Installing SAAB Audio

This section is provided as a record of my experiences installing the various bits and pieces in my two Saabs. You need to take care not to damage the existing electrical system, new components, or those little plastic clips that hold all the trim panels together !! Disconnect the battery when wiring in new components, the battery can deliver very large currents (80 amps !!) so be careful not to short it out and fit fuses to all appropriate components.

If you want more detailed information, then I recomment the Haynes service manual, it covers the 900 with full circuit diagram. If you have a 9-3 then the manual is stiff useful for all the mechanicals and trim, but the electrical wiring is different.

The pin out of the head unit and other components may change over time and you should check them first before connecting. If you don't have the equipment to do this, then you should get help from someone who does.


Saab Audio System head unit | Front speakers | Rear speakers | Amplifier
CD Multi-Player (Optional) | Cables | Removing the glovebox | Mobile Phone


Saab 900/9-3 Audio System head unit

You can easily remove the head unit with two special metal handles that fit into the holes on either side of the unit, move the wiper/indicator stalk up and pull the unit out. There are three sockets already used and a spare din socket for the amplifier (pre-out). The main sockets are two multi way block connectors that follow the ISO standard, the brown one carries signals to the front/rear speakers. The other carries power/data to the display and controls the electric aerial. There is also a socket for the radio aerial.

If you run any cables to the head unit, you will certainly need to remove the globebox and passenger side trim.


Pre-out: On the top right SIDE of the unit is an 8 pin din that carries pre-out and a sense signal to turn the amplifier on. The pin out is shown on the left. I could not find a source for this cable either from Saab or Clarion and had to make up my own. For 900 it must also be a right angle din plug and have the cable exiting in the direction marked (otherwise the cable or plug will stop the head unit fitting back into the dashboard). I could not even find a right angle 8pin din plug so I had to make one up from two right angle FIVE pin din plugs !! Also the cable exited in the wrong direction so I had to fix that too !! It was worth it, since otherwise the installers would have used the speaker level outputs from the head unit which would have affected sound quality a lot. The pre-out carries a sense pin to switch on the amplifier but this did not have enough current to turn on both the amplifiers I have in my 9-3, so I used the electric aerial/antenna output instead, just tap into that and feed it into the remote-on connection of the amplifier.

Pin out is the same for both 900 and 9-3, but on the 9-3 the plug does NOT have to be right angled.

If you don't want to make your own cable, then Saab do sell the connector and cable seperately part #4232807 Booster Cable HA. The cost is $75. (that's seventy five !! now you can see why I made my own ).

Here is the pin out for the rest of the 900 head unit, thanks to Philip Kerr for this. The 9-3 does not have the seperate din plug for the CD Changer, it uses the ISO connectors.



Front Speakers

The speakers on the dashboard are easy to access and remove. There is a small notch in the plastic grille, lever this up with a screwdriver and the grill will easily pop out. You can either fit 8.5cm two way speakers in here, or flush mount the tweeters for component speakers. Most component tweeters will come with a adapters for flush mounting.

As with all the speakers, don't forget to save the old ones so you can put them back when you sell the car.


The door speakers are harder to access since you will have to remove the entire door panel. Do not try to lever off the speaker grille since this is fixed from behind. See the diagram left for the location of the door mounting screws, there is also a plastic clip above the lock which I broke on both doors and had to replace on with a screw that was very tricky. The trick to these it to depress the centre by about 2mm, the clip can then be pulled out. If you do break them, the Saab dealer has spares for about $2 (in a variety of colors). Once you've removed these, the panel pushes off over the door lock button. Then you'll see the cutouts for the front speakers, you will probably have to drill holes for the mounting screws since the existing ones might not match. Make sure the speakers do not foul the windows when they are down, if they do then you might need spacing rings (which some speakers come with).


You will have to check you car to see if it is wired for door speakers already, my 900 wasn't, but my 9-3 was. If not then you will have to run your own cable through the door connector.
If you car is wired, then I recommend you use that cable to get from the door speaker to behind the heater controls and then your own cable from there to your amplifier (wherever that is). The AS3 connectors are shown in the diagram to the left.

If you are using component front speakers, then some kind of crossovers will probably come with the speakers. These should be sited near to the front speakers (rather than near the amp) and depending on their size you should be able to fit them behind the dashboard or kick panels. Removing the glove box and panel below the steering wheel is very easy (see below) and they can be fixed behind the dash somewhere. Some crossovers can be quite big (20cm x 10cm) so you might want to check that you can find room for these before buying speaker with such a big crossover. Most will let you choose hi/lo settings for the tweeter which you can adjust for taste (do this before putting the car back together or you'll have to remove the panels again to change it !).


Rear speakers

Compared to the front door speakers, the rear speakers are a snap to change and being quite big (6x9 inch) can deliver quite reasonable bass.

The speaker grilles snap off: Push on the two catches under the edge facing the front of the car, then lever off the grilles and pull them towards the front of the car to remove them. The speakers can be then be removed and replaced. Do not force them upwards as the clips are quite easy to break.

Althought the Saab speakers are standard 6x9 design, some other speakers are too deep for the hole and you might need to enlarge the mounting hole (this was true for my Infinity speakers).

If you like the rear speakers to work as just a fill-in, then I would not bother changing the rear speakers, the standard ones are reasonable and it's not worth the effort changing them if only 5% of the sound comes from them (especially if you have a trunk mounted subwoofer).


Amplifier

The biggest problem with fitting the amplifier is finding a flat surface to mount it on, a small amp could be hidden under one of the front seats, but a large amp (The Kenwood KAC-943 I have is 27cm square) needs to go in the boot and the only flat surfaces are the underside of the shelf or the back of the rear seat. Both these places move so you have to make some provision for the cable to be able to move with them !

The back of the rear seat is probably best, you can run the cables together in some kind of plastic conduit and the bottom of the rear backrest is quite soft so will not pinch the cables.

When the rear seat is folded, the connections might be damaged by luggage in the boot, so you might like to fit some kind of cover over the terminals. For amps like the Kenwood a matching amplifier end cap is available for exactly this purpose.Amplifiers can run quite warm, some even have a fan so be sure to leave plenty of room around it for it to keep cool.

There will be two power cables going to the amp, one a sense cable from the head unit (either from a dedicated amp switch line, or the electric aerial control line) and it's main power cable. The amp needs to have a direct feed from the battery, at 12v a 400W amplifier might need 30amps which is much more than the existing cables can provide. You will have to run a thick cable from the battery positive terminal all the way to the amp and also run a thick ground cable from the amp to some place in the boot (there are several earthing points available). A fuse MUST be fitted in the power cable right next to the battery, if you don't and the cable is pinched and short circuits then the high currents (60A) will set fire to the car !!

Many amps will have adjustable input sensitivity which will alter how far you have to turn the volume control on the head unit to get the same volume. Too low and it will amplify any distortion in the head unit, too high and it will amplify the background noise in the head unit and that picked up from the car's own electrical systems.


CD Multi-Player (900)

It is best to use the Saab mounting kit to fit the CD changer, all cars have the mounting bolts already welded into place and you will not have to drill any holes in the floor to fix the changer. If you do drill holes then they remember to seal them since they are exposed to the outside on the underneath of the car (my installer didn't and I had to seal them myself).

This picture shows where to mount the cd player using the protective cage from Saab.

Most CD changers will have switches to tell it which way you have mounted it (horizontally or vertically), do not forget to set them otherwise the player will skip on bumps and turns.


CD Multi-Player (9-3)

The Saab 9-3 will not accept third party CD changers, you have to use a Saab original part, since the head unit and changer communicate via a kind of LAN and have to be 'mated' via software to talk to each other. Only the Saab changer has this firmware.

Because of this you are restricted to using the Saab changer and mounting hardware. The Cable is already run through the car.


Mobile Phone

There is a mobile phone connector behind the heater controls, you can access it by removing the passenger side kick panel (to the right of the passengers feet). This might all be reversed on left hand drive cars, but the panels are very easy to remove (a couple of screws). The pin out is:

Pin 1 - battery (via fuse 23)
Pin 2 - ignition (via fuse 17)
Pin 3 - connected to the panel lighting rheostat
Pin 4 - hifi mute (may need to check sense of this line with various phone / hifi combinations)
Pin 5 - ground

To get total hands free use via the Saab 9-3 head unit, you need the following three things:

hands free kit from mobile phone company
saab hands free kit (factory option which has a different pin out to the above)
cable adapter for your phone (from saab)


Removing the glovebox

Removing the glovebox is easy and you will need to do it to route the cables to the head unit. First lever out the light and disconnect it, then remove the screws as shown on the left, the push pin underneath and pull out the glovebox.



Cables and Firewall

Good cable is the key to an good sound quality. I had a similar system fitted to a previous car, but using the existing speaker/power cables and it sounded nowhere near as good as my current system which uses high quality thick power and speaker cables.

 



The power cables to the amplifier need to be capable of carrying the 30-40A that the amplifier will need so a thick cable of 8AWG should be run direct from the battery and a similar cable used to earth the amp to a well secured earthing point. The diagrams above show the power cable (yellow) and it's own fuse, plus the route the wire takes through the firewall. You will have to pull the maxi-fusebox to one side to get to a convenient place to push the wire through the firewall.

The speaker cables should be thick and at least of Oxygen free Copper (OFC). You can spend a fortune on speaker cables, even using solid silver cable that will probably be worth more than the car !!

The cables need to be fixed to the amp and speaker with good quality terminals, gold plated ones will resist corrosion and you might like to solder rather than crimp them for extra contact.


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The Views expressed here may not reflect the views of my employer or clients.