I'm sure you've noticed that we talk quite a bit about modernizing older chassis here at Super Street Network, and for good reason. By far the most popular group of cars to own and modify, at least within our demographic, come from the late '80s to '00 era, and with 20 to 30 years on the clock, many of those fan favorites are in need of some modern amenities that you might take for granted in your daily driver. In addition, the performance breakthroughs on the market today completely overshadow much of what was available back in the day, so it only makes sense to take advantage and improve your driving experience, and in some cases, increase your build's lifespan.
This '92 Integra GS-R is a car I've had for quite some time and it has some modern changes under the hood like the coil-on-plug conversion, a slew of AEM Electronics sensors and digital dash, but it doesn't have a single piece of audio equipment inside. I'd put it off for quite a while but felt it was time to address it, and having a daily driver with the expected modern conveniences like Bluetooth smart phone integration, hands-free calling, etc., I wanted some of that for this project car, so I reached out to Pioneer Electronics and explained what I was after.
I'm not going to pretend to be an audiophile or even very knowledgeable of car audio as my focus has always been performance. However, I know what I prefer and what I'll use regularly, and I had my list ready: standard double-DIN, Bluetooth, touchscreen operation, Apple CarPlay, and enough firepower to hear music or podcasts over the exhaust note; granted, the turbo eats up some of the exhaust note, but a 3-in. exhaust is still pretty loud. Starting with a head unit, Pioneer suggested their AVH-1550NEX double-DIN that had everything on my list and more. The head unit console in the old Integra opening is a huge departure from the modern units that are soaked into the console along with HVAC controls and usually covered by an integrated cover. Pioneer's double-din 6.2-in. WVGA display is a perfect fit for these cars and went in without a fight using an install kit that I picked up online for about $9, along with a new wiring harness to plug into the factory side for just $5.
The deck is compatible with iOS or Android phones, has the Apple CarPlay that I wanted, is Pandora and Sirius XM ready, and even plays FLAC files (Pioneer was actually the first in car audio industry to incorporate FLAC playback). A remote is included and has a number functions built-in so you can focus on the road.
A wired microphone with plenty of length can be mounted pretty much anywhere you'd like. This head unit also has Amazon Alexa built in, which can be used for all sorts of voice commands when paired with their free Vozsis app.
On the back of the unit, you'll find three RCA pre-outs, a USB port, microphone and wired remote ports, as well as an auxiliary, and a built-in amplifier that offers 50 watts for four channels (50W x 4). All of this is packed into a standard sized double-DIN unit that's incredibly light and is a reminder of just how much things have changed since I dealt with any sort of audio almost a decade ago. Everything audio-related that you'd find in a modern car fresh off the dealership showroom floor is inside the AVH-1550NEX, the only difference being that this will have superior sound quality and offers ease of expansion.
To exploit the new deck, Pioneer recommended their TS-Z65F high-res coaxial speakers. Able to handle 330 watts of peak power, 110W RMS, they have a pretty distinct look based on the use of Twaron aramid fiber cone. What is that? A synthetic fiber developed back in the '70s, overshadowed by DuPont's development of Kevlar, which you're very familiar with. Twaron, like Kevlar, is light and flexible and used for protective gear like bulletproof vests, helmets, etc., and happens to work very well for audio applications like this. The TS-Z65F uses Pioneer's Vertex drive system, a 29mm aluminum alloy dome tweeter and it even swivels so that you can point it toward a specific direction.
I used a set of spacers on the front doors so that I could comfortably fit a 6.5-in. speaker without having to cut anything or worry about the magnet coming into contact with the window.
In the rear panels, the Integra's speaker openings are more oval than round and wouldn't allow a 6.5-in. speaker to fully anchor in place. I trimmed a little bit of the plastic with my Dremel, which allowed the speakers to sit flush with the panel.
Touring Pioneer's Factory in Japan:
On their own, the four Pioneer TS-Z65F running off of the AVH-1550NEX amp filled the cabin with more than enough sound to overpower the exhaust drone and I think the sound range of these speakers is what surprised me most. Low tones are often too much for coaxial speakers to carry without breaking up, but these do an excellent job of offering enough bass to keep the music true, whether it was through Pandora, Spotify, or something selected from my phone's music library direct.
Part of that is due to the 13-band equalizer built into the deck that allows you to choose from a number of preset sounds or completely customize your own. This comes in handy when switching through different music types and especially when opting for a podcast, where too much bass can be annoying.
I'd be just fine with keeping the four coaxial speakers and the premium deck but figured why not add a little bit of kick to the equation since I'd have everything torn apart anyway. I didn't want a huge box in the cargo area and wasn't looking to shake the neighborhood windows, but rather something that would add some depth to the DB2's cabin to complement the new deck and door speakers.
Pioneer's TS-A2000LB is an 8-in. subwoofer loaded into a very compact cabinet that measures just 13-in. in length and is 5-in. thick. It's small enough to fit under some factory seats but with my aftermarket buckets sitting lower than stock, that wasn't an option. However, the floor space just behind the driver's seat offers more than enough flat area to house the box and still allows for full adjustment of my seat.
Yes, this could have gone to the cargo area, but rattling license plates and assorted panels annoy the hell out of me and I don't have backseat passengers, but if I did, the steel mesh grill is rigid enough to protect the speaker from my kids' shoes. Carpeted in black, it blends right in with the interior. The speaker wire push terminals are angled for ease of install and Pioneer even includes feet that can be screwed in to lift it off the floor depending on how you prefer to position it.
The TS-A2000LB offers 250W RMS but is capable of 700W max with its 2 Ohm single voice coil. Again, this isn't going hit as hard as your cousin's trunk box with a set of 12s but it adds another layer of sound and carries those deeper notes that door speakers can't, and doesn't take up any real usable space. In order to power the sub, I also installed Pioneer's GM-DX871 Class-D amp. Again, I told Pioneer that I wanted compact, and they certainly delivered with a unit that's 50-percent smaller than current GM series Class A/B amplifiers. The sort of things you'd expect, like gold-plated RCA terminals and a variable low pass filter (40Hz to 240 Hz) are on board, and under the textured aluminum panel and rigid frame is Pioneer's Circuit Protection Control System, which senses internal temps and moderates the amp's input level.
Measuring in at just 10-in. long and 2-in. high, it can fit in places most amps won't. I was able to fit it under my passenger seat, but the additional plastic wire cover on the bottom of the Recaro would slightly make contact with the top of the amp when moved back and forth and I didn't like that, so I decided on the back of the rear seat.
I first widened the mounting holes on the amp's four corners slightly, just enough to allow an M5 bolt to fit through.
On the back of the seat's metal frame, I drilled holes and used M5 rivnuts to create a secure mount.
After relocating my battery to the trunk a few years ago, powering the amp was simple with an inline fuse, a few wires and lugs, and locating a solid ground.
The RCAs and remote wire that run to the deck were routed under the rear seat, the carpet and through the parking brake channel. I secured the wires on both sides of the amp and double checked to make sure they weren't going to get pinched or wedged whenever the seat back is folded down or snapped back into place.
I added an additional cable that was included with the amp for its Bass Boost module. This can be mounted anywhere in reach and I found a spot just under the cigarette lighter.
Just behind the shifter is this small cover that I trimmed slightly to allow the included USB cable to feed from the back of the deck to the area between the seats.
I left enough slack to tuck it away when not in use and to have enough cable to not have to keep my phone entirely chained to the console.
Kid Tested, Father Approved
After testing the deck a few times to make sure everything was working properly and there were no loose wires left to fester, I locked it into the console. The DVD player came in handy to give my youngest something to watch while I finished up reinstalling the interior pieces. Watching Toy Story in the small Integra cabin with the new speakers and the addition of the subwoofer blew his mind. Action scenes with fast-paced music could be felt as well as heard, and the vibration coming from the floor, thanks to the small subwoofer behind the driver's seat, was pure and not muddied by any cargo area rattling. The AVH-1550NEX EQ allowed me to up the vocals, while the Bass Boost module let me dial up the bass output to match pace.
Everything that I wanted, from the modern convenience features to the rich sound and even some extra kick, was able to be added to the almost 30-year-old chassis. Best of all, everything tucks away neatly and there's plenty of room for expansion.