Wow, you guys rock. I need to spread some reputation when I have a chance to process everything.
The charging issue, I am embarrassed to say looks like big3. I never bothered to check, but it looks like 8awg stock from alternator and to ground. I ran 2/0 to the second battery, 0 to ground it--should have addressed the first battery cabling right away. Ignorance is bliss.
But I'm learning a lot about troubleshooting this stuff... and who knows, there could be more going on then just that 8awg.
Also, one of the battery terminal leads melted onto the terminal so I guess I'll have to break out a pry bar, chisel or rotary disc to cut it off.
I'm still not sure how to best proceed with the low audio on the stock bose though.
a little caveat:
I can't find any car audio pre-amps using google. Unless all the EQ's it spits back are preamps--though I assumed they did not boost source volume, but adjust output gain to different channels. Is that somewhat on track?
I can boost the volume output past 100% using vlc, but some tracks get distortion from that. It's odd because I can boost vlc to 150% and have sound card volume set at ~10% and even with audio low u can hear the distortion. I guess it's just from the gain already being set too high in the source audio?
Either way I'm not sure how much I want to fool with it.
I'm almost ready to just rip it out and put in all aftermarket because I know that will work and it will save time, but for ~500$ it doesn't come cheap.
Any creative solutions? (save cutting the stock radio connector off too tie into the bose audio cables directly)
Thanks again for all the info. It's very helpful!