BIG car stereo install... here's what I used. - Pontiac Solstice Forum
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-03-2015, 12:09 AM Thread Starter
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BIG car stereo install... here's what I used.

I bought an '09 GXP in April and it had every option I wanted... except the Monsoon upgrade. Couldn't believe someone would order this car loaded and skimp out on the premium sound. It ended up being a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I had to deal with crappy sound for three months. On the other hand, I now had the need and motivation to do a proper upgrade. If I had the Monsoon, I may never have upgraded. I do remember being satisfied when I had it on my first Solstice 10 years ago.

So, I spend a few weeks planning and ordering parts. I knew if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. That meant from-scratch, all new speakers, all new wiring, and a new head unit.

  • Kenwood DDX9902S CarPlay/Android Auto Headunit
  • Alpine PDX-V9 Amplifier (5 channel, 900 watts class D)
  • Rockford Fosgate P3SD2-10 Sub (Punch 3, 2-ohm dual-coil, 10")
  • Infinity Kappa 60.11CS component system for up front
  • Polk Audio DB401 4" speakers for the rear
  • All wiring from KnuKonceptz (4g for power, 10g for sub, 12g for everything else
  • Pyle 5.0 Farad Capacitor
  • Backup camera (Esky EC170-11)
  • iDatalink Maestro AWSC-1 and Metra GMOS-LAN-04 harnesses
  • Misc stuff like Metra double-DIN frame, FM antenna adaptor, new SiriusXM adapter and extension cable (to use original antenna), primary wire for backup camera, etc.

The Good: I couldn't have done this install as smoothly as it went without the weeks of researching this forum and all the hard work so many people have done documenting and troubleshooting their own installs. I lost about 5 lbs. in the four days it took to do this task by myself, working hard in a hot garage! But the result is fantastic. I'm also pretty cutting edge by having a brand new CarPlay/Android Auto-ready headunit. And this is one that has really worked out a lot of the kinks from earlier generations (AppRadio and stuff). Totally native detection of your phone, no cable or settings to switch even cross platform. Great if you have people using both Apple and Android phones and sharing a car.

The Bad: I definitely had a few issues that I came across.
  • It took four long days to do it all. This includes taking the stock subwoofer box (that the person I bought this car from had generously thrown in because he had one laying around) and customizing it to take a 10" sub. I used a 3/4" MDF ring to make sure I had plenty of clearance. I also used a Dremel to just cut down a few of the plastic fins on the inside and, of course, make the hole larger. I used some weather proof foam sealant to fill the gap where the speaker wire goes through. It's about 1 inch square.

    I also ended up having to cut a hole in the waterfall panel to let it stick through. I had originally not wanted to deal with that, but a Dremel and circle cutout tool made quick work of it. It also let me put the vanity ring on the subwoofer over the cut out so the final product looks factory. After this pic was taken, I actually bought some of that black tubing that you are supposed to put on the edge of your door to prevent dings and I put some over the rough edges on the grill around the sub to make it look even more finished and cover up the slight gaps.

  • The head unit was too long and I had to use a Dremel to totally cut out the plastic at the rear of the stereo hole. As nerve-wracking as it was, it actually serves another benefit in making it MUCH easier to stuff all your wires and harnesses back there. It also probably improves air flow.
  • I didn't listen, but what everyone says is true. It's probably not worth upgrading the rear speakers. But I did it anyway just because I figured "why not" when i'm already doing such a big project. The 4-inch speakers I purchased would probably fit perfectly if I didn't have to worry about a mount for them. But as it stands, they stick out about 1/8th of an inch too much so those rear speaker panels don't lay down perfectly flat. Not a big deal and you can't see them anyway.
  • Running new speaker wire wasn't too bad overall, but running from the door into the passenger footwell was really tough. I couldn't find a lot of info on doing it, and most of it was people saying "it looked hard so I didn't bother." Turns out it really does help to remove the fender rocker panels. I already had one off for the battery, and the other side comes off the same way. Annoying, but not a huge deal if you are prepared.

    But the fact the speaker wire had to go into the engine compartment and then back through the firewall into the footwells? I ended up poking a hole in existing rubber boots/grommets. It all worked out, though.
  • I had trouble with the iDatalink control for the steering wheel and that set me back a bit. Not only did I have to dig up a PC (since I use all Macs), but I had to use Internet Explorer which was NOT wanting to work. I ended up having to do it all with a Windows virtual machine on a Mac anyway. And then it just wasn't working in the car! It would receive commands, but wouldn't adjust the stereo. iDatalink's support was extremely smart and definitely knew their stuff inside and out, but it appeared to not be a problem with the unit. Ultimately I found out a wire in the iDatalink harness was loose. Works like a charm, and I love how you can easily program other things for button holds.
  • After I got everything ALL put back together, the reverse camera wouldn't turn on automatically. But it worked manually. I was confused since I had hooked up the correct reverse wire in the harness FOR SURE. But then I found out that the Solstice doesn't send a reverse 12v signal through the harness. So I had to pull EVERYTHING apart and run a primary wire from the rear to the head-unit. Oh well, it was a good opportunity to reprogram the iDatalink Maestro to fix a few things I didn't like about my original programming, adjust the gain and crossover settings on the amplifier, as well as add some shims to bring the radio a bit more flush with the dash boomerang. Also turns out things go much faster the second time you've done them. Only took 2 hours to do all of that.

I know the "bad" list looks long enough compared to the good to make it seem like a nightmare, but there's just a lot more to talk about regarding the bumps in the road. I decided to not deal with Dynamat at this time since I knew I'd have my hands full as it is. I don't have any issues with rattles so it's not too critical for me. Maybe some day, I have other priorities (brakes and calipers are next, then shifter, then...). Also, I wish there was an easy way to enable the VSS function to adjust the stereo's volume based on speed, but I know I'd have to tap into the ECM and junk. And, you know, if only there was a way to actually see what your head unit is displaying in direct sunlight... ;-)

2009 Solstice GXP | Wicked with all the trimmings, including Solo exhaust, DDM Stage I brake kit, low flow catback, CAI, GM Stage II tune, DDMWorks brace package, Michelin Pilot SuperSport tires, and a from-scratch stereo install.

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Last edited by Fortimir; 08-03-2015 at 12:14 AM.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 04-25-2017, 02:44 AM Thread Starter
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Eighteen months later... Everything's still going strong.

Kenwood updated their DDX headunits now to have capacitive screens that are brighter with better contrast. I've been very tempted to pick one up because half the time I can't see the screen due to direct sunlight... but the fact they are so expensive and CarPlay tech is still in limbo with wireless CarPlay... I'll probably wait another generation or two before trying a more convertible-friendly screen.

Dialing in the crossover has been a moving target. The first month or two I had the phase totally wrong on the subwoofer so I was running it way harder than it needed to in order to get acceptable top-down volumes. But once I figured that out, the... ahm... burning smells went away. It's true that the first 100 hours or so on a sub can smell funny due to break-in, but I was a little harder on that sub that I should have been early on. Oh well, it's all good now.

Still not really sure if OnStar works. The light is green half the time and red half the time. I tried testing it once but nothing happened. But it could have been a volume configuration issue with the iDatalink adapter. I don't really know or care since I don't use OnStar, but it's one of those nagging "I hope this is fixable/reversible at some point just in case" deals. I don't ever want to sell the car, but what if...

Road noise for music has never been bothersome and I didn't add an ounce of sound dampening to the doors, floor, or firewalls. It might be one of those "you don't know what you're missing" deals, but I expect convertibles to be fairly noisy. The audio has so much power it overcomes anything anyway... but I will say that the microphone has been a challenge. I ended up mounting a new microphone in the A-pillar right next to the stock one (which I kept wired up for OnStar), but it NEVER worked well when the car was moving more than 15MPH... top up or down. I finally got around just this week to stuffing that A-pillar with sound dampening pads and it has definitely improved the microphone performance by a solid 60%. It's still pretty useless over 45MPH with the top down, but it's good enough for Siri to take dictation with the top up or at lower top-down speeds. Something to keep in mind if you ever get a CarPlay unit, that you are expected to use voice commands quite a bit. The mic is important.

Still would like to enable VSS some day. It'd be cool if the head unit could use your phone's GPS to determine speed and adjust the volume accordingly.

Satellite radio sounds like ass. I got a free six months from my father in law, but I didn't care to renew it. Unfortunately on a nice sound system, the low bandwidth really shows. I thought I was just being crazy, but I did some research and it's a pretty well-known thing that the nicer your sound system, the worse satellite seems to sound because you can really tell where it falls behind. The funny thing is that, while I primarily use my iPhone to stream very high-quality music via CarPlay, occasionally I'll listen to local radio and those HD Radio stations sound WAY better than Sirius/XM. Too bad it's just so many commercials and the same 15 songs on repeat.

When wearing shorts and driving in the rain I could occasionally feel a little bit of rain water splashing on my legs. I don't drive in the rain often so it's been hard to really do too much analysis, but I finally got around to sealing up the areas where I put speaker cable through rubber to get it through the firewall and door. My best guess is that's where water was getting in, so hopefully a little RTV silicone sealant will do the trick. I'll let you know the next time I get stuck in the rain.

The wife broke the crappy little passenger cupholder so I finally was able to pickup the elbow dual cupholder that I've missed so very much. I cannot figure out why they dropped those for 2009. But when I take off the rear panel, I'll have access to the power amp and I'll be raising the gain on the rear pillar speaker. I don't think I've ever actually heard noise come from them. It's a shame you can't easily adjust the levels on those. It's all done at the amp. Speaking of levels, if you get a power amp make sure it's one that allows you to install a remote gain level remote for the sub. That's been a lifesaver. I installed right by my right knee under the dash. I can easily reach down and adjust the subwoofer level on the fly. Most of them are actually just a gain cut, so it's important that you dial in the gain on your subwoofer properly for maximum/optimal output. You won't be able to remotely boost the gain over that.

2009 Solstice GXP | Wicked with all the trimmings, including Solo exhaust, DDM Stage I brake kit, low flow catback, CAI, GM Stage II tune, DDMWorks brace package, Michelin Pilot SuperSport tires, and a from-scratch stereo install.

Sean + Molly Photographers
concART | Concert Photography
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 04-24-2018, 08:08 PM
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Pretty awesome system!
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 04-25-2018, 07:53 AM
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Congrats on doing the install yourself & giving some insight into it. I agree about XM, I listen to the 60's on six & find the sound flat at times as it doesn't jump out at you but not much in the way of FM were i live to choose from.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-26-2018, 10:07 PM
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2018 - Kenwood DDX9905S: HD screen (720p). Unfortunately video can't take full advantage of it as HDMI inputs have been gone since ≈2017. Android Play has gone wireless. Still expensive, even on the gray market.

Still sad that while the Solstice wiring harness provides a backup and a parking wire, that the backup was never implemented. I'll have to rewire mine then if I ever add a backup camera.

From what I understand, VSS is a feature that has been discontinued for a while now.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-26-2019, 11:21 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Bill Barnes View Post
201I'll have to rewire mine then if I ever add a backup camera.
Not sure if you ever got around to it, but if you do, it's easy. Just run a primary wire from the reverse on the stereo all the way back to a reverse light and tap into the positive there. When the reverse lights go on, that triggers the reverse camera. Even being a small car, the camera adds a world of visibility, especially when parking.

2009 Solstice GXP | Wicked with all the trimmings, including Solo exhaust, DDM Stage I brake kit, low flow catback, CAI, GM Stage II tune, DDMWorks brace package, Michelin Pilot SuperSport tires, and a from-scratch stereo install.

Sean + Molly Photographers
concART | Concert Photography
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 06-22-2019, 10:41 PM
Join Date: Jun 2019
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So here’s my situation just bought my 06 solstice, love this thing btw. Previous owner replaced factory monsoon head unit with a nice touch screen radio however I want xm and mine came with it from the factory but the new head unit isn’t xm capable don’t have unlimited data so the xm app is out. Xm sent me a onyx ez for free but I don’t want two black antennas on my car do they make an extender that used the factory XM antenna that I can just route and plug into handheld xm receiver?
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