Sound Advice

By Bob Benoit

Perhaps many of you have a factory audo system and you are thinking of upgrading but you are unsure of how much money you want to spend and in what order the upgrades should take place. Here are some recommendations that I have based on my own experience:

First, replace the factory headrest speakers or add headrest speakers with Clearwater units. The main flaw with the factory system is that at highway speeds the main door speakers are wiped out by the turbulent air rushing over and around the windshield cowl. The factory headrest speakers are barely audible even when thefader knob is biased completely to the headrest speakers. Mazda designed these speakers to " fill in "the sound behind the occupants, not as primary speakers. If you are only replacing the headrest speakers, and not adding an amplifier, I would recommend using the factory harness if you currently have headrest speakers. This saves the effort of removing the console, vent "eyeballs" , center dash trim panel and radio. If you do not have headrest speakers you will need to remove the above items plus you need to snake the speaker wires up the back of the seat under the fabric.

Next change the door speakers with Clearwater or other quality speakers.Here you have a variety of options as this change is an unbolt, remove, and replace operation. Whatever your choice in speakers make sure they have the plastic moisture shields that the factory units have and that they fit the Miata hole pattern for mounting. This change is most noticable at low speed, stop and go traffic or parked. The fidelity of the sound is greatly enhanced and the sound has more "coloration".

To further enhance your system you might next add an amplifier. This will give much more punch to the base and even more enhancement to the overall sound. Here the clearwater unit is the unqualified choice as it mounts via integral fender protector to the left innner trunk wall and plugs directly into the rear of the radio.

Now that you,ve gone this far, if you still want improvement add a disk player if you don't have one. In speaking with Taylor Andrews, President of Clearwater, the choice here is between retaining your factory radio with its anti-theft feature or replacement with an aftermarket CD controller / CD changer. The drawback of the second option is that there is a "market" for aftermarket on the stolen radio circuit. When have you heard of someone being asked, " Hey buddy , wanna buy a hot Mazda Miata radio?" I added the Mazda factory in - dash CD player which plugs directly into the DIN port on your factory radio. Mr. Andrews advised against add on CD changers that either plug into your cassette or are tuned through your FM tuner. The major benefit of the CD format is in the tremendous dynamic range over comparible cassette or FM formats. If you tune through these formats you are limiting the dynamic range to these formats thus destroying the major benefit of the CD format.

If you are really a nut like I am for pounding base, a subwoofer is just the ticket. This should be your last option, however, compared to the above items. In early December 1996, Clearwater is introducing a subwoofer that mounts into the rear deck of the Miata and plugs directly into the Clearwater amplifier. I am on the list for the first shipment. I will keep you posted on the relative benefit of this addition in a future newsletter.

The prices for the above equipment as listed in the latest Miata magazine are as follows: