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Old 01-28-2013, 12:24 PM
Superfly Superfly is offline
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Best Sounding Stock Car Stereos

This is a thread dedicated to stock car stereos (no after markets).

Even though I'm a Ford guy at heart, I've always felt that General Motors often had the best sounding systems throughout their fleet for the past 30 years. Even their basic Chevrolet Cavaliers had systems as good as their Cadillac Fleetwood Broughams.
I like those 1980s AC Delco AM/FM stereo cassette decks. I think it’s funny that they had the 4 preset buttons to mock the 4 program lights of an 8track player.
In the early 1980s, car manufactures were uncertain if or how much longer 8track would stick around but GM did offer an 8track player in the early 1980s.


GM had so many variations of this very cassette deck. This image is from a 1985 Pontiac Fiero. Some people complain about these decks but I think they sound fine. GM would later use this deck as a CD/cassette combo in the late 1990s that can easily bolt in to all of their models from the 1980s.




Back in the 1970s, Ford/Mercury/Lincoln was the only car brand besides Rolls Royce to offer quadraphonic 8track tape players as an option. Quadraphonic sound and the 8track format lasted longer in the United States and Canada than the U.K. so Ford offered these decks up until 1984 on their Lincolns. Ford's last year for quad was 1982 and the last year for stereo 8track at Ford & Mercury was 1983. In fact, Ford designed an all new 8track player for the 1983 model year which had bass & treble controls and digital tuner. It was a great sounding unit that had an external 40watt amplifier.


This is the stereo in my car.

I started a topic already about adding an RF modulator to this first generation Ford quadraphonic 8track deck. Quadraphonic was where the 8track tape format really shined. I want to find an already broken Akai quad deck with the glass head that goes to 16,000Hz. That is the best sounding 8track tape head and I’d like to put that in my Ford deck. It should sound great once I add an amplifier.

Chrysler has some great sounding and great looking stereos. I had a 1987 Chrysler Lebaron convertible that came with a AM/FM cassette with 5 band eq and a joystick balance control that was reminiscent of the quadraphonic era. It had 4 speaker cones as an indicator. Looked just like the quadraphonic balance joysticks on the home systems of the 1970s.
I would later upgrade this with another factory Chrysler Infiniti stereo from a 2000 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. That stereo was a CD/cassette combo with 3 band eq and still had the neat joystick balance controls. The beauty of sticking with a stock Chrysler stereo was that it matched the rest of the digital gauge display on the dash. It also only took 3 minutes to replace because the bolt patterns and wiring harness & plugs were exactly the same.
Also it worked perfect with the electronic verbal alert system. The music is muted when the car robot tells me to; "please check your fuel level" or "please close your passenger door".

You could actually take an 8track player out of a 1981 Chrysler Fifth Avenue or Dodge Diplomat and install it in a 2000 Dodge Intrepid or 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee and it will bolt right in perfectly and the wire harness will match.



CD/cassette combo from 2000 Chrysler Town & Country in a 1987 Chrysler Lebaron convertible.



As you can see, this stereo looks like it came with the car. This is from another Chrysler some 13 years later. So technically, it’s still stock. No modifications had to be done at all.
The cool thing about this deck was that you could cue up a cassette tape while listening to the CD or radio at the same time.
It was an excellent sounding tape player and CD player. Especially with the top down driving down Pacific Coast Highway in those thick, rich Corinthian leather seats….
Too bad that 2.2 turbo was such a gutless, noisy engine that got poor mileage for a 4-banger. It was a good looking car though.



Sorry I couldn't find a better image.

Toyota and Datsun/Nissan had some great sounding stereos in the early-mid 1980s. Years ago, my sister had a Toyota Cressida. Those had a brushed aluminum face with illuminated 7-band eq and actually had left & right output meters and metal tape capabilities. The sounds quality on those cars (as much as I hate to say it), sounded better than anything else on the market at that time. It sounded better than what Ford, GM, Chrysler and AMC was offering and certainly better than the Blaupunkt junk that Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen were offering.
If I had to buy a Japanese car, the Cressida of that era would be it. Nice soft ride quality from the straight 6 that car had.
Unfortunately there are very few Cressidas here in Thailand of that era that is in good shape. Most are beat up really bad here in Bangkok. I’m currently looking to buy an early 2000s Toyota Crown Royal Saloon which comes with cassette and CD player. I believe those also have Mark Levinson sound system but that generation didn’t have the navigation screen. I don’t need those anyway.
I tested out the tape players on a few that I test drove and they sound great.








Recently, I've been impressed with the Mark Levinson stereos that come with Lexus. My mother bought a recent model GS450. I borrowed her car once to pick a relative up from the airport. It still has a cassette player along with a 5 disc changer and navigation screen. The cool thing about playing a cassette in that car is that a computer generated image of a cassette and control buttons appear on the screen. It has soft touch screen operated controls for the cassette. That is awesome!
I bet few people that buy this car even know about that option when they play a cassette because so few people do so today.
The tapes sound incredible! The screen even shows when you're playing a metal bias or high bias tape.
I've made some recordings on to some 3M Black Watch metal bias type IV (thanks Des Lab) as well as a TDK MA-XG-90.
My recordings were from audiophile grade Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs LP pressings and factory 7&1/2 speed reel-to-reel tape. The turntable I use is a Denon DP-47 with Sumiko Blue Point phono cartridge in to my Yamaha K-550 cassette deck. Needless to say, I've been getting some amazing recordings.
When cranking these cassette recordings in the Lexus with Mark Levinson systems sounds like you have your high-end home stereo system in your car.


Mark Levinson cassette & CD changer with soft touch screen in the Lexus GS and LS sedans.


I know many aftermarket units may sound better than the stock system in lower-end cars but I really hate the looks of aftermarket stereos, especially the ones of the past 10 years that looks like Las Vegas casino lights. It is overkill and do not match the rest of the dash.
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Old 01-28-2013, 02:41 PM
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I like the stereo that came equipped in my 2011 Honda Fit. Every other car I've ever owned I put in an after market stereo, but no need with this one. It's the best car system I've ever had and has a nice, big volume knob & buttons for the radio stations. Very user friendly and it sounds great.
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Old 01-28-2013, 04:14 PM
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mercedes benz beckers from the 80s are simply beautiful in build quality. huge brass flywheels and top quality parts.

my family owned a junkyard when i was a kid so i had infinite access to junked cars at both my dads yard and his buddies. i once yanked an old becker from a wrecked benz and was amazed at how it was made. i rigged it up with a cigarette lighter cord and a headphone jack for road trips.

it would piss off my old man to no end that i didnt have to listen to his political talk radio on our regular trips from miami to key largo. yeah, i knew what a walkman was but this sounded so much better. despite our family being upper middle class, i wasnt just given any ole gizmo i wanted so i was resourceful.
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Old 01-28-2013, 04:29 PM
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I was pretty happy with the radio/CD that came with my Ranger, until it started eating CD's and not giving them back.


Nice big buttons you could work with gloves on, and sounded good enough once I replaced the speakers (I've had the same 5-1/4 Polks in my last 4 cars). OEM speakers usually suck, but they're getting better.

The wife's Camry has a very nice sound. Good thing since it's integrated into the dash.



Not my pics, random Google images.
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Old 01-28-2013, 05:08 PM
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The GM one in my new Silverado is badged Bose,got some decent enough bass,even had to turn it down abit because it got a little to boomy with some of my Trance stuff.Has a nice screen for adjusting all the tone and balance/fader controls,even has midrange tone adjustment.Has The usual inputs for cars of today's electronic nature,USB & jack for iPod,I currently have a Walkman cassette player plugged in right now.The speakers sound pretty decent,don't know if they are still using amplified speakers in GM/Bose OEM systems. Rob
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Old 01-28-2013, 09:19 PM
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Much as I hate to admit it, the 3 vehicles we have with Bose Stereo systems in them sound very good. Elly Monte Slim has one in her Maxima, and the one in my Tahoe has a subwoofer.

But, this is the best-sounding one!





And this is a picture of the dash. The audio system is integrated with the navigation system, and everything is touchscreen and voice command.


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Old 01-29-2013, 12:14 AM
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In Germany in 1983 it was definitely the Original Audi Sport Quattro Radio "Brüssel II", made by Blaupunkt. Came with 4 2-way speakers.



Today THE most sought after car stereo among Audi enthusiasts (Less than 200 were build).

Well:






Unlike those days, there are trainloads of good stock stereos today. I like the Audi Concerts very much:

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Old 01-29-2013, 12:42 AM
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ke4mcl:
So many Mercedes of that era have aftermarket units today. A friend of mines has a 1985 500SEL but I think that was the first year they had a digital read out panel. I'd like to hear the top line stereo from a Mercedes 6.9 or 280SE convertible.


Old Busted Hotness:
The CD player in your Ranger must like the same music you do.
My only gripe with the newer generation Ford stereos is that they lack mid-range. The most recent Ford (JBL) CD/cassette combo I listened to was in a 2008 Mercury Grand Marquis and it was a beautiful deck, easy to operate, versatile, excellent bottom-end and crisp treble but the mid-range was lacking.
OEM speakers have improved and I am all in favor of upgrading speakers because they can't be seen. That isn't a visual modification.
Those Camrys have good stereos as well. My mother still has her old 1996 Camry with factory cassette that still sounds superb. I use the CD adapter through the tape player and it sounds even better. I'm thinking of finding a CD/cassette combo that was available for that generation of Camry (1992-1996).


retrokeeper:
That was the main complaint about those AC Delco units. At the time I first got my Lebaron, the stereo had no bottom-end at all and my friends that had GM cars had excellent sounding systems. Come to find out is was the Lebaron convertible lacking enclosure for the rear speakers which I would later solve by creating a case for the rear speakers.


El Monte Slim:
Is that your Cadillac XLR?
That is SWEET!
No need to be ashamed of liking factory stereo systems. I've always liked factory stereos - mainly because I'm a car enthusiast and I like to keep everything original. Some people may get an old car that they like but only has a basic AM/FM radio not knowing that the factory has/had available premium stereos with tape player or CD player. Instead they just butcher up the dash and add in some tacky looking stereo that mis-matches the rest of the interior and dash lights.


Yam80:
A friend of mines has an Audi of that era. Next time I visit him, I want to listen to his system.
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Old 01-29-2013, 01:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superfly View Post
ke4mcl:
So many Mercedes of that era have aftermarket units today. A friend of mines has a 1985 500SEL but I think that was the first year they had a digital read out panel. I'd like to hear the top line stereo from a Mercedes 6.9 or 280SE convertible.
That´s easy: In those days Becker was the exclusive supplier for Mercedes Benz.
So TOTL was always the current version of the Becker Mexico.
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Old 01-29-2013, 02:42 AM
Superfly Superfly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yam80 View Post
That´s easy: In those days Becker was the exclusive supplier for Mercedes Benz.
So TOTL was always the current version of the Becker Mexico.
That part I knew. I just never hear one before. Were those Beckers any good?
My favorite German car is the 1967-1972 Mercedes 280SE convertible. That is a work of art on wheels. Especially in silver with black leather seats and black convertible top with boot. Too bad Becker never offered an 8track player. Would be cool to play era specific music in one of those or even better, the quad 8track of Kraftwert's Autobahn.
The only German cars I've owned was a 1980 Volkswagen Dasher diesel station wagon and a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit diesel.
The Rabbit got 50 miles per gallon. The stereos were crap but the Dasher came with an aftermarket Audiovox amplifier that sounded a little bit better. The previous owner had put that in.
I can't complain because I bought the Dasher used for $50 off an English teacher at my high school.
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Old 01-29-2013, 04:13 AM
Yam80 Yam80 is offline
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Quote:
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Were those Beckers any good?
Come again?

Beckers score top money on fleabay for a reason. They were build like a tank, and their tuners were always among the best, even those in the BOTL series. Not so much an issue in wide plains, but in hilly terrain like middle/south germany they were classes superior to everything from Japan or elsewhere.
And there are still plenty specialists who repair or service them.
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Old 01-29-2013, 05:04 AM
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Yam80:
Haha! I didn't know. I never dealt with Mercedes audio units. I've worked on a 300D and a 190E but that was the power windows and replacing a radiator.
Did Becker ever make an 8track player? Those were popular in the US & Canadian markets. I've seen their cassette decks. A friend of mine had an original Becker cassette deck in her 1979 450SEL.


There are still tons of 1970s & early 80s vintage 300Ds and 450SELs here in Bangkok with the steering wheel on the right side. I wouldn't mind owning one but it must be a diesel. Germany makes the best diesels.
There is a 280SE convertible for sale here but they're asking $50,000 (USD).
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:11 AM
Yam80 Yam80 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superfly View Post
Did Becker ever make an 8track player?
I´m pretty sure they didn´t.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Superfly View Post
Germany makes the best diesels.
Yes, when Audi introduced the TDI in 1989 they kicked off a giant rush in the industry. Fiat and Austin were earlier with DI, but with inferior tech and no impact.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Superfly View Post
There is a 280SE convertible for sale here but they're asking $50,000 (USD).
These are normal prices. The W111 was the last big benz convertible. It even sounds a bit too cheap to me. Or is it a later model converted by another company?
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:50 AM
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Give me a GM factory unit and change out the speakers to Alpine, with maybe an aux amplifier in some cases. That just about takes care of it for me....

The Delco unit that the OP shows indeed had a big brother with AM Stereo, an equalizer, etc., I had one of those in, of all things, a '91 GMC Sonoma pickup, and it was about the best head unit I have ever had (factory that is).
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:09 PM
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I read an article recently where some car magazine writer criticized the Honda Fit for having "big knobs" for the radio, A/C, fan, etc... That struck me as really dumb, as it did to so many who left comments. Why wouldn't you want a decent sized volume knob for the radio? You can keep your eyes on the road and you don't have to fiddle tiny buttons and knobs. Give me big, easy-to-find knobs any day!
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:40 PM
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I'm really liking the steering wheel volume controls on both of our vehicles,it's just nice to have them there within easy reach.I have long enough arms to reach the dash-mounted volume control,but the steering wheel control is just cool to have.I also have an aftermarket steering wheel volume control,that goes with a Kenwood am-fm Cassette player I found in a thrift.The control was still sealed,and hadn't been used at all,I'm sure it's a rare add-on. Rob
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:47 PM
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Yamo80:
You raise a good point. It is very possible that it could have been converted to right-side steering wheel. In California, you can pick up a Mercedes 280SE convertible for as low as $25,000 (USD). Cars are cheap there.
Asking price and selling price are two different things.


stripedcat99:
Give me a GM factory unit and change out the speakers to Alpine, with maybe an aux amplifier in some cases.

That's my kind of language.
Those GM decks are fantastic and with a set of some top-line speakers would just be perfection.


NAD613:
I agree. I hate when some stereos get too sophisticated to the point where you can't easily operate the damn thing. The 1986 Pontiac 6000 STE had tons of buttons and the top line stereo was more of a headache than the more mid-level GM units that sounded just as good.

A friend of mine had an early 1990s JVC RX-1050VPTN receiver that had no knob at all. Switching the eq, and volume was the biggest headache. It was a neat looking unit but just not user friendly at all.
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Old 01-29-2013, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NAD613 View Post
I read an article recently where some car magazine writer criticized the Honda Fit for having "big knobs" for the radio, A/C, fan, etc... That struck me as really dumb, as it did to so many who left comments. Why wouldn't you want a decent sized volume knob for the radio? You can keep your eyes on the road and you don't have to fiddle tiny buttons and knobs. Give me big, easy-to-find knobs any day!
There speaks my kinda fella!
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Old 01-29-2013, 02:52 PM
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My 88 Monte Carlo SS Aero Coupe had a Delco EQ unit with Blaukpunkt cassette deck drive unit built in with the high power internal amp. Changing out the stock speakers, adding a line level stereo converter to the rear speakers connecting to a Rockford Fosgate Punch 200 amp running bridged to a pair of punch 12" subs also bridged in a sealed box in the trunk with a final load of 2 ohms was the best sounding cassette car head unit/ system I ever had and heard. I still miss that car and the audio setup to this very day. Not bad for stock size drivers and a pair of subs!


Philip.
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Old 01-29-2013, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superfly View Post

El Monte Slim:
Is that your Cadillac XLR?
That is SWEET!

Yes, it is mine.
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