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A few months ago we traded my wife's SUV in for a Jaguar XF (which she LOVES). But we now found ourselves in the position of needing a beater car to haul the dogs, make Home Depot runs, etc that she did not want to use her car for and my daily is a Miata. So we picked up our 2006 Mazda3 hatchback for this purpose. It was cheap, had 185k miles but seemed well taken care of, and drove great.

I actually found myself driving it way more than I thought I would, but felt the stereo needed help. My first upgrade is usually the head unit, but I wanted to stick with the stock head unit in this case since it was easy to use, I hate the look of the aftermarket radio surrounds, and the previous owner had already installed a Goliton cable. I added a cheapo MPOW bluetooth adapter to the 3.5mm end of the Goliton cable and bam, we now have bluetooth streaming and calls.

So the goal was good audio, but cheap.

I knew from past experience that just upgrading the speakers alone would not do much since they need more power too. Looking around it seemed like the JBL GT7-86 would be a good fit. Good sensitivity, frequency response and reasonably priced. I only upgraded the front speakers since I only planned on amplifying those and just using the rears as fill. Installation was straightforward, just glad I already had a big bag of the white plastic door panel clips from my speaker upgrade in my Miata, I ended up replacing about 6 of them.

For the amp I went with the Alpine KPT-445U Power Pack and bridged it to two channel mode, giving those JBLs plenty of power. I mounted it in the glove compartment since it was easy to access and close to the head unit. I was concerned about heat in there, but being a pretty low power Class D amp it does not put out much heat. I have been keeping an eye (and hand) on it but so far it only gets mildly warm. I tapped the power from the cigarette lighter on the fuse panel for it. The installation instructions said that would work and it did not need a dedicated run to the battery, and so far so good. To keep from having to cut the factory wiring harness to splice the amp in, I picked up the PAC AOEM-MAZ2 adapter. This also got me amp pre-outs for the sub that I knew I would later need.

The new amp and speakers worked out great and really cleaned up the mids and highs, but the lows were still seriously lacking. I could crank up the bass level, but that really only resulted in the door panels rattling, LOL.

After looking around I settled on the 12" Pioneer TS-WX1210A. It has a built in 350W amp and would be easy to take out when I needed the extra space since it only has two plugs, the main wiring harness and the remote control wire. I should have taken pictures of the wiring job, but neglected to. I took out the rear seat cushion and ran the RCA cable and amp turn on wire behind the head unit, behind the HVAC controls, under the center console, and out to the rear seat area and into the trunk. I was a pretty straight shot and really easy with the help of steel fish tape. For the subwoofer power I found a convenient empty plastic plate behind the brake pedal that pops out. So I drilled a hole in that plate and was able to pass the power cable through there cleanly and ran it along the driver's side carpet under the trim.

The sub is still breaking in, but so far I am very pleased with it. The total setup ran around $350 for the speakers, amp, powered sub, PAC adapter, and bluetooth adapter. It looks stock but definitely does not sound stock :D


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