Monday, September 21, 2020

Modernizing the Stereo, Part 1 - Getting Ready and Amp Selection

So now that I've been able to get the OEM look, but with digital sound - what next? Well as you recall, the front doors now have the Alpine Type X 6.5 coaxial speakers that I really like. But the rear deck still has those old Pioneers.

This means that when I listen carefully, even though audiophiles will say that these days rear shelf speakers are used for "rear fill" - well sorry guys but I can still tell a difference in the tone and characteristics of the different branded speakers. In other words even if their function is rear fill, it still sounds a bit off.

So, I decided that the logical next step would be to order the Alpine Type X components for installation in the doors and move the coaxials back to the rear deck.  These components come with their own crossover, so they can be run passive, but wouldn't it be more fun to have an active cross over at work? And while we are at it, why not use a DSP to further improve the sound, if that is even possible? And since these speakers can handle a lot more power versus the 15W the OEM deck puts out, doesn't it make sense to buy a good modern amp that is bound to have less distortion than the factory radio?

Oh, and bonus - remember this Worx-installed wiring I removed? Well my cleansing/purification mission would ONLY be complete if I removed all of the speaker wiring as well. So getting the coaxial Alpines gives me an excuse to do all of the above!

This was just the beginning...

Of course, this is easier said than done.

First, given the lack of space in the car, I had to figure out where to mount the amp and DSP.  I thought about under the seat and in the trunk but I don't want to have anything under the seat (as I learned before when the brain for my first navi kept getting kicked under the front passenger seat) and in the trunk, unless it was hidden with my skills it would not look nice. So I quickly settled on the space next to the battery, behind the seats but not in the useable trunk space.

Then I learned that Alpine makes a combined amp and DSP, the PDP E-800DSP.  But for some reason there is very little in the way of reviews on the internet. On the other hand, I found that AudioControl does a much better job of using the internet to market their products, and so I was able to form a favorable impression of their flagship DSP/Amp, the D6-1200. I think it's a bit bigger than the Alpine but not by much?

And yes, before anyone points out the obvious - there are a lot of other really nice products in this field. But since I'm a beginner at this, plus I'm not using the best possible speakers (nor is the car quiet enough to really allow for SQL quality audio) I decided to go with something that looked relatively straightforward but had enough cool features, especially how it is designed to work with and improve OEM stereos. (And the software looked much easier to use than the Alpine product).

So - first steps were to order all the parts. I first ordered the D6-1200 first from SonicElectronix:

Contents-wise pretty straightforward. USB cable to use for tuning/customizing via PC. Feels very solidly built and well made. Can't wait to get this hooked up to new speakers!

Then from a company called KnuKonceptz, the power cables and speaker wires - all Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) of course, as well as the main in line fuse and fuse holder, and a fused distribution block.  I also ordered items (thank you Amazon) such as tools and installation parts (such as ferrules and crimp connectors, electrical tape, a large piece of ABS plastic board, etc) to make the installation easier.

Red and black power cables (1/0 AWG), red, black and blue 4 AWG power wires, and blue 14 AWG speaker wire, along with a fused distribution block:

Check out how thick 1/0 AWG wire is!

Some special battery terminals to allow easy hook up of the power cables.

I also ordered some "speedwire" (nine 18 AWG wires collected into one common bundle) to use to connect the OEM deck speaker outs to the amp:

Once all the parts arrived, I had to figure out where to mount what.  The basic rule is to mount the main fuse as close as possible to the battery - not a problem.  But from what I learned from my research was that it appears that most installers like to mount the distribution block (if they use one) near the amp itself.  However, because I had decided to mount the DSP amp next to the battery in the space between the trunk and the rear seat, there just was not enough space for the distribution block.

And then of course, there were other tasks ahead of me as well. I had to remove the subpar wiring (the double wiring) in the doors leading to the speakers and replace with the 14 AWG OFC speaker wire. 

Finally, the Alpine components still had not arrived... so where do I start? 

I'll show you in my next post - with me only working a couple hours each evening, progress is slow (plus I'm figuring things out as I do the install). 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

OCD to the Max?

So as I was taking the car interior apart in order to strip out all non OEM wiring, I realized the moment I had been waiting for had arrived.

You see, a while back while my car was at Nismo Omori Factory, I was doing my usual Yahoo Auction check when I stumbled upon these two items.

 Yep, they are brand new clear plastic covers for the main gauges as well as the subgauges!

Looks good but it can be improved!

You can see the slight scratches...
 So to prevent any further scratches on replacement, I put on these rubber gloves.

And used some electronic equipment air spray to make sure once opened up, there was no dust that would end up between the new clear plastic and the gauges.

And then I just snapped the new plastic to the shroud:
Super clear!

Did the same with the submeter gauges:
You can see some scratches here but...
This really shows you how scratched up it is
Looks shiny...
COMPLETELY Transparent! 
Anyway, while this mod really didn't do much in terms of functionality, it helps to detract from the fact that the car is almost 25 years old. Having a clear line of sight to the instruments is key, and can be considered part of bringing the car back to "factory fresh" but with a modern twist!

And so a few more mods to go until I can say the car is ready! Ready for what? Stay tuned and find out...

Monday, September 7, 2020

Sometimes You Gotta Do It Yourself...

So it all started with this:

Yep, a distribution block installed by Worx in the trunk next to the battery (right above the fuel pump area) which Nismo Omori hadn't removed.  Remember their job was to get the visible interior back to OEM, including the stereo wiring.  Further, the alarm shop's job was to remove the alarm and make sure the immobilizer functions didn't kick in and prevent the car from starting. I get it.

And yet every time I opened the trunk, this cancer served as a reminder that my car still had Worx items located in it.  So it got to the point where I wondered, how difficult would it be to remove it along with all the wires attached to it?

Bad question because 24 hours later...
It didn't take me 24 hours to get to this... rather as I'm working from home whenever I have a few minutes I'd pop into the garage to do some work

So first order of business was to get access to the distribution block from the other side - I'm too lazy to remove the trunk bulkhead as well as the strut tower bars.  So I decided to remove the seats, it's easy.
Just a couple of bolts and the seat cushion pops out
Of course first thing I noticed was that the new insulation sheet material installed by Worx behind and under the seat was crinkled up, not flat. So I go to straighten it up and:
Pink paint marker. As you will later see, this allowed me to know what he touched, bolt-wise
WTF!! Yep, looks like Nakamura lost his marker pen there! Sloppy!!!

Curious about what other presents he might have left me, I looked around some more and found:

And this:

Still not sure about this cushion material. I suppose I can keep it, as OEM was a thin rubber sheet with the fuzzy cloth stuff that had degraded over time.

I removed it and accessed the plate covering the battery area.
Green arrow points to where something added was grounded
A few bolts later, and I was surprised at how heavy this piece of metal is!

And yes, you can see that I took apart the center console too because I was curious to see what else I could remove in addition to the wires I found coming from the distribution block. More on that later.

So first task was to inspect the distribution block and see what wires came out of it.
Green arrows point to the bolts that Worx marked pink (in other words, he installed or used the bolt)
I could see a power lead coming from the battery (right most arrow) and this went back to the distribution block to 4 fuses - one for a lead connecting to a CTEK battery tender cable (extension plug which allows charging); another for the trunk release that was hooked up to the alarm I had removed; one for the back up camera that used to be hooked up to the CyberNavi; and finally one for the alarm's ignition immobilizer.

Basically, it was easy enough to trace where the leads went, but more often than not, in an attempt to hide them the wires were combined together with the factory loom with black electrical tape.
I could easily tell the difference between factory electrical tape and what Worx applied. So off came that aftermarket tape.
The immobilizer seemed to, in addition to the power leads, have a lot of other cables. I discovered this by following the power lead to a small space above the Fuel Pump Control Module, located near the right rear strut.
Squeezed atop the silver Fuel Pump Control Module is the alarm's immobilzer brain.
And for some reason, the FPCM was unbolted and loose.  Or should I say, it was probably held in place by the immobilizer brain so once I removed that:
Going to have to secure this.
 The immobilizer brain was interesting. There is a small LED light and since it wasn't on I figured it was dead, and just left there by the alarm installer when he removed the rest of the alarm.
This lead to a bunch of cut leads
 You can also see how Worx tried to be clever here by using the OEM loom protectors to hide his wiring. Although the black electrical tape he used to force it shut (some of these were cracked) gives it away.

Another example:
Clearly the shiny black tape and the cloth Tesa tape are not OEM
And this one on the floor next to the driver's seat.
And all the above was on the right side of the car.  On the left side, the wiring crossed in front of the battery.  Looks like he had previously used that hole to bolt something but changed his mind.

These wires led either into the trunk (trunk release, back up camera, and CTEK plug) or towards the front of the car (back up camera).
This wiring for the back up camera led to the front and ended up behind the stereo
After the first day, my intermittent work resulted in this mess.

The next day, I found the rest of the wires from the immobilizer already cut - I guess this is what the alarm shop did?

Leaving just these two red wires still connected to something under the dash.

You can see how removal of the back up camera wiring helped to clean up the area behind the stereo even more!
So because I figured out what the wiring going into the trunk were for, I simply cut off that portion that was visible in the cabin.
See! Back to OEM!!! (except of course the sound insulation and the Alcantara, he he.)
 And now the battery area was also cleaned up:

And yes I had to resort to zip-ties to secure the FPCM as for some reason if I bolted it down it bumped up against the adjuster for the rear right Ohlins DFV coilover.
But at least it's secure now and the wiring is clean and OEM
Removing all that wiring meant that this was the mess in the car (and just from the immobilizer side):

And it wasn't just about removing wires. I also took the opportunity to fix problems along the way.  For example, in order to create the shelf for the distribution block, Worx decided to add in screw taps (not sure if the holes were drilled in that area to begin with).  But as you can see this area was rubbing against an OEM loom and causing the loom cover to get worn down.
I ended up adding some TESA tape on top of the worn area where it rubbed against the metal
 In the trunk, you can see how I clipped away the zip ties holding these wires to the OEM loom in the top half of the photo.

Since I don't need a back up camera right now, I removed the camera itself as well as the wiring. I kept the loom for the CTEK charger, not sure if I can use it but I will admit that the set up (having the plug hidden behind the license plate) is clever and so I will try to figure something out.

I didn't take any photos of the last two red wires I mentioned above, but suffice to say I had to get on my back and unwrap a lot of electrical tape under the dash.

In the end, here is the mess of wires and electrical components I was able to remove.
Strange feeling of liberation!
There is more coming, but before I post that, a couple of interesting posts. Stay tuned!