Q: I have a 2000 Toyota Celica that I have kept completely stock in appearance. Unfortunately, the sound system is not very good, and I would like to upgrade it. Would a bigger amplifier, hooked up to the factory head unit, make the most difference?
A: I would not add an amplifier yet. The first and best thing to do is upgrade the speakers. The speakers in car sound systems, especially in base sound systems in older cars, are notoriously bad. Not only will new speakers sound better, they likely will play louder, as well.
Your car came with 6½-inch speakers. If you get the same size, they will fit neatly behind the car door panels, preserving the factory appearance. I recommend the Pioneer TS-D65F, which sell for $119 per pair. I've evaluated several car speakers in that price range, and I liked the Pioneers the best. They have highs that are detailed without being bright, a full and solid midrange and they create ample volume without a lot of power. Pioneer D-series speakers (pioneerelectronics.com) are available in other sizes and are a great upgrade for most any car.
Last year I wrote about the UPstage 360 wireless speaker, which is a joint venture between SoundMatters and Level 10. At that time, its availability was very limited. Now that it is widely available, let me remind you what I wrote:
The UPstage 360 is a three-way speaker that can produce as much deep bass as a large bookshelf speaker, yet is compact enough to fit on a tabletop. It spreads sound in a 360-degree stereo pattern so the entire room receives the full effect. It has a dock that can hold an Echo Dot, allowing you to convert it to a smart speaker. It is getting rave reviews from some of the biggest names in the high-end audio world.
My listening experience was very positive, and the UPstage 360 lives up to its high-end promise, filling a large area with high-quality sound. I did not get to try two of them paired in stereo mode, but given the wide spread of a single Upstage, I have to believe that two of them would create a tremendous sense of space. Battery life was excellent, as well. My only nitpick is that it does not play as loudly with Bluetooth as it does with an Echo Dot or the auxiliary connection.
At $599 each, the UPstage 360 is positioned at the higher end of the market, but for a while you can buy them for less. Until the end of June, the code SAVINGS will reduce the price by $100 on one unit, and the code SAVINGS2 reduces the price by $300 on two units. This brings the prices down to $499 and $899, respectively (soundmatters.com.)
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.