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Chrysler Infinity stereo systems: 1987-1999 head units

by Jeremy Schrag

This guide is for Chrysler/Infinity stereo systems from 1987 until roughly 1999, when they began to evolve into something more sophisticated. We stop at around 1999 because I have not yet studied the newer systems. (We also have detailed repair guides for each unit - see the end of the page for a list.)

Chrysler-Infinity stereo history

Chrysler itself noted that the Infinity sound system was available on 18 different nameplates in 1988: "Both feature unobtrusive speakers that are individually amplified and equalized, or tuned, to the exact interior acoustics of each car for accurate sound ... the Infinity I features an AM stereo/FM stereo receiver with 20 station memory, Dynamic Noise Reduction...automatically adjusts for normal or high bias tape, and features Dolby B noise reduction... the radio-cassette unit is also available on selected models with the standard speaker systems. The top of the line Chrysler Infinity II is similar ... with a five-band graphic equalizer." The 1988 release also noted the first CD player for the company, available in LeBaron coupe and convertible and Dodge Daytona. Rear seat headphone jacks were available in the LeBaron Coupe, New Yorker, and Dodge Dynasty.

The idea to offer a more upscale audio solution in Chrysler vehicles started in 1987. With the increasing popularity of aftermarket solutions as well as competition from the likes of Lincoln, who had already begun offering Ford/JBL audio systems in the Town Car, Chrysler decided to strike up a partnership with Infinity Systems Inc. to offer better sound in their vehicles. Currently, the same company is responsible for both Chrysler/Infinity and Ford/JBL as well as a number of other partnerships: Harman-Motive Inc. (not to be confused with the performance tuning shop of a similar name), a subsidiary of Harman International and a sister company of Infinity and JBL. These various systems are often remarkably different - one cannot merely swap a Chrysler/Infinity 6x9 (for example) with a Ford/JBL model and expect the same sound quality.

Initially, only the 1987 Dodge Lancer, Chrysler LeBaron GTS, and Chrysler New Yorker got these systems. The existing Ultimate Sound cassette stereo was updated and given the Infinity logo on the face plate, and six Infinity speakers were positioned in the dash, doors, and parcel shelf of the car. The stereo powered the dash and rear tweeters, while equalized booster amplifiers located on the door and rear speakers powered the system woofers. Total power output was, according to a TSB from the era, a rather conservative 88 watts.

As 1988 and 1989 rolled around, more and more vehicles were given the Infinity option until it seemed all Chrysler vehicles had it as an option. Some vehicles, like the 1990 Imperial, even had it as standard equipment. The old Ultimate Sound based stereo was phased out and replaced with more sophisticated cassette and CD models as time went by, and finally in 1991 some Chrysler Infinity systems starting with the AC body cars began to evolve to a more reliable system that saw the system amplifiers taken off the speakers and combined into one module, which is for the most part how they remain today.

As the head units have changed over time, so have the speakers (regrettably). In the early days of Chrysler/Infinity, the speakers were well built with polypropylene woofer cones and soft dome or occasional EMIT tweeters. Then, in 1990, the fragile mylar cone tweeters began to show up in some models. Finally, around 1996 or so, paper replaced the polypropylene woofer cones on many speakers. Soft dome tweeters were (and still are) being used, but often paper cone tweeters began to be used in less critical areas, like the rear seats. As a result, audio quality has declined somewhat since the early to mid 1990s.

In 1991, Chrysler reported that they had redesigned their graphic-equalizer stereos, while retaining the name Infinity II. These had a rotary on/off/volume control, slider-type equalizer with LEDs, unidirectional seek and scan, next/repeat for the cassette, automatic Dolby® noise reduction, and automatic dynamic noise reduction for the radio bands.

A new Infinity RS system was created for Infinity I and II systems in the Imperial, New Yorker, and Dynasty; it used an enhanced speaker system with stronger bass output, concert-hall imaging, and smoother response. The system used ten speakers in six locations - woofers in the front doors, co-ax midrange and tweeters in the instrument panel, two-way speakers in the rear shelf panel, and a central 120 watt amplifier in the trunk.

Infinity radios

Here are some pictures of some of the radios offered with these systems. Most were built by Alpine, Mitsubishi, or by Chrysler's Huntsville electronics division.

Electronics Technology Electronic device Audio receiver Audio equipment
This is the Mitsubishi-made Ultimate Sound based deck that came with the very first Chrysler/Infinity systems. They were available in black, silver, or black with silver highlights. Functionally, it is almost identical to the non-Infinity models that had been offered in various vehicles predating Infinity. The only two differences I have been able to spot are the replacement of the SRC (FM muting) switch with an AM stereo defeat switch, and the replacement of the DNR system with Dolby Noise Reduction. Power output is about 15W x4 RMS on these, which is quite respectable for an 1980s deck.
Electronics Technology Electronic device Audio receiver Media player
Known as the Infinity I in the sound systems manuals of the time, this radio shown with silver highlights was probably the most common radio with the Infinity speakers between 1988 and 1990. A premium version came without the Infinity logo and slave CD connector on the back, and it was also popular. The most notable new addition was music search on the cassette deck; in addition, an RJ45 connector on the back allowed dealers to connect cellphones which could mute the radio and share the front speakers on an incoming phone call.
Power output on these was, and still is, the lowest I've encountered on a Chrysler/Infinity radio, at approximately 12W x4 RMS. I have as yet have not been able to confirm who made this one, but I don't believe either Alpine or Mitsubishi had their hand in it beyond the supplying of parts. These were probably made by Chrysler themselves.
Electronics Technology Electronic device Audio receiver Media player
Moving on, here we have the optional upgrade for most late 1980s Infinity systems, the Infinity II. These were built by Mitsubishi as a refinement on the very first Infinity cassette radios. They included a more exacting cassette loading mechanism (that was perhaps too complicated and failure prone for its own good), music search, and an all digital graphic equalizer. The 8 pin DIN connector for the slave CD was present, though the RJ45 phone jack was omitted in this model. Power output is 15W x4 RMS using four Hitachi amplifier chips.

I could very easily dedicate an entire article to the head units in these systems alone, but I'll leave it to these three radios for now. It is actually not that important that a Chrysler/Infinity system use these decks - without exception, all of these systems are dependant on an amplified speaker level signal to power the speakers. Virtually any Chrysler radio made between 1984 and 1999 or so is compatible with the speakers, and the Infinity radios will work with the more mundane non-Infinity 4 speaker systems.

Detailed look at the related speakers (and speaker repair)

General Chrysler-related radio and stereo articles at Allpar:
CD and DVD systems (stereos have a three-letter code on the face plate)
Tape and tape/CD systems
From here to Infinity
CD changers
Classic systems (before tape decks)

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