Alpine Stereo Install w/ Head Unit Amp - Defender Source
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Old July 11th, 2013, 12:38 AM
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Jon Ruti
'94 D-90, #20
Join Date: May 2012
Location: NYC & Bedford, NY
Posts: 310
Alpine Stereo Install w/ Head Unit Amp

Hi all,
Just wanted to do a quick write-up on a small stereo upgrade that I thought others may be interested in. My previous stereo setup was simple: A basic Alpine CD player head unit with iPod capability via a proprietary Alpine iPod cable. The head unit ran 4 JL speakers in stock locations with no independent amplifier. I like to keep it simple on the interior of my 90, so I never desired an amp or a clumsy subwoofer (be it an enclosed sub or an amplified sub). My 90 rattles enough.

The problem with the old head unit was twofold: I never used CDs anymore (which is a sad in it's own right); and I hated how the iPod cable took the control away from the iPod/iPhone and ran it through the Alpine head unit. Going from an iPod's user interface to Alpine's is just silly. Another problem with the Alpine iPod cable (it feeds from the rear of the head unit directly into your iPod/iPhone) is that once you undergo a software update or two on your iPod/iPhone, the proprietary Alpine iPod will no longer support charging of your device. Instead, I would drive around with a caution "charging not supported" error message on my iPod/iPhone background. This annoyed me.

So I figured I'd upgrade to a head unit that supports both a USB and an Aux cord input and does away with all those mix CDs I made for girlfriends who are happily married by now. The USB cord will support charging irrespective of software upgrades or hardware upgrades, as will the AUX cord. I decided on the Alpine UTE-42BT. It's great, as it supports USB, Aux, and Bluetooth.

This time around I decided I would at least look into amplifier options as there are a lot of non-impactful and compact units nowadays. Most of the options out there will necessitate placing the amp somewhere on top of the seat boxes/under the seat/in the seat boxes/maaaybe underneath the cubby box. I decided against the option as a proper amp needs space and a sub, etc. Instead I found this little guy: Alpine KTP-445A Power Pack.

It's tiny: 7-7/8" long , 1-1/2" high and 2-9/16" wide. Sure, you sacrifice "power" for this size, but that's not what this thing is really meant for. It's adds a little, if any, volume boost, but it really just enables your speakers to sing better. The mids come out and the bass is much less distorted. So, where can a 90 owner put this little guy? I tried putting it on the underside of the cubby but it's about a 1/4" too high and would not allow the cubby to sit properly on it's "excellently designed" wood rails. It's not impossible by any means though, if you really wanted to fit the unit to the underside of the cubby you could (1) add a shim all around the bottom of the cubby to raise it slightly, or (2) add 10mm/5mm spacers under where the four bolts secure the cubby to the seat box to raise it a little as well (albeit it with a gap around the perimeter), or (3) shave a approx. 1/4" into the wood on the underside of the cubby so the power pack will sit with a lower profile. I opted to just secure the power pack on the inside of the cubby. The wires run into the cubby via an existing hole (I think from the PO) which is a negative, but I like having the power pack in an area where it can breathe and has little to no chance of getting wet.

Overall, I like this little guy and it was $130.00. It's a simple add-on piece that is minimally impactful on the interior of the 90. Will it allow you to crank your stereo to decibels unseen before you installed it? No, in fact, you're not going to see much if any total increase in volume. Will you get better sound quality? Yes. The best way I can explain it is that prior to installing the power pack my speakers sounded hungover, lethargic and flat. After installing the power pack my speakers have more range, are more "awake" and generally sound nicer.

The best thing is having my iPhone charge as it plays music. The Bluetooth works great (i.e., it's pairing mode works and picks your iPhone up immediately and remembers it). The head unit comes with a mic so you could theoretically have Bluetooth hands free for your phone. I didn't even take the mic out of the box - With a ST, I've come to learn that talking in my car is not a pleasurable experience, so I just scream at people when they call that I will have to call them back.

Enjoy. Search the forum if you need wiring info for a '94 (or all model years), it was extremely helpful. Apologies for the crappy iPhone pics, but at least my iPhone is charged now thanks to the head unit.
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