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S1 Audio System

The first thing to ask yourself is, do you want to try and fit a high quality audio system in such a small car because you won't hear much in the way of quality audio whilst on the move? It will inevitably be a compromise due to the size of the car and the limited number of places in which to put the speakers. I've had my Elise S1 for several months before I felt a need to fit a CD/tuner and I then found that it detracted from the driving pleasure, so it spent most of the time off.

If you are going to install a head unit, then make ensure you've ordered the radio fitting kit option on specifying your car. This includes the aerial, wiring, a pair of Alpine speakers, and most importantly two new dash strips in which to fit a CD/radio/tape head unit. Newer S1 Elises had these two dash strips pre-fitted so you have a simpler task to fit your radio and you won't have a spare dash strip to keep in the garage.

The Alpine SPE1620 speakers sound OK considering their position behind the seats. They are cheap and a better quality speaker will improve the sound quality. One thing to bear in mind is that if you replace the Alpine speakers, make sure the coil magnets on the new speakers will fit in the space behind the panel, because it isn't that deep. You can add spacers to resolve this problem. You will never get much bass response since the enclosure behind the speakers is small. If an accurate volume measurement could be made then a decent tuned port could be designed for a good set of speakers with known characteristics, but I haven't had the time to solve this one yet.

Head Unit

I wanted a CD player and a tuner in my Elise and I ended up buying a KenwoodRemote site KDC-4070RA from my local dealer who matched the cheapest price I found on the Internet (£145 from Car Audio DesignRemote site).

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It is at the budget end of the market but stands out in terms of performance and sound quality. My key considerations were:

  • It has very good sound (and some very good reviews).
  • It handles bumpy environments very well.
  • The front panel is removable (which is essential in an open top car).
  • It has plenty of power (4 x 25Wrms) to drown out wind/engine noise at three figure speeds.
  • It also has loads of features and a white display which matches the Elise interior well.
Unfortunately, all European head units are designed for LHD cars and this makes the controls a bit of a stretch in a RHD Elise.

Radio Reception

Radio reception can often be a problem in the Elise S1. It is usually down to three things:
  • The aerial supplied on the Elise is simply not very good. A replacement aerial can be bought from your nearest Rover dealer for about £10. Ask for one for a MY2001 Rover 25. It is a lot longer but reception is worth it. This also applies to the Elise S2. The original part is from a Vauxhall Omega/Frontera/Carlton/VX220. The part number for the amplified base unit is 90339506, priced at 32.95 + VAT.

  • Interference from the Stack unit - Remove the fuse for the Stack unit (fuse 8) and you can quickly identify if this is the problem. The unit will need either replacing or screening to solve this problem. Both are best done by a dealer.

  • Poor ground plane - Lotus have recently (September 2000) launched a self adhesive screening foil kit to help provide a better ground plane for the aerial and to reduce interference. Part no. A111M0131F is a sheet of sticky aluminium foil (with cut outs for the boot vents) that sticks to the inside of the boot lid. For this to have any effect it must be electrically connected to the earth side of the aerial. This is effectively a very thin sheet of tin foil and a better solution would be a 1mm thick sheet of copper, cut to fit the boot lid. Either way, make sure it is well fixed to the lid, can handle the variations in temperature and won't fall off on to moving engine parts.

The Elise aerial has a 12V supply going to it to power an active amplifier in the aerial base (a thin red wire). Another frequent problem is that the earth to the aerial is poor or non-existent. This is partly due to the GRP boot lid but an earth should be made via the aerial lead at the radio end. In my car this was not the case so I've added a separate, flexible earth strap from the aerial base to a boot hinge fixing bolt (which is the closest earthing point). This made an improvement to the quality of the signal received but it's still not brilliant.
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To improve the high frequency content and improve stereo imagery I was going to add two satellite tweeters (£15 from MaplinRemote site). I've since decided that the existing sound is good enough in this respect so I'm not going to bother. The plan was to put these up under the rear screen above the existing pods. They are fitted in parallel (they have a built in high pass filter) with the main speakers and provide very good sound without requiring any holes or damage to the car. They a light enough to be fixed with double-sided tape.


With the existing alpine speakers and the Kenwood head unit fitted the most obvious improvements to the sound quality will come with improved bass response. I initially came to the conclusion that I'd have to fill the boot to get any reasonable bass performance, but a shelf mounted, active sub-woofer will perform adequately in a small car like this. It is best to wire it up with connectors and fix it with latches or velcro to allow easy removal. Most people fit them on the shelf behind the cargo net.

A popular choice is the Pioneer TS-WX10LPARemote site (£250) which sounds very good for its relatively small size (451W x 184H x 148D mm). You can switch off the blue, internal neon light! Elise owners reports on this sub-bass system have all been very good.

Other Information

If you intend to mount anything (e.g. a CD auto changer) on the shelf behind the seats. Be very careful, the fuel tank is below it.

If you have any question then please e-mail me. Other owners audio installations that I found useful and are worth looking at on the web are:

  • Jon ProwseRemote site who's done some good speaker installation work on the Elise dash and doors.

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Copyright © Rob Collingridge 2009 - Last updated 30 Jun 2005