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Adding an amp to an amplified or premium factory system is how to add power and retain all the features
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If your vehicle’s factory stereo has great features but sounds bad, replacing the speakers and adding an amplifier are the best ways to improve the sound quality. Speakers are easy. Amplifiers are more difficult.
Adding An Amp To An Amplified Or Premium Factory System
In this article, we present three different scenarios explaining how to add an amplifier to a vehicle with a factory amplifier:
The factory stereo system in your car does everything you could possibly want it to do – except sound good. Changing speakers and adding an amplifier is the best way to upgrade sound quality, even for so-called premium systems. Replacing the speakers is a fairly straight-forward task, which is covered in our how to install speakers guide. We also show how you can add a subwoofer to the factory stereo, if that’s all you want.
When upgrading the power of an amplified factory system, however, technical issues often arise that complicate the installation of an aftermarket amplifier — such as factory stereos with digitally controlled amps that handle different signals in different situations. – Powers different speakers.
For example: Many cars feature Bluetooth® communication and warning bells when playing out of the center channel speaker while lowering the volume or muting the other speakers. To retain those characteristics, the new amplifier must mimic everything the factory amp was doing.
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One way to do this is to use the factory amp’s processed, mixed, and powered outputs for the inputs of your aftermarket system. Another method uses the factory system’s digital software controls to add your new amp to the system, so it will do what the factory amp did, only better.
And in some cases, the factory amp may have to stay put, and a successful aftermarket amplifier installation may require a signal-summing amp connection or a digitally controlled interface device.
In the following sections, we’ll discuss what’s happening in each scenario and how to work with it. If this gets confusing, don’t worry. You can always call us and our consultants will tell you what you need for your vehicle.
In rare circumstances, you may be able to simply replace your vehicle’s factory amp with a new one. If there are no digital connections between the radio and the amp, and the amp’s full-range analog input signals respond to the radio’s volume control, you can remove or bypass the factory amp and replace it with your own. Can replace with amp.
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The AudioControl D-6.1200 six-channel amp is a great choice for factory system upgrades with dedicated high-level inputs.
Typically, you’ll find such all-analog factory amps only when the entire system has only four channels. (Counting a factory component set with a tweeter and woofer as a speaker.) The amp will have four pairs of wires (eight total) going to its inputs, and the same for its outputs.
You can use a speaker or real-time analyzer (RTA) to identify each source signal and each speaker. Unfortunately, most people don’t have access to this type of test gear, so careful listening will be the best tool to use. For example, touching and removing a pair of speaker wires to the terminals of a small battery will produce a popping noise that you can track.
After removing or bypassing the factory amp, you can use its input wires, which carry the analog output signal from the factory radio to the inputs of your aftermarket amplifier. Then, you can connect the output wires of the factory amp to the output of your new amp. It will send the signal (music) to the speakers through the factory vehicle wiring.
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You can do this by connecting the factory amp harness wires directly to your amp, or you can find a vehicle-specific amplifier bypass harness that will work without cutting any wires or removing the factory plugs. If you remove the factory wiring plugs, you’ll want to save them, along with useful length wires, so you can return the system to stock if you choose to uninstall your amp upgrade.
This installation-in-progress photo shows an Audio Control LC7i line output converter using two load-generating devices on its high-level inputs.
Your aftermarket amplifier should have speaker-level inputs capable of handling the radio’s output level, or you’ll need line output converters (LOCs) to level-match the amp’s inputs to the radio’s outputs. Another issue is that without its normal output connections, the factory radio may shut down or show an error code. If this is the case, you will need a load-generating device on each speaker channel.
Most of the time, our consultants can tell you in advance if these items are needed, so call us before you pick up your new amplifier. After you receive an amp, our technical support team can help with any issues. Learn more in our article on using line output converters and load generating devices in factory systems.
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This scenario is very common these days. Whether your factory amp has all-analog or digitally controlled inputs, you can use its powered output signals for the inputs of your aftermarket amp. That way, each channel of your new amp will play the same channel the old amp was playing.
However, a common problem with this method is that the output from the factory amp contains processed, cross-over signals. Each channel contains a different high-, mid-, or low-frequency range of signals. For example: your tweeters will play high-frequency notes such as cymbals, mid-range door speakers will play vocals, guitars and keyboards well, rear speakers can play the full range of sound, while the subwoofer channel only plays low-frequency. Bass notes
A good way to handle this situation is to combine the signals from the different factory channels to form a full-range signal. You can then process and amplify that signal in whatever way works best for you. To do this, you’ll need to use an amplifier or digital signal processor that features high-level inputs and the ability to re-route and mix input and output signals.
AudioControl’s D6.1200 amp can combine high-frequency, midrange, full-range, and subwoofer speaker-level inputs to create a unified signal for amplification.
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Some devices, such as the Wavtech line output converter, allow you to add, mix and balance input signals automatically or using a wired remote control. Other devices, such as the JL Audio digital processor and VXi series amplifiers and AudioControl D series amplifiers and processors, use software control apps to mix and assign signals as well as control overall sound quality. Interactive graphical user interface controls for these devices are often beautiful, extensive, and complex.
In some vehicles, after connecting and amplifying the signals from the factory amp, you may find your speakers playing with odd frequency responses and equalization curves to save cheap factory speakers. Also, your vehicle’s warning bells and voice prompts may be too loud or too soft, or some other audio functions such as automatic noise control (ANC) and bass roll-off may not behave or sound correctly.
In these cases, you’ll need an interface device that understands all of the vehicle’s digital commands and translates them for your aftermarket amp to follow and play properly.
The best way to add a new amplifier to your car is to use a vehicle-specific interface device and a harness designed to connect the amplifier to the factory system. This will allow you to integrate into the factory stereo and get clean, full-range, and flat (uneven) input signals for your aftermarket amp, which will work and sound like they’re supposed to.
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These devices work with vehicle-specific harnesses, usually sold separately, that let you install your amp upgrade with minimal or no wire-cutting or cutting required. Some interface modules require firmware to be updated and flashed via an Internet connection at the manufacturer’s website.
The interface module plugs into the back of the factory radio, so it will receive, translate, and send all of the factory system’s signal and control information to your aftermarket amp. Then you connect a bypass harness to the output harness of the factory amp, so you can send the output of your aftermarket amp to the speakers via the factory speaker wiring.
Depending on the vehicle, you’ll either route all the speaker wires in one place at the factory amp’s output connection plug or throughout the vehicle wherever the factory wires run, such as behind the kick panels and door trim. Will connect with them separately. Vehicle-specific bypass harnesses usually take this into account.
If you know how to use audio test equipment, such as a multimeter or RTA, you should have no trouble figuring out what you need for your amp installation. On the website you’ll find amplifiers, vehicle-specific amplifiers, sound processors for factory radios, and factory system upgrade cables that are essential for the job.
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For everyone else, contact us to get the right gear. Consultants have access to a vast database of vehicle information including