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Thread: Pimp my RV

  1. #1
    Newbie
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    Mar 2010
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    Pimp my RV

    Hey guys, started lurking this forum a few weeks back, all kinds of good tips. I just bought an old used RV in good mechanical condition and am going to be adding in my own new car PC and stereo system from scratch and just wanted to ask a bunch of questions. I'm open to any suggestions and am a computer engineer so feel free to get freaky in the reply, but most importantly I'm looking forward to a really fun project and updating the thread with results as I go along.

    Attached you can see a picture of the inside of the cabin. The current speaker positions are circled red, the empty seat cabinet I want to put the PC & amp in is the blue arrow. I'd just like to list out categories of what's being added for suggestion.

    1) Speakers
    Currently those cabinets have false bottoms and the original install what sound like $10 coax speakers. The same speakers are in the front door, which I may just leave to listen to the radio, but I will definitely be upgrading the rear pair, so had these questions:
    a) Should I keep the original speaker locations and get rid of the false bottoms, or just wall mount (or another location) the new ones?
    b) If I keep the current locations, can I put a woofer and a tweeter in there and get good sound? Or should I just get a half-decent full range speaker?
    c) If I put some sealant and egg cartons or insulation in the cabinets, could I turn them into speaker cabinets (albeit bad ones), or would it just sound like a muddled mess? Could I put my own smaller custom enclosures inside the cabinets, or would the cabinet itself still screw up the sound?
    d) Should I be leaning towards raw DIY speaker drivers rather than car audio because they will be in a clean environment?

    2) PC & pre-amp
    All that's in there is the factory AM/FM/Cassette you can see in the dash. My main objective of this whole thing is to be able to play my mp3 collection via the car PC. I have an old Acer laptop that has a dead HD, so I was going to do the XP on an SD card thing and get an external solid state 120 GB, then feed the PC into an M-Audio Firewire 410 I have. Those will be housed where the blue arrow points.
    a) I want to go solid state to reduce vibration risk if I'm driving. Is it possible to get away with an actual disk, or will it just die at some point?
    b) I've seen mention of the Firewire 410 being used in car PC's on this forum so I assume it's kosher, just curious if anyone has any experience with its ruggedness. I know it seems like overkill, but I need it to plug guitars, keyboards and mics into for recording, so it will actually be handy to have it mounted down there.

    3) Amp
    The out from the Firewire 410 will go into a full range class D amp for efficiency reasons. Question is, a $250 Pioneer PRS-D2200T, or a $50 Sure Electronics board?
    a) Any cheaper, well reviewed full range class D car amps out there?
    b) If I buy the $50 board and the RV batteries are 12V, I don't know how I can get enough power to the speakers. A 12-36 DC step-up power supply costs $150, so now I'm not really gaining anything money-wise. Is that the only way to get a high enough rail voltage?

    4) Interface
    Should I take the existing 14" laptop screen, jerry rig an extendo cable and buy a $200 touchscreen overlay, or buy a 7" USB touchscreen for $200? I'm leaning towards the USB method in case of emergency need to use the laptop as it was intended...with a screen.

    5) Heat & Power
    I imagine it might get hot in that little cabinet, but I can cut a hole and attach a fan, so no worries. My random questions here:
    a) If I'm connecting an amp, soundcard and PC down there, I assume the best way is to just get a 12V DC "hub" type device off the battery, then buy a car DC adapter for the laptop, a generic one for the soundcard and directly to the amp? As long as I get some fuses in there, no danger, right?
    b) In DC watts, how low can a decent performance 4 year old laptop be transformed to consume? I know the answer is "it depends", so just guidelines. The power supply is rated at 65W, but if I'm not using the screen, turn off BlueTooth, WiFi, CD drive, etc. in BIOS or Device Manager. will that lower it? Should I open up the case and actually unplug stuff?

    This is getting very long and those were all the big points, so I'll just quit for now. Whatever anybody else knows or thinks, I'm all ears!
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  2. #2
    Variable Bitrate
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    Jun 2008
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    Perth, Western Australia
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    351
    Thats one pimping looking RV already there dude, love the material!

    That area in under the seat should be more than capable of housing the computer and other parts, but I would consider dividing the space into two parts, and housing the amp in a second enclosure in there, to minimise heat pollution between the two components. Some amps generate a fair bit of heat, but can be kept cool enough with just some convective air currents, but you don't really want that heat spreading into a computer that you want to keep as cool as possible.

    For the speakers, I guess it depends on a couple of things, the budget you have in mind, and the sound quality you want to get. You could try fitting better quality speakers into the current positions, or mounting into a speaker box kind of arrangement. You could also try your idea of home style hifi speakers, one positive with that would be that you can have nice tiny satellite speakers, then just one reasonable size sub for the bass and midrange. However, I would try that with a borrowed set inside the RV to see how well it sounds. You would also need to get it running off 12V, rather than the 120V or 240V mains current it would be expecting.

    If its an RV, it might be worth checking out a small size generator too, like the small Honda units. They are 4 stroke, and quiet as, so its the kind of thing you could just drop on the ground outside the van and run if you want to keep sucking down the volts inside the RV with the computer and other gear. Can also use it to keep the battery topped up if you are going to be there for extended lengths of time.

    For the screens, why not go for 2? Have a 7" touchscreen in the dash for when you are driving, then put a 19 odd inch screen in the back to use as a TV, media player, dvd player, and general use PC.

    Maybe one thing to consider is having two PC's, one for the dash to use while driving, and have it just for music and nav, then have a higher specced machine in the back of the RV for use while parked up? Hell, if you had the budget, you could even look into a reasonable PC running Windows Media Centre or the like, with a 32" or 37" or even 42" LCD on one of the walls.

    Go Nuts!!! But either way, post pics!!!

  3. #3
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    Mar 2010
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    Awesome, thanks Chester! My buddy already told me he thinks I just bought it because the inside matches my wardrobe. I know it sounds crazy, but I'm actually fixing it up to live in for a year travelling and maintain a "livin in a van down by the river" blog, so this is the first of many updates.

    You touched on a lot of points I've already been bouncing about in my head but didn't put in the original post, so I'll let you know where I'm going with things.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chester View Post
    I would consider dividing the space into two parts, and housing the amp in a second enclosure in there, to minimise heat pollution between the two components.
    Good call, I will keep that in mind. I'm also debating the idea of bolting the enclosures to the frame for security reasons. If I have my own raw amp board and a hacked up laptop, hopefully it will look like junk not worth stealing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chester View Post
    You could also try your idea of home style hifi speakers, one positive with that would be that you can have nice tiny satellite speakers, then just one reasonable size sub for the bass and midrange.
    Just as a reference, my cap for that set of speakers would be about $300. I am strongly considering a set of Pioneer TS-C720PRS, and could perhaps duplicate their performance for cheaper with home hihi drivers. However, with them mounted overhead, the idea of bass raining from above might sound odd. A friend suggested I could cut the bottoms out of the existing panels and slightly angle them with an enclosure box behind them.

    Your idea of nice satellites with a single sub is intriguing. I'm not going to get a standalone sub just for bass because it will consume too much power, but if I got something that could handle mid-range down and mounted just one speaker lower down on that cabinet protruding in the bottom right of the picture, would that be insane? I can't find human sensitivity to location versus frequency on google right now, but having that one speaker mono down low with two stereos up high seems like a recipe for disaster.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chester View Post
    If its an RV, it might be worth checking out a small size generator too, like the small Honda units.
    The reason I bought this RV is because it was super cheap because it currently has no off-grid power. My current plan involves 2 deep cycle batteries that can hold 430 amp hours total, then 300W worth of solar panels. I know they're expensive, but the idea of being green and never having to listen to a generator or worry about propane is worth it to me because I can still charge off the alternator or go plug in somewhere if need be. The entire electrical system could be a whole other thread....

    Quote Originally Posted by Chester View Post
    Maybe one thing to consider is having two PC's, one for the dash to use while driving, and have it just for music and nav, then have a higher specced machine in the back of the RV for use while parked up? Hell, if you had the budget, you could even look into a reasonable PC running Windows Media Centre or the like, with a 32" or 37" or even 42" LCD on one of the walls.
    That's currently the plan (well, slightly less pimp). I have a brand spanking new Dell that I will be using for sound and video editing, watching movies, etc. at night. And that begs another problem...when I park, it seems silly to have 2 PC's draining energy at the same time. I was looking at setting up some sort of switch and cables to roll out from under the bench where I could plug in my Dell into the HD and sound card and have it become the master. I'm still battling the best way to do that, since USB and Firewire only allow one master it will need to be some sort of hard switch, any ideas welcome.

    Great stuff, thanks!

  4. #4
    Low Bitrate
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    Michigan
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    Pimp My RV

    Hello:
    I noticed you purchased a Class 'C'. I service RVs and I don't know how closely you went over the unit, but you will need to pay very close attention to that overhead window. A lot of owners dump these units because of leaks around them and you won't find out for another 2-3 years. The only way you can be sure it is not leaking is to remove the curtain and look for discoloration (or water) around the lower window on teh wall and the decking of the upper area. The roof is another area of concern. Make sure all of the caulk seams (front and rear clips, vents and stink pipes) are tight and not coming loose. If they put silicone on as a sealant, remove it and then remove one of the vents to make sure water didn't get past the caulk. Silicone doesn't stick to RV roofs. You need a caulk called Dicor.

    Now for the fun stuff: I would recommend all 12v systems since you want to be off grid. Running an inverter would be counter productive especially since 12 volt computers, TVs and entertainment systems are readily available. You'll also want to reconsider the single computer design. With the low cost of good power laptops, you could have a 'RVputer' as well as a 'work' computer and still have them share a common large centrailized hard drive.

    Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.
    DNR

  5. #5
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    Jul 2010
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    if you have the space, id look at a set of monitor speakers, like Alesis . they have speakers for 200 dollars that will blow your mind... its a 6.5 and a tweeter... only thing is they arent very efficient, but if you have the solar power and batteries to match, you will be happy with them.

    perhaps you can make an area where you store all the electronics, and have a fan suck the air through the whole area?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by BTron View Post
    I know it sounds crazy, but I'm actually fixing it up to live in for a year travelling and maintain a "livin in a van down by the river" blog, so this is the first of many updates.
    Seriously? Tell us more bout this.

  7. #7
    Constant Bitrate
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    Looks like you've got a big RV for the job! First thing I'd do is get a very low powered unit and low powered screens. The reason for this is, if you plan on it being parked up for any length of time (and rather not have the engine running constantly) you can actually run a pretty effective PC and display from solar energy. There is a USB touchscreen on the market which I believe consumes 4.5watts and you can get a fairly powerful pico/nano PC running about 5-8watts which will do anything from web browsing to watching SD movies flawlessly.

    Or how about the lowest powered atom netbook and DIY touchscreen it- that would be my choice personally.

    The simple reason being I would be able to take it wherever I go and use it as a traditional netbook, I could position it in different places easily enough for use within the RV (so no need for additional screens etc) and they're really cheap, cheaper than the price of a 7" LCD! Here in the UK we can pick up the 8.9" versions for about 100 easily enough- for about 200 we start to get involved with the top of the range netbooks. Second hand prices obviously! But as the general user seem to buy these devices and never actually use them you get them in 'as new' condition.

    I got my daughter a Dell Inspirion 1012 netbook for 125 and it still had the sticky plastic on the screen lol. Gotta love eBay!

  8. #8
    Maximum Bitrate locs4dayz's Avatar
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    @Btron "That's currently the plan (well, slightly less pimp). I have a brand spanking new Dell that I will be using for sound and video editing, watching movies, etc. at night. And that begs another problem...when I park, it seems silly to have 2 PC's draining energy at the same time. I was looking at setting up some sort of switch and cables to roll out from under the bench where I could plug in my Dell into the HD and sound card and have it become the master. I'm still battling the best way to do that, since USB and Firewire only allow one master it will need to be some sort of hard switch, any ideas welcome.

    Great stuff, thanks!"

    Responce: Something like this should be perfect... http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/TOGGL...Q5fAccessories
    Linux(Learning the curve...Like when driving!!!)
    Worklog!!!http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/fabr...l-worklog.html

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