JBL MS-8 DSP and 3.5mm aux jack install – Touring sedan

josby

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When I bought my Civic I knew I wanted to build a system based on a JBL MS-8 DSP, because I hate tuning and it has an autotune feature that (usually) produces great results. I have one in my other car (2-channel + sub) and it sounds fantastic. Also, one of the reasons I picked the Touring trim is because it has a center channel speaker. I want the sound to be great for both front seat passengers. In a car, that requires a center channel, and the MS-8 is one of the only DSP’s that can properly extract the center from 2-channel audio.

It also has an AUX input, like many DSP’s, and I really wanted to add a 3.5mm AUX jack to my car because I use that a lot with passengers who want to play music from their phones. Having to pull over and stop the car so they can pair their phone is much less convenient than a simple AUX cable (thanks a lot, Honda).

However, my car is leased, so I don’t want to make any permanent mods, so everything needs to be reversible. Plus I just don’t like making permanent mods.

So, the first step is just installing the MS-8. I’m going to eventually add amps and new speakers, but I was curious to hear how the OEM speakers would sound with the MS-8. It has a built in 20Wx8 amp so it can power everything, though 160W is certainly a lot less than the 450W amp that comes with the car.

(click pics for full-size)



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josby

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The Touring headunit has an SPDIF digital output, but the MS-8 only has analog RCA and speaker inputs, so I thought about getting a D/A converter to put between them for the signal. But I’m pretty sure there’d be no volume control on the SPDIF output (it’s done in the amp), and I didn’t want to lose the steering wheel volume control, so instead I chose to run the speaker outputs from the factory amp to the MS-8.

connectors.jpg
I didn’t want to cut any wires, so I needed to get extra factory connectors. I sent pics to Mouser and DigiKey but neither carried the correct connectors. So I bought a dash wiring harness (part 32117-TBA-B00) to get the one that goes into the factory amp. For the other side, I looked on eBay and found an amp from a 2013 Honda Crosstour that had the connector I needed on it.

connector-wiring-2.jpg
There were a total of 30 wires that needed to be run between the factory amp and the MS-8 in the trunk – 12 wires carrying the signal (front mids and tweeters, center and sub) to the MS-8, and 16 wires coming back to the speakers (yes, there are 10 speakers, but the MS-8 only has 8 outputs – more on that later), plus power and ground.

The factory amp is on a 30A fuse and the MS-8 requires a 25A, so I ran 10ga wire from the amp’s power to the MS-8 on the assumption that the factory amp won’t be drawing much power now that it’s not driving speakers.

For 27 of the remaining 28 wires, I used three runs of 9-conductor speedwire. It’s 18 gauge, but we’re only talking about 20W here. Then I ran a separate small wire for the last wire needed. Ugh that was a lot of tedious soldering and heatshrinking!

amp-wiring-1.jpg
Here’s the before and after of the amp behind the passenger kickpanel. The connector that used to go into the amp now goes down and connects to this connector below it:

amp-wiring-2.jpg
The wires all run through the factory channel along the passenger side, then into the trunk behind the rear shoulder belt.

fuse-tap.jpg
The factory amp has a turn-on wire, but it’s in another of the amp’s four connectors and I didn’t want to buy more wiring plugs to avoid cutting for it. Besides, it doesn’t turn off when you turn the stereo off anyway. It has to stay powered on in case you make a Bluetooth call. So, I checked the fuse box and found the second empty slot shown here gets +12V whenever the car is running or in accessory mode. I used this cheap add-a-circuit kit with the smallest included fuse and ran a wire from it down the passenger side into the trunk to turn the MS-8 on.

rear-crossover.jpg

Since the MS-8 only has eight outputs and the Civic has 10 speakers, I had to run the rear speakers from just two outpts. To keep from having to give up the tweeters, I bought two rear door wiring harnesses for a Civic Sport Touring hatchback (part 32753-TGH-G00) to get the female connectors for the mids and the tweeters (for sedans, those are part of the whole trunk wiring harness which costs a lot more than these did).

I cut off the connectors I needed, soldered them to a set of Metra 72-7800 Honda male connectors, and soldered in a 10 uF capacitor on the tweeter wire to filter out frequencies below 4 KHz.
 
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josby

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ms-8.jpg
Here’s the MS-8 installed in the trunk. I could’ve put it somewhere else to not lose my spare tire, but I plan to put some amps in here with it later. Mounted next to it is a Honda flat tire inflator kit (part number 38160-TL7-A02) from an Accord hybrid (to save weight, they don’t come with a spare).

display.jpg
I mounted the MS-8’s display to that little glossy panel behind the shifter. I had to drill a hole, but it’s a $12 part so easily reversible :) I put a piece of Roscolux #83 blue color gel in front of the LCD panel inside the display to make the color match the light blue interior lighting of the car.
 
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aux-jack.jpg
I replaced the center console with one from an LX (part number 83451-TBA-A01ZA), which is blank instead of having a USB port like my car did. I drilled a hole and installed an iSimple IS335 AUX adapter and ran that back to the MS-8’s AUX input.

ipod.jpg
The USB port that was originally down in the center console was moved inside the dash back behind the headunit. I attached the USB cable for my iPod Touch to it and routed that up behind the glovebox. I wrapped it with Tesa tape to keep it from possibly rattling, and mounted my iPod into this slightly recessed spot using industrial Velcro. I rarely take the iPod out of my car since I can sync it to iTunes via WiFi at home, so I don’t need easy access to it, and this hides it so I don’t have to worry about it getting stolen. And it’s still pretty easy to hinge the glovebox down all the way if I do need to get it.
 
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line-output.png

The MS-8 can do an automatic “un-EQ” of a factory headunit output at setup, where you play an included audio track that it recognizes. Since it knows how that audio signal SHOULD look, it can look at what it’s receiving from the factory headunit and adjust for any errors. Often just connecting the midrange outputs to the MS-8 inputs is sufficient for it. But I experimented some, measuring the RCA output of the MS-8 and found that I got the flattest signal (orange line above) using the sub, mid, and tweeter signals for inputs. I also checked using the AUX input (blue line above) to make sure that registered as flat, as a test of my measuring equipment.

The orange line may not look all that flat, but that’s partly the graph is really zoomed in. It’s within +/- 1 dB from 28 Hz to 12 KHz, and +/- 0.5 dB for most of that, and I think that’s sufficient. The factory amp’s output varies +/- 3 dB on the midrange signal, for comparison. The bass rolloff there on both lines starting at 40 Hz is due to the MS-8’s subsonic filter, which can’t be set lower than a 20 Hz -3 dB down point.

eq-results.png

The MS-8’s autotune hit a problem I’ve seen other people have, where a subwoofer with a big peak in its frequency response throws off the MS-8’s volume matching of the sub to the other speakers and you don’t get enough bass. But I was able to get it back by turning up the MS-8’s sub level control. I played with the RTA a little and with a few adjustments to the 31-band EQ, I was able to get pretty close to the target curve I was aiming for, as shown above.

My settings were 20 Hz 12dB/oct subsonic filter, 80 Hz 24dB/oct crossover between sub and front mids, 4500 Hz 24dB/oct crossover between the front mids and tweeters, 300 Hz 24dB/oct highpass on the center channel, and 120 Hz 24dB/oct highpass on the rears. I turned the center channel level down a few clicks because I like the sound like they’re in front of me rather than right in the center of the dash.
 
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josby

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So, how’s it sound? Honestly, I don’t think a blindfolded listener would know it’s the same speakers. It’s still not good enough for me, but it’s definitely better than the stock system. It’s amazing how much better the same hardware can sound with better DSP software.

After getting used to the stock system, where you can tell vocals are coming from the left and the right, it’s kind of shocking to hear what sounds like just one source of the sound from the singer right in front of you above the dash. It seems to help with clarity, because I keep finding myself understanding words/lines in songs I could never make out before. The highs don’t sound as harsh as they did with the OEM setup (and I usually ran the treble at -2 or -3). It really sounds like better speakers have been installed. Not great ones, but better.

In comparison, I don't know what Honda did wrong with their implementation of DTS Neural in our car. I hear it's a good algorithm, but I never used it because it seemed to actually pull the imaging even farther over onto the left speakers whenever I enabled it.

The 20W per channel delivers more than enough volume from these speakers, except for the sub. Our factory sub is actually 2 ohms, and the MS-8 puts out 30W into 2 ohm loads, but even 30W isn’t really enough. It’s noticeably lacking, so my next step will be a new sub.

The only downside is I’ve lost the voice for navigation and hands-free command prompts because they come through the original center channel. The MS-8 manual specifically says not to connect any factory center outputs to its inputs. I tried anyway, but it didn’t work. From what I’ve read, the MS-8 treats any input channel it sees as mono as a subwoofer input and only uses the bass from it. I could just barely hear the bass part of the navigation voice and it sounded weird and way too quiet.

Once I get some amps, I’ll put a MiniDSP between the MS-8’s center output and the center channel amp, and have it mix in the unamplified analog voice audio signal that comes out of the headunit (for some reason it’s not on the SPDIF digital like the music is).

System beeps and Bluetooth calls go through the left and right channels, though, so those work. A caller told me they were hearing themself echoed back on the handsfree, but I temporarily disabled the MS-8 processing it its menu and then they said it was fixed.

Anyway, now I'm off to finish installing a sub :)
 
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How does it sound compared to turning off the factory DSP and Loudness settings in the secret menus?
 
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That's a good question. I've never been able to do that. I think I've seen a thread about it, but I think someone said there wasn't an option for it on the Touring headunit or it was grayed out or something. Do you remember the steps? I'll check it again if you do to see. It's easy for me to switch back to stock - I just move the original amp connector back to the factory amp.

EDIT: I see the thread now. On the first page someone said they couldn't do it on a Touring. I will check mine though
 
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Oh okay. I was able to use an app to get a rough RTA of the output on my EX-T after I disabled DSP. It was fairly flat, boosted in the midrange still. But way better than with it on.
 
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Oh okay. I was able to use an app to get a rough RTA of the output on my EX-T after I disabled DSP. It was fairly flat, boosted in the midrange still. But way better than with it on.
Just to confirm, I tried and the DSP and Loud settings are both not changeable on my Touring. I'm guessing it's because it passes pure digital out to the amp, and the amp has the DSP in it, whereas the DSP and amp are inside the headunit for other trims.
 
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The Touring headunit has an SPDIF digital output, but the MS-8 only has analog RCA and speaker inputs, so I thought about getting a D/A converter to put between them for the signal. But I’m pretty sure there’d be no volume control on the SPDIF output (it’s done in the amp), and I didn’t want to lose the steering wheel volume control, so instead I chose to run the speaker outputs from the factory amp to the MS-8.

connectors.jpg
I didn’t want to cut any wires, so I needed to get extra factory connectors. I sent pics to Mouser and DigiKey but neither carried the correct connectors. So I bought a dash wiring harness (part 32117-TBA-B00) to get the one that goes into the factory amp. For the other side, I looked on eBay and found an amp from a 2013 Honda Crosstour that had the connector I needed on it.
Wait, you paid $225 for the whole harness just to get that one male plug? :confused1:

Great post BTW!
 
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josby

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Wait, you paid $225 for the whole harness just to get that one male plug? :confused1:

Great post BTW!
Thanks! Haha, yes - what can I say? I really hate permanent mods so it was the only way I could see to do what I wanted. I was planning to buy a factory amp to get the other side connector too.

The crappy thing is, it wasn't until a few days after the harness was delivered that I discovered some Honda Crosstour models had used an amp with the same connector. So I at least saved money buying a used amp from one instead of a new Civic amp, but Honda has a no-returns policy on electronic items, so I was stuck with the $225 wiring harness instead of returning it and finding one from a wrecked Crosstour!
 
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