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Bada Boom

1990 Integra sedan project

Aug 1, 2004
0408th_37z+1990_Acura_Integra+Sedan_Passenger_Side_Rear_View Photo 1/34   |   The DB1: Made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs. May not look like much, but she's got it where it counts.

DB1 is the chassis code for our '90 Integra sedan project. We give the code new context in the next couple of project installments as we pack the DB1 with lots and lots of db's--decibels!

It's been over a year since we bought the O.G. DB1, also known as a '90 Integra sedan. In that time, we've firmed up the ride with Energy Suspension bushings, Tokico Illumina shocks and springs, Skunk2 and Neuspeed shock tower bracing, as well as taken care of some minor health issues (broken front motor mount, split CV joint) with the guys at Jackson Racing, now MD Automotive, in Westminster, Calif.

It's been a full year and some change that we've driven around listening to the stock head unit with broken cassette deck power the blown stock speakers. No fun. Why it took us a year to get around to this is not such a mystery; with so many other projects orbiting around the HT Enterprise, we simply never made time for the poor DB1--or our ears.

During this downtime, however, we did some homework, researching components and holding discussions with our friends at Audio Designs in Anaheim Hills, Calif. Henry Sudit owns the place and has worked on several cars that won national audio competitions (including a legendary Acura Legend, pun intended), so we generally trust his opinions on matters of car audio.

That these discussions typically ended in name-calling and veiled threats of violence is behind us now. A Mustang guy at heart, Sudit teased us about our preoccupation with power-to-weight ratio and always managed to slip in some comment about Ford SVT, 5.0-liter engines and the Cobra legacy. We, in turn, called him out as an automotive Neanderthal who belonged in a NASCAR pit area hawking CB radios.

But we managed to meet in the middle (the preceding is slight exaggeration; Sudit does in fact love Mustangs, but in a move we feel shows real maturity, he's leaning toward an '04 Accord V6 as a shop purchase). We basically charged Audio Designs with building us a system that would get loud, sound clean and not weigh a whole lot. Tall order and, as we learned, an exercise in compromise.

While our P-W ratio was no joke, we knew the Integra would take on some ballast. We were cool with that. Like Howlin' Wolf, we're built for comfort. The question was: how much? We've never intended to build the DB1 for insane performance, but rather just something nice, balanced, quick and comfortable. And since I'm driving it every day, music delivery had to be tops.

Power-to-Weight-to-Music Ratio
Working with Sudit, we established some parameters. First, keep the weight to 200-215 pounds. Sounds like a lot, but not much more than your buddy with the "metabolism imbalance." Since we mostly drive the Integra solo, around town but mostly to and from work, we figure it's the weight of a carpool pal, without all the frivolous chatter about Simon Cowell and his real feelings toward Paula Abdul.

Weight decided, we ventured into selecting the components. This was tricky territory. We wanted a system that played loud and clean, ideally into the low/mid 90-decibel range. And not just at the bass end of the spectrum. We needed something flexible enough to push the screaming guitars of Jane's Addiction, the "Wes-Wes Ya'll" g-funk sound as practiced by Dr. Dre and Snoop, or the dirty analog dinosaur rock of the Stones, Zeppelin and AC/DC.

One of the first things we decided on-- and a contentious matter at that--was a healthy layer of sound deadening. Usually this is one of the first things out of a car destined for quickness. But a good layering of the elastic, rubber-like synthetic membrane cuts down road noise between 3-6db. The compromise is a simple one: less noise from outside, more music inside.

Now we're big fans of a well-tuned engine and exhaust note as much as the next guy. We're stupidly fascinated by the sound of our tires chirping through a tight freeway on-ramp. The difference with a good application of sound deadening is that we choose when we want to hear it. And getting a little more is as easy as rolling down the window.

Traditionally, quieting the cabin meant thick, heavy sheets of sound insulation from an aftermarket company. Fortunately, Dynamat now offers a product called Xtreme, a lightweight offering aimed at nitwads like us preoccupied with power-to-weight ratio compromises. Xtreme comes in a handful of package options, but we stuck with the Door Kit and Bulk Pack. The Bulk Pack costs about $150 for a 20-pound box of nine 18x32-inch sheets. We used a Bulk Pack and then some on the Integra, laying down 13 sheets covering the pillars, entire trunk floor and sides, trunk lid, rear deck and support columns.

We also used a single Door Kit on both front doors (no speakers in the rear doors). With 13 sheets of Bulk Pack, each sheet weighing 2.2 pounds, we're up to 28.6 pounds. Add in another 7 pounds for the Door Kit and we're up to 36 pounds in sound deadening. Not bad. And the acoustic difference is phenomenal. There is of course still road noise. It's not as if we soundproofed the car. But the road rumble, tire noise, engine--their midrange frequencies have been neutralized, leaving a lot more room for the audio to do its thing.

Picking the Pieces
Our selection for cable and wiring was easy. Stinger makes some of the best cable at an affordable price and it's been behind a lot of the big bass machines that win national sound-offs. Even though aesthetics are a huge factor for us right now, it helps that Stinger's stuff also looks pretty fly. We ordered up blue and silver power cable to interconnect the battery and amps, a couple of handfuls of RCA cables to carry audio throughout the signal chain and an assortment of fuses and battery accessories.

We also opted to try a new Stinger battery, the dry-cell SPV-35, which is designed specifically for Honda/Acura fitment. At 28 pounds, the SPV-35 is a pound more than the Interstate we replaced, but also gives us 13 more cold-cranking amps (like it sounds, the juice that helps the engine turn over). It is also 1.5 inches taller than the Interstate and required a trip to the machine shop to grind down the battery sleeve. Despite its height, the SPV-35 has a smaller footprint than the Interstate, saving us nearly 3 inches of room in the engine compartment.

Finally, we turn our attention to the front doors and the actual reproduction of sound with the Polk Audio db6500 separates. Comprised of a mica/polymer composite cone, the db6500 mids dropped in the factory door locations with no hassle (beyond trimming the factory mounting ring). The silk/polymer composite tweeters went up in the door panels, not an ideal location as you want to keep you mids/tweets no more than 12 inches apart. The highs hit our ears sooner than the mids, making the speaks a bit bright for our tastes. But a little tweaking with crossovers and EQ make this a really minor point.

Finally, we turn our attention to the front doors and the actual reproduction of sound with the Polk Audio db6500 separates. Comprised of a mica/polymer composite cone, the db6500 mids dropped in the factory door locations with no hassle (beyond trimming the factory mounting ring). The silk/polymer composite tweeters went up in the door panels, not an ideal location as you want to keep you mids/tweets no more than 12 inches apart. The highs hit our ears sooner than the mids, making the speaks a bit bright for our tastes. But a little tweaking with crossovers and EQ make this a really minor point.

The Polks, meanwhile, meet our criteria: efficient (92db at 1 watt), reputable build quality and good price point ($200 street). The speaker series also matches our chassis code in a thematic tie-in. We figure the judges'll give us a couple of points on that.

Next issue we'll cover our amp and sub choices, as well as document the rest of the install. The DB1 finally rocks!

Next Month: Installing the amps, building the boom-boom box and wiring up head unit and EQ.

Sources

Polk Audio
Baltimore, MD 21215
866-764-1801
http://www.polkaudio.com

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