Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
November 12, 2009
Photos By: Courtesy Of Crutchfield

Horse Sense:
While Crutchfield has been known for many years as the direct-replacement car-audio leader, the company's catalog and Web site also offer products aimed strictly at custom installations. These items are fully supported by the excellent Crutchfield technical staff. So, if you want to build a killer system with custom components, feel free to chat up one of Crutchfield's tech reps for ideas and information on speaker load, wiring, sound waves, and so on.

While our 3g GT has progressed in the handling and performance areas, it has sorely lacked in one crucial (at least for us) aspect-slammin' sounds from the cabin. Granted, the 3g came with Ford's decent MACH 460 system, but ever since we had the MACH 1000 carrot dangled in front of us by Ford PR in the way of an '02 V-6 convertible, we've wanted more.

The MACH 1000 system-featuring two 10-inch subs, eight speakers, and a multitude of amplifiers-puts out some serious sound to the tune of 1,140 watts peak. Unfortunately, it will set you back nearly $1,300 and requires you to order the better option package with the MACH 460 system in the first place.

We decided that kind of cash could go a long way toward something with more power and more features. The MACH Audio systems won't play MP3-encoded CDs. And although you can option an MP3 deck (non-MACH) when ordering your Mustang, you'll be hard-pressed to find one on a dealer lot. The most unfortunate thing about the MACH Audio design is that besides directly replacing the speakers, there's little you can do to the system. The head unit is not replaceable without removing all the amplifiers with it, meaning if your Mustang has the MACH Audio system ('01-'03), you can't simply slip an in-dash MP3 or DVD player in place.

For the 3g project, we wanted to install something with the power of the MACH 1000 but with much more flexibility. We gave our friends at Crutchfield a call to see if they could help us out. Since we've used them in the past for numerous drop-in replacement systems, we weren't sure what to expect. We were surprised when they jumped at the chance to help us. The custom market is growing bigger all the time, and Crutchfield wants to get involved as well. They've worked with other companies' project cars and have even built a few of their own in which to display their custom building talents, not to mention all the shiny goodies found within the pages of their catalog.

We brought our 3g project to the Crutchfield offices to fit it with an audio and video system complete with MP3, DVD, and satellite-radio capabilities. The heart of the system is Alpine's latest all-in-one, in-dash AM/FM/DVD/MP3/XM satellite receiver. We'll hazard a guess that this baby has more inputs and outputs on it than the soundboard at a Metallica concert-and with the Rockford Fosgate amplifiers, the Polk MOMO speakers, and the Kicker Solobaric L7 subs, it will no doubt sound just as loud.

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The installation of all these goodies fell to Crutchfield's top installer Warren Hawkins. Warren, who happens to own an '85 GT hatch, knocked our socks off with his design implementation and high-caliber work. We'll let the captions and photos do the nickel tour of the new system, but don't forget to take a look at the sidebars throughout the story and the excellent Crutchfield Web site for more information on the buildup.

This is the first of a two-part article, and we're going to begin with removal of the stock components and the instal-lation of the main speakers as well as the Alpine head unit and control module. Next month we'll wrap things up with fabrication of some of the custom system, including the sub enclosure and amp rack.

A Closer Look
Due to the size and complexity of our Crutchfield audio/video system, we'll be installing some it this month and the rest next month. Here's a closer look at some of the hardware finding a new home in this month's article.

Database Delights
Crutchfield has been measuring factory speaker and head-unit openings, dissecting factory wiring, and checking the fit of components since its doors opened more than 20 years ago. Whether using the online database or the one in the company's catalog, it's easy to see what will fit. Differences in window regulators, door panels, dash trim, and more are checked and noted to prevent the consumer from having a negative car-audio experience. Throw in the necessary speaker wiring or fitment adapters and your grandma could install most of these direct-replacement components.

Crutchfield provided us an overview of the Mustang's audio-system history for those of you considering some upgrades. Take a look at these helpful insights.

The heart of our system is the new Alpine IVA-D900 Multimedia Station. This amazing piece of electronic candy has the built-in capability to play DVDs and MP3-encoded discs, along with having several AM and FM bands. The unit features a built-in motorized 7-inch monitor and is XM-satellite-radio ready. The A/V module, located beneath the head unit, features three A/V inputs, two A/V outputs, a camera input, a navigation input, and three sets of 4-volt preamp outputs. The controller allows multisource entertainment to be directed to one or more screens, so if you want rear-seat monitors, you can pipe a DVD movie to them, or even connect a game console. We're also using the Alpine XM controller (TUA-T021XM), connected directly to the Alpine Ai-Net connection. This allows XM radio tuning directly through the IVA-900's interface. We don't have enough room to describe all of the Alpine's features, so check out Crutchfield's Web site for more information.

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The '70s
In 1979, a speaker setup consisted of 6 1/2-inch speakers in the doors, followed by the adoption of 3 1/2-inch speaker pairs in the dash, with 6x8 pairs in the back. Today, improved speaker layouts give Mustang owners a lot more flexibility to improve the audio performance of the car by a simple speaker swap. New receivers can be added into the dash, although some trimming of the dash panel is necessary. One key thing to know about '70s Mustangs is that adding a new receiver into the system means changing the speaker wiring. Even into the '80s, Mustangs used "common ground" wiring in the speaker hookups. This worked well with the low-powered radios of the time, but new, high-powered aftermarket receivers need either new wiring or a special "step down" adapter that drops the receiver's power to a level the wiring can handle, about 5 watts per channel! If you're looking for good performance, take the time and pull the wires.

The '80s
Beginning in 1984, select Mustangs used an amp-separate from the in-dash receiver's amp-to power the back speakers. If you install a new receiver in these models, you'll need to either bypass the amp or purchase a special adapter that allows you to continue to use it. If you want the best performance, bypassing is the way to go. Aftermarket receivers have consider-ably better internal amplifiers than the external one installed in the Ford, and your sound will be much better when you bypass the stock amp.

If you're confused about whether or not your particular Mustang has an amp, the folks at Crutchfield are willing to help. You can contact them at, or call (800) 555-8151.

In 1987, the speaker layout for the Mustang was updated, with some models featuring 3 1/2-inch dash, 6 1/2-inch door, and 6x8 rear deck speakers as an upgrade from the 3 1/2-inch dash and 6x8 rear-deck configuration. Installation of a new receiver in the six-speaker models involves bypassing the amplifier. If you purchase the receiver from Crutchfield, you will receive a bypass harness for free. The models with four-speaker systems have no external amp.

The '90s
In 1995, Ford introduced the MACH 460 sound system. The system features three separate amplifiers, driving a total of eight speakers. Four 6x8 woofers located front and rear drive the bass and mid-bass, with four tweeters, also front and rear, handling the highs. Integration into a MACH 460 system can be complicated. New receivers can be installed with the use of a special adapter that allows you to continue to use the existing amps and speakers. Speaker replacement is problematic, since aftermarket 6x8 speakers are usually full-range speakers. If you're thinking about a complete change of the in-dash receiver and speakers, it's best to rewire directly to the speakers from the new receiver or add new amps, and then rewire to the new speakers.

If your Mustang doesn't have the MACH 460 system, installation is much less complicated. These cars do not have the separate woofer/ tweeter speaker setup that you'll find on the MACH 460-equipped vehicles. Speaker fit is 6x8 front and back, and plenty of aftermarket models will offer improved sound and a direct fit. Some non-460-equipped vehicles-particularly '96-and-up models with cassettes-do have amps, but your options are similar to what we saw in the '80s. Purchase an adapter or bypass the amp (an easy proposition with a bypass harness such as the ones sold by

The 21st Century
Since 2001, the Mustang sound system has been easy to categorize: MACH 460-equipped versus non-MACH 460-equipped. If you have a non-MACH car and want to change the system, you're in luck! Aftermarket receivers and speakers are easy installations in these vehicles. The speaker setup is 6x8 front and rear, and you won't have to contend with any external amps. One common misconception many Mustang owners have is the replacement size of their factory receiver. Since 2001, Ford has used its large-faced 4x7 receivers in these vehicles. These are close in size to what are often referred to as "Double-DIN" aftermarket receivers, common in Japanese cars. Because of the way aftermarket receivers are mounted in the dash of the Mustang, it's best to consult a professional installer before trying to put one in your vehicle. A DIN-size aftermarket radio-the standard 2x7-inch size-is easily installed with a mounting kit.

MACH-460 equipped '01-and-up models are best either left alone or completely replaced, since the speaker setup is the same as in the '95-and-up models. Additionally, there are no adapters available for adding after-market receivers. If you don't like what you have, it's best to change the whole thing-amps and all!The rewards of upgrading the sound system in your Mustang are well worth the effort. Even with the variety of audio systems Ford has used throughout the years, there are many different ways to improve the sound, most of which are easy jobs for the driveway mechanic. There's no need for you to hold back-jump in, and soon you'll be enjoying great sound to go with your great car.

Meet the Advisor
Crutchfield's Web site is chock full of home and car audio/video information on the products it sells, what will fit your car, and all sorts of measurements and specs. That's great if you know the difference between RMS and MP3, but if you don't, why not check out Crutchfield's new Web site, the Crutchfield Advisor, at Sure, you can click on a link to purchase some gear, but the main gist of the Advisor is to help you learn about the products you want to purchase. We all want great sound, but if you don't know anything about amplifiers or speaker design, then visit the Advisor for some schooling. You'll be surprised at the well-written, easy-to-digest info found here. You can even check out some additional details on the 3g's audio buildup at the Crutchfield installation center!

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