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  #1  
Old 02-18-2002, 02:05 PM
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Location: Seattle Area
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W124 (and others) audio upgrade

Hello all,

I've read through the archives as to different owner's upgrades of their Mercedes sound systems (W124's in particular). Lots of helpful information there.

I have a general question regarding my first sound system upgrade. Is it more beneficial to upgrade to a higher-power head unit and keep the factory speakers for awhile, or upgrade the factory speakers and keep the existing head-unit/CD changer?

Which option would offers better results? I listen to everything from Handel to BB King to Tool.

I'd like to keep the install as unobtrusive as possible, so I'm leaning towards the more stealth look of the speaker-only upgrade, but I'm wondering if the stock system has enough power to make better speakers sound as they should.

Any thoughts?

Regards,
- Ryan

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'95 E420 - 'Shadowfax' 138kmi.
'92 Volvo 740Turbo Bard 193kmi
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  #2  
Old 02-18-2002, 03:24 PM
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Ryan,

I wanted to do the same thing.....speakers only (mine definitely needed replacement).....until I learned that the Becker 1432 I had in my 1991CE couldn't really properly drive the MB Quarts I wanted to put in.

The other problem I had was the "2 into 1" conversion that had to be done when deciding whether to install a new in-dash unit. Crutchfield and numerous other "specialty" audio shops couldn't convince me they knew enough about the unusual layout of the 300CE's sound system. Fortunately, I was referred to a local MB audio expert (Jim LaPlant). Jim was an MB tech before he launched his own business and his reputation here as an electronics genius is well established.

He ended up putting in MB Quart RKC110's in front and RKC113's in the rear. Plus, I put fresh subwoofers in the doors. To avoid the whole system being underpowered, Jim put in a Clarion ProAudio system I already owned (full logic controls/remote control, etc.) and added a new 6-disc changer in the trunk. The car came with the cassette only, so adding the CD changer was a big improvement.

I stopped short of adding a separate amp and subwoofer for the trunk......for now. I may end up adding that later. Nothing looks "out of place" and the head unit has a removeable faceplate for security.

Bottom line.....I tried the "speakers only" route only to realize that for decent sound, more had to be done (new radio, CD changer, etc). It turns out you may need a quality amp to power any speakers you decide to put in.

Hope it all works out for you!
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  #3  
Old 02-18-2002, 05:45 PM
minman
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If you get a new high power deck, you may need to rewire the speakers to make use of your newly available power. This is because the stock deck puts all head unit output (via two wires)to the fader switch in the dash, which then splits the signal to front rear. I guess you could wire together the front and rear left to one of the fader inputs, and do the same for the right.

I put in a new deck and subwoofer and left the existing speakers. I did this in both my car and my house (which has ceiling speakers. The point here is that with the built-in crossover that came with the car deck/home sub, I removed the low frequency strain from the care dash/home ceiling speakers. When this load was transferred to the sub, my existing dash/home speakers were much better equipped to handle music.
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  #4  
Old 02-19-2002, 07:05 PM
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Thanks for the input guys!

minman: I hear alot of people praising the resulting clarity with the the console mounted fader removed from the chain.
Only catch is my '95 doesn't have the console fader dial like older models. This is why I questioned wether or not an aftermarket deck would be that dramatic a difference (aside from the extra power obviously) as compared to the upgraded speakers. With the deck and changer in there already, it seems like a waste to replace it all if the change isn't dramatic *shrug*. I guess 'dramatic' is too subjective a term when speaking of people's ear's

Can one simply replace the factory amps with higher power aftermarkets, or add one in-line, with out disturbing too much?

Any others' experience/expertise is still needed!

Regards,
- Ryan
__________________
'95 E420 - 'Shadowfax' 138kmi.
'92 Volvo 740Turbo Bard 193kmi
'74 240D - 'Ol' Green' 4spd Manual 104kmi. (sold )
'77 300D - 'Red' 223kmi (sold)
'75 240D - 'Bianca the Blue Bomber' (sold)
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  #5  
Old 02-19-2002, 07:51 PM
minman
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I'm just guessing, but I would assume the stock unit has the amp integrated. In '96 Mercedes went to the Bose 8 speaker 200Watt system. Can you check your owners manual or call Mercedes for the power output of the stock deck? Aftermarket decks such as my Pioneer deliver 22W RMS/50W peak to each speaker. Pioneer also uses the MOSFET amp which is supposedly a decent built-in amp.

The good news is (hopefully) that the absence of a fader switch means an easier install if you choose to do it yourself. My brother and I did both the receiver swap as well as rewiring from the spiderweb of wires the previous installer crammed behind my dash (had an older Alpine system I was replacing).

Anyway, find the power on your stock deck, and that will go a ways towards answering your question.
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  #6  
Old 02-19-2002, 08:00 PM
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Ryan / Mark,

Guys, I have the W124 electrical wiring manual at home. Maybe I can fumble through this and help with some answers.

I also have the 124CD-Rom and it may shed some light on specs/details, etc. as well.

Ryan, you have the 1995 E420, right?
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  #7  
Old 02-19-2002, 08:20 PM
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Yup...

that's the new rig el presidente

Thanks again for both of your combined input!

Regards,
- Ryan
__________________
'95 E420 - 'Shadowfax' 138kmi.
'92 Volvo 740Turbo Bard 193kmi
'74 240D - 'Ol' Green' 4spd Manual 104kmi. (sold )
'77 300D - 'Red' 223kmi (sold)
'75 240D - 'Bianca the Blue Bomber' (sold)
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  #8  
Old 02-20-2002, 01:06 PM
WRS WRS is offline
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I'm planning a similar upgrade to my 94 e320. If you are planning on doing the work yourself, I would recommend changing the speakers before the head unit because you can take your time and evaluate the setup and listen carefully. If you're going to pay someone to install the components, do it all at one time. This way you have minimum downtime and installation expense because they only have to take your car apart once.

I am not aware of the rated output of the stock Becker, but it would probably be sufficient to power an efficient set of speakers. Check the efficiency rating of the speakers you purchase. The best way to increase the sound quality of your system is the speakers. The Becker head units are on par with many of today's cheaper units ($200 and under).

Here is my story:
In my 86 190e I decided I needed more bass. So I installed a subwoofer in the trunk. It added bass but the rest of the system still sounded horrible. So I decided it was time to upgrade the speakers. I decided on a set of Canton RS 3.13's after auditioning many sets of speakers (I plan on installing these into my e320 now). The set consisted of three drivers per stereo side. A midbass driver (installed in the door), and a midrange / tweeter coaxial pair installed in the stock dashboard location. I used a pair of MB quart mounting adaptors for the door which seemlessly allowed me to mount the woofer in the doors' armrests. The set was powered by an Alpine amp in the trunk and sent to the speakers via trunk mounted crossovers.

Ok, the moral of this story was that I didn't have the money to upgrade the head unit so I simply ran all of the necessary wires to install a new head unit when the money would be available. I used the stock Becker to power the rear deck speakers and provide the source for an amp for the front speaker set. The system was a huge improvement on the stock system.

Then about a year later, I added an Eclipse head unit based on reviews and listening tests in stores. When I got it installed, I found that the Becker actually sounded better. Two months later a swaped back the Becker and sold the Eclipse.

So, to make this long story longer, do all of the work at once that you can afford (time and money). If limited by anything, change the speakers first. Use your ears as judge, not other people's opinions.

Good luck. I'd like to know how things turn out.
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  #9  
Old 02-20-2002, 03:50 PM
E320T
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Upgraded 94 E320 Wagon as follows...

I tried the speaker route first in my wife's '94. FYI- The wagon has 4" in the dash, 3.5" in the rear doors, and 6" subs in the front doors. I replaced the front dash and rear door speakers with Infinity speakers. The subs were and still are fine. Within one year, three of the four Infinity speakers blew. My guess as to why this happened is the factory system is a 2 ohm setup. Putting in the 4 ohm speakers required pushing the lousy factory amp too hard, resulting in trashing the Infinity speakers. Either way, it was less than ideal and never really sounded very good.

So...two days ago I decided to bite the bullet and get my wife off my back over her lack of tunes. Went with an Alpine CDM7871 head unit that interfaces with her 6 disc changer. The head unit cranks out 21 watts RMS. This was plenty for the Polk 4" up front and the 3.5 Infinity in the rear. I went with the polk up front after hearing them against 4" Infinity's.

This left the subs without attention. The Alpine unit has three pre-amp outlets, which allows a dedicated sub woofer amp. I put in a small MTX 4122 Amp which provides 80 WATTS RMS @ 2 ohm to each sub.

The end result is something that is much improved over the factory system, even when the car was new. Honestly, I am quite amazed how well it sounds. Total cost of the above work was about $800 installed at Circuit City.
Best of luck in your journey...
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  #10  
Old 02-24-2002, 04:37 AM
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I think you would be on the right track by changing out the speakers first.

If after installing the speakers you find that the Becker doesn't have enough power to drive the speakers properly you can purchase a small amp to do the job. You don't need a ton of watts for speakers, I'm guessing about 30 watts from a high quality amp will be sufficient and sound amazing. If you really like your music loud you might consider a bit more power to prevent the amp from over heating. The rule of thumb is that you don't want to operate the amp at its maximum setting, this reduces the efficiency and overall sound quality.

I had done alot of research about decks and car sound staging in general and have heard that the power supplied by a deck is usually not as clean as what you would get from a dedicated amplifier (of course this could be a scam to get everyone to buy amps) but after a great deal of research I believe this to be true.

I also have learned that a high voltage source in the deck provides better clarity. That is probably why some have heard that the Eclipse decks are good. The trick is this.....not all of the Eclipse decks have high voltage which explains the so so results you get. But the really high end decks that don't have amplifiers built in really do sound better and generally this is the way to go if you really want to get serious.

Personally I would stick with the Becker or Blaupunkt because they look at home in the MB dashes and who really wants to spend $800 for just a deck.

By the way a good 30 watt amp is very small and can easily be hidden without any mods to the car.
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  #11  
Old 02-24-2002, 06:09 AM
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There is a DIY Article on the site for w124's.

Also Michael did an amazing system in his 500e, and JCE has done some reworking of his system nicely.

This is what I did to mine.:

Car had aftermarket alpine unit circa 1995 in it with a 6 disc changer. I left that as is. It works just fine, and later I'll go with something ridiculously cool and crazy hehe.

When I got the car, I took my 10" Sub in sealed enclosure that is ported, and hooked it up int he trunk with the amp that it had.

The stock speakers all 6, were wired off the radio's internal 100w amp, which is 25x4, or rather more like 15x4 or less of real power.

A Little while later, I was still not happy with the sound because there was too much strain on the radio's built in amp.

I bought a new amp for my sub which had way more power. Hooked it up and sub was booming nicely for a 10" sub. BTW its an 8 ohm sub, I like how it sounds personally over a 4 ohm for now. later I have a real nice german woofer I'll be picking up.

I then took the amp that was originally hitting the sub, and wired it to the two read speakers of the car. Dramatic difference int he sound out of the factory speakers now.

I then split the radio's amp to the door subs and front speakers in the dash. The dash speakers were wired up to the front radio channel, and the door subs wired up to the rear radio channel. the amps are hooked up to the Radio's RCA output.

This evened out the power more, and the sound is great. I set the bass level to -1 on the radio, and the treble to +5. The sub was set to low pass, about 80-120 frequency, and gain at 3/4 on the amp which is fine with that level.

Sound was great, but sub was drowned out by thick trunk shell and lining. So I ported the sub right into the cabin through my first aid kit bok. Voila, Nice bass, and the interior speakers all factory sounded very good..

So you can still have the factory speakers and good sound, its all in how you hook it up, and how you adjust it. If they arent blown, they actually sound decent.

Later I will upgrade to a 4 channel amp for the interior speakers, and then I will add my EQ that I have. Once I have done that, the Speakers will be changed out completely.

If you heard my car, you would be shocked at how it sounds with the factory speakers. Much better.

Alon
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  #12  
Old 02-25-2002, 07:24 PM
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Man, what a great forum! Here I thought this thread would sink to bottom of the archives never to be seen again

Thanks for everyone's input! I think I'm going the speaker-first route and try the Rainbow Speakers that Scott sells at LaJolla Audio (staying mindful not crank the tunes too much yet with the impedance differences). A little pricey at $120 a pair, but they're true 'drop-in' install (even use the factory harnesses!), and a "5 fits nicely where only "4's fit in other American/Japanese brands. Seems like the obvious choice for a start. A specific thanks to Scott for his input on these.

As soon as they're in, I'll report the results for you all. Should be ordering them next week sometime.

best regards,
- Ryan
__________________
'95 E420 - 'Shadowfax' 138kmi.
'92 Volvo 740Turbo Bard 193kmi
'74 240D - 'Ol' Green' 4spd Manual 104kmi. (sold )
'77 300D - 'Red' 223kmi (sold)
'75 240D - 'Bianca the Blue Bomber' (sold)
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  #13  
Old 05-10-2002, 11:16 PM
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What's the word on the Rainbows? I need to replace my rear speakers and would love a good replacement with decent bass.
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  #14  
Old 05-12-2002, 02:50 AM
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They are built in Germany specifically for the 124 mercedes front dash and rear shelf locations. Here is a pic of what they look like. They will sound much better than any 4 inch speaker .

Scott@lajollaaudio
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File Type: jpg dsc rainbowjpg.jpg (38.2 KB, 2911 views)
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  #15  
Old 05-13-2002, 12:02 PM
Asra
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Talking

Hi All,

Ive just installed an Alpine 620 CD changer with all the cables and interface suplied by La Jolla Audio(thanks to Donald) to work with my Becker 1432.
The result was excelent. The sound is clear and without any noise. It still needs some subwoofers to cover the low frequencies, but that its easy.
I highly recommend that. No big changes. No dash opening.



Alexei Antoniuk

91300CE 20k.

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