From Pro Audio to Car Audio, the Transition has been an experience worth sharing. I traded in my Turntables for a Headunit and never looked back.
Browsing All Posts By Rick Martinez

Kicker Failsafe Integration Technology (FIT™)

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Leading The Way for Car Audio Engineering

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Since 2010 Kicker – a world leader in car audio technology – has featured FIT™ in many of their high performance amplifiers. Ranging from the industry leading Kicker KX2400.1 to the humble DXA250.1, Kicker’s Failsafe Integration Technology (FIT™) has made itself a staple in stress free amplifier installations. In short, the Failsafe Integration Technology gives you, the user, the ability to take Any Audio Source and send it directly to the amplifier. This means no Line-Out Converts, Step Down Modules, Processors, “creative wiring”, or reliance on precarious ‘high level inputs’ on other amplifiers!! A FIT™ equipped amplifier can facilitate any signal; from a traditional Low Level RCA Signal all the way up to a High Level 10volt/25watt Signal. Beyond that, FIT™ ensures that the amplifier puts out a clean signal by cleaning up the signal before it reaches your drivers.

 

OEM Integration Made Easy

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The most common installation where FIT™ equipped amplifiers shine the brightest is in OEM Integration. The typical approach when attempting to add an amplifier to a stock headunit is with the use of a Line-Out Converter (LOC). The Failsafe Integration Technology, however, alleviates the need for such a module. Not only does this save money, cuts down on install time, and dodges the headache of figuring out wiring from the LOC, but also insures that you don’t introduce a piece of equipment that will accept/introduce noise, feedback, and distortion. In addition, because of the high quality engineering that went into designing FIT™, the audio system has guaranteed Noise Rejection from Any Source, including an OEM headunit that wasn’t designed to send its cheap signal to a performance amplifier. FIT™ utilizes isolated differential inputs, rejecting noise and electrical interference for the quietest operation possible. As mentioned before, FIT™ will accept up to a High Level 10volt/25watt Signal, which means it will accept an Amplified high level signal like that found in OEM Equipped Bose/BostonAcoustics/Infinity/JBL/Sony/etc systems, with absolutely no issues. This ensures compatibility with all OEM Audio Systems!!

 

Kicker Making Life Simple

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Moreover, Kicker went a step further to make sure that you get to enjoying your music instead of laboring and stressing over the install. Along with every FIT™ equipped amplifier, it is highly recommended that the Kicker KISL is paired up with it. The KISL is specifically designed to take up as little space as possible and, more importantly, to take a high-level signal ran from the headunit’s speaker outputs to the RCA input on the end panel of the amplifier. Anyone who has fumbled with a bulky Line-Out Converter & conductor-wire type of install will see the glamour in the KISL. Furthermore, If your car stereo only has one set of preamp outputs but are going to a multi-channel amplifier, a FIT™ equipped amplifier can apply the signal from that one solo-pair to its other channels to achieve a proper multi-channel play. OR there is always the option of attaching the KISL to that very same headunit’s high level outputs to get the proper multi-channel setup.

The flexibility, performance, and well engineered design of the Failsafe Integration Technology makes it a feature-asset that everyone from the do-it-yourselfer to the seasoned installer MUST consider!!

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How To Strap Two Amps Together, Double Your Power!

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For this how-to, I’m going to use the DC Audio 7.5k .

For the most part, “Strapping” – aka ‘Bridging’ – TWO amps together is done to get Double the @1ohm Power Rating of One Amp. This makes the setup – AFTER “strapping” – stable ONLY to a 2-ohm final load . That, in of itself, is fairly confusing so here’s an explanation…

First, it is of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE that you ONLY ‘strap’ two IDENTICAL TWIN AMPLIFIERS! Moreover, it is also important to make sure that the amplifiers have the ability to be strapped (i.e. the features necessary to successfully perform this), and that ‘Strapping’ is a manufacture confirmed ability of the amplifiers.

DC Audio 7.5k

DC Audio 7.5k

  • 4-ohms: 2000 watts x 1 ch.
  • 2 -ohms: 4400 watts x 1 ch.
  • 1-ohm: 7500 watts x 1 ch.

From the above specs, we establish that ONE DC Audio 7.5k is able to put out 7,500w RMS @1-ohms. Therefore, in theory, If we strap TWO DC Audio 7.5k together we can achieve 15,000w RMS @2ohms!!

The most crucial part of successfully Strapping two amps together is the Wiring! Starting with the Easy part, RCAs:

RCA SIGNAL CONNECTIONS:

    • Step 1. Connect the Master amplifier to the head-unit (duh!) and set the amplifier’s output-master/input-slave switch to Output Master.
    • Step 2. Set Slave amplifier output-master/input-slave switch to Slave Input.
    • Step 3. From the ONE RCA-Connector – that has a line from said switch – Connect an RCA cable from the Master to Slave amplifier.

DO NOT USE THE PAIR OF RCAS LABELED ‘OUTPUT’!!!! This “Output” will ONLY send an AUDIO SIGNAL, and Will Not allow for the following important part to happen……

Intermission: The Output-Master/Input-Slave Switch , if you haven’t already figured it out, will turn one amp into the Masterand the other into the Slave. But what does this mean exactly? This means – The Master amp will be in absolute control of the Crossover Points, The Gain, & The Remote Level Control. Implied, the SLAVE will have absolutely NO control abilities, those settings will be turned Off . Therefore to “Tune” the amps – plural – you ONLY ‘Tune’ the Master amp!

Next part of the install is where everyone gets lost; the speaker wire connections.

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SPEAKER WIRE CONNECTIONS:

  • Step 1. Connect 12-Gauge Speaker Wire from the Positive (+) Speaker Output on the Master amp to the Positive Terminal on the Subwoofer (+). Amp (+) to Sub (+)
  • Step 2. Connect 12-Gauge Speaker Wire from the Positive (+) Speaker Output on the Slave amp to the Negative Terminal on the Subwoofer (-). Amp (+) to Sub (-)
  • Step 2.5. Please Re-Read Step 2 . This is the part EVERYONE gets wrong. 
  • Step 3. Connect 12-Gauge Speaker Wire from the Negative (-) Speaker Output on the Master amp to the Negative (-) Speaker Output on the Slave Amplifier. Amp (-) to Amp (-)

These connections is what Physically ‘bridges’ the amps together!

From this point on you can go about the install as you would any other install. Make sure all your connections are made properly, tighten everything down, mount what needs to be mounted, etc… Then, start the Tuning process; tune the MASTER AMP ONLY!!!

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How to Tune an Amplifier

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In order to get the absolute best performance & sound quality from your amplifier it is very important to know exactly how to properly tune an amplifier. The most common misconception of tuning an amplifier is that the settings are intended to ‘give you the most power output’, this is not the case. This article will break down exactly what each common setting on an amplifier does and how to properly tune those settings.

For this example we are going to use the DC Audio 7.5k as an example. Onboard, it has the most common settings found throughout the market. The names might be a bit different, but they do the exact same thing, more on that later. Moreover, this article will cover each setting Right to Left – use the picture below to follow along – ending at the Gain, which is easily the most important setting of them all.
DC Audio 7.5k

  • Master/Slave Switch

  • The Master/Slave Switch is ONLY ever used when “Strapping” the amp with another identical-twin amp (i.e. Same Series, Model, etc..). Stay tuned for a future article on how this is done, But for this explanation we are assuming ONE amplifier one, so this switch must stay on MASTER. What does “Slave” do? Stay tuned for the explanation on “Strapping”.

  • Phase

  • Inverted Subwoofer
    The job of the phase setting is to do one thing: change the polarity/direction of the sub(s) being ran off the amp. The most common reason why you would want to use this setting is when you have an ‘inverted’ subwoofer*. You could, however, just as easily swap the polarities of each terminal and accomplish the same thing. Another reason why you would use the setting is if you have two drivers & two amps (one per driver), and one is “Out of Phase”. This means ONE driver is playing OUTWARD (away from the enclosure) and the ‘Out of Phase’ driver is playing INWARD (into the enclosure). What happens in this case is , in theory, the two sound waves coming off the driver cancel/eliminate each other, giving a very undesirable result. So when you hear someone say the driver is “out of phase” THIS is the go-to setting to try to fix that. Beyond that, rarely can an audible change be actually heard, but there are more variables beyond just the setting that will make a change.

    For our example, we assume the driver is wired properly, so this is left at 0

    *Inverted Subwoofers are often done for one of two reasons:

    1. To utilize the absolute most volume of the enclosure. Without a subwoofer displacing the air within the enclosure you have FULL use of that space.
    2. Because it looks cool. Yes, really.
  • LPF

  • Low Pass Filter.The LPF can be thought of as a “Ceiling”. The LPF will not allow the frequencies above where you set it to pass through. Technically speaking, there is a “Roll Off”, the LPF isn’t just a ‘wall’, but we won’t get into that here. The setting is intended to ‘filter out’ frequencies that which the driver – in this case a subwoofer – cannot play and/or will harm the driver if it does so. There isn’t a “right way” to set this, there is only the way the setup is configured and also what the limitations of the driver are.

    Suggestion: The most common (read: ‘dummy proof’) setting is 80Hz-120Hz

    Consider this, however, if the Full Range stage of your setup (i.e. Door Speakers) for some reason are incapable of playing below 120Hz , then you want the subwoofer to pick up at 120Hz; so the LPF will be set at 120Hz! This is because you wouldn’t want your sub Playing 80Hz and Down, then your Full Range Playing 120Hz and Up, because then you will have an inaudible gap between 80Hz-120Hz (i.e. Dead Space). For all intents and purposes we suggest to stick 80Hz; this will make sure all ‘mid-range’ is filtered out, and its often the most easily recognizable crossover point. Unfortunately, Most Amps do not tell you where a specific crossover point is , so you definitely need to ‘Eye Ball’ it. An overlap of frequencies – Sub vs Full Range – isn’t a “bad thing”, but for those who want the “Perfect Setup” you will have to have the right tools to hit the points you want. The only way of doing this is with the use of a Crossover Calibrator; we use the SMD CC-1 in our installation department to hit these points accurately.

  • Bass Boost

  • The Bass Boost is fairly self explanatory. It literally boosts the frequencies that you send it. We DO NOT recommend using this setting, if at all possible, because drivers go here to die. Assuming the amp is tuned right, there is seldom a reason to come to this setting. The reason it exists is because:

      1. Manufacture’s need to compete with another, so if multiple amps have this setting, then theirs does too
      2. It can actually have a practical use

    The latter only ever happens when the Full Range completely over powers – or “Drowns Out” – the subwoofers’ outputs. In order to “balance” the setup, you go to the Bass Boost to give the output a bit more output. THIS ISN’T A VOLUME KNOB!! You are toying with introducing a distorted signal if this setting isn’t used responsibly. Use at your own risk.

    Suggestion: Leave at 0

  • Subsonic

  • For all intents and purposes think of the Subsonic as a HPF (High Pass Filter), the ‘opposite’ of the LPF, or as a “Floor”. The Subsonic will not allow the frequencies below where you set it to pass through. Like the LPF, this setting is intended to ‘filter out’ frequencies that which the driver – in this case a subwoofer – cannot play and/or will harm the driver if it does so. This setting is often established by the limitations of the driver. For example, the NVX VCW104 has a frequency response of 20Hz-220 Hz, which means it is physically incapable of playing below 20Hz. This tells us that if we want to protect the driver, we should set the subsonic to 20Hz. Many in the industry will say that the ideal setting, for this example, would be ~25Hz because “just because its capable of doing 20Hz doesn’t mean it Should”. The often cited analogy is “your car Redlines at ~7,000 RPMs, that doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD ride the engine at 7k just because it can”. Nevertheless, in a properly tuned setup, and with an able/responsible user, there is very little concern for setting this point to the limitation presented by the driver.

    Suggestion: Set to 20Hz , for most subwoofers

  • Gain


  • This is NOT a volume control!! Whatever you want to call this setting, it is intended to do One thing and that is to match the sensitivity of the source/headunit. So, in theory, if your headunit provides a solid 5v out of the preouts, then the Gain (Sensitivity, Level, Input Level, Sensitivity Input, (V)) will match that when set properly. Due to several variables it is more likely that it is not going to match EXACTLY (i.e. at 5v) but it will come fairly close. Unfortunately, without special tools or an oscilloscope it is very hard to get this “Right”. It isn’t impossible to set this without special tools however. In fact, most installer set up their customers’ amps by ear! This will be the most common method you – the reader – will use. In addition, there is also a creative way of using a common DMM (Digital Multimeter) & Ohm’s Law to establish an AC Voltage Figure to aim for when adjusting the Gain; a quick search for this method will generate a lot of useful information. However, it is important to know that using the DMM method ASSUMES that the figures/variables you use are SPOT ON , which – to be fair – is not likely. This is because the rated figures on an amp are often rounded up/down, and – worse – a lot of manufactures will give overrated figures. So, using this method can be precarious if you the figures aren’t True To Spec.

    Suggestion: Too many variables to provide a “right answer”


    To Recap:
    Master/Slave – Master (Assuming ONE Amp)
    Phase – 0
    LPF – 80Hz
    Bass Boost – 0
    Subsonic – 20Hz
    Gain – ____
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