Whether during his daily commute, a business trip or occasional weekend jaunt, Jeff Kane sits behind a steering wheel much more than the average driver. "I spend more time there than anyplace else," he says of his '06 Nissan 350Z. With that the case, the longtime car audio enthusiast couldn't just upgrade his "garage queen," a Mercedes E55 (which we featured in Apr. '07). His daily driver also needed to step up to the plate.

"I wanted the best I could get in sound quality and entertainment options," Kane says of his goals for the Z. In addition, he wanted all these amenities while preserving the sporty car's stock appearance. He turned to Louis Gonzales of Bay Area Audio Visions in Corpus Cristi, TX, to make it happen. As Gonzales incorporated new gear, goals evolved. Now, the Z spans the realms of stealth and custom flair. But more importantly, it has that great SQ and all the media choices Kane was after to keep him company on the road.

Entertainment Options
Since Kane spends so many hours in the Z, he needed more entertainment than the standard AM/FM radio can provide. After Gonzales got his hands on the car, Kane now has so many different source options that conventional radio never gets airtime. His choices include TV, DVD, CD, XM and Sirius Satellite Radio, iPod and DVD-Audio. "If we're on a road trip, we can watch movies or catch up on TV," Kane says. "If I'm on the road by myself, I can choose between Sirius and XM."

While watching movies or, more frequently, listening to DVD-Audio discs, surround sound comes into play. "Initially, I wanted DVD-A compatibility on a lark, but I didn't think it'd make much difference," Kane confesses. Now, the man's hooked. The versatile Pioneer AVH-P7600DVD receiver is Dolby Digital 5.1 capable and also can control a nav unit, the Pioneer AVIC-88DVD. This add-on resides in the hatch along with the JL Audio amps, passive crossovers and the other Pioneer tuners that give Kane his A/V smorgasbord.

Hear the Sound
A variety of sources was just one part of the Z's equation. Kane also wanted the car to sound great. For a strong, reverb-free foundation, Gonzales laid Brown Bread damping material everywhere, even in areas completely bare of audio equipment. Everything touching the signal was chosen with care, such as Esoteric Audio cables and wires.

Brax components got the nod for the front stage and placing them required some aesthetic and SQ considerations. Since the factory front speaker placements didn't have enough depth to accommodate the midbass, locating the speaker there would require redoing the door panel. This would blatantly conflict with Kane's initial stealth goals. Also, both owner and installer "knew that placement of the front speakers was paramount for the best sound quality," Gonzales reveals. "Therefore, kick panel locations were chosen instead to minimize path length differences."

The tweeters of the component set lodge up in the A-pillars, almost parallel with the center channel, a discrete 5.1 surround sound necessity. "After hearing multichannel audio done well, I'm a convert," Kane confesses. In fact, he would even like to add one of the new Sony SACD players to the system. "DVD-A sadly seems to be disappearing, but SACD is quite healthy and has much more content available," he says.

As important as the center channel for 5.1, the surround speakers found a home in the rear deck. "The factory locations proved to be the best compromise for the new home to a pair of JL Audio XR650-CXi 6.5" coaxials," Gonzales notes. The installer still had to modify the location with MDF rings that spaced out and centered the speakers. Some things couldn't be fixed with physical alterations - due to the close proximity of the speakers to the listener's head, Gonzales used electrical time alignment from the head unit to create a bigger listening space.

For the .1 channel, Kane originally got 12" subwoofers, which clearly wouldn't fit as the build progressed. "Anyone that has ever worked on a 350Z can appreciate the lack of space and awkward layout of the behind-the-seat area," Gonzales says. Eight-inchers triumphed as their best option. "Because we were going to use only 8" subwoofers and still wanted plenty of bass to realistically create all the sub-bass information from the 5.1 movies, as well as all ranges of music that might be played on the system, our choices of driver got real small real fast," Gonzales says. In the end they went with JL Audio 8W7-3's in separate ported enclosures.

Evolving Design
As Gonzales installed the various pieces of equipment, the look of the system didn't seem right. "Midway through the build," Kane relates, "Louis gave me a call and said, 'I'm just not feelin' it.' " Kane thought it over and had to agree that the Z's factory interior didn't have much going for it aesthetically. "It's quite basic and Spartan inside," he says, overcoming his reaction to preserve the stock look. "In this case... I was worrying about aesthetics that didn't exist!"

With a green light to pump up the interior with custom details, Gonzales trimmed the speakers with frosted acrylic and black acrylic. Blue LEDs illuminate the clear acrylic for a distinctive "show" look. The same treatment follows to the Brax amps, which could've been covered with a panel instead of being put on display. In the painfully cramped and difficult-to-work-in area behind the strut bar, Gonzales mounted the pair on angled MDF racks.

Though the Z turned out a little different than Kane intended on the onset, the resulting combination of eye and ear candy makes for an enjoyable daily driver and a powerful competitor car. Kane had never entered vehicles in competitions before, but Gonzales introduced him to the scene and the Z recently won second place at CAE's Trifecta event in San Antonio, TX. Despite the fun of going to SEMA and winning trophies, it's the pleasure of a good drive and great sounds that gets Kane going. "Carving hills in the crisp early morning air with the sunrise at my back, the stereo and the engine on song," he muses about solo drives through the Texas hill country. "It may sound a bit hackneyed but it's awe inspiring."

Driver Profile:
With a job in sales and management, Jeff Kane spends a lot of time on the road. Fortunately he loves a drive and will go the distance to get a good one. "South Texas is flat," he explains, "so the roads to the west are the closest 'driving roads' available. I'll get up early on a Sunday morning and go for a long drive while my better half sleeps." Thanks go to "God, my loving wife Amy, Louis for all his tireless efforts, my parents, family, friends and everyone who's a positive force in my life."

Tech:
Nismo exhaust
GReddy intercooled twin turbo kit
with Profec-S boost management
Jim Wolf Technology clutch
UTEC TurboXS engine management system

Shop:
Bay Area Audio Video
Corpus Cristi, TX
Installer: Louis Gonzales

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By Brook Howell
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