Applicable to: '90 - '97 '99-'05
Clearwater's new Footwell Subwoofer and amplifier.
To recap the full install very quickly, I have the full non-Bose Clearwater setup in my '01. I broke my Bose HU a number of years ago, Bosectomied the car, and then put in a crap system to replace it due to cash flow constraints. I had an old passive 8" Bazooka tube and MTX amp from a car I sold a few years earlier and so put them in the trunk, running them with some cheap Focal separates in the doors. I never could stand the setup in the trunk due to it taking up about half the available trunk space, but also because it always sounded like the car behind me was listening to the same song as me, everywhere I went. Further, once moving faster than about 25-30 mph, you couldn't hear anything from it. Fast forward about 5 years and I got fed up enough to scrape the cash together to replace it all and make some significant changes/improvements. The HU was replaced with a new Clarion that has a USB connection on the back for my iPod and everything else was binned in favor of the complete Clearwater setup. I'm not looking for monster SPL's, I happen to enjoy my hearing. I also have no illusions about the "environment" in the car so spending $1,000's on a perfectly calibrated system doesn't make sense. Anyway, due to the wiring job this idiot did when I put in the original system, there wasn't much hope of using Clearwater's patch cables to install everything. I wish I could as it would have made everything beyond trivial. Plug here, plug there, connect to battery, connect to ground, done. Not much simpler than that. The good news for me was that I had to rewire everything in the center console anyway as I was putting in some gauges to monitor my supercharger, so I killed two birds with one stone. The majority of the wiring between the dash and the trunk was already there, so I took advantage of that and only had to run the speaker wire from the trunk back up to the passenger footwell for the sub. The sub fits very, very snugly in there and I don't see it ever moving. I also have two strips of velcro on the bottom to make sure of that. I couldn't install the Arc Audio amp down in the tunnel as they say in the instructions because I have a roll bar that bolts in back there so I had to leave it in the trunk. Oh well. Still loads better than the way it was before. The sound quality is night and day better. Firstly, I have bass now all the time, not just when I'm parked. Second, there's none of that boomy single-note stuff coming from the trunk. Being a matched system, the tonal transition from the sub to the door speakers seems as smooth as I can imagine given that it's a convertible. It will also play significantly louder, though again, that certainly isn't my priority. The high frequencies due seem a little sharp, but I need to spend more time with some really well recorded music to tune that out. It's amazing how when I get it sounding good with one artist, I change artists and then the different mixing style starts me over again. Poor me, I'd rather have this problem than constantly sounding like crap which was where I was at before... The pictures attempt to show the size of the amp and sub. As you can see, the sub fits deep within the passenger footwell with a large flat surface facing the passenger that they can put their feet on. The twin 6" drivers, driven from two bridged channels of the 4-ch amp fire directly opposite of that surface into the bottom corner (if that makes sense) of the footwell. The speaker wire terminals are at the top, just under the dash. My wife is 5'4" and it actually works very well for her as her feet naturally rest up against the sub. I'm 6'2" and admittedly, it would be a little tiring to sit in the passenger seat for a long drive. Then again, 90% of the cars life is spent with me by myself driving back and forth to work, so it works for us. On a final note, I really, really like the pseudo-stealth nature of the whole installation. If you're a Miata person and happen to look down there, you might notice it, but if you're a member of the great unwashed non-Miata owners club, you'd probably never know it was there. I am very, very happy with how everything turned out. Just in case anyone is wondering, I do NOT work for Clearwater, did not get any special treatment or deals (beyond the package price at Miatas & MRLS discounts which were available to everyone and publicized on the forum), and did the install myself so if the car burns itself to the ground because of a short or bad wiring, I only have myself to blame.
You can find pictures of the product in the following thread: http://forum.miata.net/vb/showthread.php?t=333400&page=3
Under 30 minutes to remove completely
As previously reviewed, the installation of the unit is relatively straightforward and simple. Do be carefull not to hurt the plastic molding pieces at the top of the seat belt columns. This piece could easily break if you get too rough in removing/reinstalling them. I had already installed a Clearwater trunk amp about 3 years ago, making hook-up literally a snap.
After 6 months with the subwoofer, overall I am quite disappointed. Despite cutting out the rubber insulation material as recommended, the unit provides no aubilble bass when the car is much over 30 miles per hour. Even under 30, the effect is noticeable really only on CDs with heavy bass content. Older recordings are particularly unimproved by the sub. I will not cut the fabric material and install grills over the two speaker elements in the subwoofer, although I think that would help. I believe the biggest problem is the lack of adequate amplification by my old Clearwater trunk unit. Clearwater needs to create a MUCH higher wattage unit, and then provide us a rebate or refund system for those of us stuck with their old underpowered unit. At the very least, I would like Clearwater to provide a wiring diagram for their various wiring harnesses so I can try alternate amps from other manufacturers. The subwoofer's effect on my all Clearwater system is NOT worth its high price.
After numerous delays by Clearwater in introducing the subwoofer and a strike by UPS, my subwoofer finally arrived. As usual the workmanship is superb. Although there were several errors in the instructions ( Clearwater will soon correct this ), they were easy to follow. I installed the subwoofer in one evening. Briefly you must remove the plastic panels that are directly behind the doors, unfasten the carpeting on both sides of where the boot snaps on, remove the metal panel that forms a potion of the rear shelf, replace the panel with the fiberglass panel containing the subwoofer, reinstall carpeting and plastic panels, route subwoofer harness in trunk, and plug harness into existing Clearwater amp.
A couple of lessons learned are in order to make your installation simpler:
OK, but how does it sound?
If you want to either impress or annoy your fellow motorists be rattling their windows, then this is not the sub for you. See the Bazooka sub installation in the Garage section of Miata Net. If, however, you want to enhance the bass and not overwhelm the rest of the music, then this is the setup for you. For top down cruising at speed, I set the radio with the fader control just bringing in the headrest speakers and the tone control at max bass. As the car / wind speed increases, I increase the volume thus getting pronounced bass and the balance of the music from the headrest speakers. For more moderate runs or with the hardtop on, I set the fader control to full door speakers for a fuller higher quality sound and the tone control to max bass.
I have found that the subwoofer is more pronounced with both the boot and window protector unsnapped. With both item in place the sub still lets you know its there both by ear and depending on the disc, in your seat back. I suspect it will be even more pronounced with the hardtop installed. I did take the optional step of locally removing the sound insulation from the carpeting area that is above the sub grills.
Recommended music to try out the sub would be the original disc by Enigma ( 1492 sound track ), Phil Collins -Serious Hits Live, anything by Sade, Amadeus Sound Track, anything by Toni Braxton, or Yanni- Live at the Acropolis. Good Luck & Happy Motoring!