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  1. #1
    New User Fast_4_Eye's Avatar
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    Default Revamping Audio System in an '86 Fox

    Hey everyone!

    So over the past few weeks driving the car maybe 3-4 times a week, I noticed that whenever I'm listening to music with the volume knob past the 11 or 12 o'clock position, the audio becomes distorted and just kind of a loud static jumble of sounds. Everything on the car is practically stock so I've been looking into replacing the deck with something a little stronger and perhaps speakers too. I wanted to get a second input since there are so many questions I couldn't have answered by google.

    First off, what does the amp do exactly in these cars? By the sounds of it they are extrememly weak and most modern head units put out more power alone than these dinky amps.

    Second, my car has the premium audio upgrade which I'm assuming is OEM based on some google searches, from my understanding this uncluded an amp in the center speaker hole. Was there anything else in this kit that I'm missing?

    Third, will I have to tear out the entire interior and run new speaker wire and whatnot. Its not so much that I can't but I do already have a pretty large project with redoing the entire suspension and don't know how long that will take for my skill level, though I do have about 3-4 months of winter so driving the car isn't urgent.

    Last off, could I get away with just an Alpine head unit and replacing the 4 speakers (that I can visibly see, I don't know if there are more). I've heard from some people that replacing the had unit alone was more than enough to make the sounds stay crisp so I figured for the extra money it may be worth sort of future proofing the audio system so it won't have to be upgraded for a while.

    I checked back about 3 or 4 pages on FEP here in the audio section in an attempt to find something about this but couldn't find anything for my car. I just don't know where to go with this, what parts I will need to buy, how much it will cost, skill level required and whether this will be a weekend project or a month project.

    Thanks,

    Daniel

  2. #2

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    If you can, save whatever you remove. If you don't need it, there's usually someone here looking for oem parts for resto's and such.
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  3. #3
    New User Fast_4_Eye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billkandi View Post
    If you can, save whatever you remove. If you don't need it, there's usually someone here looking for oem parts for resto's and such.
    Yeah I was going to keep everything so I can keep the stock parts if I really ever needed them. As of right now I'm looking at this Alpine deck for Black Friday and some Kenwood 6x9's for the rear. Nothing too crazy, atleast I hope it's not.

  4. #4
    FEP Supporter Broncojunkie's Avatar
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    I have owned several fox mustangs of various years. One thing they all had in common were the terrible audio. It wasn't just Ford. Cars of this era, generally speaking, had cheap underpowered radios and crap speakers.

    A good aftermarket receiver and good speakers will get you a slightly better sound quality, but still pretty bad. If you value decent sound at all, I would suggest 4 good midrange speakers and a 4-channel amp at a minimum.

    I had a similar problem with my old 92 f150. You couldn't hear the oem radio. I added a nice Kenwood receiver (22w x4) and 4 decent mids. The sound was much better, but the bass was not nearly enough to cut through the road noise. I sprung for a decent (not great) 4 channel amp for the mids. I also added two 8" subs and a mono amp. That was some of the best audio I've ever heard. It just fit the truck perfectly and the bass wasn't annoying.
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  5. #5
    New User Fast_4_Eye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Broncojunkie View Post
    I have owned several fox mustangs of various years. One thing they all had in common were the terrible audio. It wasn't just Ford. Cars of this era, generally speaking, had cheap underpowered radios and crap speakers.

    A good aftermarket receiver and good speakers will get you a slightly better sound quality, but still pretty bad. If you value decent sound at all, I would suggest 4 good midrange speakers and a 4-channel amp at a minimum.

    I had a similar problem with my old 92 f150. You couldn't hear the oem radio. I added a nice Kenwood receiver (22w x4) and 4 decent mids. The sound was much better, but the bass was not nearly enough to cut through the road noise. I sprung for a decent (not great) 4 channel amp for the mids. I also added two 8" subs and a mono amp. That was some of the best audio I've ever heard. It just fit the truck perfectly and the bass wasn't annoying.
    So this is where I have the question, how do I know if I need an amp or not. Will a head unit produce enough juice for 4 speakers? It' gonna be two dinky looking tweeters in the front dash and then some 6x9's in the rear. I really don't want to start disassembling the interior because I'm sure everything is pretty brittle in there.

    I'm also on a 16-year-old budget so nothing over lets say like $500 MAXIMUM but realistically like $350.

    Daniel

  6. #6

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    Keep in mind if your car has the original radio and speakers they are 35+ years old. Even when new they were not good. So an upgrade in head unit and modern speakers will be much better than what you have now. I personally would not cut the door panels to install door speakers. If they are intact after this many years I would keep them that way. ( Just my opinion) . Also you will be limited on head units because of dash configuration. Alpine has always been my go to but there are other brands today that are good as well. Good luck and let us know how it turns out

  7. #7
    FEP Supporter Broncojunkie's Avatar
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    You could get a new deck and speakers and see if that does the job. If not, you can add an amp later. I've seen 4-channel amps at Walmart for around $100. My last Kenwood receiver was under $100. I would think you could get decent speakers for $50/pair.
    79 Pace Car - 331, t5
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  8. #8
    FEP Super Member Bryan Knebworth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fast_4_Eye View Post
    Yeah I was going to keep everything so I can keep the stock parts if I really ever needed them. As of right now I'm looking at this Alpine deck for Black Friday and some Kenwood 6x9's for the rear. Nothing too crazy, atleast I hope it's not.
    Make sure you're not missing the Radio Suppressor. Trey will know more about this. Without it, the stereo will sound like he//! Factory Ford stereo systems during the Third Generation were quite good, especially with Premium Sound, but they all needed the Suppressor. I think they are less than 10 bucks.
    Last edited by Bryan Knebworth; 11-26-2021 at 10:18 AM. Reason: added info

  9. #9

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    Another way to make your stereo sound better is to add sound deadening material under the carpet, behind the door panels, and other metal areas. That will cut down on road noise, heat and vibrations. Its a little bit of work but cost less than a newer sound system without having to take away the original look of the vehicle. Just an option.
    1978 Mercury Zephyr boxtop 5.0 EFI T5Z 8.8
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  10. #10
    New User Fast_4_Eye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bryan Knebworth View Post
    Make sure you're not missing the Radio Suppressor. Trey will know more about this. Without it, the stereo will sound like he//! Factory Ford stereo systems during the Third Generation were quite good, especially with Premium Sound, but they all needed the Suppressor. I think they are less than 10 bucks.
    Would I need the suppressor even if I redid the entire system? What is it exactly that the suppressor does and would I need it for an aftermarket head unit for example?

  11. #11
    New User Fast_4_Eye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ISTLCRUZ View Post
    Keep in mind if your car has the original radio and speakers they are 35+ years old. Even when new they were not good. So an upgrade in head unit and modern speakers will be much better than what you have now. I personally would not cut the door panels to install door speakers. If they are intact after this many years I would keep them that way. ( Just my opinion) . Also you will be limited on head units because of dash configuration. Alpine has always been my go to but there are other brands today that are good as well. Good luck and let us know how it turns out
    I was just gonna stick with the stock locations of front dash and rear next to shock towers. I just wasn't sure if I would need to redo the wiring and take the interior out for an amp lets say if I were to do that. I wasn't gonna take my interior apart and screw around with putting new speaker locations.

  12. #12
    New User Fast_4_Eye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Broncojunkie View Post
    You could get a new deck and speakers and see if that does the job. If not, you can add an amp later. I've seen 4-channel amps at Walmart for around $100. My last Kenwood receiver was under $100. I would think you could get decent speakers for $50/pair.
    So if I were to hypothetically buy an Alpine head unit, and then some Kenwood 6x9's and then some Kicker 3 1/2" would that be suitable for like moderately loud listening. I don't need like a sub to shake the car or anything crazy like it's just to listen to some rock music on the way to school or work or anything like that. I just don't want to over complicate this and then end up turning my daily into a project that never gets finished.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fast_4_Eye View Post
    I was just gonna stick with the stock locations of front dash and rear next to shock towers. I just wasn't sure if I would need to redo the wiring and take the interior out for an amp lets say if I were to do that. I wasn't gonna take my interior apart and screw around with putting new speaker locations.
    I would probably run new speaker wire. Again the wiring in your car is very old. You mentioned Kicker speakers in a post. I’ve used them in the past and some are good for what you seem to be looking for and hoping to achieve. I think you will be satisfied with anything compared to what you have now. Are they factory speakers? If so they are probably deteriorated due to sun/heat and age.

  14. #14
    FEP Super Member Bryan Knebworth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fast_4_Eye View Post
    Would I need the suppressor even if I redid the entire system? What is it exactly that the suppressor does and would I need it for an aftermarket head unit for example?
    The Suppressor is only used with the OEM system, a fresh Alpine system you won't need it, haha. The Radio Suppressor is like the steel dynamite stick used next to the Voltage Regulator on the '65-'66 models, for example. Without it, there will a lot of 'scratchiness' and static just about where you described, at the 11-12 o'clock position. If you keep the OEM system, it will aid the value of the car, and save you a lot of time.
    Last edited by Bryan Knebworth; 11-28-2021 at 04:48 PM. Reason: info added

  15. #15
    FEP Supporter ccurtin's Avatar
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    I'd also consider what you want to listen to. Radio is nice, but with hundreds of songs on my iphone, I opted to install an under the seat Kenwood KAC-M1824BT that is wired directly into the 4 speakers. I ran new wires to them, left the stock connectors and head unit installed so it looks original.

    It is all controlled by the phone (and apple watch), but there is also a wired remote about 2"x4" that you can leave between the seats, or I ran it under the console and it sits where the e-brake 'pan' is.
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  16. #16
    FEP Power Member Hemlock's Avatar
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    In the late 80ies I worked at my friend's custom car stereo shop in Southern California. I use to make custom subwoofer boxes, amp setups and car installs before they had all the new premade setups that they have now. One important factor is what style of music do you mostly listen to and how important is bass going to play in your system? Bass is usually the most expensive part of a car audio system. If you want to do a really high-quality sound system in your car it can get pretty pricey! $2000+ is pretty common for a real nice system. Luckily these days you can build a really decent system for around $1,000 if you are conservative and do most of the work yourself. It really depends what you are looking to spend and what your goals are. You can do a good quality dash CD deck and 4 speakers for around $500 but it will only be a little better than what you have now.

    Do some research here: https://www.crutchfield.com/

    They have great info for fitment and factory speaker sizes/locations. Their prices are a little inflated but that is typical for a one stop shop. I will usually look for my items and info there and then price check it at Amazon. It is usually $20 to $30 cheaper on Amazon, which doesn't seem like much but when buying several components, it could be the difference between buying that better amp or speakers you wanted! Some parts like harness adaptors and facia kits you will only be able to find at a place like Crutchfield.

    Most Ma and Pa type stereo shops like I use to work at can dial you in with a pretty nice installed system but plan on paying 3X more for it and you are at their mercy for whatever name brand they are attached too. A car stereo shop's reputation is everything so do your homework and read reviews if you decide to go this route! As far as car audio gear goes you most definitely get what you pay for! Buy cheap, sounds cheap and usually doesn't last very long or it shuts down every 15 minutes if you play it loud! Nothing more frustrating than listening to your favorite jam and your stereo shuts down in the middle of the lead break! Me personally, I usually buy Rockford Fosgate products. Thay have decent sound, good longevity and very competitive pricing for their quality.

    Hope this helps,
    Robert
    Last edited by Hemlock; 11-26-2021 at 03:25 PM.
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  17. #17
    FEP Super Member gr79's Avatar
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    Default some current thoughts on car stereo

    You are thinking like many have from late 60's to 90's. 16 and up car or truck owner, weak car stereos.
    Factory radios were ok until something better came along, had some money to spend, and found a must have.
    Most all of us changed out the factory head unit for more db and clarity via new power and speakers.
    Cars were and still are a 'getaway home on wheels'. The 'house', until obtaining a pad was finally reality.
    Even if leaving the factory radio in, new speakers were a popular option and project like engine, wheel, mods were.
    Most of the reason was to play tapes, since most cars did not have a factory tape deck.
    Common mild affordable and easy upgrades like a 2v to 4v carb nothing radical then as now.
    Some spent more toward more car performance than stereos, others left everything as is.

    Late 80-early 90's din radios look the best to me. They keep the car more toward the new clean factory look.
    With decent speakers and good aftermarket amp work as good as any.
    Have owned Sanyo, Sony, Blaupunkt, JVC, brand radios. JBL, Jenson, and many others for speakers.
    New style radios with menus and tiny buttons are distractedly slow to use. Older units are much easier to operate.

    Mainly listen to 80's party music on the radio and AM for traffic, weather, news.
    The popular bar songs, rock concert, etc.
    Was at work more, much less reason to listen than when teen young adult.
    Heard top songs 100's of times, plus have albums,
    Not so much memories of earlier childhood era music. Do tune late 50's-60's station when it can be picked up.

    Vocals, drums, guitar, kb. Did not need a lot of power, just good speakers.
    People did a lot more talking to each other until smart phones came out, thus low-mid level listening was the norm.
    Heck, a portable radio or even boom box was ok. The mood is more important.
    Heavy listening was and is done at home with much larger equipment.
    Music now is screaming simple lyric vocals, synth bands, thumping bass. Any cheap stereo will work, except for bass.
    Digitizing music took out the stuff making music warm and much more detailed in the correct inaccurate way.
    Tune audio system to what part of music spectrum one favors, or go for accuracy that covers all types.
    Buy products which include BT pairing if needed. Added features are waste of money if not used.

    With that, over the years found common items that worked in cars have been in.
    Most important is good speakers- more the better. Then can work improvements from there.
    Easy to operate head unit, 25w channel rms is plenty. If only 5w x 2 or even 4, best to add a power amp.
    Power amp for four channel which is front and rear speakers, in addition to stereo L+R retains F/R control.
    Everything is subject to change out or mods over time due to failure or just sake of change.

    A 25' or 50' roll of 18g RCA clear speaker wire is plenty. Snake it under console, carpet, back seat, panels. No need to tear car up.
    Colored 16g wire works good for unit connections to power and grounds.

    In both my car and truck have factory digital din radios, added separate amp and better speakers.
    Have six 90's Ford Mach system 4 ohm, 25w (pic below) rear hatch area of car, four in the truck's factory locations.
    They have covered backs, indexed connectors for +/- connection. Got the speakers and cut connector pigtails from the upick yards.
    System can get pretty loud amp is 50w x 4, gains turned down to 1/2. Radio vol max is 1/2, breaks up if higher by design.
    Have tried sub tube, stand alone speaker boxes too. They work fine but take up a little too much space for what they do.
    Small home 970A KLH 5" indoor/outdoor 40w worked pretty good in back but only have two.
    Gotta push air for best sound quality, but pressure level low thump bass is not really safe when driving.
    Mid bass will do most of the sonic job, 'sweet tweets' for the rest.

    Good robust power source and grounds are important. Do not rule out having a car audio place do that.

    Last edited by gr79; 11-26-2021 at 06:52 PM.
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