The 300ZX Audio and Interior Page

By Adam Lotz

Created : ??????
Last updated: 9805

05/98 - I finally put some more info and photos online...

Please email me ( if you have any comments, suggestions, etc. Thanks!


The Original Bose System

The Bose FAQ and you'll find some interesting opinions about Bose systems, their reputations, etc. This is a popular FAQ for home audio enthusiasts, but much of what is discussed applies to the car systems as well.

The 91+ bose systems used four 3.5" speakers, one in each corner. The 90 system had 3.5" in the front, and 6" in the rear. The bass response is about the same out of each of them. There is a relay in the passenger-dashboard area that turns on the amps in each speaker housing.

Here's my opinion on the bose Bose system:

It's overpriced, overengineered, and gimmicky. The head unit (tape deck/radio) is manufactured by Clarion. Each speaker (one in each door, two in the hatch area) is built into a large injection molded plastic enclosure. Each enclosure not only houses a speaker, but also a seperate amplifier! As far as I know, Bose themselves make the speakers, which I *think* are very similar to those found in the Bose 101s/901s, etc. It doesn't sound bad but it could certainly sound better.

The optional CD player is made by Sony. It plugs into the Bose/Clarion tape deck via a 5 pin connector for 90-91, or in 92 I heard they changed to an 8 pin connector.

If you didn't have the CD player, you might have gotten the Bose "center channel" -- a passive speaker that pretty much works like magic, sucking a little bit of the signal off both the left and right door speakers. Contrary to what Bose may have you believe, this is not really a "good" idea in terms of accoustics. It is a neat trick, though.

The Bose setups in Nissans in general are NOTORIOUS for failing early. They are poorly made. If you have a single speaker that has stopped working, and you'd rather not spend a fortune on replacing the whole system, you can get a dealer to send your speaker in to be "refurbished."

The following information was provided by Steve at Courtesy Nissan on costs for "refurbished" components.

You can take any individual component into a nissan dealer, and they will send it back to the original manufacturer, who will replace it with a refurbished (previously broken but repaired and reconditioned) part. The process takes 4 to 6 weeks, and the replacement part has a 1 year warranty. Courtesy Nissan's prices for the service are as follows:
You may have noticed -- this isn't cheap! If you're determined to keep the stock system, I'd suggest looking around for someone who has upgraded their system, and will sell you an old speaker assembly for a reasonable price. The speaker/amp/housing combos seem to sell for anywhere from $50-$100 used.

Should you Replace it?

If you want better sound quality, then yes, by all means, replace the BOSE system. Unfortunately, it's a job that's easier said than done. Because of the propriatary design used by Bose (the amplifiers attached to each speaker), it is very time consuming and/or expensive to replace.

If you put $700 into a stereo, you would foolish to spend less than $200 on an alarm. I would never own an expensive aftermarket stereo without protecting it.

Your best choice, if you have the money (and expect this to cost between $600-$2600) is to replace the entire setup. This can be broken down into five main components:

Replacement options

- Update -

There are now a number of aftermarket adapters available to let you upgrade the head unit or speakers seperately. IE you can buy that Kenwood CD player you've been lusting after, and use it with your stock Bose speakers. This is the easiest and most cost effective way to upgrade your system. However, the bose speakers are still the weak point in the audio chain, and will give you trouble down the road. For that reason, I still think the best plan is to upgrade everything - but if you just want to be able to play CDs in your Z, upgrade the head unit, get one of the adapters, and you're set.

The Head Unit

Luckliy, the Bose/Clarion head unit is a standard "DIN" size. This means that nearly any radio will fit in with only a minimum of effort. There are a number of good offerings in any price range. If you are trying to keep costs down, you will want a head unit that has a built-in amplifier (this is the normal way to do it). Try to get one that offers at least 18 watts per channel, which you'll usually see designated as "18x4" for 4 speakers. Avoid head units which only provide 2 channels of amplification - you'll regret it down the road. If you plan on ever expanding the system, you may want to consider investing in a head unit that has "RCA outputs" which will make it easier to add an external amplifier later. Again, if you're happy with the Bose speakers in your car, you can get a new head unit along with an adapter, and hook it right in.

The speakers

This is a tricky subject. Because of the BOSE design, when you change the head unit, it's definately in your best interest to change out all 4 speakers as well. The "problem" with the bose system lies mostly in the speakers. HOWEVER - if you want to replace just one half of the system (either the head unit -or- the speakers, but not both) there are now a number of aftermarket "converters" available. I'd recommend calling
Crutchfield and asking them what they have available to help you out.

When you remove the Bose speakers, what you'll actually be taking out are four large black plastic enclosures. Each one weighs about 8 pounds, and takes up quite a bit of space.

In short, when you take the speakers out, what you're left with are huge gaping holes in your car. To mount new speakers, wood cutouts must be made, attached where the enclosures used to be, and then you must mount the new speakers in these cutouts. Your other option is to go to your nissan dealer and buy the metal mounting brackets that were standard for the non-bose speaker system. This would be a great idea, and the next time I take my door panels off, I'm going to replace my wood cutouts with the stock metal ones. Hopefully they'll seal the speaker tightly against the door...

When done correctly, it is possible to replace all the Bose speakers with new 6" or 6.5" drivers. This is probably the best situation, as it allows you to get good bass response out of speakers mounted in the factory locations, without compromising sound quality. Note that without a subwoofer, it is very difficult to get much low bass response out of your Z. The problem is largely that the car is so well built and padded -- the car does a very good job of absorbing noise in the cabin.
The first step is to determine your budget. Plan on spending significantly more money on front speakers than on rear speakers. If this sounds wrong to you, think of home stereo setups, which typically use two large, expensive speakers in front, and either none, or small "ambiance" speakers in the rear. This is how car audio is supposed to sound as well. The common practice of setting your fader to deliver equal power to the front and rear speakers isn't right either - you should be hearing almost all of the sound from the front.

Since you want the best sound possible out of the front, it is generally agreed that "component" speakers will sound best. These are speakers where (just like home audio) the woofer and tweeter are two seperate components. The woofer will mount behind the BOSE plate at the bottom of the door, and then you mount the tweeter on the door, or in the side air conditioning vent. (no, I'm not kidding!) I originally had my component tweeters mounted in the air vents, because it left the interior looking totally stock. However, after a few months of this I just wasn't happy with the sound. So one day I got brave and attacked my door panel with an x-acto knife and a power drill. The results? Some beautiful flush-mounted tweeters in the door panel. Check out this photo - you can see the tweeter mounted to the left of the air vent - they really look stock.

So. You can fit a set of component speakers that contain up to a 6.5" woofer and a 1" tweeter in the door. A wood panel (or factory nissan part) must be made to contain the woofer, which will fire out through the BOSE grill. (this way no one can tell what kind of system you have, thus it will be less likely to get stolen) The tweeter you can mount on the door, the inside of the side mirror, or in the air vent. Mounting in the air vent really does provide good sound, and will also increase the "stealth factor" which means it's less likely that some sleazeball will be walking away with your expensive speakers.

If you don't want to spring for component speakers, your next choice should be a pair of quality "coaxial" ones. These have a tweeter mounted in the center of the woofer. Again, this is a very good choice for those who want to retain the stock look. It may not sound QUITE as good as seperates, but it will be much more unobtrusive. I chose to use coaxials for my rear speakers. The only possible problem you'll have is if the tweeter sticks out too far from the woofer, and it may rub against the BOSE grill. I don't have measurements yet for what will and won't fit, so good luck!
For my install, I chose 6.5" component speakers in the front, and 6.5" 2-way speakers in the rear. I spent approximately 70% of my speaker budget on the fronts, and 30% on rears. This is because, when set up correctly, at least 70% of the sound you hear should come from the front speakers. The rears should only be used for "ambiance" sound, and while not having ANY rear speakers leaves a slight deficiency in the sound, they should play a small role at best.


If you think you'll need more power (and until you hit at least 25 watts per channel, more power will definately result in improved sound) then you can add external amplifiers to your system. If you're thinking of adding a subwoofer, you definately need an amplifier to power it. Seperate amplifiers are typically rated just like head units, in watts RMS. Be careful of "maximum power" ratings, because these give inflated numbers. For good seperate speakers, you need at least 35 watts per channel RMS. For a subwoofer, you'll want at least 80 watts. Rear speakers, again, can suffer with lower power levels. In my setup, I amplified the front speakers and subwoofer, but left the head unit (rated 25x4) to power the rear speakers alone.

Amplifiers can have either low level or speaker level inputs. Low level inputs are connected with "RCA" cables, just like home stereo components. The big advantage to using low level inputs is that the signal is better preserved. If you already have a head unit with speaker outputs, though, many amplifiers will allow you to use those as input, which makes your job of upgrading a little bit easier.

Outboard amplifiers require an input signal (speaker or low level), a power line going directly to the battery, a solid ground, output to the speakers, and a turn-on lead to the head unit. As you might imagine, this is an awful lot of work. However, the benefits are very precise, dynamic sound, and if you're adding a subwoofer, you probably don't have a choice about the issue.

There are a number of mounting options for amplifiers. One common place to stick them is under the driver's or passenger seat. I wouldn't recommend putting one under the driver's seat, because the electric seat motors could accidentally crush it or become damaged. However, if you experiment with a phone book, you'll find that you can fit an awfully big amplifier under the passenger seat. So play around until you find an object that you can just barely fit, and then go amp-shopping using those dimentions as a maximum. The passenger seat is easily removed - it is held in with four large bolts, and lifts right out.


These days, everyone knows what a subwoofer does. Remember the bone charring bass that woke you up the other night at 4am? Yup, couldn't you use that in your Z?

Probably not. However, even after you replace your Bose setup, chances are good that you'll still be looking for more bass in your ride. This can be easily accomplished by adding a subwoofer. There are many prebuilt options: the "bass tubes" which often come with built-in amplifiers, cheap rectangular boxes where you drop in your own speakers, and even some very expensive (but very good) models available specifically for the 300zx hatch from JL Audio. Expect to spend between $100-$400 for a simple bass tube, but the prefabricated JL jobs will run you $500-$600, amplfier not included!

Alternately, you can hire a shop to build you a custom box, or if you have the talent, you can build your own. I keep hoping to put some plans online, but never get around to it. I would strongly recommend that you put serious thought into the issue, as space is so limited in the hatch area already, and there is nothing more obnoxious than a poorly designed system. If you build your own, you can get away with a nicely done enclosure for under $50, and you can add a high quality woofer for less than $150. Custom stereo shops will typically charge between $100 and $200 for the box, but you're paying for their experience.

Replacement Procedure

* Make sure to read all instructions and check out all applicable photos before attempting any of this.

The Factory CD Player

The factory CD player in the 300ZX is manufactured by Sony exclusively for Nissan. (or is it Bose? Maybe even Clarion?) In other words, you can't call up Sony and ask for one. Rumor has it that the player is out of production, so you'd either have to stumble across one that was sitting in a dealer's inventory, or buy a used one.

To install the CD player, you follow the instructions below regarding removal of the head unit. The CD player bolts in directly under the head unit with very little effort. The 90 and 91 CD players have a 5 pin DIN connector, and a wiring harness addon that is used to hook it up to the stock tape deck. The 92 and later ones use an 8 pin connector, so make sure you try to get a player from the correct year.

Many people have asked me this, and in fact it happened to me when I sold my stock CD player to someone on the net. WHEN YOU REMOVE YOUR CD player, you'll find that there is a Y-shaped adapter that connects it to the radio wiring harness. Without this 8" section of wire, the next person won't be able to install the player in their car. They can be purchased from Nissan for $15-$20, but if you're taking out your CD player, you'll never need that wire, so make sure to remove it at the same time.

Removing the head unit (40k JPG Picture)

Removal of the stock head unit is quick and easy. There are FOUR screws which hold the center dash panel in place. Get a medium (#2) phillips size screwdriver, and sit down in the driver's seat. At the top of the center dash panel is a long thin air conditioning vent. Look carefully at the sides of the vent - the tapered edges are actually plastic caps that are covering up two screws! Pry them straight outward with your index finger, but be careful not to let them drop down inside the air vent. You should have revealed the two upper screws.

Underneath the adjustable A/C vents, but above the radio, you will see a black metal cover, about .5" tall and 7" wide. Pry GENTLY outward on this. It *IS* metal, so it is hard to break, but do be careful. There are two metal spring clips holding it in place. It snaps straight off - you may need to use a flathead screwdriver, but it doesn't take too much effort. Thus the other two screws are revealed.

Unscrew these 4 screws. Again, DON'T drop them into the A/C system -- a magnetic screwdriver is a good investment for this job, "just in case." Put them somewhere safe, such as the ashtray. At this point, there are just a handful of clips holding the center panel in place. Pull gently at the top of the panel, near the AC vents. The top should pop out, and then with a little gentle wiggling back and forth, the bottom will come out as well. The clock is still attached, so don't pull too far! You will have just enough room to reach down to the clock and disconnect the electrical connector. If you can't get it off, you can alternately unscrew the clock from the plastic center piece.

At this point, you should have the whole center panel off, and you should have easy access to the radio. The radio is attached to DIN opening underneath it, which will either have the center speaker, the CD player, or the "stuff holder" depending on the options that the car came with from the factory. You will see 4 screws that hold a metal bracket into the car - remove these 4 screws, and the radio assembly will come out. If you're replacing the head unit entirely, this wire colors chart will come in handy.

Removing the Front Speakers

Removing the front speakers is NOT a job for the faint of heart. The entire door panel must be removed, and as mentioned earlier, wooden speaker mounts must be fabricated out of 1/4" or 1/2" wood. You will accomplish nothing by trying to remove the bose grill in the door. It is not made to come off, and you can't get to anything important anyway.

Instructions for removing the driver's side door panel:
Whew! Break out a 6-pack, because you're finished. Removal of the passenger side door panel is almost identical - one exception - there is no "hand pocket" on the passenger panel. Instead, there's a molded grip, with screws hidden behind round vinyl covers at both the top and bottom that hold it on. Take that off, and then follow the other instructions.

Replacing the Rear Speakers

Replacing the rear speakers is quite a bit easier, but it is still a very time-consuming job. There is NO way to get the speaker out through the little rectangular hole. Instead, you have to remove all the body panels in the hatch from around the speaker.

Installing an aftermarket CD Changer

Okay, so maybe you like the Bose setup, and you just want to install a CD player. If you can't get your hands on a factory player, and/or want the convienence of a 6 disc changer, that's a definate option!

You'll have to add an "RF-Style" CD-changer. These changers essentially broadcast CD sound over your current FM radio. This is good, because it means that you don't have to get into any hardcore wiring issues. This is bad, because it means that the sound quality of the CD player will be limited by the sound quality of your FM radio. Realistically, though, if you're happy with the sound from the stock system, you'll be happy adding a CD changer.

One owner's experiences in adding a CD changer
More to come real soon! Keep watching!
You really got me (midi)


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