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I bought a Sony car stereo CDX-GT33W for $90 and there was a noticeable improvement in the sound from my old crap 30watt 1993 honda civic vx speakers and crap head unit. I then bought nice Infiniti Kappa 63.9i speakers for $90 and there was hardly a sound improvement. The sound is still a bit flat--lacking richness and the Infiniti Kappa speakers I bought are supposed to be very good, so is the sony head unit shite?
Review of my speakers >> Crutchfield review of Infiniti 63.9i Kappa speakers
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Sony had a good name in audio back in the 80s and early 90s, but I've heard from more knowledgeable people that their consumer (read: affordable) range like X-Plod is fairly mediocre these days.
To get really good sound in a car, you need to do alot more than just a player and 4 speakers. This is further compounded in old cars which don't have alot of sound deadening and tend to get the rattles.
To me, there seems to be three tiers of car audio: old stock rubbish, a couple hundred dollars of head unit and speakers (which is what new cars also come with), then throwing thousands or dollars into splits/amps/subs/alternators and having someone who understands air volumes and EQ tuning and all that sort of confusing mathematics stuff actually set it up properly for you and the music you listen to.
I'll happily sit in the second tier. I have some newish Kenwood CD MP3 player and Clarion speakers. Sounds good enough for me.
I once worked a summer as an apprentice car mechanic, and a gypsy brought in an old, dirty FIAT 124 hatchback with a rotten floor and a 3-speaker sound system (two in the front doors and one in the glove compartment). Of course all were uncovered nasty torn paper cone affairs, and the interior of the car was t3h lulz.
For the rest, I can recall that my father only bought "new" car stereos from questionable sources, and a couple of times extracted them from crashed cars. Same for speakers.
For now I'm perfectly happy with my car's built-in stereo, which accepts cassettes. If I need CDs or MP3 I just plug an adapter, but generally I prefer preparing compilation tapes the old fashioned way.