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From: (Alan R. Riley)
Subject: z3 stereo specs

> I'd be very interested in what you did for stereo sound in your Z3, we are
> looking at one and I definately want to upgrade the stereo.

here ya go...let me know if you get a z3 and replace the stereo in it. if you choose different components, i'd love your opinions of the components you install.

i had the stock stereo completely replaced, and i'm very happy with the result. the new stereo has tremendous power, clarity, and bass, even with the top down. the bass is tight, hard, not boomy. i'll include the price i paid next to each component--due to the town i'm in, i paid more than i should have for some of them--you can probably find better deals.

head unit: alpine 7930 single cd tuner/preamp, my cost--$580.

in general, i am very happy with this head unit, but i'll tell you things i like and don't like about it. first, i'm sure it is available for less than i paid for it. i picked this head unit for features: it has 4 volt pre-amp outputs, and 3 sets of pre-amp outputs--front, rear, and subwoofer. the subwoofer pre-amp output has a separate level control--very useful. 4 volt pre-amp outputs provide more signal to your amp--supposed to let you get a cleaner sound with less chance of interference between the pre-amp and the amplifier. you can program eight-character titles for radio stations (i can't remember the exact number right now, but i believe it is up to 24 stations). you can also program eight-character titles for cd's (i believe it remembers up to 18 cd's, and more if you hook up an alpine cd-changer). the 7930 comes with a cool little remote about the size of a "nutter butter" cookie (like you need a remote in a car the size of a z3).

things i don't like about the head unit: the illumination is not switchable from green to amber to match the rest of the dash lighting the z3. i thought this would bother me at first, but i honestly don't notice it. the green lighting on the head unit is muted, and so doesn't glare out as being "different". also, the 7930 has no built-in amplifier, meaning you will have to buy an outboard amp. actually, i found this a plus, because i didn't want to pay for a built-in amplifier when i was going to buy a separate one anyway--you can buy better quality amps than are available built-in to head units.

speakers: alpine DDDrive DDC-F17A 6.5" components with external crossover.

(i honestly can't remember my cost--need to check the receipt at home-- i believe it was around $500, but it could be $50 more or $100 less.) the installers managed to fit the 6.5" speakers behind the factory grills forward of the doors to the side of the footwells. i didn't want any custom kick-panels or modifications to the stock z3 interior, so i was very happy that these relatively large speakers (i think the factory speakers were 4") were wedged in there somehow. the separate tweeters that came with the F17A's replaced the factory tweeters behind that little grill on the door of the z3. the external crossover networks were mounted in the trunk of the z3, at the bottom of the panel separating the trunk from the place where the convertible top folds down.

i have nothing negative to say about these speakers--other than i am sure others can find prices lower than i paid.

amplifier: xtant 4180c, my cost $649. i feel this was a fair price for

this amp--i mail-ordered it rather than getting overcharged by the local high-end car audio dealer. the xtant has wonderful features for the price--separate passive crossovers (frequency changeable with resistor packs that come with the amp) for front and rear line-out and speaker-out connections. xtant offers upgrade modules for balanced line inputs, parametric equalizers, and 24dB per octave crossovers rather than the standard 12dB per octave. the amp has a noise gate switch, adjustable gain settings, and adjustable jumpers for a wide range of input voltages. the amp is rated at 45 watts per channel (4 channels total) into 4 ohms; each pair of two channels may be bridged to 180 watts into 4 ohms. however, in tests by "car stereo review", the amp put out 60 watts per channel (to each of 4 channels) into 4 ohms, and 240 watts when bridged. the xtant amp actually has a fan, much like a computer, and uses forced-air cooling.

the front pre-amp outputs of the alpine head unit are connected to the front pre-amp inputs of the 4180c, and the speaker outputs are hooked up to the crossover networks for the dddrive 6.5" components. i chose a 70Hz hi-pass crossover setting for the front channels, so any sound below 70Hz is rolled off/quieted down by 12dB per octave.

the subwoofer pre-amp output of the head unit is connected to the rear pre-amp inputs of the 4180c. the rear speaker outputs are bridged to power my subwoofer (more on that below). i chose a 90Hz lo-pass crossover setting for the rear channels, so that any sound above 90Hz is rolled off/quieted down by 12dB per octave.

the crossover settings i chose prevent signals that are out of the frequency response ranges for the component 6.5" speakers and the subwoofer from reaching those speakers. i overlapped the range a little bit to prevent any gaps in the sound.

the only negative thing i have to say about this amp is due to its size. it is 18.5" long by 9.9" wide by 2.85" high. but, the amp looks very cool (brushed stainless-steel cover with copper insets). due to its size, and my desire to fit a subwoofer in the trunk as well, the amp is mounted to the far right of the z3's trunk, just forward of the fold in the floor panel that covers the tools, etc.

subwoofer: 10" kicker solobaric S10c, my cost, including enclosure, $250.

i picked this sub because it requires a much smaller enclosure than traditional subwoofers, while providing extremely hard, tight bass. i bought the subwoofer from crutchfield, of all places. while i ordinarily would not buy from crutchfield, they offered a competitive price on this subwoofer including an enclosure that just fits in the trunk of the z3. the 10" is the largest sub that will fit in the trunk. the enclosure is roughly 12" square on the botton, 12" high, with the front sloping back so the top is about 8" long and 12" wide. this just fits in the trunk of the z3, pushed all the way forward, and pushed to the right against the end of the xtant amp. it won't fit all the way to the left of the trunk, since the top of the enclosure is tall enough that it has to fit into the space in the trunk lid! i have nothing negative to say about this sub. i wish i had room for the 12", but not in a z3! the 10" solobaric sounds at least as good (and with tighter sound) than the generic 15" kicker sub i had in my last car.

i decided to wait on rear speakers for two reasons: 1) where to put them? 2) cost. i'm glad i waited. in a car the size of the z3, the system i have will make your head hurt before you ever wonder about rear fill. in a coupe or sedan, i would probably see how the rear factory speakers sounded after replacing the front speakers and tweeters, and then perhaps replace them if i wasn't satisfied. spend the most money on the front speakers--they are more important than the rear.

the subwoofer is great--bass fill, even with the top down, no booming. if you are so inclined, the stereo can be turned up with no distortion to car-shaking levels. the alpine speakers' tweeters provide terrific imaging from their location in the door.

'96 silver/black Z3
xtant 4180c; 6.5" alpine dddrive's; 10" kicker solobaric (and even some leftover trunk space)

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