DIY Audio: Custom Speaker panels (doors) - Mercedes Benz SLK Forum

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#1 Old 11-21-2013
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Post DIY Audio: Custom Speaker panels (doors)

INTRODUCTION

I am about to endeavor on a path that I have said that I was done with, but as anyone who has been bitten by the custom audio bug knows, It is hard to let good lines go to waste. One of my mechanic buddies told me it was a record for me, having purchased my 02 SLK320 in March and it now being November. He thinks it is the longest I have ever gone without tearing into a car. I reminded him however that I removed the old Pioneer CD player the previous owner installed, two days after bringing it home. He indicated that did not count.


What am I rambling about? Well, I am an old school car audio guy. Being a product of the 1980’s I was one of the early competitors in an organization called IASCA (international Autosound Challenge Association) and was one who embraced the sound quality over sound quantity mantra. The interest and experience I garnered during competition went to fuel a life time of interest in music and fine audio, which ultimately pushed me in to Home audio and home theater, a passion that I still enjoy today and find myself slaving each and every day in an office job trying to pay for.

1988 IASCA Florida Regional Finals (Gainesville, FL)


Bottom-line, I love good sound but when it comes to my cars, I also get a very high degree of satisfaction in building great systems that look as well as sound awesome. The creative aspect of it probably is why some of my friends say I enjoy building the stuff more than I do listening to it. Which to be honest is hard for me to argue against. There is something to be said of those late nights coming in from the garage covered with wood shavings generated by a turn at the table router.

Why am I starting a post off like an autobiography you may ask? Well, after eight months with my beloved SLK, which includes many days and nights of just staring at the available space and locations of existing audio components something clicked and I am now jonesing to build something new and my wife will not let me within a mile of her GLK.

As an enthusiast of both cars and “tasteful” customizations of them, as well as a story teller of sorts; an annoyance probably to some and something I am sure is becoming obvious to those who actually sit down and read this post. I wanted to share my quest as I go in the hopes that I may inspire others to look beyond the Boom-car aesthetic which has come to highjack an industry which I have always loved.

Not just a how to, or thread of post to share with fellow SLK owners of what they can do to their car, I am hoping that possibly I may both find and help illuminate others who appreciate fine music and the experience that it and the open road can bring. While at the same time, putting to bed any myths that car audio is and has to be about who can disturb their neighbors the most with loud, annoying bass beats coming from the trunk.


POINT OF THIS POST (THREAD)
In the posts that follow, I will attempt to explain my passion for sound; what I feel makes for good sound and how to achieve it in the confines of such a small vehicle; and offer the tale of my adventure as I work to create a personal studio on wheels. While it would be easy to hand the car off to a shop and an installer with far more experience and tools than I have. I do not have the budget, nor do I wish to throw thousands of dollars at a car that is not worth as much as the stereo.

My efforts will be to build a great sounding system, with an exceptional installation of components that are not over-the-top expensive or will break the bank. I am not a professional, but an enthusiast and I neither work in the car audio industry nor have access to anything more than my own two car garage.

During this process I will be driving the car on a daily basis so it will not be off the road for any period of time and due to resource limitations I reserve the right to leave vast spans between updates while I either work to pay off the yet to be purchased components or work to repay my family for late nights spent in the garage.


Previous work: Custom spare tire (2008 G37 Coupe)


While my style of writing is more akin to a blogger than what one finds in an online forum, I am hoping that at least one person will find my style entertaining and possibly one more even find it useful. And while there may be differences in taste, appeal and even appreciation of different aspects of the car hobby and what I am intending to do. My goal is to try and offer some insight, methodology and ideas for others who might be wanting to do or maybe hadn’t even considering, doing something similar.

So, welcome to Project: #GotNoRoom4Audio…. Or my R170 SLK Custom Door Pod build project as the title calls.


02 SLK320 Factory Drivers door panel


…more to come
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#2 Old 11-22-2013
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Post #2:
The goal of this project is clear; what's the best sound I can get out of my SLK without breaking the bank and without totally destroying the aesthetics, or usability of my R170 SLK. The last two are actually the most important, despite my own desire to get good sound. Truth be told, I am a junky… and like I think I eluded to in my previous post. I actually do enjoy building them, probably more than I do listening to them, which is sad. But I digress.

Not knowing what speakers I will use at this point. This is sort of a “build it and they will come” sort of scenario. Not the most ideal way to do a stereo, but I plan on starting the fabrication and getting a better idea of what direction the project will take, then pick my speakers. Truth be told this is rather backwards, but since speakers are the most important part of the project. I wanted to know before I make the investment, what sort of space I would have.

On the table and on the drawing board are either new door panels, or a combination of custom door panels and custom kick panels. Kick panels are the area below the dash on the left or right side of one’s foot (in front of the door).

I recently picked up an extra drivers door panel from a salvage yard for under $35 and am in the process of tearing it down to the bare fiber board material it is made of. Once I get all the leatherette material removed and other trim, I will do a mockup of the panel I want to do. At this point I am aiming at just doing a door panel for a 3-way speaker system, but may move into the kick panels as well. Placement and speaker aiming will be the biggest portion of this deal.


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#3 Old 11-22-2013
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You are a BRAVE man and I love it!!! cannot wait to see what happens with this. I know it's a process.. all good interior modifications are. I will be watching along. Thanks for sharing!


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#4 Old 11-22-2013
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Post #3:
Like I hope everyone here on this forum, while my SLK didn’t cost me an arm and a leg, I respect what the car is and the heritage and history behind it. The last think I want to do is hack the car up and leave it for the next guy to sort out or worst increase its chances to go to the scrap pile versus maybe having the possibility of being restored some day when the SLK’s go the way of the Pagoda SL’s.

No I do not expect my SLK to ever be as valuable as the 70’s era Pagoda SL’s, but I do want my car to be around for a very long time and realize that there is more value in originality than there is in something custom to the owner at a given times taste or preference.

So my first step was a visit to a salvage yard to find a pair of interior trim pieces to work my magic on. Thanks to the wonders of the inter-web, I didn’t even have to leave my house to find a single left-hand side door panel from a wrecked 2003 SLK320. I am starting with only one door panel… until I get into the project, I do not know how far I will go. Did I mention that most of my projects like this fall victim to my vision or design for such projects, being far more ambitious than my abilities?

Anyway, here is the door panel that I bought for just a few bucks off a guy a few miles down the road from where I live.



The first step is to tear the panel down and remove all the unnecessary parts and bits, and then we will strip the door of all its upholstery and get down to the bare, fiber board in this case. Most of the parts are held together with what appears to be some sort of nut. The top portion uses 11mm and the portion around the bottom holding on the door pocket uses 10mm.





After stripping the panels parts we end up with just the outside portion of the door and can start taking measurements and do a couple of different mockups.



At this point I am undecided on driver sizes, but am considering either a pair of same size mids in each door. Either a pair of 5 Ľ” midranges, or a staggered set of drivers like a 6 ľ” mid-woofer and a 4” midrange side-by-side with the high frequency driver (tweeter) mounted either at or near the OEM location in the door, or in custom pods on the A-pillars to either side of the Windshield.

Either way, I need to do my mock-ups to leave me with plenty of options. Before I can start my mockup I need to remove all the leather from the panel. This will all be replaced in the end with new material that will cover both the door and my new pods.




To my surprise I was able to remove the original leather material all in one piece. I don’t think I will need it, but wanted to keep it that way in case I could make a pattern out of it when moving to recover. Unfortunately this process left a ton of padding material on the panel which I will need to work to remove.



So far I have invested about two hours in this project, including the time it took me to surf around and find the spares. I plan on keeping track of my time so I can estimate what these will have cost me in the end. I fear removing the upholstery padding will take more time than I care to spend, but it has to be done.



I will post some more pictures and give some updates once I have had some time to play some more in the garage.

….more to come
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#5 Old 11-22-2013
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Thanks for starting this thread. I like the idea of a tweeter at the OEM upper front triangle location and the bass/woofer and mid-range speakers at the front lower portion, similar to what is found in the R171 with the harmankardon option.

Eddy



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#6 Old 11-22-2013
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Agree - keep us posted.
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#7 Old 11-22-2013
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I should have some additional pictures in a couple of days, but I ran in to my first hurdle this afternoon with the glue from the original upholstery pad. Nothing I can't deal with using a variety of different grit sandpaper, but it is taking significantly longer than I had planned to get all the glue off of the original panel frame. Can't say I am surprised since we are dealing with a German made car.

Three hours straight worth of sanding and my arm is exhausted and I am out of sandpaper... "Note to Self: stock the tool box with sand paper before doing the other doors panel. (start with 60 grit, moving to 200 grit). Palm sander helps, but you gotta do the corners et al by hand. #IMEXHAUSTED&NEEDADRINK

On another note; Does anyone here have experience with Hybrid Audio Technology out of Cummings, Ga? I have no dealers near me, but am very interested in hearing some of their speakers and opinions.

more to come...
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#8 Old 11-25-2013
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After way to many hours sanding and prepping the panel itself I finally started doing some mockups. The prep work took me about 6 hours over 2 days and I doubt I will be this thorough on the next one. I was trying to get the panel as smooth as possible so used filler primer on it and then sanded it so everything was near perfect. My thought process here was the smoother the panel the better the upholstery would look when I reapply it. I now realize this is over kill, but what do they say; “nothing ventured, nothing gained”?



For my first mockup I basically took a block of Styrofoam from a local hobby shop and cut and sanded it to the shape I wanted. The idea is to eventually use it as a mold to make the speaker pods. The key will be being able to aim or cant the midrange towards the center of the car and aim towards the listener a little better.



You can see above that I carved out and am canting the speaker up and more towards the driver. The area where to OEM speaker grill is will be modified and have a cut out for a woofer. I am using an old speaker grill left over from a pair of speakers that I installed in another vehicle. Since I will most likely use a 6 ľ inch woofer, with a 4 inch mid-range you can get the idea of how things will work below.



This is just the first mockup and there will be more to come. The goal is to create the forms I want in Styrofoam wrap that in masking tape, then using a stretchy cloth, probably fleece. Use the forms and fleece along with fiberglass resin to make the end product. The advantage of the foam is it is easy to work with and cheap. The down side is it is flimsy and makes it hard to work with when you start getting thin areas.

I will post more when I get back to the project after the holiday weekend….
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#9 Old 11-25-2013
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Cool. Looking forward to more and subscribing to the thread.
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#10 Old 11-25-2013
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Being an old-school-audio-guy myself I applaud your efforts!
Looking forward to the results. I've often considered kickpanels in my SLK. It would be nice to not lose all the mid/tweet as soon as the roof/windows go down.
Kicks look like they could handle a 6 1/2", or even an 8", without too much hassle.

Although a nice 6.5" in the door and a 4/tweeter combo in the kicks would be sweet.
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#11 Old 11-26-2013
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Originally Posted by Chris_R View Post
Being an old-school-audio-guy myself I applaud your efforts!
Looking forward to the results. I've often considered kickpanels in my SLK. It would be nice to not lose all the mid/tweet as soon as the roof/windows go down.
Kicks look like they could handle a 6 1/2", or even an 8", without too much hassle.

Although a nice 6.5" in the door and a 4/tweeter combo in the kicks would be sweet.
I am still considering kicks and have a pair of spare panels to use if I go that route, but haven't pulled the stock ones to see how deep they are. My issue with kicks is the loss of leg room when you do it right and cant them towards the seating positions. If I could find a nice off-axis driver and there was 3-4 inches of depth to flush mount or only need a small amount of build out I might consider it. For now, the door panels seemed the best way and will provide me the most "fun" in that I get to build something with fiberglass...
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#12 Old 12-03-2013
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I hope to be able to get some work done on this project in the next few days, but the plan is changing a little. I am still doing custom door panels, but am also considering some trick stuff as well. I don't want to share to much, but I am thinking motorized wind blocker between the seats, along with a custom baffle for equipment which will leave all or nearly all of my trunk stock. But this is a thread on the door panels so that is what we will tackle first.....
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#13 Old 12-03-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by conleyjb View Post
I am thinking motorized wind blocker between the seats, along with a custom baffle for equipment which will leave all or nearly all of my trunk stock
Can't wait for that one. Very cool idea.
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#14 Old 12-03-2013
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What are you doing for bass?

My solution is here:
https://www.slkworld.com/new-members-...tml#post339789

I know my 'glassing skills aren't the best, but I was going for stout rather than pretty on this one.
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#15 Old 12-04-2013
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I have seen most people do similar in the trunk. What sort of sound are you getting in the interior by having the sub back there. I had a Miata years ago that I did a custom system in and I had to build a custom bandpass enclosure that directly ported the subwoofer output into the interior via a narrow pass thru in the Gen 2 Miata in order to get even passable bass output. I would be curious as to others thoughts on doing a trunk mounted solution like this....do you hear the bass?

I am considering and I have not torn apart the car to see the space, but know the Bose system has a pair of 6inch subs already behind the seats. I am considering doing something there. Being only 5'10" tall, I can spare a little leg room to do something narrow behind me, but couldn't do anything larger than a 6 or shallow mount 8.

My design goal is to have my doors at least be able to produce frequencies down to about 50 Hz, possibly negating the need for much more than the 6 or 8.
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#16 Old 12-04-2013
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Surprisingly the car acts more like a hatchback than a cabin/trunk arrangement. SO you can hear everything quite plainly from the trunk. Of course, the bass is very localized to the rear.

The single Infinity Kappa Perfect 10" with a Coustic 190 amp (told you I was old school) sounds quite good... even with the top down. I can't imagine needing more sub output for anything even closely resembling an SQ setup. In fact, a single 8 might be enough.

I'd really like to get some midbass up front (like a pair of 8s or awesome 6.5s) so I could lower the XO point of the sub and maybe tidy things up a bit... but I'm in no huge rush.
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#17 Old 12-04-2013
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Yeah, I am planning on doing either a pair of 5 1/4" in each door or a good 7-inch for midbass with a 4" covering the higher freqs.

On an unrelated note.... I decided to go with a new head-unit for this install. I found a used Pioneer DEH-P800PRS which is a couple year old Sound Quality unit that while not being the perfect match of my existing Becker unit, offers some additional features as well as superior build quality and sound to the Becker. (BE4724 I think, amber display with Nav)


If anyone is interested in this radio I may be looking to sell it. Depending on how my bigger install fabrication goes, as well as how I think it looks in the dash. I might be selling the Traffic Pro in the above picture sometime after the first of the year. PM me if you are interested and want me to let you know when I list it. Probably will ask about $325, which will include additional wiring harnesses for external amps and for connecting a Parrot or Motorola BT kit. It also has an Aux input and you can add a direct plug-in with charging for you iPod as well (neither included).
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#18 Old 12-04-2013
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I took some time this afternoon and reworked my mold and then prepped it for fiberglass. I got a little carried away and didn't snap pictures until I was all done with my Styrofoam mold. Basically I laid down two pieces of 1.5" Styrofoam and sanded the heck out of it to get the shape I wanted. Then I covered the whole structure in aluminum foil which will serve as a quick release of the final shape once I glass it.



I ended my afternoon with laying down my fleece on top of the aluminum foil, on which I will apply the fiberglass resin and ultimately make my door pod.

Again not a great picture but here is the form with fleece glued to it. I will eventually smooth any areas which are not perfect using body filler in the end, but you can sort of see the form coming together.



Finally I leave you with a couple of mockups of speaker setups. I am wanting to get as much bass in the doors as possible so am trying to decide if I want to do a 6.5inch with 4" mid (ala R171) or do a pair of 5 1/4" woofers and move the 4" to the kicks.

I might be able to fit an 8inch, but it would require some additional strengthening of the panel I do not plan to do, plus I have these flush mount rings from MB Quart circa 1998 that if I can find speakers to drop into them will look uniformed.



Above is the 6.5" and 4" mid



This is a pair of 5.25" woofers



This is another idea, that would require some additional molding of my form and I do not think it will look right. To busy for the look I am going for.

Anyway, that is my work for today and other than laying down fiberglass probably all I can do this week.
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#19 Old 12-04-2013
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brave brave brave man..


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#20 Old 12-05-2013
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While I am not committing to any single component at this point and things could and most likely will change I did a little sketchup of what I am considering for the whole system and thought I would share.



Basically it will be fairly simple in design, but the execution will be the big part. Some of the equipment I already have, other parts due to their discontinued nature will need to be procured over the long haul. While I am making headway on the door panels, this is a long term build, which I will eventually do a full thread on, probably over at DIYmobileaudio forums (I will post a link when I do).

I am leaning towards... a pair of 5.25" woofers in the doors, a 4" midrange and a single tweeter with a good pair of 6.5inch subwoofers and a pair of 4channel amps to run everything. The head unit is a Pioneer Premier DEH-P800PRS which has crossovers and EQ built-in.

Oh and by the way this is all in the cabin of the car and will not utilize the trunk....
AZ SLK and ajberrow like this.
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