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Qvergnugen
04-17-2012, 11:35 AM
Just wanted to share my experience upgrading the factory speakers in my 500c Pop.

Short summary:

Step A - Tried Pioneer, Kenwood and Alpine speakers, did not like any of them.

Step B - Adjusted factory equalizer setting for much better sound.

Step C - Installed Rockford Fosgate component speakers. Very pleased with the results.


Detailed version:

Step A - Tried Pioneer, Kenwood and Alpine speakers, did not like any of them:
I just bought a new Fiat 500c Pop (with non-Bose radio) and wanted to replace the speakers to improve the Bass and Midrange. I didn't want to spend a fortune and wanted to keep the modifications to a minimum so adding power amps or changing the head unit were out of the question. My budget was about $100 for new front speakers so I tried some Pioneer, Kenwood and Alpine speakers (both coaxial and components) but was very disappointed with each one. The factory speakers were actually much better than any of them, by far. This is not to say the factory speakers are better than the Pioneers, Kenwoods or Alpines, but just that the factory speakers were a better match for the low power factory radio (I believe the output is 20W per channel). Despite the miniscule magnet on the factory speakers, they were able to pump out a surprising amount of bass, although highly distorted bass. The replacements I tried had no bass whatsoever.

Step B - Adjusted factory equalizer setting for much better sound:
I found that the preset equalizer positions made all music sound awful (I mainly listen to a combination of electronic/pop and some rock with demanding bass) so I started to play around with customized settings. The best setup I found was to create a shallow "V" shape with the bottom of the "V" just at or one notch below the middle position. Here is my exact setting going from left to right: +2,+1,-1,-1,+2,+4. I also adjusted the separate Bass setting to +1 and the separate Treble setting to +4. This gave me much better performance for the type of music I listen to so gave up looking for replacement speakers.

Step C - Installed Rockford Fosgate component speakers. Very pleased with the results:
I waited 2 days before I got itchy and started looking again. Not because I wasn't happy with the "improved" sound of the factory equipment but because I believed there had to be something out there that would meet my original goals. So I came across some entry level component speakers from Rockford Fosgate (Model Prime R1652-S 6.5 inch Component System) for $60 online. Like others have noted on various posts I have read, these speakers are oversize and are closer to 6-3/4 inches than 6-1/2 inches specified and would not fit many popular cars, but they fit readily into the front door panels of the Fiat after only drilling new mounting holes. The extra 1/4 inches in diameter made a huge difference in the bass performance over all the 6-1/2 inch speaker I tried. Midrange was non-existent before and now they are very clear. The bass is not be as boomy as the factory speakers but I can now increase the volume beyond 25 without causing the speakers to distort. To isolate the speakers from vibration and air leaks, I used some Frost King 3/4 inch wide x 5/16 inch thick rubber foam weatherseal on the back of the mounting ring before I screwed the speakers to the door panel. Then I finished off with two more layers of foam on top of the mounting ring in the front, one layer of 3/4" x 7/16" and a second layer of 3/4" x 5/16" to get the right combination to seal the gap against the plastic door panel.

I did not replace the factory tweeters because I could not figure out how to remove the A-Pillar trim without damaging the headliner in the 500c. It appears that the hard plastic trim in the 500c grabs the cardboard headliner from the front and back and the only way to remove it is to drop the whole headliner which I did not want to do. The headliner in the convertible version is very narrow and looks very fragile. However, based on technical manuals I have seen, I think the 500 hatchback has a different design and you can just pull the A-Pillar trim off without having to remove the headliner so the job there may be easier. The situation is not too bad for me as I find the factory tweeters work well in conjunction with the new RF door speakers. Also, I could not locate where the tweeter wires are spiced and could not locate the factory speaker crossovers anywhere. I am actually convinced that there is no crossover and that the tweeter and mid/bass were just wired in parallel.


Final words of advice:

The factory speakers were riveted in place and will have to be drilled out. Use a 1/4" or larger drill bit.

Since I did not replace the factory speakers in the rear, I put a +2 bias towards the Front speakers to allow me to turn the volume up high without worrying about blowing the rears. This setting retains the ambiance of a multi-speaker setup.

Don't use the wires that came supplied with the RF speakers. They are perhaps 28 gauge or thinner and can break very easily. Do yourself a favor and use thicker wires and a soldering gun for positive connections. The last thing you want to happen is to spend all that time on the installation and have the cheap wiring break in the near future.

I may order the similar RF Prime 6-1/2 inch coaxial speakers and replace the factory rear speakers in the future when I have more time. Again, I think the headliner may have to be removed in addition to all the side trim pieces as well as the rear seats (according to the technical manual).

If you want to experiment with other speakers, I would not hesitate to try 6-3/4" or even 7" speakers as the existing hole in the door has extra room already. The larger the better in this case.

Look for speakers with power handling ratings that are lower (and closer to the factory radio output of 20W) rather than higher. The Rockford Fosgates are rated at 40W RMS which is about what the factory speakers are rated. The other speakers I tried were 80W RMS or more. Another observation that was a surprise was that the RFs were the least efficient with a rating of 89dB whereas the others were 91db-92dB, but the RFs were the loudest at the same volume setting.

An alternative way to upgrade the door speakers is to install coaxial 2-way or 3-way speakers and run a new set of wires directly to the back of the head unit. However, this would result in your losing the speaker feed to the existing tweeters which may not be such a bad thing. I also thought about running a dedicated wire to the head unit and then installing the RF tweeter on the top front of the door panel. My reasoning was that I didn't want to drill any holes in the plastic panel but this setup may actually be the best setup overall because the tweeters could then be aimed at your ears. The factory tweeter locations face each other so it is not an ideal setup.

I hope my writeup will help those of you trying to do something similar, which is to upgrade your car with the minimal cost and installation difficulty. I am not saying this is the ultimate solution but just that the improvement was absolutely worth the expense and time spent. I would be interested to hear what speakers you may have installed that you are happy with.

Thunderbolt
04-17-2012, 04:07 PM
VERY informative! Thanks for taking the time to write it out and post it. I was wondering about that myself, as I too have the non-Bose setup.

FiaTED
04-20-2012, 11:56 AM
Just wanted to share my experience upgrading the factory speakers in my 500c Pop.

Short summary:

Step A - Tried Pioneer, Kenwood and Alpine speakers, did not like any of them.

Step B - Adjusted factory equalizer setting for much better sound.

Step C - Installed Rockford Fosgate component speakers. Very pleased with the results.


Detailed version:

Step A - Tried Pioneer, Kenwood and Alpine speakers, did not like any of them:
I just bought a new Fiat 500c Pop (with non-Bose radio) and wanted to replace the speakers to improve the Bass and Midrange. I didn't want to spend a fortune and wanted to keep the modifications to a minimum so adding power amps or changing the head unit were out of the question. My budget was about $100 for new front speakers so I tried some Pioneer, Kenwood and Alpine speakers (both coaxial and components) but was very disappointed with each one. The factory speakers were actually much better than any of them, by far. This is not to say the factory speakers are better than the Pioneers, Kenwoods or Alpines, but just that the factory speakers were a better match for the low power factory radio (I believe the output is 20W per channel). Despite the miniscule magnet on the factory speakers, they were able to pump out a surprising amount of bass, although highly distorted bass. The replacements I tried had no bass whatsoever.

Step B - Adjusted factory equalizer setting for much better sound:
I found that the preset equalizer positions made all music sound awful (I mainly listen to a combination of electronic/pop and some rock with demanding bass) so I started to play around with customized settings. The best setup I found was to create a shallow "V" shape with the bottom of the "V" just at or one notch below the middle position. Here is my exact setting going from left to right: +2,+1,-1,-1,+2,+4. I also adjusted the separate Bass setting to +1 and the separate Treble setting to +4. This gave me much better performance for the type of music I listen to so gave up looking for replacement speakers.

Step C - Installed Rockford Fosgate component speakers. Very pleased with the results:
I waited 2 days before I got itchy and started looking again. Not because I wasn't happy with the "improved" sound of the factory equipment but because I believed there had to be something out there that would meet my original goals. So I came across some entry level component speakers from Rockford Fosgate (Model Prime R1652-S 6.5 inch Component System) for $60 online. Like others have noted on various posts I have read, these speakers are oversize and are closer to 6-3/4 inches than 6-1/2 inches specified and would not fit many popular cars, but they fit readily into the front door panels of the Fiat after only drilling new mounting holes. The extra 1/4 inches in diameter made a huge difference in the bass performance over all the 6-1/2 inch speaker I tried. Midrange was non-existent before and now they are very clear. The bass is not be as boomy as the factory speakers but I can now increase the volume beyond 25 without causing the speakers to distort. To isolate the speakers from vibration and air leaks, I used some Frost King 3/4 inch wide x 5/16 inch thick rubber foam weatherseal on the back of the mounting ring before I screwed the speakers to the door panel. Then I finished off with two more layers of foam on top of the mounting ring in the front, one layer of 3/4" x 7/16" and a second layer of 3/4" x 5/16" to get the right combination to seal the gap against the plastic door panel.

I did not replace the factory tweeters because I could not figure out how to remove the A-Pillar trim without damaging the headliner in the 500c. It appears that the hard plastic trim in the 500c grabs the cardboard headliner from the front and back and the only way to remove it is to drop the whole headliner which I did not want to do. The headliner in the convertible version is very narrow and looks very fragile. However, based on technical manuals I have seen, I think the 500 hatchback has a different design and you can just pull the A-Pillar trim off without having to remove the headliner so the job there may be easier. The situation is not too bad for me as I find the factory tweeters work well in conjunction with the new RF door speakers. Also, I could not locate where the tweeter wires are spiced and could not locate the factory speaker crossovers anywhere. I am actually convinced that there is no crossover and that the tweeter and mid/bass were just wired in parallel.


Final words of advice:

The factory speakers were riveted in place and will have to be drilled out. Use a 1/4" or larger drill bit.

Since I did not replace the factory speakers in the rear, I put a +2 bias towards the Front speakers to allow me to turn the volume up high without worrying about blowing the rears. This setting retains the ambiance of a multi-speaker setup.

Don't use the wires that came supplied with the RF speakers. They are perhaps 28 gauge or thinner and can break very easily. Do yourself a favor and use thicker wires and a soldering gun for positive connections. The last thing you want to happen is to spend all that time on the installation and have the cheap wiring break in the near future.

I may order the similar RF Prime 6-1/2 inch coaxial speakers and replace the factory rear speakers in the future when I have more time. Again, I think the headliner may have to be removed in addition to all the side trim pieces as well as the rear seats (according to the technical manual).

If you want to experiment with other speakers, I would not hesitate to try 6-3/4" or even 7" speakers as the existing hole in the door has extra room already. The larger the better in this case.

Look for speakers with power handling ratings that are lower (and closer to the factory radio output of 20W) rather than higher. The Rockford Fosgates are rated at 40W RMS which is about what the factory speakers are rated. The other speakers I tried were 80W RMS or more. Another observation that was a surprise was that the RFs were the least efficient with a rating of 89dB whereas the others were 91db-92dB, but the RFs were the loudest at the same volume setting.

An alternative way to upgrade the door speakers is to install coaxial 2-way or 3-way speakers and run a new set of wires directly to the back of the head unit. However, this would result in your losing the speaker feed to the existing tweeters which may not be such a bad thing. I also thought about running a dedicated wire to the head unit and then installing the RF tweeter on the top front of the door panel. My reasoning was that I didn't want to drill any holes in the plastic panel but this setup may actually be the best setup overall because the tweeters could then be aimed at your ears. The factory tweeter locations face each other so it is not an ideal setup.

I hope my writeup will help those of you trying to do something similar, which is to upgrade your car with the minimal cost and installation difficulty. I am not saying this is the ultimate solution but just that the improvement was absolutely worth the expense and time spent. I would be interested to hear what speakers you may have installed that you are happy with.

Thanks so much for your details. i will provide them to my installer when I replace all 6 speakers and add 2 amps next month.

where did you get the technical manual?

Qvergnugen
04-20-2012, 09:19 PM
Thanks so much for your details. i will provide them to my installer when I replace all 6 speakers and add 2 amps next month.

where did you get the technical manual?

I paid a few bucks and downloaded it from an Italian website. It took me several weeks of googling to find it so I don't have the exact site. I'll try to look in my history to figure it out. I got it mainly to see how to properly remove the interior panels. It did not have exact information on the cabrio so I had trouble removing my headliner but it was helpful for getting inside the door.