Sunday, June 4, 2023

Garmin Tread Audio System Review

Electronics tend to make life more enjoyable. Thanks to the various options, you can enjoy your music everywhere you go. Even recreation vehicles, like a side by side, have stereo options. Garmin is a company that has been making excellent products for decades. And while you may think of GPS products when you think of Garmin, they have expanded. They now have a stereo system for recreation vehicles like side by sides. Up for review is their Tread Audio System, with an $1,199 MSRP.


Features and specs:

Audio Box

Weight: 997 g (2.2 lbs)

Physical Dimensions (LxWxH):  210 mm x 130 mm x 55 mm (8.27" x 5.12" x 2.165")

Water and dust rating:  IP67

Input voltage:  8 to 14.4 Vdc

Current (max):  40 A

Current (muted):  less than 650 mA

Operating temperature range:  -4° F to 158° F (-20° to 70° C)

Storage temperature range:  -40° F to 185° F (-40° to 85° C)

Compass safe distance:  203 mm (8")

BLUETOOTH wireless range:  up to 10 m (30 ft)

ANT wireless range:  up to 10 m (30 ft)

Fuse:  15 A mini-blade type

Peak power (Watts):  Four 200 W per channel

RMS power (Watts):  Four 100 W RMS at 14.4 Vdc input, 4 ohm

Warranty:  1 year


Weight:  2.49 kg (5.5 lbs)

Physical Dimensions:  177 mm x 233 mm (6.97" x 8.78")

Water and dust rating:  IP67

Operating temperature range:  32° - 122° F (0° to 50° C)

Speaker size:  6.5"

Peak power (Watts):  200 W per speaker

RMS power (Watts):  50 W

Sensitivity (1 W/1 m):  91 db

Frequency response:  80 Hz - 18kHz

Nominal impedance:  4 ohms

Recommended amplifier power (RMS):  20 - 150 W

LED lighting:  yes (RGB)

LED supply voltage:  10.8 - 16 Vdc

LED load current @ 14.4 VDC:  150 mA

Voice coil diameter:  30 mm (1.18")

Cone material:  polypropylene (PP) cone with cloth surround

Tweeter type:  aluminum dome

Supported roll bar sizes:  33.4 mm (1.31") to 50.8 mm (2.00") outer diameter

Warranty:  1 year

Wiring:  3 m


The Garmin Tread Audio System came in a great color printed box with photos of the system. Opening the box revealed a well-protected product held in place by custom sized cardboard. Materials used in the construction was mostly plastic with some metal. Quality of materials used, as well as fit and finish, was excellent. Also included were the adaptors for installation, wire connectors, and owner’s manual.


I really like the design of the Garmin Tread Audio System. It’s an all-in-one system, with a processor/amp, and two tower speakers. The amp processor unit is the brains of the system, and powers the two speakers. There is an app, and through the app and Bluetooth you control the system and use your smartphone for your tunes. It’s all you need.


The amp/processor controls the system, and provides a lot of functionality. It taps into your electrical system with ground and power connectors, and has other connections for the two tower speakers. There are also additional connections for the LED’s. It even has expansion options with line in/out, USB, and an antenna connection for AM/FM radio. Thanks to Bluetooth, all you really need for your tunes is your smartphone. Pull up your favorite music streaming service, or your favorite tunes you have stored on your phone, and you’re good to go.


To set-up the system, you would download the app on your phones. Once you have the app downloaded and your phone paired with the Tread system, you are ready to go. The Tread app is actually pretty simple, almost too simple.  You can select your input, like if you have an antenna, or just using your smartphone.  And then there’s buttons for Zone, Mute, and Volume. The Tread app is also not just for the audio.  There’s a drop-down menu on the top left that allows you to add additional devices, as well as use Group Ride, and Maps.  The Tread app is an app to use with all of their Tread products and not just the Tread Audio System.  I was still a little surprised at the app not including additional audio setting, like an Equalizer and DSP options.


Garmin did a great job with the Tread Audio System. It’s designed to handle the elements it could find itself in, in a side by side. It’s also very durable, being able to handle what you throw at it. The amp processor provides good power for the tower speakers. With a co-axial tweeter and woofer design, the tower speakers also provide great sound, and with the inputs for an antenna for radio, USB, and inputs, you also get great functionality. There’s even wires included in the wiring harness for a second paid of speakers. Using the system, I can see that Garmin succeeded in providing an audio solution for your outdoor vehicle.


I was impressed with the installation. Owner’s/Installation manuals can be hit and miss. Some can be hard to follow, but with Garmin it was well written and easy to follow. The wires were also extremely well labeled. This further increased the ease of installation. Mounting the tower speakers, thanks to the included brackets, was simple. And tapping into the electrical system with the wiring harness, was also pretty straight forward. Now let’s see how it sounds.


Electric Light Orchestra – Mr. Blue Sky: Snaps and drums were nice and dynamic. Vocals were very smooth with good texture of the timbre, and threw a very wide soundstage that also had good depth. Strings were smooth with good resolution of the bow on the strings. Bass also had good depth and played with authority.

Van Halen – Jump: Synthesizer was crisp and clean. Drums were very dynamic with good extension and pitch definition of the midbass. Cymbals were also crisp and clean. Guitar was nice and raw. Vocals were smooth with good timbre.

Rush – Tom Sawyer: Drums were epic, with very good dynamics and good authority, depth and definition of the midbass. Guitar was nice and raw. Vocals were pleasantly smooth with very good resolution. Cymbals were crisp and clean. Soundstage was again nice and wide and with depth.

I was impressed with the sound quality of the Garmin Tread System. They are designed to play loud, mounted on a recreation vehicle, like a side by side, and they delivered that in spades. Yet while being able to play loud, they also provided a very good amount of resolution, and good bass for their size. And a component more thought of with a high-quality home stereo system, they also provided a wide soundstage with good depth as well. While the highs were on the bright side, that can be toned down with equalization.  The LED built into the speakers was also really cool.  I preferred the setting for the lights to adjust to the music.  While Garmin may have a reputation for high quality GPS devices, they have taken that leadership and experience to create other products of the same quality.  As the saying goes….the truth is in the pudding.  And the Garmin Tread Audio System is that pudding.

The Garmin Tread Audio System appeared to be a great audio system on paper. Having used the system, the design proved to be a success. And not only did it sound great, the Garmin Tread Audio System is also very well made, to provide years of audio enjoyment. Garmin is proving that their leadership in great navigation products can transfer to providing other great products as well. If you are in the market for an audio system for your recreation vehicle like a side by side, the Garmin Tread Audio System deserves to be on your short list. Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the Garmin Tread has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. Kudos to Garmin on such a great product. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

Read more!

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Nakamichi NDST500A 12 Channel Digital Signal Processor 10 Channel Amplifier Designed for Hi-Res Audio

Car audio has been around for several generations. But it didn’t really take off until Jim Fosgate invented the first car amplifier in the early 70’s. Back in the day (30-40 years ago), if you wanted the best car cassette deck or CD receiver, it was Nakamichi. They made the best of the best, in sound and build quality. After a hiatus, Nakamichi car audio is back in the US. But is it the high-quality products that gave them the reputation? Time will tell. Up for review today is a DSP with built-in amplifier, the Nakamichi NDST500A.  MSRP is a very fair $1,049.99.


Features and specs:

Dynamic Range (RCA Input):  ≥100dB

S/N (RCA Input):  ≥90dB

THD:  ≤0.05%

Frequency Response:  20Hz~40KHz

Input Impedance:  High Level Input:240Ω

Low level Output Impedance:  51Ω

Signal Input Range:  RCA:  7.5Vpp; High Level: 26Vpp

Signal Output Range:   RCA: 8Vpp;


Amplifier Power

PEAK: 4CH×50W+4CH×80W+2CH×160W, Bridging 1×300W

RMS: 4CH×25W+4CH×40W+2CH×80W


Power    DC9V-16V

REM Input:   High Level Input Signal:H1+/H1-or ACC control cable

REM Output:  +12V Start up Voltage Output

Standby Power:  ≤0.1W

Gross Weight:  Approx. 2.08kg

Product Dimension(L×H×W):  255×175×47mm



Input Type:  6(8) Channel high level, 2 Channel Low Level, External digital Bluetooth, Optical, coaxial

Output Type:  12 Channels low level, 4CH×50W+4CH×80W+2CH×160W, Bridging 1×300W

Output Gain:  Gain range:  Mute, -59.9dB~0.0dB

Output Signal EQ:  31 band Equalizer Engine,

1.Frequency Range: 20Hz~20KHz, 1Hz Accuracy

2.Q value (Slope): 0.404~28.85

3.Gain: -12.0dB~+12.0dB, 0.1dB Accuracy


Output Signal Crossover: Each output is equipped with multi-order high and low pass independent filters.

1.Filtering types: Link-Rill, Butter-W, Bessel

2.Filtering frequency division point:  20Hz~20kHz, Resolution 1Hz

3.Filter slope (Slope) setting: 6dB/Oct to 48dB/Oct and OFF

Output Phase and Time Alignment           

Each output channel can be adjusted for phase and delay, parameter range : phase: in-phase or reverse-phase(0°/180°);

Delay: 0.000 to 20.000 ms, 0 to 692 cm,0 to 273 inch.

Presets  Save 6 presets into the device.


The Nakamichi NDST500A came in a great looking color printed box, with photos and specs of the DSP/amp. Opening the box revealed a well-protected product, held in place by foam. Materials used in the construction was mostly metal, with some plastic. Quality of materials used as well as fit and finish was excellent.  Also included were the wiring harnesses, mounting screws, USB cable, and owner’s manuals.


I really like the design of the Nakamichi NDST500A. It’s an all-in-one design, with both a DSP as well as an amplifier. It’s designed as an all-in-one solution for upgrading your car stereo. No matter if it is totally stock, or an after-market system, the Nakamichi NDST500A will work with it. The one downside, while small, is that it only has two RCA inputs. What that means, is that if you have an aftermarket receiver, you will be limited with the RCA outputs if you want to use them.


The Nakamichi NDST500A is designed to get the best sound possible out of your car stereo system. It starts with the DSP and provides 12 channels of it. And that’s a lot! Each channel is for a single speaker. And for each channel you get crossovers, as well as gains, delays, and EQ’s. This means you have total control of each speaker.  You can set the frequencies that it’ll play, the EQ curve that it’ll play (boosts or dips of frequencies based on your personal preference), as well as the gain or output level that it’ll play. Not only does it work to get the best sound out of your speakers, it also protects your speakers. It does so by feeding each individual speaker only the frequencies that it can play, and at the levels that they can handle.


The next thing that the Nakamichi NDST500A does, is also power your speakers. It does this through the built in amplifier. The built-in amplifier is actually 10 channels. You get 25 watts x4, 40 watts x4, and 80 watts x2 RMS. One small downside it that only the 80 watts x2 channels are bridgeable to 150 watts x1 channel. And the DSP and amp work together.


What does all this mean? For most people, this may be the only DSP and amplifier that you need. Most people in their cars may have a 2-way component system in the front and maybe a 2-way component system in the rear. In that scenario, you would need 4 channels for the fronts, 4 channels for the rears and the last 2 channels of the amp can be bridged to 1 channel for a subwoofer.


But it has 12 channels of DSP, and 10 channels of amplifier power. Why have 2 more channels of DSP? My reference system is a perfect example. My fronts comprise of a tweeter, midrange, and midbass for each side. For the rears I have a tweeter and midrange for each side. And being a bass-head, I need a lot more power to my multiple subwoofers. For my set-up, six of the channels will go to the fronts, four of the channels will go to the rears, and the last two channels of DSP will go to the subs. So for my extensive system, the Nakamichi NDST500A provides all of DSP channels that I need. And for the built-in amplifier, the four channels of 25 watts will go to the four tweeters. The four channels of 40 watts will go to the four midranges. And the final two channels of 80 watts will go to the midbass drivers.


When you think about it, for most people what the Nakamichi NDST500A provides is sufficient. 12 channels of DSP, and 10 channels of amplification should be enough. And when you think about it, 25 watts for a tweeter is usually enough. 40 watts to a midrange is usually enough. And 80 watts to a midbass is also usually enough. And just in case the included amplifier power isn’t enough for you, Nakamichi still has you covered. With 12 channels of DSP, the Nakamichi NDST500A also has 12 RCA outputs. So you can use the 12 RCA outs to go to separate amps. The Nakamichi NDST500A is actually very versatile. It’s a great all-in-one DSP/amp that is all most people will need. But if overkill is not good enough for you, with the 12 channel outs it can be the brains of a really massive system.


In setting up and configuring the Nakamichi NDST500A for my system, the software proved to also be very versatile. There’s a lot to the software, but looking at it everything makes sense and was pretty intuitive. There are the icons for all twelve channels at the top of the page. Clicking on the channel activates it. On the left is an image of a car with images of each speaker and its location. That speaker that is active is also highlighted red. You select the high pass and low pass frequencies, slope, and type of filter. Slope options are 6 to 48 db. There’s also gain, delay, and 31 band EQ. And each band has not just a gain but also a Q, for the width of the slope.  All of these options including the 31 band EQ, are available and adjustable for each channel.


The software looks great, and like I said before, really robust. It helps to really dial in your car’s stereo system. You custom tailor the best sound for your car, and it’s acoustics. It’s very simple to use with your laptop. But there’s also a version of the software for your smartphone. And to test its sound quality, our reference system comprises of a Kenwood Excelon Reference Series receiver, German Maestro’s best M-Line speakers that are hand made in Germany, Alpine Type X speakers, and Image Dynamics subs.  They are excellent audiophile speakers to get every ounce of resolution and details from the music.  Now that it’s installed and configured, let’s see how it sounds.


Nat King Cole – LOVE:  vocals were silky smooth like honey, with excellent texture of the timbre.  Piano sounded very natural, and strings were also very smooth.  Trumpet was not just crisp and clean, but also extremely dynamic!  Trombone also had great tone and harmonics.  Not only was there an excellent level of resolution, I also heard a soundstage that was wide and deep, with excellent imaging.

Dire Straits – Money For Nothing:  vocals were again smooth like Swiss chocolate, with excellent resolution to reveal the great texture of the timbre.   Guitar was nice and raw.  Drums were very dynamic with great pitch definition of the midbass.  This is a song that as soon as you hear the first of the drums kick in… just begs to be blasted!  And the Nakamichi provided plenty of power to really play loud, and did so really cleanly!

Cat Stevens – Father & Son: the acoustic guitar was phenomenal! The resolution from the strings was excellent, so crisp and clean. You could even hear the decay of the strings after being plucked.  The vocals were also really smooth with excellent timbre.  And the soundstage was not only deep, the imaging was spot on, being able to hear slight variances as he changed slight direction on the mic.  The drums were nice and dynamic, and the cymbals crisp and clean.

I also listened to dozens of others of my favorite tracks.  And the results were the same.  Vocals were so silky smooth with tons of resolution to really reveal the subtle nuances of the texture of the timbre.  Drums were dynamic, cymbals were crisp and clean, and kick drums had excellent depth, impact, and authority.  Strings were smooth with sufficient resolution to reveal the bow across the strings. Brass was also so smooth with excellent harmonics. Piano sounded natural and also provided good dynamics and harmonics.  I was expecting good imaging and soundstage.  But I wasn’t expecting imaging as good as it was.  And I had not heard a soundstage this big in my system before.  Sure, I had heard tracks throw a wide and deep soundstage.  But there were also tracks where the soundstage seemed to come at me, jumping off of the front dash and come at me, like 3 inches in front of the dash.  That was a first for me!  It seemed as though no matter how good your speakers are, the Nakamichi NDST500A will not be the weak link in your system.   


I had high hopes for the Nakamichi NDST500A. Back in the day, they made some of the best products. Based on the Nakamichi NDST500A, their reputation appears to be intact. It’s a very solid well-made product. The DSP works great, the amplifier provides good power that is not only clean, but also transparent for the source material.  I was a little skeptical at first with the smallish amount of power that each channel was providing, when I first saw the specs.  But then when I really thought about it, the amount of power provided should have been sufficient.  And that proved to be the case.  There was enough power to not only provide very good resolution, but to also provide a great sound stage, imaging, and excellent dynamics!  It’s Nakamichi’s first product designed for and to receive Hi-Res Audio certification.  And the sound quality shows in its performance.

Kudos to Nakamichi on staying true to their reputation. At least based on this product. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue to see how they perform with more of their products. I just would have liked to see RCA inputs for all channels.  The Nakamichi NDST500A is a great performing product that delivered in spades. And it’s well made to provide years of use. If you want to take your car stereo to the next level, to a fully active system, a product like the Nakamichi NDST500A is a necessity. And it deserves to be on your short list. Based on its design, features, quality, and performance, the Nakamichi NDST500A has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at  Reference gear used: Kenwood DNX997XR reference series receiver, Wavtech Link 500.1 sub amp, German Maestro M-Line 3-way component speakers, Alpine Type-X 2-way component speakers, Image Dynamic quad ID8 subwoofers.

Read more!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

T-Spec V16 VSW1116 Speaker Cable and V16RCA-32 RCA Audio Cable Review

I take my tunes everywhere I go. Having a good car stereo system is an enjoyment for many of us. Having quality installation components is key to a high-quality system. Metra makes some of the best, with their T-Spec brand of wires and cables. Their products range from V8 to V16 for their wires and cables. Up for review today is their V16 VSW1116 speaker cable and V16 Series V16RCA-32 RCA audio cable.


Features and specs:


20ft flexible over-molded braided cable

(11) 16 gauge conductors

Full spec OFC

5 pairs + remote


Braided cable cover

Outer jacket heatshrink included

Heatshrink wire labels included

Red and black ferrules included

Exceeds stringent CEA-2016 specifications

Meets BC-5W marine compliance standard

1 year limited warranty



Gold-plated copper RCA tips with continuous locking barrel

Enamel painted color bands for durable identification

26AWG oxygen-free copper core for maximum bass

Silver plating for true midrange and high-frequency fidelity

M-jacket insulates each channel separately

Non-conductive cotton filler

Polyethylene foam insulated jacket

Aluminum-faced mylar foil for EMI rejection

85 percent coverage braided tinned copper for emitted noise rejection

PVC outer jacket for strength and flexibility

Woven cotton cable shield

Length: 3 feet


They came in a nice-looking color printed boxes with photos and specs of the cable. Opening the box revealed a well-made cable and wire. Materials used in the construction was copper wire and plastic jacket. Quality of materials used, as well as the fit and finish was very good.


I really liked the design of the cables. For the speaker wires, it’s a great all-in-one cable. It’s great, especially for when you are using an after-market DSP. Unlike factory wires, these are actually 16 gauge, using a fine high strand count oxygen free copper wire. And it’s an 11-strand single cable, which makes it easier to run for installation. It even comes with the sleeve, labels, and connection ends. Everything you need for a clean looking installation.


The V16 RCA cable is also a great quality design. You get a 26-gauge solid copper core that is also silver plated for improved sound quality of the mids and highs. To keep the signal pure from noise it has quad shielding. The woven shielding is also tough. And the connector is gold plated and locks in place.


When it comes to car audio cable and wire products, Metra has you covered with their T-Spec brand. They have a multitude of different products. The V16 is their top of the line for wires and cables. And they performed in spades, like T-Spec products usually do. Based on their design, features, quality and performance, the VSW1116 and V16RCA-32 have earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

Read more!