So you finally did it! You bought yourself a brand new car! You’re so proud of yourself as you walk out of the dealership you can barely contain it. You get in your new car and inhale that new car smell while you throw on your “I just bought a new car” sunglasses. You fire it up and drop the windows, imagining how good your going to look when you pull up to your house with the stereo bumping and your shiny new car shining. You spend 10 minutes figuring out how to connect your phone to the stereo’s Bluetooth and then you see those beautiful words…….phone paired. You open Spotify and hit play only to find yourself checking your phone volume to see if it’s turned down because surely your brand new car stereo can’t suck that bad. Disappointment sets in as you drive home and realize the dream of pulling up to your house with the stereo screaming is just that, a dream. Your factory stereo sucks!
Well don’t despair if the above hit a little too close to home, because I have some great news. You may have read a previous review I did on a product that was made to fix this exact situation, the Rockford Fosgate DSR1. In my review I praised it for being a great way to add amplifiers to a stock system with all its cool DSP and bluetooth features. Well the boys and girls over at METRA decided to throw their own version into the mix under the AXXESS Line. The AXXESS AX-DSP is a Digital Signal Processor that goes behind the factory radio and can be used with vehicle specific T-Harnesses so no cutting or splicing is required. Once installed you will get 6 channels of low level RCA outputs with 5 Volts of output voltage. To access the equalizer, crossover, and DSP functions thru Bluetooth you will need the AX-DSP APP and an Android device with 4.1 or you can use an IOS device with 10.2 or higher. Inside the APP you’ll find an initial setup screen with tabs for configuration saves and INPUTS which is where you will tell it if you’re using high level inputs and how you want your amps to turn on. Once you setup these initial items you will see tabs across the top that allow you to select FRONT, REAR, and SUB. These tabs hold the crossover and equalizer options for the selected tab. Each Tab has 31 bands of equalization and the ability to set High Pass or Low Pass crossovers. The crossovers are 24db Linkwitz-Riley and this is where the difference between the Rockford Fosgate DSR1 become apparent. The DSR1 offers 8 channels of low level outputs and has high, low, and bandpass crossovers with selectable slopes. These differences point my mind in the direction of the DSR1 is more geared towards the hardcore audiophile while the AX-DSP is more of a consumer unit.
To test out the AX-DSP first hand I installed it into my wife’s 2018 Toyota Prius Non-JBL audio system. I paired it with an NVX 5 channel amplifier, NVX Coaxials and a pair of NVX 8″ subs in fiber glassed enclosures. The install was honestly too easy and the AX-DSP was installed and RCAs were dropped in under 25 minutes. After I had everything installed the moment of truth arrived and I searched for a new Bluetooth device. I had no issues discovering and connecting to it. I then opened the app and realized you’re supposed to connect to the unit through the app, not your standard Bluetooth. So I opened the app, found the unit, hit connect and did the startup configuration. Once that was complete I fired up the stereo and began to play the system. It sounded like complete crap. My heart sank. Everything was distorting and sounded like it was going to blow up at any moment. So I went to the amp and checked my settings and everything seemed normal. The only thing I could think of was to turn the gains down and BOOM that was it. I had the gains set to 60% maximum but the AX-DSP is pushing some serious voltage and signal because I had to turn the gains to 10% from minimum. Once I had done that the system was singing. I made a few minor adjustments in the EQ and set the crossovers up on the DSP while setting the amps to Full Range.
After 2 months with the AX-DSP installed I have to admit that I am absolutely amazed with how awesome my wife’s stereo sounds. The AX-DSP handles all the factory chimes and alerts like a pro and sends all the signals to the correct speakers. So from the OEM side it’s a flawless integration. On the audio output side its crazy how clean the signal is and how much volume she can achieve now. The app is responsive in real time so you can make real time adjustments to the system and hear the changes as you make them. As an OEM retention audio upgrade this is hands down the go-to for most consumer installs. Now, it’s not all roses though, we do have an issue that I have informed METRA of and they are currently looking into it. It has to do with the Bluetooth interfering with the cars factory Bluetooth. I am not sure of the exact cause but the scenario is this: my wife has a Pixel 2 phone and ever since the AX-DSP has been installed her phone only auto connects to her car about 30% of the time and when it doesn’t it can take her up to 15 minutes to get the connection established. I will point out that I have a Samsung S8+ and I have zero problems connecting and my phone seems to auto connect every time. I pulled power from the unit and when I did her Pixel 2 began connecting with no problems but as soon as I powered the unit back up the issue appeared again. While this isn’t a huge issue it would be unfair of me to not address it in my review.
I believe the AX-DSP and the Rockford Fosgate DSR1 are both great units with obvious differences. The Rockford Fosgate is no doubt more of a professional user or competitor’s piece. The AXXESS AX-DSP is more suited for the general consumer and dealership upgrades. I was impressed with how easily the AX-DSP was installed and huge impact it made on the audio system. I call this the install to output ratio which is basically a way to show how much work it takes to put in the unit versus how much of a difference the unit made. The AX-DSP is 1/10 install output ratio, 1 being incredibly easy and 10 being maximum difference made. Oh yeah, did I mention you can use it with an aftermarket radio as well? Just run the RCAs out from the radio into the AX-DSP and now you have a full DSP added to your aftermarket system. I think every shop should have a few of these on hand.
Cabe Sipes Professional Car Audio Installer in Lafayette Indiana