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Installing a stereo and powered subwoofer in a 2008 Scion tC

A surprise car audio makeover

The holiday audio makeover surprise

Back in September, as we tossed around some ideas for a car A/V installation story for our Holiday catalog, we decided to do something to show appreciation to the incredible crew at our warehouse. So we selected one worker at random and upgraded his vehicle’s audio system...without him knowing it.

Here's a short video summarizing the project. Check it out then read on for all the details!

Our lucky winner, Howard, is a 5-year veteran with Crutchfield’s Distribution Center (aka the “DC”). He's part of a group that’s responsible for getting all of our shipments out the door and into your hands as quickly as possible.

Howard working in the DC

Howard's smiling face is one of many at our warehouse, where people move like lightning to get packages out the door.

A little trickery to get the car

With the help of Chris and Treva, longtime leaders at the DC, we put our plan in motion. We wanted to make this a holiday gift that Howard wouldn’t forget. To get Howard's 2008 Scion tC over to our garage, we used the ruse of borrowing it to confirm some vehicle data we'd missed in our database. Howard graciously agreed to help us, and even joked about us putting a new system in if we felt the urge. We had to do our best not to laugh at that.

the install dudes

So far, so good. Howard's car is ours.

The new stereo and powered sub

We did some advance scouting on Howard’s Scion, which still had the factory audio system. We wanted to deliver a great surprise, but we didn’t want to alter the car in any way. So we chose a new Kenwood Excelon DDX9903S multimedia receiver with lots of features and great sound, and a Sound Ordnance B-8P 8" powered subwoofer. These items fit without modifications to the Scion.

Gear for the holiday install

The Kenwood Excelon DDX9903 receiver and Sound Ordnance B-8P powered sub make a winning combo.

Prepping the Kenwood stereo

We knew time would be limited on installation day, so we made a game plan well before the clock started ticking and did some of the work before we even got the car. Great ideas for any­body thinking about an installation!

We prepped some of the wiring for the radio the previous afternoon. We used iDatalink’s Maestro interface for this installation, along with the Scion-specific harness, and "flashed" it for Howard’s Scion and the Kenwood. We were ready for the physical installation of the stereo once we got the car.

In addition to connecting the receiver to Howard’s vehicle, the iDatalink interface provides Howard some cool onscreen features, like engine diagnostics, tire pressure, and various gauges.

Car diagnostic screen and gauges

iDatalink's Maestro interface paired with this Kenwood shows off some cool vehicle info right on the stereo's display.

Following the timeline on installation day

We had a 6-hour window to do the job. That's how much time we had before Howard's shift ended. Taking care of the stereo harness the day before was a big help, but we still had lots to do. So the elves — Travis (my designer), Matt (my editor), and me — got to work.

Disconnecting the battery

10:45 am: I took the first step, which was to disconnect the negative lead on the Scion's battery to protect the vehicle's electrical system while we work.

Using Crutchfield MasterSheets

10:50 am: Just like our customers do when they order their gear from Crutchfield, we took full advantage of the great info included in the exclusive Crutchfield MasterSheet instructions. Travis began removing the trim panels around the factory radio. Once they were off, he removed a few screws and slid the radio out of the dash.

Installing power cable

11:10 am: Matt headed to the engine compartment to begin running the power cable for the powered subwoofer. He found an accessible grommet and fed the cable into the interior of the car.

Meanwhile, I went to the Scion's cargo area to prep the subwoofer and begin running the RCA cables and remote turn-on lead wire back towards the radio location.

Wiring through the dash

With the power cable through the firewall, Matt moved to the interior to run the power cable under the door trim panel on the passenger’s side.

11:45 am: We started running the cables for the powered sub. It’s important to keep the electrical cables separated from the audio cables (RCA and speaker wires) as much as possible to avoid the potential for noise in the system.

Subwoofer install

We had to remove some of the Scion's trim panels to provide channels for these cables. Travis and Matt discussed the best way to route the cables.

Sub wiring

Matt and I feed the cables under the seats using a Pro.Fit Wire Worm.

1:50 pm: We begin to make the connections between the iDatalink interface, the Kenwood receiver, and the factory wiring plugs. We also prepare the stereo to be mounted in place of the factory radio by using the factory brackets.

Receiver installation kit

We removed the factory brackets from the factory radio and screwed them to the chassis of the Kenwood.

Dash install

Travis works on running the USB cables, Bluetooth microphone, and the powered subwoofer connections to the dash cavity, where he'll connect them to the receiver's rear panel.

Taking a break

Oh yeah! No post-lunch sleepiness here. We're good to go!

2:55 pm: Time for a sound check! We connected all wiring and mounted the receiver in the dash. We reconnected the battery and ran some preliminary sound checks with the system. Success! Since we'd heard the factory system before we started, we were eager to hear the results with the new gear.

The Kenwood produced an immediate bump in power and clarity to the Scion's factory speakers. And what was once muddy bass now became much more accurate and punchy.

We tested the Bluetooth® functions, USB connections for Android Auto™, and other sound settings to make sure everything was ready to go. We all started smiling, because now the real fun began.

Interview the installer

I get prepared to narrate our video spotlight on the story.

Subwoofer installed

The Sound Ordnance sub looks and sounds great in Howard's tC.

Revealing the makeover to its new owner

4:10 pm: With the installation complete, we gathered an audience of coworkers, our photographer, and video crew outside, and contacted Howard’s bosses to bring him over to pick up his car. As they walked around the corner and heard his new system blaring, Treva told us later that Howard asked, “Why did they put a bow on my car?”

The surprise

Howard was a little stunned at first. We told him about our little fib, and he was ecstatic to learn that he was getting new gear for his Scion. We described the installation, and offered to put his old factory gear back in if he wanted. We got the impression he didn’t want that…at all.

Showing off the car

After the dust had settled on the surprise, all Howard wanted to do was listen to his gear. “This system is awesome!” he told us as he started learning all it can do. And to cap it off, Treva gave Howard a hug and told him he could have the afternoon off to go play with his new toys. Howard said “You don’t have to worry about me showing up for work; you’ll hear me coming now!"

Group shot
  • Steven A Dalessandro from Independence

    Posted on 8/8/2019

    That awesome! It great to hear stuff like that. It nice to know when jobs appreciate there workers.

  • Commenter image

    Dave Delamere from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/11/2017

    Thanks, RG! We had a blast doing it.

  • RG from FL

    Posted on 12/7/2017

    This story made my day! Congrats, Howard, and great job, Crutchfield folks!

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/27/2017

    Thanks, Hugh!

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/27/2017

    Thanks, LL!

  • LL from NYC

    Posted on 11/25/2017

    Love this story and detailed report with pictures! I became your customer since over a decade ago. You guys are one of the trustworthy businesses out there; I always feel comfortable and confident to order from you.

  • Hugh Smith from Ventura, CA.

    Posted on 11/22/2017

    Wonderful story! I've ordered from you folks several times, for several years. You do go above & beyond local "Installers" do. It's great what you folks do to thank your employees for their dedication to the company/family!

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