review of PHANTOM AUDIO J.L.Kelley amp for civic
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Thread: review of PHANTOM AUDIO J.L.Kelley amp for civic

  1. #1
    Big Timer!!! modrid81's Avatar
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    review of PHANTOM AUDIO J.L.Kelley amp for civic

    Alright. Amp is in, and I'm in love. Right away, it's a clear difference compared to what it was before. Highs are clear, you can tell I actually have a sub. Everything is just crisp. It absolutely sounds like a new system, and it is 100% worth the coin/time/effort. Music doesn't sound depressing, but alive. Here's a cpl pics he sent, as well as a vid that I recorded with my wife's iPhone 6s. And for the record, I didn't know Jesse did this kind of work until Fuzzy mentioned it, nor am I getting anything for a review. This guy did great work transforming a system I thought I was going to have to gut completely. Lemme know if you have any questions.

    Set up on vid:
    Playing Spotify through the iPod USB function
    Playlist downloaded at max quality, 320 kbps
    Spotify EQ turned off
    Head unit audio settings centered, nothing turned up or down



    review of PHANTOM AUDIO J.L.Kelley amp for civic-image-17.jpg
    review of PHANTOM AUDIO J.L.Kelley amp for civic-image-18.jpg
    review of PHANTOM AUDIO J.L.Kelley amp for civic-image-19.jpg

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  3. #2
    Big Timer!!! modrid81's Avatar
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    Here's my take so far with the change. This upgrade absolutely transforms the tweeters, doors, and rears. Went from like a 5 to 9, IMO. The clarity is amazing compared to before, like I swapped them out. This alone makes it worth it for me. Does it change the sub as well? Yes. Went from non-existent to a solid 7. Is the bass enough for me? No. I'm a basshead like you, and while the bass did get better and cleaner, I still want more. He does have a drop-in sub/amp package that I will be going after at a later date. I'm not interested in sub boxes in the back. Been there, done that in a previous life. I also don't want to put a hole in the earth with bass, so his drop-in upgrade there will be good for me. All said, his overhaul satisfied about 95% of my grief with the premium audio package. The other 5% will be fixed a little later on.

  4. #3
    Greenhorn
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    I bought in, but haven't said anything about it yet because I wanted to live with the amp for a couple of days and fully form my opinion of it before posting. But I know Jesse is (im)patiently waiting for me to speak up, so here it is.

    I have a '15 Si coupe. I sent the amp to him on a Monday morning and it arrived back on a Saturday afternoon. His communications are thorough and impressive. Smart guy, knows his stuff. I also have an electronics background, so we were able to talk about the changes in-depth.

    I wanted to spend time with the amp before posting, for a couple of reasons. First, I listen to a very wide range of music, so I wanted time to let a lot of different kinds of music come through. And second, I need time for my expectations to adjust. After three years in this car, my brain is conditioned to what it's "supposed" to sound like, and at first I'm going to hear any change as "something's not right." I needed time for that reaction to damp down.

    Disclaimer: I do not claim to have golden ears. Over time I've been perfectly happy to learn to listen through the flaws of playback rather than chase the Perfect Tone. A lot of this is going to be subjective; your mileage, as always, may vary.

    So, after a few days, what do I think?

    First thing I noticed, and continue to notice, was that the car has an actual stereo soundstage now. Vocals and instruments sound like they're coming from specific places, and not just nebulously audible throughout the vehicle. The difference should be immediately apparent to anyone whose ears both work.

    Second thing I noticed was that the amp's previous peakiness is gone. The response is smoothed out. This lends a greater sense of realism. Basically it sounds less like a boom box and more like good home audio.

    I find myself having to turn up the volume more, though. At first I thought the amp was quieter than before, but then I realized what was really going on. The peakiness was cutting through road noise in a way that no longer occurs. So I will have to accustom myself to what this system now sounds like at low levels. That will come with time.

    I'm noticing the best improvements on recordings that have clear dynamic range, like jazz, acoustic country, or roots rock, and less improvement on things like punk and techno which don't really make demands on a system's dynamics. Ambient-leaning things are interesting because the drastically improved soundstage makes the individual sounds easier to localize, which paradoxically makes them less ambient. Classical will never be easy to listen to in this car because the faint passages will always be overwhelmed by tire noise.

    I've seen the word "crisp" bruited about in this thread. That is not how I would describe it. To me, crisp means forward, edgy, and trebly. If anything the amp is less trebly now, and more linear. It sounds more like my Acura TL used to sound, or the BMW that I once owned, lo these many moons ago. The modification made it civilized and precise where it was previously unrefined and undistinguished.

    I will continue to update this thread if more observations occur to me.
    Last edited by Sargasm; 10-03-2018 at 09:57 AM.

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  6. #4
    Nooblets Aviator6's Avatar
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    Got my amp back today from Phantom & I'm totally blown away! 100% satisfied & totally agree with Fuzzy & Sargasm. Clear highs & mids, and I can actually feel some bass. So far, just listened to Nickleback and Simon & Garfunkle - some very demanding music to reproduce. Was thinking of replacing the factory speakers, but not now. I can't believe the difference.
    2013 Civic Si /// 2019 Pilot EX-L

  7. #5
    Nooblets
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    review of PHANTOM AUDIO J.L.Kelley amp for civic

    it is very hard to describe sound on paper like tweeters being soft and detailed at the same time or subwoofer being soft but tight bass.
    that's why audiophile reviewers get paid the big bucks... but ill give it a try.


    back story:
    I bought 2014 civic SI sedan not too long ago and noticed right away how horrible the premium sound system was in this car when compared to other premium sounds

    so I started digging around trying to figure out what the issue is.( progress is covered in my other thread "tearing apart the SI system")

    the car comes with what seems like a very good system.
    24bit burr brown DAC in the head-unit
    balanced signal outputs to the amp which is usually found on high end systems
    Kevlar cone woofers
    Kevlar cone is very good at reproducing the sound without many resonating peaks. very similar to paper cone. but doesn't suffer from moisture deformation
    aluminum(titanium?) dome tweeters which are also much better than Mylar balanced dome tweeters found in most cars( plastic tweeters on base models)
    7 channel amplifier the tweeters are electronically crossed over in the amp as opposed to a basic capacitor inline

    the problem:
    as Jesse found looking at my amp. Honda actually makes multiple versions of the amp and uses same case and heatsink but different internals for each model and trim to tailor the sound to each specific model.
    and also uses basic caps and is missing few other small components
    its done to cut costs for mass production .


    what he does is test multiple combinations of parts for each amp until it sounds right. to your ear and on bench test
    if I remember correctly he uses 2 different brands of caps both are top quality to get the sound just right.


    the most important question:
    is it worth the money?
    to me it is 100% worth it. especially the minimum effort it took me to take the amp out and put it back in.
    no need for long installations and picking the components and fitment issues and arguing with installer because you have rattles now... etc

    the amp is located under dash to the right of steering column
    loosen the 3 10mm bolts holding it and slide the bracket. and the amp is out
    install in reverse order and you're done. enjoy better sound



    now the sound:
    my first impression of the stock system

    ear melting dullness of the mids and nails on the chalkboard highs plus a flopping subwoofer that lags behind and basically just adds to the overall noise
    casually reproducing whatever sounds come in without any kind of effort to get the timing of the instruments right...
    I have a very good system at home and worked as an installer for 10 years and heard plenty of good and bad systems.
    and have a very good ear for spotting crappy sound right away

    at 25 volume it was not enjoyable at all. even at 15 volume it was not enjoyable. so I turned it down most of the time to just have background noise


    after the mod what I noticed:
    it is clear at volume 5 I can hear a lot more details and it is not clipping at volume 30 like it did before
    I played my reference tracks of high quality that I use to tune the systems.
    overall feeling of better balanced system much softer and easier on your ears but also much more detailed
    I actually set the eq to middle which is a first time for me. even with aftermarket systems I usually adjust the eq

    very much detail from the tweeters compared to before without being overly harsh. much wow such tweeter. so doge.

    the door panels being the obvious weakness of this car mids are much better defined and less peaks and dips on the graph and audible to my ear.
    there are still improvements to be made by applying some sound deadening but that is something that speakers cant fix.

    subwoofer actually pushes the bass now instead of hyperventilating

    and it has plenty of bass at least for me but he is working on a solution for people who want more bass.

    I ran the tone generator down to 22hz and up to 19.9khz where it was still audible to me. and registered on the graph.


    he does offer other products besides the amp as well. I will let him answer the details about other stuff so the information is accurate.



    the old myth#1: stock systems never sound good.
    this maybe was true for cars from the 90s. but technology always moves forward. and today's base systems are actually on par with yesterday's premium systems and sometimes even better.

    myth #2: RMS is whats important more RMS better sound. which is a noob way of looking at audio
    power handling is loosely related to quality of sound
    a 75 watt focal speaker will sound very much better than a 150 watt white van made in china speaker.
    RMS simply means the ability of speaker to handle higher power demands which in real life translates to the rare times you listen to your system at the 95% volume which you shouldn't do anyway
    higher power handling speakers simply handle more demanding frequencies like lower bass or complicated passages in a song with multiple instruments
    a 5 watt speaker is just as loud as a 50 watt speaker it just cannot reproduce lower frequencies, that's what the subwoofer is for anyway.
    for example many people don't realize that the tweeters in most systems are actually rated at less than 10 watts RMS. most of the time even less than 5 watts. because tweeters only reproduce high frequencies which are much less demanding in power than lower freq.

    before i start going into too much detail i will stop . since its already 1 am and i should be sleeping and not writing reviews anyway..

    im not sure who the other guys were that bought the amps already someone tag them here please
    Last edited by fuzzysig; 10-08-2018 at 03:28 AM.
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  8. #6
    Nooblets Aviator6's Avatar
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    I had my amp modified by Phantom & 100% satisfied. I did a review on Phantom's FB page.
    2013 Civic Si /// 2019 Pilot EX-L

  9. #7
    Nooblets
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    do you know who the other guys were that got their amp already?
    sucks their reviews were deleted

  10. #8
    Nooblets Aviator6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fuzzysig View Post
    do you know who the other guys were that got their amp already?
    sucks their reviews were deleted
    Two that I know for sure, as they posted reviews. were Sargasm and modrid81. You might check Phantom's FB page to see if anyone else posted a review there.
    2013 Civic Si /// 2019 Pilot EX-L

  11. #9
    Nooblets
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    are any of you guys on 9th gen civic group on facebook?

  12. #10
    Greenhorn
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    Quote Originally Posted by fuzzysig View Post
    are any of you guys on 9th gen civic group on facebook?
    No, I deleted my Facebook and G+ accounts. Social media has become a timesuck at best and a vat of poison at worst.

    I participate in forums if they interest me, and occasionally reply to a comment thread somewhere, but at the first sign that something's turning flamey, I'm out.

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