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Old 06-03-2005, 10:21 PM   #1
bower100
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2004 VUE 3.5L
2002 L-Series 2.2L Sedan
Default New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

A simple question ... how best to improve an AWD '04 Vue equipped with the factory single cd/AM/FM unit? Single CD players are fine for me, but for better sound should I invest in a head unit or replace all the speakers?

( Can't have both right away). Thanks, dave.


Have'nt posted for a while.... Vue still runnin' great. 7500 miles, best/worst mpg: 25/16
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Old 06-03-2005, 10:39 PM   #2
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2004 VUE 3.5L
Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Quote:
Originally Posted by bower100
A simple question ... how best to improve an AWD '04 Vue equipped with the factory single cd/AM/FM unit? Single CD players are fine for me, but for better sound should I invest in a head unit or replace all the speakers?

( Can't have both right away). Thanks, dave.


Have'nt posted for a while.... Vue still runnin' great. 7500 miles, best/worst mpg: 25/16

Go for a new head first. No question. I went the route of speakers first, and the stock head didn't have enough power to move them. I ended up getting just charging the rest of the project... I.E. amp, and new sub to my CC, and dealing with it later.

I just paid it off last week. At least I'm happy with my project. Check out my gallery to see what I'm talking about.


Good luck!
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Old 06-04-2005, 01:25 PM   #3
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

I agree, replace the head unit first. I had the single disc non-mp3 piece of junk, and although my days of spending $3k on car stereos are long gone, I just couldn't deal with the terrible sound it produced. Replaced it with a $300 Pioneer MP3/CD unit (with install kit from Crutchfield) and the difference is amazing. While I'm not going for audiophile quality anymore, I've gotten comments on how good the system sounds, and people are amazed that the stock speakers sound so good with a little power behind them (they have surprising bass, but you wouldn't know it from the stock deck). I'm very happy with the results.
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Old 06-04-2005, 01:34 PM   #4
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Yup. Try a new H.U. first.

In my years of experience, new speakers are usually the first thing I do to improve the sound, which is what I did with my Vue. But the stock H.U. in the Vue just doesn't cut it.

I wish I had tried a new H.U. first, and I may not have wasted time putting new speakers in.
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Old 06-04-2005, 06:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

I agree, put in a more powerful head unit first. I was really shocked at how much better the stock paper cones sounded when I replaced my base head unit with my Sony from my old truck. With the decent EQ and good power from the aftermarket head unit, those turd bucket speakers sounded at least 100% better. Now, after the speakers were replaced with much higher quality aftermarket speakers, it sounded yet another 100% better, but I KNOW that they would sound awful if I didn't have a good head unit to run them.

When you do go to replace your speakers, get 2 pair of 6.5" speakers (at least 2-way), but you don't have to replace the 1" seperates. They are pretty good as is. I know a lot of people would argue with me on that, but if cost is an issue, getting 6.5" speakers with a crossover and 1" seperates usually makes this a much more expensive operation in both parts and installation time/cost. If you want to get some speakers that are really bad mama jammas, then get a 4-channel amp that can push them with the wattage that they really need. Your 34W RMS head unti won't be able to handle 6.5" speakers with 200W peak and 140W RMS. You'll be basically back in the same place you started - underpowered head unit.
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Old 06-04-2005, 10:49 PM   #6
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

I replaced my stock speakers first. While they sounded better, a new head unit will make a more dramatic difference.

Looks like that's 5 votes for the head unit first, and none for the speakers.
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Old 06-05-2005, 01:07 PM   #7
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Well, thanks to all posters ... head unit it is.

( I want a single CD/AM/FM stereo with a reasonable # of presets).

Now.... I know opinions will vary on this, but at what price range do you think I need to be at to at least get a moderate improvement over the OEM unit? Not that thats all I intend to spend, but just so I have an idea.
Mayby better to qualify suggestions by watts/channel or some other guage of quality. Thanks, dave
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Old 06-05-2005, 03:25 PM   #8
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2004 VUE 3.5L
Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Quote:
Originally Posted by bower100
Well, thanks to all posters ... head unit it is.

( I want a single CD/AM/FM stereo with a reasonable # of presets).

Now.... I know opinions will vary on this, but at what price range do you think I need to be at to at least get a moderate improvement over the OEM unit? Not that thats all I intend to spend, but just so I have an idea.
Mayby better to qualify suggestions by watts/channel or some other guage of quality. Thanks, dave

A lot of things you can look at... Most aftermarket heads will be an improvement. You're probably not wanting to look for anything under 50watts RMS per channel.. Nor will you find anything. Just find one you like, with the presets you want, controls, etc. The thing that really drives up the price of aftermarket heads is things like remote controls, flip-hiding face plates, etc. Just find one you like, w/o too many flashing lights.
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Old 06-05-2005, 04:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Quote:
Originally Posted by bower100
Well, thanks to all posters ... head unit it is.

( I want a single CD/AM/FM stereo with a reasonable # of presets).

Now.... I know opinions will vary on this, but at what price range do you think I need to be at to at least get a moderate improvement over the OEM unit? Not that thats all I intend to spend, but just so I have an idea.
Mayby better to qualify suggestions by watts/channel or some other guage of quality. Thanks, dave
Definitely get the head unit first. I still have the stock speakers in my SC2 and they sound just fine. (I have bass in the trunk though, so stock speakers are just for treble) As for gauge of quality, you can't go wrong with Alpine, even a cheap model is good. I highly recommend you get an MP3-ready model, you will want it eventually. Or, if you plan on getting an iPod (or other portable) make sure you get a model with an optional aux input.

One of these days I'm going to get the mounting kit so I can put my Alpine from the old vehicle into the VUE, and I plan on running the stock speakers until they give up.
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Old 06-06-2005, 01:21 AM   #10
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

I'd second Alpine. My SL2 had their CDA-7892 and it was excellent.

When I sold the SL2 I put the ALpine in a Sunfire my sis owns which had probably the muddiest sounding factory unit i've heard in years and it was night and day in that car as well.

Pioneer is another good one too.
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Old 06-06-2005, 10:00 AM   #11
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tollag
A lot of things you can look at... Most aftermarket heads will be an improvement. You're probably not wanting to look for anything under 50watts RMS per channel.. Nor will you find anything. Just find one you like, with the presets you want, controls, etc. The thing that really drives up the price of aftermarket heads is things like remote controls, flip-hiding face plates, etc. Just find one you like, w/o too many flashing lights.
Actually, you won't find one with 50 watts RMS. It'll be 50 watts PEAK, and more like 16-22 watts RMS.

The Alpine CDE series line would be a nice bunch to look at.
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Old 06-11-2005, 10:12 AM   #12
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Great question! I've been agonizing over this myself. I think I've settled on going with an Eclipse head unit model CD5435 and MB Quart Speakers. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Old 06-11-2005, 07:07 PM   #13
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

I installed a Panasonic CQ-5401U in my Vue. (It has Four 17W channels and gives me MP3 compatibility that I didn't have with the 2003 receiver.). I've been very happy with the replacement, especially as I added the XM receiver. The swap was pretty easily done and was well worth it.
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Old 06-11-2005, 07:34 PM   #14
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

I got a Blaupunkt Montreal from Crutchfiled for about $130. I like it a lot more than the stock radio. With it, the speakers seem fine.
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Old 10-25-2010, 10:04 PM   #15
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

I have a 2004 VUE with the factory 6-CD MP3 changer and factory speakers. I was really happy with the sound, but I wanted a head unit with more features (even an AUX in jack would be a big thing). So, I bought this fairly high-end Kenwood unit, and it sounded bad. It had every setting you can think of to tweak the sound, and I couldn't get it to sound as good as the factory radio. So, I returned it, and got a Sony unit, again, a fairly high-end one. Same thing. I just can't get it to sound as good as the factory radio. (But both the Kenwood and Sony units sounded great when I was testing them in the house with a pair of bookshelf speakers.) So, it it possible that the stock speakers suck, and there's some anti-suck circuitry inside the factory radio to make it sound good?
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Old 10-25-2010, 10:20 PM   #16
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

The factory speakers do in fact suck. You're probably hearing them distort due to the higher power levels, increased possible volume, and such. What kind of "sounding bad" is it? Rattling, poor clarity? Does it sound better with the factory radio in?
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Old 10-26-2010, 01:19 AM   #17
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Ancient thread bump!
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Old 10-26-2010, 12:08 PM   #18
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Quote:
Originally Posted by jsevinsk View Post
I have a 2004 VUE with the factory 6-CD MP3 changer and factory speakers. I was really happy with the sound, but I wanted a head unit with more features (even an AUX in jack would be a big thing). So, I bought this fairly high-end Kenwood unit, and it sounded bad. It had every setting you can think of to tweak the sound, and I couldn't get it to sound as good as the factory radio. So, I returned it, and got a Sony unit, again, a fairly high-end one. Same thing. I just can't get it to sound as good as the factory radio. (But both the Kenwood and Sony units sounded great when I was testing them in the house with a pair of bookshelf speakers.) So, it it possible that the stock speakers suck, and there's some anti-suck circuitry inside the factory radio to make it sound good?
The only "anti-suck circuitry" in the factory radio is the feature that reduces clipping/distortion by reducing output. It actually lowers the volume when excessive distortion is detected.

Please be more specific about why the new radio didn't sound as good? Didn't get as loud? Not as much bass? Make sure the speaker outputs are hooked up correctly (see wiring colors below). Out of phase speakers (caused by hooking up (+) and (-) backwards sound like crap.

Tan, Left Front (+)..........Light Green, Right Front (+)
Grey, Left Front (-).........Dark Green, Right Front (-)

Brown, Left Rear (+)........Dark Blue, Right Rear (+)
Yellow, Left Rear (-)........Light Blue, Right Rear (-)

Did your VUE come with the AAS (Advanced Audio System)? The easiest way to tell is if your Vue has a factory subwoofer. If so, I'd guess your new radio will likely sound like junk because it is feeding the factory amp a speaker/high level signal instead of a pre-amp/low level signal like the factory headunit does. Your options are to use the new radio's preamp outputs (it MUST have front and rear outputs) or bypass the factory amp. To use the preamp outputs, leave the new radio's speaker outputs unhooked and cut one end off some RCA patch cords and splice them into the respective speaker leads in the car's wiring harness or you can bypass the factory amp which is discussed here.

Sound quality is a mostly matter of opinion, but I think the factory speakers in the Vue are a bit lackluster. A cheap upgrade would be to get some factory speakers from a 2005-2009 Chevy Equinox/Pontiac Torrent from a junkyard. They are a direct-fit plug & play swap and much better than what comes in the Vue. The woofers are bigger and have rubber surrounds. The one con is that this would still leave the backseat tweeter-less.

Ultimately, a good set of aftermarket speakers like the Polk db651s, Infinity Reference 6032si or Alpine SPS-600 would be a great upgrade.
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Last edited by ruley73; 10-26-2010 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 10-26-2010, 01:07 PM   #19
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

The Vue has rubber surround speakers with paper cones. They're not the greatest, but I wouldn't say the ones from the 'nox or Torrent are any better.

There's decent replacement speakers for $75-100 a pair in the 6.75" size that the Vue uses. Kicker's 650 size speakers are a direct fit and sound pretty damn good.
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Old 10-26-2010, 11:43 PM   #20
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Default Re: New head unit or speakers? (First upgrade).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tollag View Post
Go for a new head first. No question. I went the route of speakers first, and the stock head didn't have enough power to move them. I ended up getting just charging the rest of the project... I.E. amp, and new sub to my CC, and dealing with it later.

I just paid it off last week. At least I'm happy with my project. Check out my gallery to see what I'm talking about.


Good luck!
On my to-do list is upgrade my system too. However I've managed to trash the front door speakers, so speakers + deck are a good go around. However, I have never wired a car system before, where the fark do you put the amp and how to wire the sucker?
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