Recently I was contacted by a high-school friend who asked if I could assist her husband with selecting an audio upgrade. I’ve been asked recently to show how I quote via email, so here’s that email with the pics and contents I used.
The final job ended up around $7500 with lighting and sound damping (I forgot to include it in the original proposal, which was my error – I’m a bit out of practice, been out of retail for three years!)
Hi, Mike, nice to virtually meet you.
Sorry about the delay, I’ve been a little swamped. So you have a 2014 Tundra CrewMax with JBL.
I’m going to give you a lot of data. Forgive me 🙂 First some explanation, then some links, then some overall prices, then detailed line-item proposals at the end.
I also need to stipulate something. For ten years, I was co-owner of Musicar Northwest, the best shop in the northwest. They’re here in Portland, I’m on good terms with them, they take care of me all the time, I spun off our training business and I do training for car-audio professionals now. I’ve been doing this 30+ years, and Musicar is the best shop around, but we weren’t the cheapest then and we aren’t now, just as a heads-up. If you want to see some cool projects, check out their Facebook page . The work they do is amazing. Since I left, they do even more exotics and radar/laser systems, but my old partner Tom loves Toyotas and they do plenty of them as well.
So, if this stuff isn’t in the price window you had, I understand. Take a look and let me know what doesn’t make any sense.
What You’re Starting With and What You Will Need
As you may know, Toyota/JBL systems use a layout where the “preamp” that controls volume up/down, fader front/rear, and tone controls lives in the JBL amplifier and NOT in the in-dash receiver. When you turn the volume knob on the front of the radio, a command goes from the radio to the JBL amplifier on a data network connection and says “get louder” or “get quieter”. Same thing happens when you use the steering-wheel control for volume.
So, when we replace the receiver, we need to duplicate the steering-wheel functions. That’s pretty well understood by those of us who know what we’re doing.
If the JBL amplifier is being retained, we need a way to tell it when to turn on, and we need a way to tell it when to get louder or quieter. The commands are sent over that data network. There are a few interfaces which can do this for us.
If your truck has a back-up camera, these interfaces (with a couple of additional parts) can retain the backup camera. If you don’t have a backup camera and want to add one, these parts are not required when connecting an aftermarket camera to an aftermarket receiver.
One interface on the market, the Maestro RR made by my friends at iDatalink, will plug into a data port on the back of certain radios and also support front/rear fade, and add some other functions (like TPMS sensor identification, more gauges, and trouble-code identification. Only a few radios support the Maestro interface, and some are a pain in the neck to use.
If you’re deleting the JBL amplifier in favor of an all-new audio system, then the interface we need may get a bit simpler. We may be able to get away with a simpler steering-wheel control interface.
You will need a dash bezel-and-bracket assembly to replace the stock radio with a new radio. Since you have the metallic columns on the left and the right of the OEM receiver’s screen, there are a couple of bezels that look proper in the dash, one from Metro and one from Scosche, which have the matching metallic columns. (They may not be a 100% match but they will be close).
So, to replace the receiver, we need an interface and we need a dash bezel-and-bracket assembly to hold the new radio and look stock.
We will probably want a few other things. I like to install a OEM-looking USB port. I just did this for my sister and brother-in-law’s FJ Cruiser project truck, and I found a port on Amazon that fits in a Toyota switch port and has one USB for Audio and one for Charging. So that should be pretty easy.
I’ve spoken to a few colleagues who have tried to use the Tundra OEM BT microphone (as you mentioned). They ended up using the aftermarket microphone for performance reasons. We should be able to install the new mic somewhat out of sight, though, so it doesn’t look stupid.
I’m going to estimate all those parts (not including any new camera) at around $300.
I’m going to estimate the time spent on a new CarPlay receiver physical installation, microphone installation, USB installation, and the interface programming and installation at around 3.5 hours.
That puts our “Radio Prep Package” – everything needed to put in a new receiver, except the receiver itself – at between $600-650.
So now we need to choose a radio. Pat told me we don’t care about a CD drive.
The other main differences are:
Screen size (6” class or 7” class) – the screens larger than that either use a “floating” screen which looks obviously not factory and partially blocks the AC vents, or take custom work to integrate into the dash. They look awesome, and my old shop is great at doing that, but unless you tell me otherwise, I’m going to focus on 6” or 7” screens that fit in the OEM location.
Volume control type – 6” screens can have a knob. 7” screens have a smaller “picture frame” around the outside and need buttons for volume. This isn’t a big problem in your truck, because you’re going to use the steering-wheel volume control 95% of the time. Sony has a 6” with a volume knob. It happens to have a CD drive, and it also happens to have Maestro support.
User interface outside of CarPlay – this is a bit subjective, but I prefer the Sony user interface, then the Alpine, and the Kenwood and Pioneer are at the bottom of my list. This difference is lessened since CarPlay has a universal user interface.
Maestro support – there are two Alpine units with Maestro support, both 7” screens, one with native nav. Then there is one 6” Sony with CarPlay support. Then there are some Kenwoods and I think some JVCs. The two reasons I suggest Maestro are really 1) If you’re retaining the JBL amp, and 2) If you really want to know which tire is triggering the TPMS. I have it in our Subaru, and I like it.
Wireless or wired CarPlay – Finally, a few units have Wireless CarPlay. This is really questionable in value. First of all, Bluetooth can’t support CarPlay – you need to use the WiFi radio. We have a discontinued Alpine with wireless CarPlay in my wife’s Subaru, and it seems to work fine, but it does drain the battery a little faster, so you’re going to plug your phone into the charger anyway, and once you’re doing that, you might as well just plug in with USB and not use wireless.
Now, some of these radios are a bit hard to find right now. Lots of people are upgrading their cars at the moment, and supply from Asia was interrupted for a while and has not kept up.
The basic 6.5” Alpine is $300, the 7” Alpine I like with Maestro is $600, the 6” Sony with a knob and Maestro is $500, and the Alpine 7” with native navigation (works when you’re outside of 4G cell networks and CarPlay won’t work for you) is $1300.
The $300 Alpine is not as nice as the others, and it’s been really hard to get due to backorders.
My suggestion is the $600 Alpine or the $500 Sony, unless you want native navigation as an option, and then the $1300 Alpine is the way to go. (Note: We ended up using a $600 Pioneer with Alexa, since he was considering an external Alexa unit).
Alpine 6.5” that’s hard to find:
Alpine 7” CarPlay with Maestro:
Alpine with nav:
If you don’t care about the TPMS, the Sony 7” is my favorite. No CarPlay support, but a great-looking screen and a great UI and a great design to the buttons and the hardware. It’s $600. Here’s the link.
If you need wireless CarPlay, you’re going to need to go Kenwood or JVC, and I don’t have any direct experience with those units, they are relatively new.
Pat mentioned that you guys wanted more bass. There are two ways to get this – add a sub to the JBL system, or replace the whole JBL system.
The subwoofer I would use either way is the JL Audio Tundra Stealthbox that goes behind the seat. Stealthboxes are made in the US fiberglass vehicle-specific enclosures, and they are the class of the field. Check it out here.
I’m not a fan of the Tacotunes-style wood enclosures. They aren’t well-made (I bought one for a Tacoma project and didn’t use it), and they often take away interior space.
I would use this Stealthbox with a 600-watt amplifier. Depending on the level of sound quality we want to get, we can use a standard amplifier, or an amplifier with DSP that will let me get the best-quality bass and a better blended transition from the sub to the cabin speakers. The standard amplifier amplifies the signal meant for the JBL subwoofer, but sends that signal to a better subwoofer. The DSP amplifier allows us to optimize the signal for the new subwoofer, getting lower notes and integrating it with the cabin speakers better, so the sub doesn’t seem to be standing on its own.
If you’d like to replace the JBL system and get better sound, that’s my specialty. Here’s the challenge for most people in my industry. There has been a lot of progress the last 10 years at making aftermarket sound systems sound better in one seat. There is not much equipment or skill at making cars sound better from both front seats.
That’s what I just did for my sister and brother in law, and the speaker system provisions in the FJ are almost identical to the Tundra – the same technique will work.
The biggest problem for car stereo is that we don’t sit in the center of the car. Because sound travels relatively slowly, when you’re closer to one speaker than the other, you get these weird periodic cancellations that really damage the sound AND where it seems to come from. This graph would be perfectly flat if the measurement was taken exactly between the front seats, over the center console. But in one seat or the other, the sound gets ragged: