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How to Build Custom Door Panel Speaker Pods

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Creating a quality audio system requires more than just good speakers. In order to create a well-balanced sound stage, the speakers need proper placement, not always an easy task when dealing with the tight spaces of modern cars. Many times, we have to relegate ourselves to modifying the factory placements for better imaging. One way to do this is building new door panels, which is a pretty complicated endeavor. There are however, more simple methods of achieving this goal.

Depending on the vehicle, there are options using factory panels or grilles. For our Nissan 350Z, we used the factory door speaker grilles as a base for our pods. By modifying the factory panels, we can change the directional imaging of the speakers, creating a well-balanced sound stage.

Before any actual mods can begin, the speakers should be imaged. This is a lengthy process that involves listening tests and aiming the speakers, but with a couple of short cuts, the results can be pretty amazing. One of the best tricks for quick imaging is to aim the driver-side mid-driver at the passenger’s left ear, and the passenger-side driver at the driver’s right ear. This will create a cross point in the center of the vehicle, equalizing the path lengths as much as possible without relocating the speakers. If you are using components, try aiming the tweeter at the rearview mirror, or a centered point 3-4 feet in front of the front passenger’s heads. This will create a separation that allows both waves to hit the listener’s ears at the same time. These tricks don’t work perfectly all the time, and probably won’t win any sound-quality competitions, but for a daily driver, they offer better imaging without hours of testing.

The build process is pretty simple and requires very little in the way of tools. If you have access to an air compressor, a DA sander and die-grinder will be your best friends. This will allow you to save time when shaping and sanding the parts. If not, you can always do it the old fashioned way and sand it all by hand. If you must hand sand, don’t wait until the body filler is fully cured. Instead, let it go green, the stage in which the filler is just beyond rubber. If you start your rough shaping now, the filler will roll off quickly and easily, letting you get the shape you want faster and with less fatigue. The entire process is detailed here, with Jason Carson of Red Dirt Rodz doing the dirty work. Just remember, a little patience goes a long way in this business, rushing the job will only make it take longer.

1. We started the project with a pair of 3\4” MDF rings we cut to match the outside diameter of the Kicker speaker grills. Once we had decided the best angle for the speakers, we used a die-grinder to angle the top side of the ring. This can be done with a belt sander as well.

1. We started the project with a pair of 3\4” MDF rings we cut to match the outside diameter of the Kicker speaker grills. Once we had decided the best angle for the speakers, we used a die-grinder to angle the top side of the ring. This can be done with a belt sander as well.

2. We placed the rings on the door panels and rotated them until we had the placement we wanted. The rings need to be smaller than the door grill. Ours are roughly 1\2” smaller overall.

2. We placed the rings on the door panels and rotated them until we had the placement we wanted. The rings need to be smaller than the door grill. Ours are roughly 1\2” smaller overall.

3. We scuffed the door grills (for better adhesion) and glued the rings to the grills.

3. We scuffed the door grills (for better adhesion) and glued the rings to the grills.

4. It is important to support the lower side of the ring. The small block shown below was glued in as well.

4. It is important to support the lower side of the ring. The small block shown below was glued in as well.

5. The most important aspect of this project is to make sure the angles are the same.

5. The most important aspect of this project is to make sure the angles are the same.

6. We ran a screw into the center of the ring to make sure nothing moved during the next couple of steps. We also shot some brads from the front (wood) side through the plastic and bent them over. This just adds a little extra hold.

6. We ran a screw into the center of the ring to make sure nothing moved during the next couple of steps. We also shot some brads from the front (wood) side through the plastic and bent them over. This just adds a little extra hold.

7. Duraglass is the best product for this task. Duraglass is fiberglass reinforced body filler. Regular body filler will work, but the Duraglass has the added strength from the fiberglass strands which gives it extra hold. A lot of emphasis is being made on holding power here, it is important that the bond holds, especially if you decide to paint the pods, where cracks would be a bad thing.

7. Duraglass is the best product for this task. Duraglass is fiberglass reinforced body filler. Regular body filler will work, but the Duraglass has the added strength from the fiberglass strands which gives it extra hold. A lot of emphasis is being made on holding power here, it is important that the bond holds, especially if you decide to paint the pods, where cracks would be a bad thing.

8. Once the Duraglass has hit the green stage (where the filler is not fully hardened, but not wet either), the pod can be shaped with a file or cheese grater. If you have access to air tools, then wait until it is fully hardened and shape it with a die-grinder and a 36-grit pad. These parts are small, so it doesn’t take much.

8. Once the Duraglass has hit the green stage (where the filler is not fully hardened, but not wet either), the pod can be shaped with a file or cheese grater. If you have access to air tools, then wait until it is fully hardened and shape it with a die-grinder and a 36-grit pad. These parts are small, so it doesn’t take much.

9. Once we had the basic shape, we finish sanding the pod by hand with some 80-grit and then 120-grit. If you are going to cover the pod with vinyl, then 80-grit will suffice.

9. Once we had the basic shape, we finish sanding the pod by hand with some 80-grit and then 120-grit. If you are going to cover the pod with vinyl, then 80-grit will suffice.

10. We taped over the top of the pod and used a hole saw to cut the hole for the speaker. We taped it up so we wouldn’t mess up the finished body filler. Then we sent the pod to the paint shop.

10. We taped over the top of the pod and used a hole saw to cut the hole for the speaker. We taped it up so we wouldn’t mess up the finished body filler. Then we sent the pod to the paint shop.

11. The finished pod snaps into the door just like the original grill and now sounds and looks much better than the factory. Not including the paint time, the whole process took us less than an hour for two pods.

11. The finished pod snaps into the door just like the original grill and now sounds and looks much better than the factory. Not including the paint time, the whole process took us less than an hour for two pods.

 

Sources

Kicker Audio

http://www.kicker.com/

Red Dirt Rodz

http://reddirtrodz.com/

 

About Jefferson Bryant (205 Articles)
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).

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