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Installing Exile Surf 9’s w/LED’s on 2018 23 LSV


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So my plan was to add two pair of Exile Surf9’s powered by one Exile XM30.2 amp. This ONE amp would feed 210 watts to each of the four cans at 2 ohms (wired in parallel). When I have run Surf9’s in the past I’ve typically used TWO of these amps, which bumps the power to 300 watts to each can at 4 ohms. But thinking I wanted simple, I resolved to do just ONE amp... but then at the last minute ordered TWO just to be safe! :whistle:

DISCLAIMER: Obviously what I’m showing is an Exile install, but the principles can be applied to any other brand. 

So as you can see by ordering two amps I’ve already complicated this project a little bit. You’ll see that later. Then I double down on complexity by ordering LED inserts. Having never done this before, I had no idea what I was signing up for. 

Here are a few pics of the gear when it arrived. I’m addition to the amps and speakers I ordered G3 tower brackets, 4awg cable (power and ground), and speaker socks.





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Another disclaimer... I am by no means declairing myself an pioneer or an expert.  There are MANY who have already successfully installed aftermarket tower speakers on a 2018 23 LSV, @NWBU, @CharlieBeaU, @Bawshogg, @Wakesetter67, @Ronnie, @Murphy8166, @G Spot all come to mind. And as far as me being some sort of expert, I’ve learned everything I know about this topic from the people on that list as well as @shawndoggy@Fman, and the team at Exile Audio.

I’m documenting this NOT for guys like that, but for the people who may want to tackle this in the future.

But first, let’s talk about some basics, because context is everything...

Wake boat stereos are generally divided into three zones.  Cabin, Sub, and Tower  

The 2017-2018 Malibu system is no different; each zone is priced separately.  It’s not unusual for a boat to be spec’d with cabin and sub only.  So this build is for folks who find themselves in that position. The pic below is what the factory amp board looks like with the factory amp powering the cabins + sub and the “black box” which is basically the head unit or brain that powers what you see on your screens at the helm  

So what we are doing here is adding tower speakers and the amp(s) to power them. I generally think of this project as having five phases:

1) run speaker wire through tower and down to the death chamber (what I like to call the area under the glove box where the amp rack is). If you are using tower speakers with LED’s you will also have to run wire for that. Malibu stopped pre-wiring the G3.5 tower on 2017 models. If you have a G4 there is speaker wire in there, but depending on what you’re trying to install it may not be wired the way you want.  My boat has the G3.5

2) assemble and install tower speakers and adaptors  

3) get power to the amp board for your new amp(s)

4) install amp(s)

5) tune to your liking

I will post my progress in that order. As it sits today I’m halfway through step 2, but like I said I made my life difficult by choosing TWO amps and LED’s. I’ve also been taking breaks to do a couple of other projects: install Gatorstep and swap out my white interior LED’s for blue ones to match my boat (also pictured below)



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1) Wiring the tower...

Obviously you gotta buy some wire first. But what should you buy and how much?  That depends on a few things:

a) what color is your tower? It’s best to choose speaker wire that matches the color of your tower since it’s visible in a few areas (particularly when the tower is folded down)

b) are you running one amp or two?  

ONE AMP: If you’re using one amp you only need one set of speaker wire run to each side of the tower. In other words that ONE speaker wire will serve TWO tower speakers when wired in parallel. In this configuration the tower speakers, which are 4 ohm speakers, will present a 2 ohm load to the single tower amp.  

TWO AMPS: If you’re running two amps you can get away with one set of wire per amp/pair of speakers (wired in series), but most audio guys will tell you that running two speaker wires per side (ie dedicated speaker wire to each tower speaker) is preferable. That way you can get good, clean 4ohm sound without the amp working too hard.  That’s what you’re gonna see in this thread.

How much wire should you order?  If you’re only running one wire to each side get 50 feet.  That sounds like a lot, but it goes fast!  Speaker wire runs up the port side of the tower so it’s a long run to the other side. Also remember you need to fish it all the way to the death chamber and leave yourself plenty is slack.  If you’re running dedicated wire to each can like I am, get 100 feet.

What kind should you get?  I think 14 awg is the sweet spot. I did 12 awg one year and it was tough to work with and probably overkill.  I think the factory uses 16 awg. I also decided to pay a bit more for OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) as opposed to the more common CCA (Copper Clad Aluminum). CCA is just aluminum wire that’s coated in copper. Technically what I bought (link and pic below) is 12-2 wire meaning it’s two 12 gauge wires (positive and negative each with their own sheath) wrapped in a black sheath. I like this kind of wire because it’s a little stiffer which makes running through the tower a little easier.  Limp can be challenging (that’s what she said).

Here is what I used:


Here is similar stuff but in white:


For my LED’s I got 50 feet of 22-4 wire. I really only needed 22-2 because I’m only running the blue lights (as opposed to RGB), but figured the next owner might want to make the move to RGB so why not give him the right plumbing?  My only regret here is that I should have bought 18-4 wire. Even though it’s overkill for LED work, 22 gauge wire is a major pain to work with. It’s just too thin.




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Okay so let’s fish some wire!  If you don’t own one already you’re gonna want to buy this tool at Home Depot


You also need some duct tape and it can’t hurt to have a metal coat hanger on hand. 

Berore I started I tried to think through my plan of attack (diagram below). A couple of tips to keep in mind:

1) pulling wire is easier than pushing it. So you gotta think backwards... for any given run, push your fish through first, tape the wire on using duct tape, then pull it back through.  

2) for any given run, start your fish on the side with the smallest hole. In the case of the G3.5 tower, that means start the fish at the 3/4” holes on the side of the tower and pull the wire towards that hole. 

My diagram below assumes only one set of speaker wire per side. As stated earlier, I doubled that on my boat. So imagine each of those red lines is really two lines in my situation. 

Fold your tower down. You might have to tie it to the steering wheel to keep it from popping back up. Then go to work with that fish tape and your spool of wire! Do the long runs first. Just worry about the getting everything through the hoop; tackle the getting it down through the tower base afterwards. If you run into obstacles as you push the empty fish tape through, don’t force it and don’t panic; just gently pull back and try again, back and forth until it gets through.

Most people dread wiring the tower. It’s not that bad. I was finished in about an hour (not including the base).

Pic 1 - I used my bimini boot strap to tie the tower to the steering wheel

Pic 2 - Fish tape going in the starboard side 3/4” tower hole

Pic 3 - Fish tape coming out the port side base of hoop

Pic 4 - Tape wire to fish on port side

Pic 5 - Pulling it through the starboard 3/4” hole







Edited by IXFE
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Sometimes it can be hard to know where to cut the wire. You want to be sure each piece is long enough but not so long as to be wasteful and not leave enough for the last run.  Here’s a safe way to break up your 50’ spool...

* 30’ for the run to the starboard side

* 20’ for the run to the port side

* 2x that if you’re doubling up for two amps.


Pics of finished product (before running wires down through the base)

Pic 1 - two speaker wires and one led wire on port side 

Pic 2 - starboard side 

Pic 3 - wide shot showing all the excess wire sitting on the seats. Note four speaker wires on the left and two LED wires on the right. 

Pic 4 - Ouch!! Hurts worse than it looks. Just cuz your index finger fits into that 3/4” hole doesn’t mean you can easily get it out!





Edited by IXFE
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Next step is to run all that wire down through the tower base. At the top it’s a rectangle hole at the front of the base (see pics).  At the bottom it’s a circle hole in the gunnel about the size is a dime.

Same process here... feed the fish tape up through the bottom (ie go up through the dime size hole above the cup holders), tape the wires to the fish, pull them down.

 I had trouble getting four 14 awg wire through that dime size hole. So I went 2-1-1. Those who are running only two speaker wires should have no trouble. 

Pic 1 - three speaker wires down, fourth about to be pulled

Pic 2 - all four looking GOOD!  See why the color matters?? 

Pic 3 - my helper pulling the speaker wires into the death chamber. 




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Let’s talk LED’s for a sec...

This is the first year I’ve tried anything with LED’s, and it’s not the most ambitious undertaking (ie no cup holders, rgb’s, etc). Frankly, I never understood why, but @shawndoggy predicted I’d get bored one year and take this on. He was right (again). 

So I asked Exile to install the rings. They are RGB, but I will only be hooking up the blue side I have no desire to run any other color on my blue boat. This was all a plan; I even ordered blue transom lights from the factory to match. 

But the interior LED’s from the factory are white so with the help of @Ronnie I’ve been swapping them for blue!

Pic 1 - factory transom lights

Pic 2 - factory white interior led (this one is in he walkway)

Pic 3 - same light swapped for blue!

Pic 4 - single factory LED (dark) above cup holders replaced with blue strip for more light (strip is invisible unless you look way up behind seat back)





Edited by IXFE
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Final comment on LED’s...

@Ronnie gave me the idea to daisy chain a couple of LED’s off the walk thru LED and stick them to the backside of the subwoofer grill. Such a nice touch. The factory could have done this for a couple of bucks. I wish they did!

Pic 1 - gray factory soft touch half removed

Pic 2 - all removed, kinda like this look!

Pic 3 - black Gatorstep applied

Pic 4 - backside of the sub enclosure (pic taken from bow)

Pic 5 - LED’s fished through the small gap between the sub enclosure and the fiberglass

Pic 6 - LED’s secured with two-sided tape

Pic 7 - lights, camera, action!









Edited by IXFE
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@IXFE Curious where you purchased your blue led lights for behind the sub and the replacement blue led lights for the factory whites.  New boat looks great - I think its the year of strat and vapor!  Take care.

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On 5/26/2018 at 5:57 PM, lerch said:

@IXFE Curious where you purchased your blue led lights for behind the sub and the replacement blue led lights for the factory whites.  New boat looks great - I think its the year of strat and vapor!  Take care.

Sorry for delay. The lights were actually sourced through a buddy of mine. I believe they are live well LED’s similar (if not the same) as these...

Innovative Lighting LED Bulkhead Live Well/ Recess Lights- 12 Volt DC, Blue https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IE5S9VK/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_v3heBbTG3PVZ3

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So that brings us to step 3, getting power to amp board for the new amps. 

Before we go on, let’s talk about how an amp gets power. For many this is old news.  But I know that when I started out I would have loved an overview like this  

In general there’s a large cable (e.g. 1/0 awg) that takes power from the battery switch, through a 200 a 250 amp ANL fuse, to a distribution block.  This big cable is sometimes called “the trunk” like a tree trunk. From the distribution block the signal is split to multiple, smaller cables that take the power to individual amps. These are like “the branches” of the tree.  The distribution block doubles as a fuse holder with a mini ANL fuse for each of the 4 awg branches coming off it  

The same is true for the ground cables: there’s a  1/0 awg trunk (only it’s usually grounded all the way back to the battery instead of the battery switch) that leads to a separate distribution block. From their you split off a separate 4 awg ground cable to each amp. There are no fuses on the ground side.

Since the scope of this project is only to add tower speakers to the existing factory system, we are going to leverage what’s already there.  If this was a “stereo delete” boat you’d have to build all this from scratch  

Pic 1 - this is the factory distribution blocks. Power on the left and ground in the right. Both have plastic covers on them in this pic. Remove the covers. 

Pic 2 - here is the power distribution block with cover off. The trunk is the red wire at the top. The single branch is at the bottom (the factory only gives you one amp to power cabin + sub).  Note that the factory only used 4 awg cable for the trunk. This is a strange distribution block in that it has room for four branches (fairly common), but you need TWO branches to use all four. It’s almost like two smaller distribution blocks smashed into one. This makes the job harder for me since I’m adding two amps (more on that below) 

Pic 3 - I made this pic to demonstrate how to set up the distribution block if you’re only adding ONE amp (in this case an Exile XM30.2 but it could be anything). You’re gonna want to move the extra fuse over so you can make use of the left side of the block and the factory trunk. Using the right side of the block would require another trunk run back to the battery switch. 

Pic 4 - If you’re adding TWO amps like me you have no choice but light up the right side of the block with a new truck. Also you need to add another mini ANL fuse (not pictured). 







Edited by IXFE
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Yeah malibu definitely doesn't spend any extra on wire.  I've got a 40lb box full of take-out segments of wire that I replaced with more appropriately sized wire over the years.  Comes in handy for car stereo projects, I've found.

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The next step for me was to remove the amp board. I wanted out of the way so I could open up the area where my 4 awg cables will run once they get over there. I also wanted it out cuz as soon as I finish running cable, I’ll need it out to mount the amps. 

Most guys stress about removing the amp board. It’s not that bad.

Pic 1 - unplug the wires from the amp, all but the  one with the red x. That plug is the rca cables and remote wire, which leads to the black box (ie doesn’t stay with the boat). 

Pic 2 - I’m an idiot and I unplugged them all.  To get the power and ground out you have to remove the top panel from the amp (hex key) because it overhangs the screws you need to loosen  

Pics 3/4 - I like to mark the corners of the amp board so that it’s easy to put it back in the same place.  Probably not necessary but it makes me feel better







Edited by IXFE
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Now that the amp is unplugged you are ready to unscrew the board. There are three screws holding it on (see one of them in pic 1 above). There are two up top and one on the lower left. Unscrew them all. Don’t worry, the board won’t just fall down. It’s supported / hanging from the top mounting block. Then just lean it over. There’s plenty of slack in the remaining wires (the ones connected to the black box)  

Pic 1 - board tipped over revealing the back side of the black box and all the wire connections. 

Pic 2 - a close up of the black box wires. Label them as you unplug them. I just numbered them using duct tape and a pen. Some are going to be empty unless you got certain options (e.g. sat radio, transom remote, etc). 

Pic 3 - the death chamber with the amp board removed. Look how meaty those mounting blocks are!   Bravo, Malibu!

Pic 4 - amp bird sitting on the seats (lay a towel down the protect your vinyl) awaiting amp mount 





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Pic 1 - insert 1/0 awg trunk cable into the factory distribution block. If you’re only installing one amp you won’t have to do this. 

Pic 2 - remove the upper carpeted cover revealing the back of the perko switch. 

Pic 3/4 - prepare 4 awg ground wires by crimping ring terminals on and melting heat tubing around it. You only have to do this for the ground wires. Don’t ask why my ground wires don’t match. They just don’t. Lol

Pic 5 - there are thin slots cut into the lower carpeted cover just below the distribution blocks.  Run the power and ground 4 awg through the slots and up through the top (only ground wires pictured here)








Edited by IXFE
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