Sunday, September 27, 2009

ICE Your Toyota Alphard

One of the common questions posted by many new Toyota Alphard owner is “How do I ICEed my giant”? ICE stands for In Car Entertainment and what the owner is asking for is basically how to improve the sound quality of the audio/video system that come with the car.

If your giant already comes standard with 5.1 theatre sound systems, it already has a very decent sound system. However if you wanted even better sound quality then most straightforward path to improve sound quality is to swap the stock speakers with a set of component speakers. Since the 5.1 theatre sound systems comes with 8 speakers, then you have to decide which speakers you should swap out.

A component speaker is a car audio speaker matched for optimal sound quality. Each component speaker set typically comes with two mid-bass speakers, two tweeters and two crossovers. This setup allows the pair of tweeters and mid-bass drivers to be matched with the crossover to limit the frequency range of each speaker to be accurately reproduced. Also the mid bass speakers are physically separated from the tweeter, which is very directional, so that each can be placed in an optimal position. The tweeters are usually on the dash facing the listener, while the larger mid-bass speakers can be placed where there is room, often in the lower front of the car doors. The Toyota Alphard front doors can accommodate a mid-bass speaker with size up to 6.5”. The stock tweeters in the Toyota Alphard are hidden in the door pillar. Most component speaker tweeter will not fit in the pillar so many owners will choose to mount the tweeters on the dash.

In the ICE circle, some of the branded component speaker manufacturers are DLS, Dynaudio, Eclipse, Infinity, RS Audio, Alpine and Pioneer. Again the decision to go with which component speakers will depends on one budget. The lower end component speakers from some of these manufacturer can be bought for slightly less than RM1,000.00 while the higher end one will exceed RM3,000.00. If you want to have a complete swap out, then you might even want to replace the center speaker, the rear speakers and the active subwoofer (under the seat) with something better.

If your giant doesn’t come with 5.1 theatre sound system, the number of components you need to add/swap will be bigger. The sound quality of the stock head unit is rather limited. To improve the sound quality, other than swapping in a set of component speakers, you may also want to install either a CD Receiver or a DVD Receiver depending on the type of sounds you are looking for. If you are very much into pure sounds then you might want to go with a CD Receiver. If you also want to be able to support DVD playback, then you can choose a DVD Receiver that allow you to play DVD and also CD. Also, the Receiver will have built in radio tuner which gives you a better reception for local radio station frequency. Since the component speakers are matched for the mid and higher frequency range, you will need to a subwoofer to produce the proper low frequency range. Finally you will need an amplifier with the proper power handling to drive theses speakers. That’s the reason why there is this saying that once you are into ICE, there is no end to how much you need to spend in order to fine tune the sound systems. It all depends on your budget. Another important factor is the tuning skills of your ICE installer. If they have done a good job, even a less expensive sound system will sound pretty good to most people.

In the next post, I’ll blog what I have done to the sound system in my giant.

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