A new client from Bel Air contacted the team at Westminster Speed and Sound to inquire about upgrading the stereo system in his 2018 Lexus ES350. The client owns a very respectable home audio system and as such, wasn’t impressed with the Mark Levinson solution in his car. He felt the system was lifeless and dull. We inspected the vehicle thoroughly so that we could understand how the existing audio system was designed, and then we invited the client to audition several upgrade options in our store. After a short time, we put together an upgrade package that would dramatically improve the clarity, impact, detail and realism of the audio system, while making the vehicle itself quieter and more comfortable. He liked our plan and gave us the go-ahead to schedule an installation appointment.
Laying the Foundation: Vehicle Sound Deadening
We started the project by removing the seats, center console, carpet and interior trim panels from the vehicle. Once empty, we installed a layer of Hushmat sound deadening material to the floors, trunk, trunk lid and both the inner and outer door skins. Hushmat is a dense butyl rubber and aluminum material that helps to prevent sound energy from wind, tire and exhaust noise from entering the vehicle. We topped the deadening on the floor and door trim panels with a layer of Silencer Megabond closed-cell foam for additional energy absorption and noise reduction.
Premium Car Audio Speaker Upgrade
Once the noise control upgrade was in place, we put the carpet and seats back and began work on upgrading the speakers. The front woofers were removed to make way for a pair of BLAM WS6 Multix 6.5-inch speakers. Our technicians created a set of custom mounting adapters for the speakers that would allow them to bolt to the doors using the original fastener locations. We added a set of rubber coupling gaskets that help to focus the sound energy from the speakers into the interior of the vehicle. The gaskets seal against the back of the door panel trim pieces.
The next step was to upgrade the three dash speakers with BLAM MS3 3-inch wide-band midrange drivers. We created custom mounting adapters to allow the speakers to bolt in place of the left, center and right speakers. We didn’t have to modify the dash or the factory grilles to make the new speakers fit. Because these speakers can play a full-range signal, and we are bouncing the sound they produce off the windshield, there was no need for tweeters in the front of the vehicle.
The last part of the speaker upgrade portion of the project was to upgrade the side speakers. We installed a second set of BLAM WS6 MultiX woofers in the back doors of the Lexus, and added a set of TSM 25 S45 tweeters in the factory location near the door handles. We used the same custom brackets and acoustic coupling gaskets as in the front doors to ensure that the installation is optimized and reliable.
For this system, we retained the original rear deck speakers. These speakers are configured to produce ambiance effects rather than being significant sources of sound.
Compact Subwoofer Upgrade Solution
While the client didn’t want the new audio system to be bass-heavy, he did want solid low-frequency extension and clarity. We constructed a compact sealed enclosure for a single JL Audio 10W6v3-D4 subwoofer. The sub is powered by a Helix P One monoblock amp that can provide up to 880 watts of power to the subwoofer. We added a JL Audio CL-RLC remote level control to the P One amplifier input so that the client could adjust the subwoofer level quickly and easily to suit the music that was playing.
State-of-the-art System Amplifier with Integrated DSP
The heart of the upgrade is a Helix V Twelve DSP amplifier from Audiotec Fischer in Germany. This amp features 12 channels of amplification, each rated for 75 watts of power. The amp also includes a 14-channel digital signal processor. The 12 speaker-level inputs and powerful processing are paramount to making this vehicle sound great.
There is no way to bypass the Mark Levinson amplifier and its upmixer in this car. We connected the outputs of the factory-installed amp into the Helix processor, then adjusted the crossovers and equalization for the new speakers and the client’s listening preferences. This design retains the excellent across-the-dash imaging from any seat in the vehicle, as well as the ambiance processing, while allowing us to calibrate and refine the frequency response and output level of each driver.
The system uses a pair of four-AWG power cables from the battery in the front to feed the amplifiers. Our team fabricated a steel mounting bracket that located a pair of JL Audio XD-MFBW-MAXI fuse holders in an easily accessible location beside the battery. As you can see from the photos, we protected all the wiring in the vehicle with automotive-grade cloth tape to give it a factory-installed appearance.
We mounted the Helix amplifiers on a carpeted board beside the subwoofer enclosure in the trunk. Our technicians created a metal mounting bracket that attaches to existing fasteners to hold everything in place securely. Finally, we built a trim panel that conceals and protects the new equipment, giving the trunk a clean, factory-finished look that still allows for lots of cargo room.
Lexus Stereo Upgrade Project
After about a week of work, we had the new stereo system installed in the Lexus and had completed the calibration process. The client returned from Bel Air, anxious to hear the new system. He was thrilled with the improvement in clarity and impact. He also loved the bass extension and the ability to adjust the subwoofer quickly and easily. If the sound system in your car or truck doesn’t put a smile on your face, we invite you to visit Westminster Speed and Sound and talk to one of our product specialists. Feel free to call or e-mail us to schedule your personal consultation.