New cars are great, the technology they pack into even entry to mid-level cars is impressive. But for all their advancements in safety, emissions and creature comforts, there is an aspect that they almost always ignore – sound quality. The Kicker Key 180.4 is here to change that quickly, easily and without a big sting to your back pocket.
Kicker has long been recognised as the Audio industry’s crazy Uncle Ray that tinkers in the shed out the back, but always manages to produce amazing, some would say astounding results. Their Subs, Amps and Speakers are in a league of their own and produce some of the sweetest sounding sound waves possible.
The issue in getting these products into the mainstream is the work involved in changing #CrappyFactorySound to work with aftermarket amps and subs. The Kicker Key 180.4 is a single, simple upgrade that takes away the need for expensive, intrusive and sometimes prohibitive options.
What is the Kicker Key 180.4?
In a nutshell, the Kicker Key 180.4 is a small form factor, Class-D smart amplifier. It sits in-line with your factory system, meaning it piggybacks all the existing connections. This is a great thing as you don’t have to run the traditional thick amp installation wires through your car.
After you’ve wired it into your car, you basically have it ‘listen’ to your system. Not only is it giving each channel 45W of power (giving your system a nice bump from the standard 7W-12W it was getting), it’ll identify which speakers aren’t exactly performing the best and alter the power going to it to make it sound like a beast.
Another fun thing that ol’ Uncle Ray perfected is Time Alignment (TA) and Digital Sound Processing (DSP). Through electrical trickery and nerdiness, TA will ‘lift’ the sound stage to your eye-line. So the music sounds like it’s coming from in front of you, not your ankles.
Think of the Kicker Key 180.4 as a little brick that is the difference between #CrappyFactorySound and a tuned, even, fuller sound system for less than $500. The improvement can be heard instantly after the tune is complete. You’re also able to further justify the purchase with the optional controller. This lets you turn the DSP on and off to hear the difference – and there will be a huge one.
Do I need anything else?
After buying, installing and tuning the Kicker Key 180.4, you won’t need a thing. Literally, one box huge improvements. You will eventually want to go forth and add more bass to your system now that the clarity and sound stage has been sorted for you, but initially – nope; just you and the Key.
One Box - All the Features
The Kicker Key 180.4 is a simple, single upgrade that will make a noticeable difference to any factory car sound system. Delivering clean, crystal clear sound with deep, full bass tones. The footprint of the device is also so small it can be hidden almost anywhere in your car’s cabin. It doesn’t matter what speakers you’ve got, how many or where they are. If the Key can hear it, it’ll tune it.
Everyone Can Use A Hand
Even high-end European vehicles can benefit from the Key’s brilliance. The effect this product has on literally any sound system has to be heard to be believed. The sound is transformed and it’s placed in front of your face – at your eye line. It sounds like you’re sitting in front of your music being played to you. The notes are clear, the sound is crisp and you’ve spent exactly zero dollars on your speakers.
Is it worth it?
To be completely honest, if you have no interest in going bigger, or adding more bass – then yes, the Kicker Key 180.4 is the upgrade I’d recommend.
The instant improvement it provides is easily enough to hear, appreciate and become dependent on for good sound. It’s almost bad in the sense that you hear the difference it makes and you finally realise what we’re talking about with #CrappyFactorySound.
The cost of the unit is also quite acceptable. Given that this is the only change you’re making, the only outlay you need to get the result of high-quality, realistic music – it’s a good one.
Kicker Key 180.4 Smart Amplifier$449
- The instant change it makes to #CrappyFactorySound
- How easy it is to tune
- Effectiveness of Time Alignment
- Power of the Digital Sound Processing
- The price
Not So Great Things
- Doesn't work with all sound systems, limited to four channels
- Can't be used in systems with factory sub and amp