signals tapped (not cut) before that module and routed ahead to the aftermarket DSP for reintegration with desired output channels (that necessary to preserve the OE music muting scheme when those voices occur).

I've yet to move to testing of the vehicle with the oscilloscope to determine actual feasibility and even though of some personal interest, that's a low priority for me at this point (I'm not sure I really want to undertake such very extensive mods on my RTL-E, though it'd doubtless be a lot of fun and ultimately rewarding to my ears).

AFAIK there is nothing even remotely approaching a 'plug-and-play' comprehensive upgrade for our particular vehicles - we're burdened with an OE system having characteristics that so far no-one has undertake to accomodate 'off-the-shelf'.

Personally, were I you, I'd start with speaker upgrades alone and see if that gets you closer to a sound you can live with. If not, then IMO you're launching into a much more significant project that will involve lots of learning and study and may well involve iterative changes of aftermarket components (experimenting) to achieve the desired outcome - that's the nature of 'breaking new ground' with radical DIY mobile audio mods.

Sorry for the length of the post, hope that helps more than confuses.

A couple of bits of info from Honda that start to hint at the issues I discuss ...
396889


396890
 

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I thought real hard about buying the BE w the nav radio etc, but couldn't justify the 5K extra and didnt want a black truck, been there done that, but truly admire the audio system for what it is.

What Id consider fwiw, is; get some nice speakers, and rid yourself of the oem stuff. You may want to go to a reputable stereo shop and chat w them and let them demo some gear in person. I grabbed some stuff from crotchfield, only because I wanted genuine JBL and the warranty. It worked but it took me a lot of work to get to where IM pleased w the sound. Wasn't looking to piss of neighbors, but wanted quality. What centex is talking about is right on the money.Thats why am leaning on a speaker swap... Hope this helps
 

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CentexG2, thanks for posting all of that. Really shows the technical details I hadn't gotten into yet. I was looking at ditching the OEM amp, but now I see how much I would lose. I'm going to have to go back to the drawing boards and also check out those DSP processors.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm going to start with speakers, (front components and rear coax) and disable the ANC. Hopefully thats will be sufficient enough to keep me from going down the path of the unknown.

Knowing me, I suspect that I will change out the sub and add an amp at some point.
 

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I was looking at ditching the OEM amp, but now I see how much I would lose.
Yep, one way to look at it is that the "DSP" integrated inextricably in the OE amp of the RTL-E / BE trims has much more to do with managing the 'vehicle convenience features' than it has to do with actually improving / managing music sound quality. Lose, ditch, or bypass that module and you've lost all of those features.

As I mentioned, a whole range of black-boxes get called "DSP" these days - those three letters tell you nothing about what those black-boxes, whether OE or aftermarket, really do. You must dig into the details of the specific unit under consideration to comprehend their scope, purpose, and capabilities. IME that always requires digging beyond advertising / sales literature and getting into the detailed installation, user, and tuning software documentation. Many of the higher-end DSP manufacturers allow download of the tuning software for their units and running that software in a "Demo Mode" - that can be hugely enlightening and informative, I highly suggest a prospective purchaser do that to help hone-in on the nuanced differences between different specific units prior to purchase.
 

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I'm going to start with speakers, (front components and rear coax) and disable the ANC. Hopefully thats will be sufficient enough to keep me from going down the path of the unknown.

Knowing me, I suspect that I will change out the sub and add an amp at some point.
Before you start changing hardware, have you tried listening using a higher quality source such as USB/Bluetooth instead of AM/FM/HD/SXM? I'm not a vetted audiophile, but I am significantly more critical than the average listener and I find the difference to be dramatic in my RTL-E.
 

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Before you start changing hardware, have you tried listening using a higher quality source such as USB/Bluetooth instead of AM/FM/HD/SXM? I'm not a vetted audiophile, but I am significantly more critical than the average listener and I find the difference to be dramatic in my RTL-E.
Absolutely agree - judging 'system capabilities' should certainly be done with high-quality files on USB plugged directly into the system (better even than Bluetooth).

For our Canadian friends, or we with the accessory CD player in the USA, that's your absolute best source for uncompressed music playback to see what the OE amp/DSP system itself is really capable of delivering.

garbage in > garbage out, as 'they' say ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited by Moderator)
Before you start changing hardware, have you tried listening using a higher quality source such as USB/Bluetooth instead of AM/FM/HD/SXM? I'm not a vetted audiophile, but I am significantly more critical than the average listener and I find the difference to be dramatic in my RTL-E.
I've never used the FM/AM/Satalite portion of the stock HU. I mainly listen Amazon Music HD. Previous to the RL I drove a VW GTI with the Dyn Audio system, suing the same source, and it sound quite good. I will try a few other audio source just to see, if Amazon is the issue.

Also wanted to say, I use the standard Apple lighting cable to the USB interface on the dash. I've tried offline and online music choices. I also find Bluetooth, in most situations, sounds flat since the audio is compressed. I think its ok for phone calls or podcasts but, not ideal for music.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I ended up going with the Focal Integration series, disabling the ANC and using a bit of sound deadening material in the doors. The focal speakers were high discounted at Crutchfield so was somewhat of a no-brianer, since I spent less than $300 all in. Overall the sound is great, the sub does seem to be more underwhelming now that the front and rear speakers are now more performant.

I upgraded the front speakers first, which was a huge improvement, however the overall prominence of the Focal speakers seemed to come alive after both the front and rears were in. Since the Focal integration series comes with in-line cross-overs I did opt to only use them on the tweeters, allowing the factory DSP do what is was designed for. Overall impressed.

I'm now considering a drop-in replacement for the factory sub, perhaps the Infinity REF-FLEX8, Rockford Fosgate P3SD4-8, or the Polk Audio DB 842 DVC. Honestly I'm still trying to figure out which will work best with the factory amplifier. My hope is that a new sub will round everything out.
 

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I went with the JL Audio Fix86. I agree with Centex's comments on it that it is not a true/full DSP. It is kind of middle of the road, you get signal correction and have moderate control over the outputs but not full custom control of the signal. You also get pre-outs for amps. This was enough for me. I left the center and rear speakers run through the stock amp and the Fix86 feeds a 5 channel running my front Image Dynamics components actively and the 5th channel to 10" subs under the rear seat. It's a relatively simple set up and a huge improvement over stock.
BTW, I noticed a very good improvement once Amazon HD upgraded to lossless.
 

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I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread, @CentexG2 especially so for the super level of detail.

I'm thinking of the same upgrade for my BE. I believe the below would work. Center is kept and summed to front right/front left.

The Kicker sub amp supports both high and low inputs fwiw.

Thoughts?

400091
 

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I'm thinking of the same upgrade for my BE. I believe the below would work. Center is kept and summed to front right/front left.

Thoughts?

View attachment 400091
Great diagram describing your plan, thanks for that!

So you preserve the OE center output as an input to the DSP, routing the signal to L&R Front Hi outputs (to your tweeters) for reproduction of NAV voice; you will not have an actual center speaker in the finished build. Understanding that concept, here's some thoughts for your consideration:

1. The OE muting should still work as intended; your music output will be muted on all speakers when any of the voices (NAV or HFL (phone)) occur.

2. In the OE configuration, if navigating while on the phone you'll note that NAV will speak on the center channel while phone voices concurrently occur on the front L&R. I've encountered this, the person on the other-end of the call can hear the NAV voice speaking, personally I mute NAV before making a call and scramble to mute it before answering a call.

It may be that when NAV voice is summed with HFL/phone voice on any given speaker, those two voice inputs concurrently 'stepping on' each other may yield totally unintelligible output. You may need to be very dilligent about muting NAV when that's a possibility. With summing in the AC DSP I don't at all expect any sort of 'signal overload' on the speakers, just an unintelligible summing of voices.

3. Please note that in this paragraph and below I'm going to use "Hi" as a reference to high frequency signals as are reproduced by a tweeter and "Lo" as a reference to low-frequency signals as are reproduced by a mid-bass speaker in a 2-way speaker array (not at all referring to 'hi/speaker level' or 'low/line level' output voltage range):

Depending on the frequency range of your Front Hi speakers and the LP XO you select for them, you may find that NAV voice reproduction is less than desirable / intelligible. Please see this article (among many that can be found via Google) on the frequency range of the spoken voice. I think you'll find that, as low quality as it may be, the OE Center speaker used for NAV voice reproduction has a wider frequency range than most tweeters tuned for music reproduction in conjunction with a lower-frequency midbass driver. You may find the need to sum the NAV voice to both Front Hi and Front Lo outputs to reproduce the full-spectrum of that voice. However (big "but"), IF you do that it'll compound some issues with music reproduction discussed below.

Note that the HFL/phone voice routed to Front L&R is reproduced on both the tweeters and door speakers for optimum fidelity across the full voice spectrum.

Let's shift from voices to music ...

4. Summing the OE Center mono output (remember, that's a simple sum of L+R music) with the discrete L Hi signal will yield [L+(L+R)] music output on that left tweeter, and [R+(L+R)] on the right tweeter. Methinks the inclusion of the R component from Center on the L tweeter output (and vice-versa on the R tweeter) will destroy the perceived music sound staging; your Front Hi output on each side will be substantially 'polluted' with the opposite-side music signal from the summed Center input.

Obviously, if you sum Center out to both the tweeters and door speakers to address the challenge discussed in item 3, the music staging across the full-spectrum is similarly 'polluted'.

That's the bugaboo that comes with using the OE Center output at all :(

Have I lost you yet?

Truck Audio Spectrum.png


This is getting long, see next post ....
 

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Center is kept and summed to front right/front left.
That's the bugaboo that comes with using the OE Center output at all :(
So, is there a workaround using the AudioControl D-6.1200? Maybe ... an as-yet untested scheme ....

Looking at OE RTL-E audio schematics and connector diagrams, we note OE Amp module inputs on CONNECTOR B:
PIN B4AUX NAVI GNDGround for audio signal of voice guidance and Voice Recognition (VR) prompts

PIN B19AUX NAVIInputs front audio signal of voice guidance and Voice Recognition (VR) prompts

These appear to be the pre-amp (line level) source for the NAV voice alone that is mixed with music for the OE Center speaker output. IF that is the case, perhaps this would work ....

Truck Audio Workaround.png


The notion being that we TAP** the NAV Voice signal alone before it is mixed with music in the OE Amp/DSP and sum that Voice Only signal to our L&R Hi and Lo AudioControl outputs, avoiding any use of the corrupting OE Center L+R music signal whatsoever.

Only testing would answer the questions and prove if this will work ....
  • Is B19+B4 in fact a line-level voice only analog signal?
  • Does AudioControl D-6.1200 support summing that single line-level input to 4 discrete output channels and effecting good voice + music relative volume levels?
It's a theory that someday I'll get around to testing, but that's not on the near horizon for me. In my case I'd be using a DSP other than the AudioControl unit.

**TAP rather than CUT in case the signal on this line plays a role in invoking MUTE when NAV voices occur

All in this and the preceding post just for your consideration, feedback / critique most welcome, have fun with your project, and keep us posted!
 

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Thank you for both posts. I'm flat out at work this week, but I wanted to say thanks up front. I find this stuff incredibly fun, and I might be the guy who hooks a scope up to B4 and B19.... more soon!
 

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I'm now considering a drop-in replacement for the factory sub, perhaps the Infinity REF-FLEX8, Rockford Fosgate P3SD4-8, or the Polk Audio DB 842 DVC. Honestly I'm still trying to figure out which will work best with the factory amplifier. My hope is that a new sub will round everything out.
Have you figured out which sub works best as a drop in replacement? I’m curious to know, very interested in doing the same upgrades as you.
 

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I'm very tempted to see if I can modify a real 8" to fit. The problem with the shallow mount subs is that you usually give up Sd and Xmax. I need to get some more volume measurements before taking on a expensive experiment though.
 

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I'm very tempted to see if I can modify a real 8" to fit. The problem with the shallow mount subs is that you usually give up Sd and Xmax. I need to get some more volume measurements before taking on a expensive experiment though.
A couple of us have dropped in the Kicker CompRT 43CWRT81 sub paired with a Kicker 46CXA400.1T amp. It sounds great and installs in the factory enclosure. The air volume of the factory enclosure also is within the recommended range for this sub.
 
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