Integrating Custom Audio Components into a 2012 VW GTI Autobahn Edition
If anyone knows me, it’s that I love to have technology available to me everywhere I go and this most definitely includes my car. I specifically bought this year of VW not because it had a great stock infotainment experience (exact opposite in fact) but that it would be relatively easy to update to the latest and greatest in-car experiences with a substantial boost to sound quality in the process.
Starting with Research
I research the hell out of any project I undertake. Reddit and in this case, the Golf MKVI forums have a wealth of knowledge that would put any car salesman to shame. It’s here that you will most likely find information that you wish you knew before you bought your car.
For this use case I started to dig into the electronics area. With the MKVI body being a relatively mature platform at the time I bought the car I was able to obtain a lot of great information such as:
- My Autobahn edition had a fantastic Dynaudio speaker setup
- So good in fact I debated not even swapping the core components
- The stock headunit powered my front speakers
- The under seat amplifier powered my rear speakers
- Both the HU & Amp actively managed the speaker’s frequencies
- This means I’d need a passive crossover
- Most importantly, wiring diagrams from the HU and Amplifier
At this time in my life I had a few months before I started my job at GE so I was able to devote a lot of time to getting everything correct. One of my best friends in the area had a full wood working shop available to him which allowed me to look into building a custom box for both the subwoofers and to house the components.
With that being said, I removed my spare tire and took measurements of the area and came up with the largest possible size box I could place without raising the floor much beyond stock levels. I simply didn’t want to lose any space and take full advantage of the hatchback.
From there I knew I would require 2 slim mounted subwoofers that would best operate in a sealed box with roughly .5^3 of air to push.
Next step was an audio processor. Due to my budget at the time I wanted to keep the stock (terrible) VW headunit and simply process the audio externally and feed the signal into an amplifier for a theoretically superior sound.
This worked but required roughly 160ft of speaker cable to be run throughout the car ensuring all 8 speakers were getting the signals they required to run. Again, I had A LOT of time on my hands.
The processor also gave me the ability to have RCA outputs to feed my subwoofer amplifier. Why VW never included a stock sub is beyond me but this enabled one.
I also through an a very nice 10 Farad Capacitor that acted as a barrier between my battery and the raw power requirements of the amplifiers. People debate the difference these actually make but I personally have heard and felt the difference this makes when my car is idling and drawing power.
Verdict: Only slightly better than stock and very muddy bass. The audio processor was just overwhelmed and ruined any technical improvements to the sound.
Enter Android Auto & Bye, Bye Processor
The next step in this process was finally ridding myself of the terrible VW headunit. This not only gave me a nicer looking unit but it enabled me to get the outputs my components needed right from the source and not hacked signals.
With USB cables now neatly tucked out of sight in my arm rest and my components properly hooked up to their source, I was ready to plug my phone in! …and, wow, what a difference. The sound stage came alive and the bass was earth shaking but slightly dull for the power being fed.
I also was now able to talk to my car. With a simple, ‘Ok, Google’ I could text anyone in my contact list, navigate to destinations, or play any song in my 20k+ music library all through using my voice. An awesome feature when you want your hands on the wheel at all times.
Still, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the sound.
Version 3.0 – DynAudio Passive Crossovers, New Amplifier, New Subwoofers and a Rear Camera
I quickly ditched the cheap passive crossovers I purchased on the fly and got Dynaudio crossovers that more accurately matched the factory frequency curve of the stock speakers that really brought the benefits of further amplifying the set. If there would be a 4.0 version I would simply get a real component set.
I also switched out the subwoofers for 10″ Sony’s vs the 12″ brand I had originally bought. The 10’s simply worked better with the limited air I could give them while taking power better.
Rounding out the nice to have features I ran a $19 RCA camera through the car and dremel’d a small hole above my license plate that enabled my rear camera. It now activates when I’m in reverse. Downside of this location is that when roads are salty the camera gets gunked up in no time.
This was a great project that allowed me to really get everything I could from the Dynaudio speakers in the car. Sound quality took a solid step up and the user experience is magnitudes better. Even 2018 model cars struggle to offer what this 2012 model has.
With that being said, for the time I spent rewiring and tweaking things this path would not be recommended. Simply switching the headunit out would have given me sound in the ball park of what I have now even without the subwoofer. But, hey, I love taking things apart and tweaking and this most certainly cured my itch.
- 160ft of 14 gauge speaker wire
- NVM/Rockford 10 Farad Cap
- Alpine PDR-M65 (801w RMS)
- 2x Sony 10″ Shallows
- Alpine MRV-300 (60w RMS x4)
- 2x Dynaudio X-250’s (Front XO)
- 2x JL Audio XO’s (Rear XO)
- Pioneer NEX 4100 Head Unit
- LCQ-1 Audio Processor (Removed)
You can read some of my process as it happened on the forums at this link.