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View Full Version : What to upgrade first? Stock amp, or speakers?



bzubke1
07-15-2011, 11:19 AM
I'm going to eventually upgrade both my stock kicker cabin speakers and the zx200.4 that powers them. I'm wondering which will yield me better results since it will likely be a couple months between when I can get each. I'm leaning towards amp because they seems to be so underpowered according to their specs.

brain_rinse
07-15-2011, 11:25 AM
Definitely the amp. There are some great choices in class D amps right now from Kicker, Alpine , JL.. all great quality and reasonbly priced. The stock speakers are actually quite nice and will sound much better with some extra juice.

KG's Supra24
07-15-2011, 11:32 AM
Is a class D going to work for cabins?

I agree. Upgrade the amp first and make sure you buy one big enough to push whatever you upgrade to. I'd find something that is pushing 70 to 100 watts rms.

I know you have the 770s up top. FWIW, I love my Bullet coaxials in boat. I am pushing them with a JL G4500 because I couldn't justify springing for the JL G6600. Not sure if those are current models, though.

brain_rinse
07-15-2011, 11:39 AM
Is a class D going to work for cabins?
Yep, the new full range class D's are awesome, and perfect for the marine environment. Better efficiency, longer play times, less heat, smaller footprint, etc.

philwsailz
07-15-2011, 11:56 AM
Ask around for the guys who are starting to use the new IX500.4 on their KM6500.2 tower speakers. Absolutely ther is some Killer Class D amps out there now, not only from Kicker but from a few others as well.

The new Kicker IX amps feature Boost Converter technology for their power supplies. Efficiency is better than 90% in the power supplpy for these amps.


As for the OP question, why is it that everyone thinks "stock" needs to be replaced? You wouldn't go buy a boat and then change out the stock motor would ya? the guys at Skiers Choice do a good job of building a top-notch boat, including the audio system.

That being said, the obvious place to "play" with your stereo is more power. A bigger amp will allow you to drive your speakers fully to their rated power and beyond, without the amp clipping. You have more headroom to drive the speakers cleanly and loudly. Most of the bad sounding stereos you hear in party cove sound bad becuae the amps are clipping; they are trying to make more power than they can and the crunchy sound the speakers are making are actually the amps fault. Put in a bigger amp, and those same speakers at the same apparent volume will get a clean un-clipped signal from the amps and the crappy crunchy sound goes away.

So, if I were to answer your question, I wold tell you that for the current stock system, with Kicker speakes and Kicker amp, change out the amp first. Consider a bigger amp, maybe with a built in sub channel, like the Kicker ZXM700.5 or look at one of the digital offerings in the Kicker IX line for greater efficiency Brain Rinse is right, the stock speakers can handle much more power than they are currently being run on.

Phil
Kicker

bzubke1
07-15-2011, 12:00 PM
The bullet coaxials were what I had planned. This is the amp I was thinking of going with. I've had really good luck with hi fonics in the past but only with subwoofers. Any one know the kind of sound quality you can get from one? My main goal for the cabins is to get the best sound quality possible at a reasonable price.

http://www.sonicelectronix.com/item_23553_Hifonics-Zeus-ZXi80.4.html

bzubke1
07-15-2011, 12:03 PM
If I like the way the kickers sound when I replace the amp I will definitley keep them. This is what I am hoping will happen. They have just been clipping at high volume which I assume is because they are underpowered. This is why I am trying to upgrade. What do you think the sweet spot for the km613 is as far as rms watts?

bergermaister
07-15-2011, 12:27 PM
I don't have the most high end of systems on here but I was told to overpower by 10-20%. So 65watts RMS on the km613 would suggest going with ~80watts rms. I am overpowering everything now by 15-20% in my setup and only find distortion on the really heavy booty bass stuff when it is blasting at near full volume. Can also start to hear the difference in sound quality of songs with lower bitrate when you're cranked up.

EarmarkMarine
07-15-2011, 01:19 PM
An upgrade in in-boat speakers will have the greatest impact on sound quality because they are near field and reproduce 80 percent of the music content. Even the percieved tonal contstruction of the upper bass can be profoundly improved by the right in-boat coaxials. Certainly there is a difference between sound quality while running at high speed versus low speed or at rest. But the in-boat speakers are your best shot at improving the sound quality.
However, with the present factory system its actually the amplifier that is the weak link. When you hear distortion it is the amplifier clipping provided all is tuned well. You may or may not be satisfied with the sound quality of the factory speakers but there is no doubt that they have the potential to play louder and cleaner with new power. Certainly the construction of the factory Kicker coaxial is top notch.
When the time comes you will see an improvement in the smoothness and particularly in the treble by going from any coaxial with a 'W' dome to a true dome whether it be a HollowPoint, JL Audio, Kicker, etc.
As for the amplifier upgrade, I would not only upgrade power but upgrade the technology also by going with fullrange Class D. Its 60 percent more efficient, generates a quarter of the heat and has numerous other benefits in keeping voltage higher and for longer not to mention the numerous advantages for your charging system.

David
Earmark Marine

philwsailz
07-15-2011, 01:53 PM
If I like the way the kickers sound when I replace the amp I will definitley keep them. This is what I am hoping will happen. They have just been clipping at high volume which I assume is because they are underpowered. This is why I am trying to upgrade. What do you think the sweet spot for the km613 is as far as rms watts?





I don't have the most high end of systems on here but I was told to overpower by 10-20%. So 65watts RMS on the km613 would suggest going with ~80watts rms. I am overpowering everything now by 15-20% in my setup and only find distortion on the really heavy booty bass stuff when it is blasting at near full volume. Can also start to hear the difference in sound quality of songs with lower bitrate when you're cranked up.

I agree with bergermaister to a large extent. Understand that unlike amplifier power, which is easy to physically measure with test equipment, there is no real way to meaure a speakers power handling. Power handling is largely a "safe guess" put out there by the manufacturer, and you can usually exceed it.

I honestly would be comfortable with 100 watts per speaker for bzubke1's boat, with the caveat that he either know or learn the aaudible signs of a speaker being driven beyond its mechanical limit. You can do things, (Bass Boost and EQ aare two key areas) to create mechanical stress where the higher power doesn't work, but with a proper system with crossovers set appropriately, minimal EQ etc. you can really pour the coals to the KM613 / KM6130 without too much concern. Listen for the sounds of the system misbehaving and adjust or turn down so that the bad sounds quit and you will be able to keep the system running without blowing speakers.

Phil
Kicker

sandm
07-15-2011, 02:21 PM
Understand that unlike amplifier power, which is easy to physically measure with test equipment, there is no real way to meaure a speakers power handling. Power handling is largely a "safe guess" put out there by the manufacturer, and you can usually exceed it.

Phil
Kicker

interesting note. I think that a lot of folks, like myself figured that there's a reason that they place the numbers on them, but it is interesting to note that basic 6.5's from any manuf. have similar ratings, and as the "technology" of the speaker increases, so does the power handling from most companies, and it seems that they are all relatively close in ratings.
would this be a "gentleman's agreement" amongst different manufacturers to keep ratings somewhat similar as some people shop rms ratings when buying speakers thinking that speaker "a" handles 50wpc and speaker "b" handles 75wpc so speaker "b" must be better?

philwsailz
07-15-2011, 02:41 PM
interesting note. I think that a lot of folks, like myself figured that there's a reason that they place the numbers on them, but it is interesting to note that basic 6.5's from any manuf. have similar ratings, and as the "technology" of the speaker increases, so does the power handling from most companies, and it seems that they are all relatively close in ratings.
would this be a "gentleman's agreement" amongst different manufacturers to keep ratings somewhat similar as some people shop rms ratings when buying speakers thinking that speaker "a" handles 50wpc and speaker "b" handles 75wpc so speaker "b" must be better?

Not really. There is no subterfuge, or any sort of annual meeting where the manufacturers get together and agree to power handling numbers... Funny, easy to assume, but untrue. Power handling by itself really isn't too important without being considered in context, inclusive of efficiency, frequency response, the frequency response window, Thiele-Small numbers, etc...

While power handling is one of many criteria one must consider power handling alone is not indicative of quality. Choosing to purchase a speaker based solely on power handlign is like buying a cake because it is brown. That decision tells you nothing abot the cake, how it tastes, how mosit it is, what it is made from, how it is iced, shaped etc.

There is WAY more to it than that. I just make the simple point that you can't meaure power handling, but you can use it as a guide when selecting an amp that goes with it.

I should add, know for sure that PEAK POWER HANDLING is a virtually worhless number. It is there for the marketing folks and that is about it. Oh, and flea markets; they like PEAK POWER numbers....

Phil
Kicker

you da man
07-15-2011, 02:59 PM
Is a class D going to work for cabins?

I agree. Upgrade the amp first and make sure you buy one big enough to push whatever you upgrade to. I'd find something that is pushing 70 to 100 watts rms.

I know you have the 770s up top. FWIW, I love my Bullet coaxials in boat. I am pushing them with a JL G4500 because I couldn't justify springing for the JL G6600. Not sure if those are current models, though.

I agree..The Bullet cabin speakers are the cat's pajamas. Almost sounds like you have a woofer even if you don't.

EarmarkMarine
07-15-2011, 04:36 PM
Adding to the power handling specifications discussion...there is no governing body in mobile electronics to keep specifications honest relating to speaker power handling or amplifier power output. The authenticity of the specs are pretty much up to the integrity of the brand. The better brands are typically more conservative.
Many speaker companies use power handling rated for thermal capacity or the maximum amount of continuous power that can be maintained for a prolonged period where the speaker can still effectively dissipate the heat without suffering damage.
You can have two different brands of coaxials side by side with a 100 percent difference in rated power handling. Both have 1-inch voice coils with the same plastic former and the same gauge of voice coil winding. Neither has any method of special cooling other than a porous spider to exchange air as the speaker moves. Both copper windings and both enamel coil coatings melt and burn at the same temperature so there is no justification for the huge disparity in ratings. Its just a brand thing.
For a coaxial you can usually exceed an honest rating by a 15 to 20 percent margin based on the fact that you are usually running the speaker highpass and at least are reducing a good amount of the mechanical stress. You just have to stay away from hard clipping for the tweeter's sake. Certainly system set-up and tuning has as much to do with the power handling as the specs.
Like Phil mentioned, power handling is only a fraction of the story relating to the actual quality of any speaker. And, its often misunderstood. I'll take a speaker with 3 dB more sensitivity and half the power handling every time, particularly in an open boat.

David
Earmark Marine

sandm
07-15-2011, 06:35 PM
While power handling is one of many criteria one must consider power handling alone is not indicative of quality. Choosing to purchase a speaker based solely on power handlign is like buying a cake because it is brown. That decision tells you nothing abot the cake, how it tastes, how mosit it is, what it is made from, how it is iced, shaped etc.

I was once told that you should buy speakers first(in a home audio scenario) as most will spend all the cash on tv/surround processor and when faced with the looming end of the budget, will skimp on speakers, and rms rated power will drive some decisions.



I should add, know for sure that PEAK POWER HANDLING is a virtually worhless number. It is there for the marketing folks and that is about it. Oh, and flea markets; they like PEAK POWER numbers....

Phil
Kicker
so true :) and for whatever reason, still see 6x9 4 and 5-way's as the end all in speaker design...