Aftermarket amplifier that fits R170 stock location - and speaker upgrade - Mercedes Benz SLK Forum

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#1 Old 07-19-2015
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Cool Aftermarket amplifier that fits R170 stock location - and speaker upgrade

Hey folks.

I recently finished installing a class-D Massive Audio BX4 amplifier and Infinity Reference X REF-6500cx component speakers along with my Nakamichi NA350iBTR Head Unit

Project Goals:

  • The head unit must not be too flashy or show too much of a departure from stock aesthetics.
  • The speakers and crossovers must fit in the stock location(s) without intense modification.
  • The amplifier must fit in the stock location and exhibit cool operating temperatures.
  • The amplifier must accept a 5V preamp output without distorting (unlike the stock BOSE unit).
  • The amplifier must have gain controls and bridging capability.
  • Stock wiring must be sufficient


Head Unit:

Straight-forward installation. I added a ground to the chassis, but wired everything using the information supplied by Crutchfield. Note: this head unit is no longer available, but the NA250 is. I chose the Nakamichi unit due to the extremely bright display, clean no-frills pre-amp (5V output), SD card, USB, and Bluetooth capability. Though the unit has a preset orange that is very close to the stock orange lighting, you can get an exact match using the custom display function. The fact that this unit was on sale was also a deciding factor.  Though you could terminate your own RCA plugs on the stock wiring harness, I elected to run a single 2-connector (left+right) RCA cable (9’) and a single 1 connector (mono/subwoofer) RCA cable to the amp and zip-tied them to the stock harness running down to the amplifier’s location.

Front Speakers:

Unfortunately, I don't have images of the speaker installation (long story...), but modification was required to the plastic speaker baskets/frames. In short, you have to remove the front and rear plastic on the speaker baskets (I used a hack saw and Dremel) to ensure that the magnet and rubber surrounds fit properly. Basically, you're removing all plastic aside from the basic "rings" of the two pieces. On the speakers themselves, you'll need to remove the protruding metal rings of the mounting holes (a single back-and-forth action with some pliers works perfectly) to ensure that the speakers sit inside the stock plastic mounting rings.

The speakers use the same mounting pattern and once sandwiched between the two stock pieces, it's a perfect fit in the door - no impact with the window, no bulging etc.

The tweeters fit amazingly well in the doors using one of the 3 supplied mounting pieces. I did use some black gorilla tape across the back side of the tweeters to eliminate and frequency cancellation from inside the door cavity, but otherwise they fit right inside the stock 3-tooth snapping teeth.
The crossovers were mounted directly above the new drivers using zip ties which I ran inside the door through two available holes. I elected not to press/enable the +3 dB gain on the crossover as I would rather adjust the tweeters from the HU, and I prefer to keep things as flat as possible. See attached images.

Amplifier:

The Massive Audio Class-D 4-channel amplifier is overkill in terms of output, but this is intentional. It's far better to have an over-sized (digital) amp that is properly setup than a low power amp running at near capacity, especially if a class-D amplifier is chosen (far lower chance of clipping/distortion). Class-D amplifiers run extraordinarily cool and are ideal for the stock mounting location.

The stock amplifier is physically larger than the Massive Audio unit, and though the new unit does not share the same mounting holes/location, you can secure it with zip ties or drill and tap your own mounting holes in the stock metal panel (I chose the zip tie route - these cars are loaded with them anyway). See pics for reference.

I used channels 1 and 2 (left and right) for the front speakers, and only channel 3 for the rear speakers, which are currently stock. I soldered the stock wires for both rear speakers (4 ohms each) together (parallel) to create a 2 ohm load on the new amp, and connected them in a bridged configuration. It is important to properly set the gain on both your head unit and the amplifier to ensure an initial balance and crossover point. In my case, I use the head unit's crossover capability so I set the amplifier's crossover setting to "full", meaning full range.

Conclusion:

The Infinity and Massive Audio product combination are a huge leap in sound quality and overall output from the stock BOSE setup. Yes, they can produce much louder output, but that was not the goal. What I wanted was higher quality, functionality, adaptability, etc. Now, I can adjust the rear “subwoofers” independently from the front speakers and the front speakers are far more neutral and accurate than the paper drivers that BOSE can’t seem to get away from.

Rear speakers will be a challenge as there’s such limited room for the magnet/motor structure of true mini-subwoofers. I have a pair of Massive Audio SUMMO 64 (6.5”) subwoofers (traded for unrelated gear) that I thought I could somehow shoehorn into place using a custom mount/fabrication. While I can accomplish this, I would be losing about 4 inches (or more) of leg room as these drivers will protrude quite a bit due to the large motor. I plan on mocking up something to see just how bad it will be, and will update this thread upon that conclusion.

That said, the stock BOSE rear speakers have come to life and actually sound fairly decent - I'm satiated for now.

More to come...

UPDATE: The Massive Audio SUMMO 64s are beastly animals for their size, but they're just too dang big for the mounting location. I've, instead, installed Earthquake Sound's SWS 6.5x units instead. No modification is required as they fit in the stock baskets. However, the sound quality is only marginally improved and not recommended.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 2015-06-15 17.39.18.jpg (98.8 KB, 106 views)
File Type: jpg 2015-07-17 11.21.30-2.jpg (58.7 KB, 138 views)
File Type: jpg 2015-07-17 11.22.49.jpg (42.9 KB, 105 views)
File Type: jpg 2015-07-17 11.26.42.jpg (60.8 KB, 123 views)
File Type: jpg 2015-07-17 13.53.19.jpg (63.4 KB, 136 views)

Last edited by Mancuso; 08-08-2015 at 09:40 PM.
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#2 Old 07-20-2015
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Originally Posted by Mancuso View Post
[*]The amplifier must accept a 5V preamp output without distorting (unlike the stock BOSE unit).
The problem with the BOSE amplifier is that is expecting a balanced signal. The head units puts out an unbalanced signal leading to a 6dB decrease in addition to noise being added to the system. I am in the process of making a PCB for a balanced line driver. I have tested the circuit and it works great, now I just have to put it onto a PCB.
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#3 Old 07-20-2015
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Very, very nice! I'm anxious to see the finished PCB.
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#4 Old 07-20-2015
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Very, very nice! I'm anxious to see the finished PCB.
I am too!

Great work on your installation too! Keeping the install clean.
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#5 Old 08-28-2015
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Nicely done and well explained. It sounds like you're saying go with replacing the amp and door speakers and keep the Bose rear speakers if they are functional. Am I reading that right? Mine came with an aftermarket radio. I'm not thrilled with it but that's on the back burner for now. Thanks!
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#6 Old 08-29-2015
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Very, very nice! I'm anxious to see the finished PCB.
Here is the finished write up https://www.slkworld.com/slk-r170-cla...amplifier.html
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#7 Old 08-29-2015
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Originally Posted by jimmcfarlin View Post
Nicely done and well explained. It sounds like you're saying go with replacing the amp and door speakers and keep the Bose rear speakers if they are functional. Am I reading that right? Mine came with an aftermarket radio. I'm not thrilled with it but that's on the back burner for now. Thanks!
You're correct! While the drivers I installed in the rear location have better frequency response and perhaps overall "thump", it's not a huge upgrade considering opportunity cost. The amplifier, head unit, and door speakers, however, were huge upgrades over the stock Bose pieces.
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#8 Old 09-04-2015
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Mancuso - Thanks for all the information. We went with door speakers and amplifier. Speakers are here, amplifier arriving today. Apparently I ordered the last one they had in stock at Sonix. Going to try to make due with the existing aftermarket receiver for now. I'll post pictures and let you know how it goes. I don't see how it couldn't be fantastic compared to what's in there now. Thanks again!
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#9 Old 09-05-2015
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You're more than welcome! What speakers did you end up going with, if you don't mind me asking?
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#10 Old 09-08-2015
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The same ones you listed I think. Here's the link to them on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ilpage_o02_s00

We installed these on Saturday. They sound amazing. I was really surprised how much better they are than the stock speakers. We didn't get the amplifier installed yet. Hopefully we'll get that done this weekend. We have our eye on the Earthquake Sound's SWS 6.5x subwoofers. Then we'll probably package up all the original speakers and amp and put them on ebay.
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#11 Old 09-09-2015
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Excellent!

Yes, just about anything sounds better than Bose, in virtually any application.
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#12 Old 09-28-2015
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Update - Installed the Massive Audio amplifier yesterday. Install was not too bad. It took a couple of hours. The biggest hurdle running the RCA cables then figuring out which speaker wires went to which speaker. The subs are definitely alive now. We need some work on tuning. Right now the bass is overpowering. A slight buzz when the volume is at 0. So we'll need to figure that out as well. I like the subwoofer upgrade still. Will shoot for getting that done by the end of the year. Maybe a nice Christmas present for my son. Thanks again for the pictures and instructions.
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#13 Old 10-12-2015
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I recently ran into an issue with my door mounted front speakers not putting out any sound. I suspected that the Bose amplifier had a problem and went on a search for a replacement amp.

I had already upgraded the radio head unit to a feature packed Sony unit, HD tuner, 2 USB ports, Bluetooth, etc. and was successfully using the 4.0 volt line out rca connectors thru a ground loop isolator as supplied by Crutchfield. I had also removed the old tech mobile phone handset and dash mounted controller, replacing the controller with a pocket next to the ashtray.

I purchased a neat little 4 channel amp from Crutchfield as a replacement for the original equipment Bose amp. The amp is a Clarion XC1410, $130 shipped. It has the ability to drive 2 ohm loads on 4 channels at 75 watts rms. It easily fits the footprint available on the mounting panel in the passenger's footwell even with the transmission controller for the automatic.

To install the amp I had to identify the pin outs on the oem/ proprietary connector plug for the Bose amp. There are several important things I learned by doing this.

The Bose amp is a specially equalized 4 channel unit. It has only 2 active inputs, right and left, using 4 pins. It has 4 active outputs, right rear, left rear, right front, and left front using 8 pins. The connector has 2 pins, the largest, for switched 12 vdc power and ground. There is also pin for a low current 12 vdc signal to turn the amp on.

What got me going was that there are only the wiring pairs for the left and right front speakers while the Bose system uses a component speaker arrangement with a tweeter and a mid-range driver. That would mean that buried somewhere there was some type of crossover. I pulled the door panel off the right side door and found that the wiring harness for the speakers has 4 wires to each side, a pair for the tweeter and a pair for the mid-range drivers. Also, when I pulled the right side kick panel I found another small speaker attached to the panel with another pair of wires.

Having discovered that the amp only supplied a single equalized band to each side door speakers I was looking at some disruption of the signals to the front speakers and considered having an issue with the crossovers, where ever they were hidden.

Ever hear the old saw about sleeping on it? I woke up the next morning having had my brain in gear all night long, crunching away at the problem. I had this epiphany that when the mobile phone had been working it would cut the signal to the main speakers and then use the little speakers mounted in the kick panels for the hands free phone operation. When you ended the call the main speakers re-engaged. Bingo!

I had left the 5 amp fuse in place for the phone system and the system itself was cancelling the output to the door speakers. I pulled the fuse which killed the circuit for the garage door buttons and the phone controller and I once again had output from the door speakers. Somewhere up in the dash there resides the crossovers for the speakers and the phone controller's relays that disconnect them. I didn't tear into the dash enough to see just what MB did, the speaker crossovers may even be integrated into the phone controller.

I hope this helps someone out. There doesn't seem to be too much data in the car stereo business concerning the factory radio in an SLK 230. If you were inclined to replace the Bose amp you would also have to use a suitable crossover for the component sets in the doors. My Sony radio has awesome digital signal processing abilities which could be used to tailor the frequency band output from the Clarion amp for the rear mounted woofers but you would still have to split the front signals for the midrange drivers and tweeters in the doors.
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#14 Old 10-14-2015
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Quick Question

That little heater hose that is in the passenger footwell... where does that go? Does it hang loosely? Does it attach anywhere? Does it mount onto something?

Can you guys tell me or share a picture?

BTW, I also got the Nano BX-4. There's a lot of functionality in that small footprint, and more volume than my ears can handle.

I went with some Infinity speakers in the doors, and a pair of Kickers in the rear wall. Currently adding a subwoofer in the trunk. I'll post the details when I'm done. Still running user acceptance testing, but things are looking good!
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#15 Old 10-15-2015
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In my case, the hose was zip-tied to the primary wiring harness, although I don't think it's critical in terms of placement (other please correct me if need be). As long as the hose is inside that "compartment", it's serving its purpose.

Out of curiosity, which Kicker drivers did you purchase?

Definitely post the details and pictures of the sub install, etc!
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#16 Old 10-15-2015
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So you mean back behind the metal plate that the amp is mounted to? UFB!

I got the Kicker CS65 speakers.

Kicker CS65 612" Coaxial Speakers with Polypropylene Woofer Cones Pair Black 40CS654 - Best Buy

I was going to install the sub today, but work had some different ideas about that. Will shoot for tomorrow. I will definitely post details when I'm done.

Thanks for the hint on the hose.
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#17 Old 10-15-2015
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The little heater hose provides airflow to the "apparatus case" under the hood. The computers are all in there. Inside the case is a small blower... you can hear it if you listen carefully when the key is on.
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#18 Old 10-16-2015
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The little heater hose provides airflow to the "apparatus case" under the hood. The computers are all in there. Inside the case is a small blower... you can hear it if you listen carefully when the key is on.
I had no idea, obviously. Just to be sure we're talking about the same thing, I've attached a couple of pictures, but your explanation makes the hose positioning suddenly a lot more sensible. Thanks for the education. I'll have to start calling it the "apparatus box cabin airhose" now.



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#19 Old 10-16-2015
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That's right - the northern end of that air hose connects at #26 .
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#20 Old 10-25-2015
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I went round 3 with the stereo in my 98 today. I pulled new wires in for the right and left door speakers and new rca cables for the front and rear channels. I pulled the glove box assembly out to make it a little easier to run wires and mount the little Clarion 4 channel amp on the tray in the foot well.

My installation is very similar to the op's except that i used vintage Kove 5.25"/ 1" titanium dome component speakers that were pretty much a drop in replacement. The Bose speaker mounting frames' bolt patterns were perfect but I had to use a hole saw on the rear of the bottom mount to open up a space for the more massive magnets. The factory tweeters were a 3/4" type so I had to get creative with a hot melt glue gun to mount the 1" tweeters.

The crossovers I used came with the component speaker set and I mounted them in a location similar to Mancuso's installation but I drilled 2 small holes for each one and used sheet metal screws to afix them to the door frames.

What a difference a good set of speakers makes in sound quality! I left the Bose rear speakers in place but when I set up the amplifier I ran the channels that power the rear speakers from the subwoofer outputs on my Sony head unit so that I could take advantage of it's digital processing features. I settled on a low pass filter set at 100 hertz so that the rear speakers don't play above the low frequency band. Likewise, I set the front speakers high pass filter to 100 hertz so the 5.25" speakers don't play below that frequency.

I used as many of the terminals on the proprietary Bose amp connector as I could, everything except the front speaker wiring. The 12v power and ground wires, the amp trigger signal, and the outputs for the rear speakers use the factory wiring by connecting the Clarion amp to the big connector with spade lugs which simplified my installation.

Mancuso, thanks for the thread. It's easier to do something like this with a little information. Also, for anyone else who wants to do this, removing the glove box makes the installation much easier. It's easier to route the speaker wires and rca cables with that part of the dash out of the way.
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