High-end installers often get calls from clients who live outside of their county or their state or province. Now and then, a client is willing to ship his car or truck partway across the country to have work done. In the case of this 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the owner consulted with Matt Schaeffer of Musaic Audiophile Design in Lewes, Delaware, using WhatsApp. Why not conventional e-mail or text? Well, the client lives in Russia. Yes, the Russia on the other side of the globe. How’s that for a long-distance relationship?
The client was very familiar with work that Schaeffer, a former Installer of the Year, had done. He wanted Schaeffer to create a reference-class audio system in the Jeep that would be relatively stealthy and work with the off-road accessory upgrades he had in mind. After hundreds of messages, a basic plan was put in place, and the Jeep was delivered to Musaic to begin the fabrication and integration process.
Rigid Lighting Installation and Integration
The client had a clear vision of how he wanted the Jeep upgraded. The project started with the installation of five pairs of Rigid lights, along with two light bars. A 10-inch light bar is mounted in the center of the Body Guard bumper, and three sets of lights above and below that. There are wide-angle D-series pods in the ends of the bumper, another set of spots on the cowl and a massive single-row bar at the top of the windshield. There are also lights on the rear of the Jeep. The lighting system includes integration into the turn signals, parking lights and brake lights to enhance visibility when driving. Of course, the client has complete control over the high-power lights when he’s off-road and needs to turn night into day.
Schaeffer created custom acrylic license plate holders for the bumpers to hold the wide European-spec license plates. In addition, the front plate holder includes an integrated mount for an Alpine camera that can help the client see large rocks and stay centered on a trail.
Off-roaders will sometimes lower the air pressure in their tires to increase the contact patch. So Schaeffer mounted an air compressor and reserve tank under the vehicle on custom aluminum brackets to inflate the tires when it’s time to drive home.
Sound Deadening to the Max
The foundation for any good audio system is a quiet environment. So Schaeffer installed 18 tubes of SoundShield sound deadening in the Jeep to make it as quiet as possible. There are four layers of deadening on the floor and a layer behind each of the plastic interior panels. The results were surprisingly impressive, according to Schaeffer. He described it as being in a modern SUV. While the seats were out, an upgraded leather seat upholstery kit was installed to give the interior a little style.
The last step in preparing the Jeep for the installation was to bolster the electrical system. The stock battery was replaced with the largest XS Power AGM cell that would fit. Schaeffer fabricated a set of low-profile power distribution posts to let all the additional connections fit under the hood. A mount was added near the firewall to hold a pair of Stinger circuit breakers that would feed the audio equipment, and a waterproof fuse holder was added to provide power to the lighting and accessories.
Jeep-Specific Source Unit Solution
The heart of this amazing sound system upgrade is an Alpine Restyle X409-WRA-JL source unit. Alpine developed this radio as a dedicated replacement for 2018 and up JL-chassis Jeeps. It not only includes a radio with a massive 9-inch weather-resistant touchscreen but a new dash bezel with integrated controls. In addition, Alpine partnered with iDatalink to create a data communication solution that allows the radio to display information from the Jeep’s computer network right on the radio screen.
Musaic upgraded the radio with the aforementioned forward-facing camera and a rear-vision camera integrated into the spare tire on the back of the vehicle.
Focal Utopia Speakers Deliver Amazing Sound
The highlight of the installation on this Jeep was no less than 12 Focal Utopia M speakers. Schaeffer started with a custom pod on the top corners of the dash to house a set of TBM tweeters and 3.5 WM midrange drivers. The pods are molded to the dash and include laser-cut trim rings for the drivers. The Focal logo was added subtly to the tweeter grille to brand the system. A set of Utopia 6 WM woofers was installed in the stock locations to cover mid-bass duties. Foam gasket rings were added to channel the woofers’ output into the interior and prevent sound from bouncing around in the dash.
For rear fill, Schaeffer created new laser-cut inserts for the overhead soundbar. These pods house a Utopia 165 W-XP 6.5-inch component set and include mesh grilles that match the dash. The pods are filled with Blackhole Stuff sound-absorbing material to lower resonance and improve transient performance.
Mosconi Car Audio Amplifier Collection
The original design for the system included six of the Mosconi Pro 1/10 monoblock amplifiers to power the front stage speakers and a Pro 5/30 to run the speakers in the soundbar and the subwoofer. The amplifiers are mounted to an expanded PVC panel that’s bolted to the floor of the trunk. The six monoblock amps surround the five-channel solution. Schaeffer created stand-offs to support a second panel that was cut with openings for the cooling faces and access to the controls on the amps. The panel is held in place with stainless steel hex-head bolts that fit into nutserts in the stand-offs. A carpet and vinyl-trimmed cover conceal the amplifiers and make the remainder of the cargo area useable for storage.
Power distribution is handled by a pair of Stinger SHD821 four-position MIDI fuse holders and a pair of SHD21 ground distribution blocks. The Stinger power cables are wrapped in automotive-grade cloth tape to ensure that they don’t vibrate or rattle as the Jeep moves down the road. Schaeffer used Stinger 9000-Series interconnects to feed audio from the Mosconi Gladen DSP 8TO12 Aerospace digital signal processor that’s mounted under the passenger seat to the amplifiers. He fabricated a pod for the Mosconi RCD controller and switches for the motorized MyTop Squareback roof that was added to the vehicle.
Subwoofer System Solution
The original plan for the Jeep was to use a single Focal Utopia Sub 10 WM in the back of the vehicle. The client had the idea to add a steel storage cover from Diabolical Inc. to further conceal and secure the amplifiers. Unfortunately, this meant there would be no room for the sub.
Schaeffer’s second suggestion was to build an enclosure in the passenger-side footwell in the front of the Jeep. The client came back with a request to use two Utopia 8WM drivers in custom kick-panel enclosures instead. They both agreed that this solution might sacrifice some of the lowest-frequency performance, but the system would still suit the music he likes and his listening style.
Schaeffer created the compact pods and integrated a dead-pedal into the rear-face surface to make them look like a factory component in the vehicle.
Multi-Source System Design
Schaeffer put the four preset options in the DSP to good use. Preset 1 is configured to work with the Alpine source unit. Presets 2 and 3 pick up audio from an Astell & Kern SP2000 digital audio player. The fourth preset is a valet mode and disables all the speakers. This last preset is ideal for any time the Jeep needs to go to the dealership for service.
It took Musaic about five weeks to complete this stunning upgrade before the vehicle was shipped back to Russia. It should come as no surprise that the client was delighted with the work Schaeffer performed and loved the way the system sounds.
If you’re looking for an out-of-this-world audio system upgrade for your vehicle, contact the team at Musaic Audiophile Design in Lewes, Delaware. If you’d like to see more of their unique projects, visit their website, their YouTube Channel or their Instagram page. Many thanks to Matt Schaeffer for sharing this one-of-a-kind project with BestCarAudio.com readers!