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Thread: Audio/Sound Interface Questions (Mariner)

  1. #1
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    Audio/Sound Interface Questions (Mariner)

    Hello all, first let me apologize as I am a novice at audio / sound systems.

    I have a 2005 Mariner that I want to add a mac mini to and I have a few questions regarding audio sound interfaces. The vehicle comes factory with a "Mach 3" sound system (6 speakers & small subwoofer in the back)

    If I could I would like to keep the speaker system due to cost to upgrade, but if people have viable affordable suggestions I am open.

    Q's.

    1.) The mac mini only has the one line out, that doesn't seem like it would be very good for a car audio system which normally needs a 5.1 audio interface. Is it really bad? Is there a way to add an external sound card? Don't must external sound cards require a power plug?


    2.) I see most people use amps. Is there a preferable one out there? Would the amp work with my factory speakers or would I need to have them replaced too.

    3.) I am curious to hear about others audio setups please share how you interfaced yours.

  2. #2
    QCar Creator Jirka Jirout's Avatar
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    1. You can add external sound card/additional outputs in several ways. If you want to get a full 5.1 sound, the easiest way is to get Griffin FireWave or similar interface. If you are fine with 4 channels, you can get either Edirol UA-1EX or Griffin iMic and then create a virtual composite device in Audio MIDI setup (it will have 2 channes from one device + 2 from the other).

    2. Unless your speakers are something really exotic, any amps should work with them. There are two basic rules: the power rating of your speakers should be more than power rating (RMS) of your amp and the impedance of the speakers must be within the range the amp can handle. If you ignore the first rule and try full volume, you may destroy your speakers, if you ignore the second one, you may fry your amp (although most of them will have some kind of protection).

    3. At the moment, I am using the built-in audio output of the Mac mini + an old Sony head unit with Aux input in my Volvo and an Edirol UA-1EX + Sony head unit + two Audison SRx amplifiers (4 ch for speakers and 2 ch bridged for sub). I plan to play a bit with HQCT eA USB tuner within a month or so.

  3. #3
    CarFrontEnd Creator iamgnat's Avatar
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    First, go checkout www.escape-central.com. It is a board specifically for Escapes, Mariners, and Tributes. You can get a lot of model specific info there. Specifically check out the Modifications forum.

    You might also want to check out my worklog (sig) as it may give you some useful info. Unfortunately we are split on interior revisions (the center console/shifter are the big differences that apply here), but hopefully some of the info is useful.

    1) Actually car audio is 2 channels (stereo) since that is all CDs are recorded with. Typically they are split to 4 (front/rear) or 5 (front/rear/sub), but it doesn't meet the Dobly specs since (unless you have a Dolby DVD system setup ($$$)) each channel doesn't have a unique stream. The Mini is more than capable of producing excellent sound for the purposes of car audio.

    2) If you are replacing your head unit, then you need at least one Amp. If you want to and keep your factory speakers, you'll want to get a very low power Amp (50 RMS max and probably still turn the gain down some) to keep from distorting/blowing them. You can also pick up a RCA adapter that will let you use your factory Amp for the sub (I know Crutchfield has it).

    3) I replaced my factory sub with a JL-Audio 6.5" (that was the other change in 2005, you got an 8"), my front components with Alpines, a bridged 4 channel Alpine Amp for the front, the low end Alpine 2 channel for the rear (still running the factory speakers there), and an Alpine mono Amp for the sub. I have a Sonica Theater sound card (mostly useless with the Intel's) for my audio out as I had issues with the Mini forgetting anything was connected to the headphone jack. I just use it's headphone jack (there are no Intel drivers to use the 5.1 option) and then split the signal to all my Amps. The only down side is that I can't control front/back fading, but I really haven't found I needed it in the last year.

    Since you are new to it all, I would suggest finding a good car audio shop (e.g. not Best Buy/Circuit City type places) and talk to them about what you want. If you can find a good one, they will give you good advice for achieving the effect you want and help you find a step up that fits your budget. While they are actually fairly simple, it might be a good idea to let them do you first Amp install until you get accustom to working directly off the battery and tuning the Amps.

    If you do get the shop to do it, make sure they run at least 4G wire into the cabin and have them add a distro block (4G -> 2+ 8G is good) so you don't have to run another line for your P1900.

    -dave
    My pathetic worklog.
    CarFrontEnd (now it's own sub-forum!!!!)

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    First let me thank you both for your advice I really do appreciate it. I think I have resigned to the fact that I am going to have to get at least 1 amp and I might get new speakers too. Iamgnat I am going to follow your advice and have someone install the amp and speakers first in order for the proper extra wiring to be run. I hope you don't mind but I had a few more questions.

    1.) Iamgnat do you have 2 subs then? If I get 1 amp in the front that will power my current speakers right? But that leaves the factory amp & subwoofer in the back inert? Do you think I should get a new one? I didn't see any 8" subwoofers for sale anywhere. Is there a way when they install the new amp to connect it to the factory subwoofer and amp?to route the wiring

    2.) Does the mini plug right into the amp then? Is a firewave needed?

    3.) How many things can the P1900 power? I mean obviously I want to run it for the screen and mini, but what about the firewave and a usb hub?

    4.) Does this type of power supply effect the power consumption of the mini, like should I keep the things plugged into its native USB ports at a minimum?

    5.) When you hook up the mini to the P1900 using the optional P4-12V to P4-12V Cable and MacPac Power Cable Kit. It connects directly to the mother board of the mini and then to the P1900?

    6.) Is the Lilliput screen better or the Xenarc? Iamgnat how well did the Lilliput fit into the bay where the head unit was?

    7.) Iamgnat, I see you put your mini in the arm rest, was there a reason you chose there and not the glove box?

  5. #5
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    Bugbyte's Avatar
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    I have a Volkswagon Beetle with the six speaker Monsoon audio system. That means it has an amp already installed. I replaced the head unit of the system with an aftermarket Sony HU with Aux inputs. I got a 1/8" cable that plugs into the Mini on one end and converts to RCA plugs that go into the Sony unit on the other. It sounds great even though it is only stereo.

    My guess is that yours will sound as good. If you have a similar system to IamGnat's, then follow his install and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

    As for the P1900, you can power the screen and the mini and it should have plenty of of overhead for the firewave and USB hub. If you are worried about it, they have a new product called the 2140. You can read about it here.

    I don't think you have to worry about keeping the number of things plugged into the native USB ports to a minimum. The P1900 is designed to power the Mini plus the items plugged in. If you plug too much stuff in, the Mini will tell you that there isn't enough power for it all and disable it.

    Question 5: Yes. Check out Carnetix's site for pictures of how that works.

    Question 6: It used to be that the Xenarcs were superior to the Lilliputs. According to the mp3car.com store, that's not the case anymore. I have a Xenarc and it hasn't failed, going on 2-1/2 years in the car. Can't speak for the Lilli's but lots of people use them and they continue to sell so I think you're probably safe if you buy one.
    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
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  6. #6
    CarFrontEnd Creator iamgnat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karterius View Post
    1.) Iamgnat do you have 2 subs then?
    I have 3. My front speakers (components like yours) are Alpines that can take much more power than the factory speakers. I have a 4 channel Amp bridged for them. Bridging means you take a 4x## and it becomes a 2x### Amp (4x75w to 2x150w in my case). I have a second 2x50w for my rear speakers (which are still the factory speakers), and finally I have a 1x300w for my sub.

    If I get 1 amp in the front that will power my current speakers right?
    Yes. As you saw, mine sit under my seats (the two under the passenger seat are tight though).

    But that leaves the factory amp & subwoofer in the back inert? Do you think I should get a new one?
    You can get an RCA adapter that will let you use the factory Amp/sub with an aftermarket headunit (your Mini in this case). Replacing the factory Amp means you need to replace the factory sub too (if it's anything like my factory sub, it isn't rated to take the power of the smallest sub Amp out there). Unless you are having issues with your sub, I would try to use the factory Amp/sub to start off with as that will save you a bit (probably around $300) of money. The only downside is that you can't adjust the gain on the factory Amp which means if you don't hear it much off the Mini (possible since the Mini runs at a lower voltage than an car audio system (2 - 3 volts vs ~5 volts)) you either have to try a line driver or get a real Amp/sub combo that you can adjust.

    I didn't see any 8" subwoofers for sale anywhere. Is there a way when they install the new amp to connect it to the factory subwoofer and amp?to route the wiring
    Heh. Be thankful you don't have a 6.5". 8" subs aren't hard to find, most manufactures have a couple though 10" and 12" are the normal ones you see. If you are going to replace your sub, you need to replace the Amp too. The factory Amp is far too weak to power an aftermarket sub. I wouldn't use the factory wiring for a new sub/amp as it is too small of a guage for anything more than what they put in.

    If you aren't interested in the factory/stealth look, you can always get a sub enclosure to put in the back (or possibly look into have the storage area under there "trunk" turned into a custom enclosure if you don't use it. Serious $$$ though).

    2.) Does the mini plug right into the amp then? Is a firewave needed?
    Yes. Like BugByte, I use a 1/8" headphone jack -> RCA line. Then I split it all to hell to get to all my Amps The firewave (or some equiv) is only needed if you decide you need something that it offers. In my case, I had to have some type of external output as my Mini kept forgetting it had something plugged into it's jack. The firewave (or it's like) will allow you better balance/fade control than the standard left/right balance.

    3.) How many things can the P1900 power? I mean obviously I want to run it for the screen and mini, but what about the firewave and a usb hub?
    The Mini, a 12v LCD, and there is an extra module you can get to run another 12v (e.g. a USB hub). How many devices you can hang off the Mini/12v Hub is limited by the ports and their draw from the bus power. Realistically you can probably put more in there than you are already thinking about

    4.) Does this type of power supply effect the power consumption of the mini, like should I keep the things plugged into its native USB ports at a minimum?
    The more that it plugged into the Mini, the more it will draw. Your real concern is what they do when the Mini is asleep. If they continue to draw current, then that could have a negative effect on your battery (but the P1900 will kill itself before it gets too bad). MikeH has some good threads on the subject in the www.carnetix.com forums.

    5.) When you hook up the mini to the P1900 using the optional P4-12V to P4-12V Cable and MacPac Power Cable Kit. It connects directly to the mother board of the mini and then to the P1900?
    The MacPac replaces the need to hack up your power supply. It plugs right in the normal power supply port on the back of the Mini. To enable the sleep/wake functionality you have to insert a Y adapter in between the MB and the power button. It's supplied and it just plugs in, no hacking required

    6.) Is the Lilliput screen better or the Xenarc? Iamgnat how well did the Lilliput fit into the bay where the head unit was?
    The Xenarc appears to be the favorite for Mac users, but I haven't had any issues (well beyond the normal daylight problems that we all face) with mine.
    I bought the housing (actually I had him install the LCD into it too) that the Suburu WRX guys use (it was around $500 or $550 for the screen and housing). You can get it via mp3car.com or directly from him (don't have the site handy). This pretty much dropped in so that I had to do almost no modifications. As noted in my work log, I did have to make the opening in the dash a bit taller since it's not a true double din (is it the Mari or the Tribi that has the real double? If it's the Mari, you should have a bit easier time but I think it's the Tribi ). Otherwise I just had to use some plastic card to make a shelf for it to sit on and fill the gaps on the sides. I couldn't have asked for an easier install

    7.) Iamgnat, I see you put your mini in the arm rest, was there a reason you chose there and not the glove box?
    In mine (no idea about the 05+), it fits nice and snug there. It slides in (actually doesn't go all the way to the bottom) and is stuck in place with no extra securing needed. I wanted it where it was easy to get to and I wouldn't have to do any major hacking to make it fit/secure it. It just turned out to be the perfect location. As much as I hate Ford how they did some things (pray you never have to replace your Alternator ) they did seem to make it a great car to do off the wall things like install a computer

    Rather than bore those here that don't have something in the Escape family, PM me for any Escape/Mariner related questions.

    -dave
    My pathetic worklog.
    CarFrontEnd (now it's own sub-forum!!!!)

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    Quote Originally Posted by iamgnat View Post
    If you do get the shop to do it, make sure they run at least 4G wire into the cabin and have them add a distro block (4G -> 2+ 8G is good) so you don't have to run another line for your P1900.

    -dave
    Dave I was wondering if there is any additional wiring I should have a shop run when they put in an amp or two?

    Do amps network between them, or do they each need seperate power sources, and wiring.

    Sorry I am unsure what a distro block is, is it to distribute power or audio? Is it like a hub? Is 4G wire standard, or should I go a little higher?

    What do you mean by : (4G -> 2+ 8G is good)

    PS - I PMed u with some more Escapecentric questions.

  8. #8
    CarFrontEnd Creator iamgnat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karterius View Post
    Sorry I am unsure what a distro block is, is it to distribute power or audio? Is it like a hub? Is 4G wire standard, or should I go a little higher?

    What do you mean by : (4G -> 2+ 8G is good)
    Hehe. Sorry about that

    When you see #G referring to wiring it is the gauge of the wire. A lower number is thicker (0G is typically the thickest you will see for Car Audio).

    A distro block lets you split (sometimes with a fuse) a larger gauge (smaller number) wire into multiple smaller gauge wires. The example I mention was to convert a 4 gauge wire to multiple 8 gauge wires (one for each Amp + 1 for the P1900).

    The size of the wire you need is dependent on the power that is needed and the length of the run. Most non-competition Amps will be fine with an 8G wire for 5 - 10 feet. But rather than have a bunch of holes in your firewall, you run one fat one through, then use a distro block.

    In my case I have one 8G line running to one Amp (my front), then I have a 4G running to a distro block that has my other two Amps and the P1900 hanging off it. You will also need a fuse between the distro block and the P9100 as the fuse at the battery will be much too large to protect the P1900.

    How much you can run off a distro block is of course limited by the feeder wire and the draw of the gear attached. In my case, I have another 8G port open on my block but hanging my 3rd Amp off it would be asking for trouble. I could upgrade the feeder to a 0G line (I think I need a new block if I do that though), but it isn't cost effective at that point (especially since the hole is already there).

    This is all stuff you will start to pick up as you start to hang around car audio shops and talk to them about what you want to do Before I got my Escape, I didn't know any of this stuff. Damn iPod!

    -dave
    My pathetic worklog.
    CarFrontEnd (now it's own sub-forum!!!!)

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    Quote Originally Posted by iamgnat View Post

    A distro block lets you split (sometimes with a fuse) a larger gauge (smaller number) wire into multiple smaller gauge wires. The example I mention was to convert a 4 gauge wire to multiple 8 gauge wires (one for each Amp + 1 for the P1900).

    In my case I have one 8G line running to one Amp (my front), then I have a 4G running to a distro block that has my other two Amps and the P1900 hanging off it. You will also need a fuse between the distro block and the P9100 as the fuse at the battery will be much too large to protect the P1900.

    -dave
    Ok, few more questions:

    1.) does this "gauge wire" supply just power or audio as well? Just trying to figure out why I hook it up to the P1900?

    2.) Is there a particular type of input interface I should look for on the amp I am buying? From amps I looked at it, looked like they have standard RCA inputs, but do some come with more inputs. Like if I go for a firewave or soundcard I'll have a front, rear, and possibly left/right audio outputs.

    3.) Repeat of question from last post: any additional wiring I should have a shop run when they put in an amp or two?

    4.) Repeat of question from last post: Do amps network between them, or do they each need separate power sources, and wiring.

  10. #10
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    Bugbyte's Avatar
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    Take a look at the FAQ to the FAQ's. You'll find a link in my signature. There's a link to a thread on how to wire an Opus -its nearly identical to the P1900, and other links to car audio installations and wiring diagrams.

    There's also a discussion on wire gauges and how/why to pick the right gauge wire to power your PC and a link to this wiring diagram for a typical car pc with amplifier.
    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
    Want to:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

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