High(er) end stereo without a head unit
Over the past year or so I've stumbled across a number of threads talking about how to add a "decent" sound system to a first gen. I had more or less the same goal - I have a set of Bowers and Wilkins towers in my living room so (understanding that the first gen Camaro is a terrible listening environment and knowing that the best sound in my car will always be its exhaust) I still wanted to do better than what I saw out there. My car is certainly not original but I try to keep the modifications subtle and vaguely classic appearing (at least to the non-gearhead eye). This meant I did NOT want to cut the dash and I definitely didn't want subs in the trunk. I don't like the restoration radio options - I think they're pretty crummy sound quality for the price they're asking; understandable given the production cost and limited market but I think I can do better. Anyways, I opted to install a digital-to-analog converter (I used a cheap one, may upgrade to an iStreamer someday if this dies or I don't like it) wired to an amplifier and speakers in all four corners. The original AM radio is still in the dash wired up to the center dash speaker. If any of you guys are contemplating it, this is how I accomplished the job:
Screamin' Performance kick panels (great quality parts! Needed a little enlargement of the speaker opening to fit the Focals and their grills didn't fit over the speakers, but with minimal trimming and then using the focal grills around the Screamin' performance mounting rings, it worked well)
Focal 165AS 6 1/2" two-way components in the kick panels
Focal 690AC 6"x9" coaxial speakers under the package tray (they fit below without cutting the package tray metal)
JL Audio XD400/4v2 amplifier (75 watts RMS x 4 channels; chose this because they make great amps, it's Class D so it's physically small with minimal heat and low power draw relative to sound quality/volume, and because they build in a connection for a remote volume control which eliminates an extra device in line with the low-level preamp input)
JL audio remote level control (controls the amp's volume remotely without adding a volume control in-line)
iSimple Jamlink DAC/iPhone connection
BlueSea SPST toggle switch, 12V DC LED, and Dual USB charger socket (the last is unrelated to the stereo, just an add-on; the reason for using BlueSea is just because their parts are consistently good quality)
Assorted wires and connectors
Dynamat on the floor, package tray, quarters, doors
QuietRide heat shield insulation over the dynamat
Amp Power: I ran 8AWG with a 40W Maxi Fuse inline from a BlueSea marine bus bar on my radiator support that serves as my main power distribution point. It runs to a firewall passthrough connector in the opening left by my speedo cable (converted to Dakota Digital and no longer need a cable) then more 8AWG under the dash, down the inside of the R kick panel, through the wire run under the passenger sill, and exits under the passenger seat.
Amp Ground: Attached to the center console bracket (confirmed it was a good ground with a multimeter before placing it)
Speaker wire: Front components have a crossover two-sided taped into the kick panel space right above the lower door hinge, wire runs through the under-sill gutters to the seats where they just run under the carpet to the amplifier location under the passenger seat. Rear coaxials are more or less the same idea.
Bracket: Built a bracket out of angle aluminum, painted it black, and hung it from the ashtray screw holes under the center stack. It houses a power switch, remote level control, iphone connection, LED indicator, and an extra BlueSea systems USB charger (because why not?)
Control circuit: Ran a small gauge power lead from a ignition-switched circuit in my fuse box. It goes to one pole on the toggle switch as well as the BlueSea USB charger (I want the charger to be live whenever the ignition is, not just when the radio is on). The other connector of the SPST toggle switch goes to everything I want to turn on whenever the power switch is on. Namely, the power lead of the DAC, the power lead of the indicator LED, and the turn-on lead for the amplifier. The DAC, the indicator LED, and the BlueSea USB charger are all grounded to the mounting strap for the stock radio.
Other wiring: A phone cable connects the JL remote level control to the amp (it's a digital control, not just a pot to attenuate the input) and I ran dual RCA wire from behind the dash to the amp.
Things can could be done differently: I probably should have hid the switch and connectors inside the ashtray to be less visible. I was getting tired of staring at a pile of parts and decided to press on with what I can build with limited fabrication resources. I'm OK with how it looks. Also could have hid the amp either under the dash (if I had pulled the AM radio and put in a block-off plate) or in the trunk (the mounting options there just didn't excite me). Finally, most people investing in this kind of sound would have added subwoofers. I just don't like seeing a big box in the trunk and the 6x9's produce enough bass for me; I don't want my trunk rattling.
Things that could be done cheaper: Could have used cheaper speakers (Focal are kind of high-end) or a cheaper amp (it's not cheap to build a really good Class D amp and JL is one of the better ones - if I was willing to accept higher power needs, bigger amp, and much more heat, there would have been many cheaper options available). Also could have used a set of 4x6's in the stock kicks rather than the Screamin' Performance ones but I've always regretted using cheaper parts from a fitment perspective.
Pictures below. Feel free to ask any questions!
1967 RS driver with a 327/210... but now with an M20, HEI, AAW harness w/ halogens and relays, Dakota Digital, Moto-Lita, TMI interior, and a few other toys