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Elise Audio System

Last updated 26-Mar-2000

Head Unit/Multichanger

5th September 1999

I don't have the car yet, so this is all pure conjecture...

I have, of course, ordered the radio fitting kit - £150 for two Alpine speakers, one Vauxhall Corsa radio arial and a hole in the dash. Actually, if you were to add up the individual items (not forgetting wiring) I'm sure you would come out with roughly the same amount. The question is... what to fill the hole in the dash with?

Having performed a successful CD multichanger installation in the MR2, I'm keen to migrate that setup to the Elise. The changer in the Elise really has to go in the boot, Kenwood KRC-759R although I'm not happy about losing any boot space. The setup I have consists of a 1998-model MASK headunit (cassette receiver) and 10-disc CD multichanger. My plan was to remove this system from the MR2 and put the original Toyota system back in place before I sold it. I say was the plan because since then I've seen the Kenwood 1999 product catalogue...

What I've seen is the KRC-777R cassette receiver head unit. Now as you can see from the image, there is really very little difference between Kenwood KRC-777R this and last years model. Even the technical specs read almost identically. The crucial difference is that the new model has a seperate clock - something that the Elise does not. I don't know about you, but I find a clock in a car extremely useful. Although it's just habbit, I always check the time when I start a journey - call me a control freak - I just need to know, OK? My existing head unit also has a clock but it obliterates half of the main display when enabled so I can't see the RDS station name or title of the CD playing (both of which I find very useful features). My dillema now is whether I can justify (and afford) to spend out on a new head unit when there's nothing wrong with the current one. If I'm going to do this then I'll leave the whole system in the MR2 to entice potential owners and get the new head unit as part of a multichanger+head unit package.

The reason I'm sticking with Kenwood is for no other reason that, to my mind, they supply the best remote control device. I find a remote extremely useful, especially as the head unit is way over on the passenger's side of the car. Add to that the fact that the volume button is always furthest away from you and the remote comes into it's own.

Pet Peeve #136: why do manufacturers of car audio equipment only cater for the LHD market by placing the major controls on the left hand side of their head units?
KCA-RC700 The Kenwood remote is a small, 8-button unit that sits behind the right-hand steering wheel spoke. I dislike the credit-card remote controls because you've nowhere to put them and if you have to take your hand off the wheel then you may as well reach over to the head unit. Other systems, like Pioneer's on-wheel remote are both obtrusive and an advertisment to theives that you've got a high-end audio system in your car. The Kenwood item is small, doesn't get in the way of wheel-twiddling and sits out of sight.

6th September 1999

Of course, what I really want is an empeg-car unit but I'm not even on the waiting list so that will have to wait...

10th September 1999

Went to Cambridge Car Audio at lunchtime today for a close up look at the KRC-777R. The guy there showed was confident that the KFC-PSR700 speakers would fit the Elise and also showed me an in-dash 6-disc multichanger. Impressive, but at £700 I'll stick with a multichanger+head unit package even if it means losing boot space.

4th October 1999

I found this post on alt.cars.lotus. Looks like I can leave the drill in the cupboard.

From: "Philip W"
Newsgroups: alt.cars.lotus
Subject: Re: Fitting a CD changer in an Elise
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 22:14:10 +0100

Aha, courtesy of Steve Butts who gave me the 'knowledge' the method it to route the wires down behind the radio and through the wiring loom grommet. Then down the centre of the bulkhead (inside the car) and down inside the floor divider-which comes out with some plastic bolts.

Then route it past the gearstick into the rear conduit/cover. At the back of the cover is a small hole which goes down underneath the car.

Remove the rear undertray and route the wires carefully next to the brake cables and up into the engine bay. If you go up inside the left hand side there is a grommet into the boot which you can put the cables through.

There are also some useful pictures on getting the cable behind the seats on Wayne Pope's subwoofer installation page.

25th October 1999

A day off work today and some time to try and fit the CD multichanger. After some poking around in the boot I think I've found the best place to fit the unit. At the right-most extremity of the boot, under the bodywork, there's a step-up ledge which will accommodate the multichanger very neatly. It appears to be the perfect location except that when fitted, there's no room to eject the magazine. It would be nice to design a fixing mechanism so that the multichanger unit could be swivelled out into the main boot area allowing access to the magazine. However, Velcro does a good enough job so I'll go with that for the timebeing. To provide a stable mounting for the multichanger, I've kept the mounting brackets on the unit and screwed it to a single piece of 9mm MDF which overlaps the unit by about 5mm.

Following the instructions above, it was a fairly simple task to route the changer cable down the middle of the cabin. However, getting to the boot requires removal of the engine undertray and therefore a jack, which I don't have. So until I can sort out access to a jack or a ramp, I've set up a temporary location behind the passenger seat. A couple more strips of Velcro and things are sorted for the timebeing.


8th September 1999

The Elise radio fitting kit provides just two speakers although they are 160mm in size, which gives some scope for good quality sound. The standard items are Alpine SPE-1620's and by all accounts these are adequate speakers but a look at the specifications shows that the frequency response only starts at 55Hz. The 100mm Kenwoods in my MR2 start at 45Hz and the 160mm subwoofers start at 30Hz. I'm not impressed. Saying that, the mounting depth available is, apparantly, quite shallow on the drivers side where the fuel filler pipe intrudes on the space behind the speaker pod. However, for improved sound quality, I'm quite willing to use a spacer on the drivers side to make more depth available - especially as the speakers aren't in a particularly visible location.

KFC-PSR700 My current favorite for a speaker replacement is the Kenwood KFC-PSR700 which use a pair of very lightweight magnets (23g each, I might even save some weight doing this!) as part of Kenwood's DualMags technology. The mounting depth required is 60mm, although the magnets are in a relatively narrow enclosure. The frequency response is 30Hz-30kHz and my local dealer, Network In Car of Baldock also recommend them. I'm hoping that a pair of these speakers will provide a suitable level of sound quality to negate the need for a separate subwoofer or further speakers in the doors/dash. My only concern about the speakers (apart from the cone colour) is that the cone is 165mm rather than 160mm, however by looking at the picture of them, it appears that the mounting holes are the same as a standard 160mm speaker. I hope to confirm this the next time I visit a car audio dealer.

24th November 1999

I spent some of yesterday replacing the standard Alpine speakers, when I wasn't dealing with problems. The speakers came out easily enough and I was glad to see that the connections were standard spade plugs. With my recent Kenwood KFC-W1602 misfortunes (see previous link), I've decided to do this on a budget. I installed the Kenwood KFC-W1602 woofers that I had previously used in my MR2. I needed to use both spacers on the driver's side speaker to clear the fuel pipe and I could really do with a third. While these 1602's provide adequate bass, I knew I would have to add some tweeters to provide the high-end. The frequency response of the speakers is 30Hz to 7kHz. So I would need a tweeter that started quite low.

A quick trip to Network In Car of Baldock came up with a pair of Infinity Reference 110T tweeters for £35. The frequency response of these is 2.5kHz to 21kHz which looked like the best ones on paper and also came with an inline passive crossover to stop them trying to drive bass-notes. As with many tweeters, they come with a number of accessories to facilitiate surface or flush mounting. A decent location, I thought, was to mount the tweeter on the black metal strip just next to the seatbelt anchor. A small pad of double-sided adhesive and they don't look too bad. The only problem is the bright yellow cable that contains the crossover.

My first listen to the new setup was very encouraging but it wasn't until my normal drive into work that I noticed a couple of problems. Firstly, the volume need to be turned up much higher than before to drive the 1602's properly and secondly there's a gap in the frequency response. I could barely hear Johhny Marr's jangly guitar! The first thing I'm going to try is to bypass the inline crossover in case it's not even trying to drive anything below 4kHz. The new system is still an improvement on the original Alpine's but I could really do with a small two-way speaker to handle the mid-to-high end frequency response. I think I could find space for an 80-90mm speaker in the same area as the existing speaker pod. But maybe I should bite the bullet and get the Kenwood DualMags KFC-PSR700's.

1st December 1999

I've figured out what's wrong with the wooofer/tweeter setup. At low volume when the car is stationary it sounds great, but at speed with the volume turned up mid-range suffers and all you can hear are the upper and lower frequencies.

Kenwood KFC-HQ105 Whilst still in budget-mode, I've removed the tweeters and fitted the 100mm mid-range, two-way speakers I originally bought for the MR2. These are Kenwood KFC-HQ105 speakers with a frequency response of 45Hz to 30kHz. As always, the problem is where to put them and how to fix them. And as always, I've gone for the easy option - at least until I know it all works. For the moment they're attached to the bulkhead behind each seat with Velcro (great stuff!) and take a feed from the existing woofers.

The system now sounds great and requires less volume than the woofer/tweeter setup. I've returned the tweeters to Network In Car or Baldock who were quite happy to give me a refund. I picked up a roll of Dynamat while I was there to put behind the woofers so as to help the bass response. I probably won't get round to fitting it for another couple of weeks.

I still think that all this is temporary until I can justify spending £100 on the PSR-700's - I'm feeling really guilty about the weight. I must have added about 2kg in speaker magnets alone!

26th March 2000

Well, I've finally got round to getting the PSR-700's. The extra pair of speakers looked awful and were taking up too much room on the "parcel shelf". So before my recent trip to Le Mans I decided to do the job properly. Dispite the 5mm difference in diameter, the PSR-700's look considerably bigger than the 160mm speakers I removed. They are also half the weight of a "traditional" 160mm 2-way speaker.

Before I got started with the speakers, I removed the roof and rear window - access to both speakers, especially the passenger side (because of the immovable seat) is very difficult. It's useful to be able to put your arm through the rollover hoop. For what it's worth, I layed a small section of Dynamat inside the speaker pod behind where the speaker sits. I also stuffed some fibreglass insulation in the driver's side pod but gave up when it started to get everywhere!

With the speakers being that little bit larger than the standard units, the mounting holes were out of line. Also, the Kenwood's have four screw holes whereas the speaker pods only have three. I would need to make four new holes around the circumference of the speaker pod. That said, the standard speakers will still cover these holes if required. To make the holes, I offered the new speaker up to the pod and used two sizes of drill bit (using my hands, not a drill).

This left me with one more problem. The new speakers require a larger hole than that provided by the speaker pod to fit flush. I really ought to have thought of this but an extra 5mm doesn't seem that much... But as I expected, the driver's side speaker would need spacing to make enough depth available in the pod. With the speaker raised, the pod aperature was no longer an issue, although this was required on both sides. I made the spacer by carefully cutting 3 rings of Dynamat (~9mm) and layering them on the underside of the speaker mounting rim. Once the grill is fitted over the speaker the spacer is quite well hidden.

Only one other modification was required. The PSR-700's come with two crossovers on each speaker; one for the woofer and one for the tweeter. A special cable was provided for a single amp connection which meant I had to join that with the existing factory cable, removing the standard connectors.

In operation they sound pretty good. Not as good as the four speaker setup I removed but then that's not surprising. Bass response is strong, as is the top-end and they love to be turned up really loud. I think there's a small gap in the upper middle range where response is a little weak but compared to the standard items they're in another league. I think it's the best you'll do with just one pair of speakers. And after liberating space on the parcel shelf I'm quite pleased with the overall result.

Aerial/Radio Reception

23rd October 1999

Radio reception is absolutely dreadful. The radio is unusable and what's more, the aerial seems to make no difference. Tuning into a local, good strength radio station and then unscrewing the aerial makes no difference to the level of interference. Following Robert Collingridge's suggestion of grounding the aerial made a little difference but not so much as to make the radio usable.

Another idea is to create a more conventional FM aerial to separate a connection from the aerial base to two diverse points. To try this, I've run speaker cable to both sides of the engine bay. This does seem to make a noticable difference but it's still not enough. Perhaps a ground to the chassis would have a greater effect.

LC Liam Crilly
© 26-Mar-2000