System Builder: 2006 Honda Accord EX

The venerable Honda Accord is one of the most popular cars ever - and for good reason. It's hard to beat its combination of performance, styling, fuel economy, and reliability relative to its price ($24,000). Since there are thousands of Accords on the road, we chose the 2006 Accord EX to serve as a platform for an audio upgrade to kick off our inaugural Road Gear column. Then we asked two specialty retailers to come up with a $1,500 upgrade and a $5,000 upgrade for the car. While the interior layout of earlier Accords may vary, you can use these suggestions as a guide to how to take your Honda - or most other vehicles - from stock to rock.

$1,500 UPGRADE

The Setup
$450 JL Audio e6450 six-channel amplifier $40 JL Audio RBC-1 subwoofer control $140 JL Audio 10W1v2 10-inch subwoofer $145 Scosche EFX amplifier installation kit $75 Scosche Accumat sound damping (to reduce panel resonance around the subwoofer) and XTC foam baffles (to isolate the rear deck speakers from the subwoofer) $650 Labor
$1,500 TOTAL
Issac Goren, owner of Sounds Good Audio, Security & Marine in Woodland Hills, California, says the goal for his Honda upgrade was to "elevate the sound quality and volume level" by adding an amplifier and a subwoofer while retaining the factory radio and speakers. "This allows for custom-tailoring the sound to the driver's preferences," Goren explains. "The amp's built-in crossover allows the front and rear speakers to play only high-pass signals; low bass will be directed to a subwoofer. This setup allows the factory speakers to play accurately and cleanly, with separate crossover and gain settings for the front and the rear."

To give his upgrade some kick, Goren would sink a 10-inch subwoofer in an infinite-baffle configuration - that is, use the trunk itself as the enclosure - to maximize space and minimize costs. And he'd remove the stock plastic panel behind the rear-seat armrest to create a low-bass pass-through from the trunk.

Finally, a subwoofer control knob can be added under the radio or in front of the gearshift within easy reach of the driver. This gives the driver bass-control flexibility, "especially as the audio source is changed between radio and CD or iPod and satellite radio," observes Goren.

$5,000 UPGRADE

Over the years, Jeff Smith of Audio Designs in Stockbridge, Georgia, has built numerous car systems with an emphasis on sound quality over flashy installations. No stranger to Accords (he owns four of them), Smith would replace the Honda's stock double-DIN radio with an Alpine single-DIN head unit. "We're using an installation kit to fit the new head unit in the dash," he says, "and a separate wiring harness that lets us retain the dual-zone climate controls." The Alpine head adds useful features not found on the stock radio: EQ, crossovers, and multicolor illumination. It also has connections for Sirius satellite radio, an iPod, and a Bluetooth phone.

The Setup
$500 Alpine CDA-9855 CD receiver $150 Metra installation kit $25 Metra wiring harness $75 PAC SWI-ALP steering-wheel audio-control interface $100 Sirius SIR-ALP1 Sirius tuner $100 Alpine KCA-420i iPod interface $220 Alpine KCA-100BT Bluetooth hands-free interface kit $280 Alpine SPR-17LS Type R 61/2-inch component speakers $190 Alpine SPR-69LP Type R 6 x 9-inch coaxial speakers $1,000 Two Alpine MRV-F345 amplifiers $100 StreetWires dual-amplifier installation kit $440 Two Alpine SWR-1242D 12-inch subwoofers $150 StreetWires 1-farad capacitor with voltmeter $80 Dynamat sound damping $275 Installation accessories (cabling, wood, fiberglass, carpet, etc.) $1,315 Labor
$5,000 TOTAL

NOTE: All prices supplied by the manufacturers. Dealer prices and labor costs may vary.

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