OK, well this will hopefully become sticky so people with a certain budget get a good idea on what they should be looking at spending and where. Firstly, i'll start with a $500 budget system. Head-Unit; $100-$150 Any of the brandname units are ideal (Kenwood, Alpine, Sony, Pioneer etc). I have attached below some examples of what you should be looking at. As you can see from the links around the $100-$150 mark will get you a good unit. Kenwood non-MP3 Kenwood MP3 Pioneer non-MP3 Pioneer MP3 Alpine MP3 They are just some examples of what is available, and please note im not associated with Ryda in any way, they just have a good website that shows "street prices" too. SPEAKERS: Important Note: Make sure you go into a store that has the types of speakers you want to buy on a demo board, and listen to each set using the same song and volume level etc. Find a set within the price range that sound best to you. Also no-one ever pays RRP, as you can see from the links the "street" prices are around half the RRP, this is what i would expect to pay at big franchise-type stores (JB Hi Fi, Strathfield, Ryda etc). You can still haggle with specialist stores too, but probably wont get them for as cheap as they dont have the buying power the others do. Front Speakers: ~$50 As this is a relatively basic system (no external amps or subs) i would suggest going with cheaper front speakers as opposed to the rears, which when planning a mid to high end sound system this is reversed. A pair of 6-6.5" speakers will do the job fine, either 2 way or 3 way it dosent really matter and will not make a big audible difference. As you can see from the links below around the $50 mark will get you a good pair of entry level speakers. Kenwood 6" 3 Way Pioneer 6" 2 Way Sony 6" 2 Way Rear Speakers: $80-$120 I suggest if possible to go with a pair of good ol 6"x9" speakers....once again 2 way, 3 way, 4 way or even now they make 5 way versions, it dosent really matter that much. By clickign on the links below you'll notice between $80 and $120 is enough for very decent speakers. If you cannot (or dont want to) fit a pair of 6"x9" speakers into the parcel shelf, i would suggest going with another pair of the selected front speakers. Kenwood 6"x9" 4 Way Pioneer 6"x9" 3 Way JVC 6"x9" 3 Way Alpine 6"x9" 3 Way Please Note: These links are only examples of what is available, and i highly recommend visiting a store that has these types of speakers on a demo board so you can listen to as many as possible. Installation: Important: I really cant stress how important a quality installation is, basically you could spend several thousands on components and they would sound like crap unless they are installed properly. Places like JB Hi Fi and Strathfield have been known to do some poor quality work, but there are some stores out there that are exceptions....if they have a good rep or youve seen / heard their work, then it shouldnt be problem to take it there. If you havent, its best to steer clear and head to a specialist car audio dealer. Im not saying every single specialist store performs perfect work, but your chances of getting a rough job is minimal. Thats a grand total of $230-$320 before installation. I imagine the install cost would be around the $150-$240mark. If you were to buy the entire system and get it installed from the one shop, most will be happy to take a few dollars of the installation too. Next up is a system based on $1000: Head-Unit: $150-$200 I cant see too many reasons why not not use one of the head-units ive listed in the $500 system, most have the features needed. But i will give you a few more examples of what is available for a little bit more $$$. Note: if youre after something with a USB input and Ipod compatibilty etc (some may require an additional adaptor for an Ipod), i have provided links to those models too. All of these models come with some type of detailed sound tuning ability, for example low/high pass crossovers and an EQ. This gives you more precise "fine tuning" of the sound and will make even stock speakers sound better than when they were running off the stock head-unit. As you can see around $150-$200 will get you out of trouble. Kenwood MP3 Kenwood MP3/USB Pioneer MP3/USB JVC MP3/USB Alpine Ipod Once again, go into your local store and have a play (if allowed) with each unit. You should find atleast 1 that is easy to control, looks good and is in your price range. Front Speakers $120-$150 Alright, this is where the system will differ from the $500 one. Because you have the extra cash, you can treat you and the other front seat passsenger to much more detailed sound, im talking about split system speakers, or "component" speakers. These models dont have the tweeter mounted in the centre of the speaker like coaxials do. Instead they use a seperate tweeter that can be mounted higher or off axis (facing higher) to the woofer, and they also have a dedicated crossover network which splits the different sounds (low/mid to the woofer, high to the tweeter) to each component. The end result is ALOT clearer sound, you'll notice vocals and symbols etc are easier to hear which means the speakers dont have to work as hard. Below is just a few examples of what is available. I will have to stress that it is really important to try and listen to as many sets as possible in a store using the same source (head-unit / amplifier) and song. More than likely you'll find a set that sounds great to you, dont listen to what anyone else has to say, be it the salesman or even a friend....the best judge of what you like is you and your ears.....nobody else!! $120-$150 will be enough here, but if find a set thats you absolutely love the sound of and theyre like $180, go with them. JVC Component Speakers Pioneer Component Speakers Kenwood Component Speakers Alpine Component Speakers Sony Component Speakers Rear Speakers: ~$50 Now rears arent going to be really important here, as you will rarely be sitting in the back seat.....also, when sitting in the front, you wont hear much of the rears if the system is tuned properly. They are only for rear seat passengers, so if you often have them i would suggest going with a cheap pair of 6" coaxials (~$50) if you rarely have people in the back and have stock rear speakers, leave them as they are and spend more money on the more important components!!! System Amplifier: $300-$350 Here you should be looking for a 4 channel amplifier. This type can be used in 3 different ways, to power 4 speakers, to power 2 speakers (in bridged mode) and 2 speakers / a subwoofer. The last way is how the amp will be used for this system. Once again, here are only some examples of what is available. When looking for an amp, power ratings are a big factor.....most will give you a rating like this - "60wrms x 2 @ 4 ohm 0.05% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) ". Some only give "max" or "pmpo" ratings which are meaningless in the real world. As a general rule of thumb, if it isnt a name brand amp and dosent state its power output in "rms" then its best to stay clear of that amp. Also, you'll be needing an amp with high pass filters, which filter out the low frequencies of the music (which a subwoofer is designed to do). Youve probably already noticed that when you turn up a stereo (which dosent have high pass filters etc) the bass notes are the first thing to distort. Thats because a speaker has more trouble reproducing bass than any other frequency. Back to high pass filters, once they are set properly for your speakers, they will allow the speaker to play the band of frequencies it was designed for. Here is a few examples of 4 channel amplifiers with adequate power: Soundstream 4ch Clarion 4ch Fusion 4ch SPL Dynamics 4ch Option Audio 4ch Subwoofer / Enclosure Combo: $200-$250 These days most manufacturers make subwoofers in suitable enclosures. This takes the headache away from finding a suitable enclosure for your new subwoofer. There is two types commonly available: theres sealed enclosures, these are generally smaller than their ported counterparts and provide a more "natural" sound, they also have a tighter, punchier output. Whereas ported boxes are larger, but provide an extended low frequency response (lower bass). The only real downside (other than their size) is they wont sound great with every type of music. Tighter bass notes wont be as prominent with ported boxes, and they wont provide that kick you get from sealed enclosures. Basically, if you listen to alot of rock, heavy metal, pop etc then i would suggest a sealed combo. But if you listen to more RnB, Rap, Drum n Bass, Techno etc then ported is the better option. One other thing to take into consideration is the amount of room the enclosure is going to take up in your boot. Also, the shape of the enclosure, for example if the height of the enclosure dosent allow it to be mounted under the parcel shelf its going to be sitting at the rear of the boot, greatly reducing the amount of available boot space. It may be a good idea to "test fit" the enclosure in your boot before purchasing or if this isnt possible take measurements of your boot area and compare them with the enclosure dimensions. Here are some examples of sealed combos: Kenwood 12" Sealed Pioneer Sub with Matching Sealed Enclosure Clarion Sub with Matching Sealed Enclosure Some examples of ported enclosures: Pioneer 12" Ported JBL 12" Ported Kicker 12" Ported Fusion 12" and Matching Ported Enclosure Installation: Important: I really cant stress how important a quality installation is, basically you could spend several thousands on components and they would sound like crap unless they are installed properly. Places like JB Hi Fi and Strathfield have been known to do some poor quality work, but there are some stores out there that are exceptions....if they have a good rep or youve seen / heard their work, then it shouldnt be problem to take it there. If you havent, its best to steer clear and head to a specialist car audio dealer. Im not saying every single specialist store performs perfect work, but your chances of getting a rough job is minimal. I would imagine if you were to buy all, or even most of the components from the same place thats going to install it that a cost of $300 - $450 including wiring is about right. Although, if they charge a little extra thats up to them, thats just in the region of what i would charge (ive worked as an installer for over 10 years). OK, that totals between $970 and $1450 fitted. Now i know, i know, i said $1000......but that is using all of the most expensive components ive suggested, and being charged the most for wiring / installation (which i think is highly unlikely). Special Note: If wanting to install it yourself, as you feel confident enough and have the required tools and plenty of time (i would expect it take up most of a weekend for the average joe)......then go for it, just take your time removing and installing the various interior panels, routing the cables through the car (use the stock cable routes where possible) and making the wiring connections to the head-unit, speakers and amplifiers / subwoofer. Also spending a good half an hour tuning the system, listening to a wide range of music will go a long way to making a good system great!!! OK, Now a $2000 - $2500 System Head-Unit $250-$350 Alright, now we've got a bit more money to spend i can suggest some more exotic products. Once again, if you require something like Ipod, USB or mp3 make sure the units your considering have the required connections / options. Most of these units will provide you with some type of in-depth sound tuning (e.g. graphic equaliser)....so it will pay to make sure you understand how to use / adjust these settings. You can do this by either asking the salesman or reading the instruction manual, or both. This will give you alot more control over how your new system sounds. Around the $250-$350 mark is what you will be looking at, ofcourse factor in the extra dough if you'll be needing an Ipod cable or steering wheel interface. Pioneer Alpine Eclipse Kenwood Sony Front Speakers $400-$600 Alrighty, once again splits, or component speakers are the way to go. But this time you can afford to spend a little more. Brands like Focal, Alpine, and Boston Acoustics is what i'd be looking at. These brands wont be available at all stores, as most are specialist car audio companies and carefully choose you sells their product. Most likely you'll have to go into a dedicated car audio store. Once again, make sure you have a good listen to as many types as possible before making a decision. Around the $400-$600 mark is a reasonable price to spend. Alpine Type R Components Soundstream Tarantula Boston Acoustics JBL Theres a few more brands that make excellent quality components, but i cant seem to find them. The best advice i can give you is "you get what you pay for". These are only a sample of what is available, a specialist car audio store should have plenty of different models to listen to within the $400-$600 price range. Rear Speakers $50-$100 Not really important, but i would have to suggest going with a half-decent pair of co-axials at the most. These will only be running of the head-unit in this situation so power handling wont be an issue. (Somewhere around 40-80wrms is plenty). I would imagine a set will cost $50-$100 at most. Speaker Amplifier $200-$300 A 2ch amplifier with around 80-150wrms is ideal. Most amps wont "sound" different to one another, so listening to each isnt really needed. Build quality, cosmetics, features and ofcourse power output sets each model apart. Between $200-$300 will get you a good quality amp with plenty of power for your front splits. One of my favourites, JL Audio JBL Alpine (4ch but can be bridged) Clarion Pioneer Subwoofer / Enclosure $250-$300 A pair of subwoofers is rarely needed, a decent 12" placed in the correct enclosure will provide enough bass for most people. A single 12" will typically only require between 1 - 2.5 cu.ft. (depending on whether its sealed or ported), which dosent take up too much room in the boot / luggage area. Its very important to mount the subwoofer in the correct enclosure, If its ported then its even more important to get the right enclosure volume and port size / depth. Most brands will make a subwoofer / enclosure combo which is ideal. Note - The difference between sealed and ported is very noticeable, in my opinion ported is superior (provided the box is tuned properly). Ported enclosures will have a higher output over sealed, and will sound just as good. The only downside to ported is their size (most of the time around 1.5-2 times of sealed). Here are a few examples of subwoofer / enclsoure combos, I would assume $250-$300 is enough here. Sony Combo Pioneer Combo JBL Combo Keep in mind the "impedance" of the subwoofer is important, as this will determine how much power your amplifier can provide. I would suggest going with a dual 4 ohm voice coil subwoofer, which, when wired in "parrallel" will be 2 ohms. This impedance suits most of the digital monoblock amplifiers on the market. Note on subwoofer enclosures The easiest option as far as the sub enclosure goes is to buy a "combo", that way you'll be fairly certain the subwoofer / box is suited to each other. Ofcourse there is always the option of buying a woofer by itself, then finding out what enclosure types the subwoofer is suited to (most will come with suggestions) and building your own. But, if you dont have the tools/time/knowledge then your best bet is to go with a combo. Subwoofer Amplifier $300-$400 OK, as far as choosing an amp goes this is the same as the speaker amplifier. Power and at what impedance is the main thing to look for. As i explained above, an amp thats 2 ohm stable is ideal. Anywhere from 300-1000wrms will produce plenty of bass. Between $300 - $400 should get one of these or equivalent: Alpine Monoblock JBL Monoblock Pioneer Monoblock Kenwood Monoblock Installation: Important: I really cant stress how important a quality installation is, basically you could spend several thousands on components and they would sound like crap unless they are installed properly. Places like JB Hi Fi and Strathfield have been known to do some poor quality work, but there are some stores out there that are exceptions....if they have a good rep or youve seen / heard their work, then it shouldnt be problem to take it there. If you havent, its best to steer clear and head to a specialist car audio dealer. Im not saying every single specialist store performs perfect work, but your chances of getting a rough job is minimal. I would imagine if you were to buy all, or even most of the components from the same place thats going to install it that a cost of $450-$550 including wiring is about right. Although, if they charge a little extra thats up to them. One thing i will say is if you have an extra hundred or two then go for sound deadening. You will not regret this. Special Note: If wanting to install it yourself, as you feel confident enough and have the required tools and plenty of time (i would expect it take up most of a weekend for the average joe)......then go for it, just take your time removing and installing the various interior panels, routing the cables through the car (use the stock cable routes where possible) and making the wiring connections to the head-unit, speakers and amplifiers / subwoofer. Also spending a good half an hour tuning the system, listening to a wide range of music will go a long way to making a good system great!!! So that equals a grand total of between $1900 - $2600. Obviously depending on what components you choose and how much you pay for each one. I would imagine if you were to buy the whole lot from the one store they will take off a few dollars (especially if you get them to install it). Cheers, Andrew.