Thought I would share pictures and learnings of the new modern audio head unit and speakers I just installed in my 1999 Safari. Total cost was around $250 and four hours of my time and now I've got a very nice system that has some amazing capabilities.
The trailer originally came with a not very nice Audiovox cassette player / radio and really crappy $10 chinese paper speakers. Its pretty clear Airstream was not spending money on electronics in Safari's in 1999.
The first thing I did was to remove the old, large audiovox unit - it took up about a foot of space in the middle of front upper cabinets. The wiring for the speakers and power for the stereo, the reading lights and the galley circuits all enter the cabinet behind where the old stereo was, and are all connected with wire nuts. It was also obvious Airstream did a pretty lazy / sloppy job on the installation when they built the trailer - but that's for another story.
For the first step I removed the cover of the far left fixed compartment - there are three obvious screws on the left side of the left opening compartment that hold the cover on, plus finishing nails - so to get it off, remove the screws and then pry it loose. There is a hidden plywood panel behind the cover too.
So first I rerouted the wiring needed by the stereo from the center to the left hand side of the cabinet, and cut out an opening for the new player in the far left compartment with a jigsaw - both in the cabinet face and in the hidden plywood panel. You need to be careful when cutting - the stereo comes with a metal frame, and you need to cut an opening just large enough to slide the metal frame into. The metal frame then clamps in behind the opening you cut.
Then I used the existing wires to pull new power and speaker wires behind the cabinet and into the left hand compartment. This was easier than I expected. The main thing to be careful with (at least for me) is that I am used to black being ground and red being hot in 12V
systems - but airstream uses black for hot and white for ground - so you have to pay attention when making power connections.
Removing the old Audiovox unit had the side benefit of opening up a nice chunk of additional storage in my front overhead cabinet.
I ended up choosing a new Kenwood KDC-BT852D head unit for $185 that has some neat features - I wanted HD radio and the ability to play music from USB sticks - it has both. It also supports streaming from my wife's iPhone and my Droid over wired and bluetooth wireless connections. It also works as a hands free speakerphone over bluetooth - you can see the hands-free microphone in one of the pictures which I mounted on the top of the cabinet. It's pretty cool to be able to hold a speaker-phone call inside of the airstream - the audio comes over the stereo speakers andthe microphone picks up anyone in the front of the trailer - great for when my kids and I go camping and we can all talk to my wife at once on the hands free to tell her about our adventures. This unit also plays CDs, though I don't expect to ever use this - all of our media is now in digital files so I expect mostly to use the radio, USB sticks and perhaps some bluetooth streaming.
One slightly special thing I did was to install and on-off switch for power to the new Stereo - you can see it just to the left of the stereo below. The new stereos all have some amount of standby power drain so I wanted to be able to turn it completely off. The power switch has a built-in blue LED that lights when the power is on - I think it turned out pretty nice. I purchased the 12V
switch with Blue Led from Parts Express - it cost about $3.
While I was installing the new stereo, I also upgraded the stock speakers. I can't overstate how cheap and crappy the OEM audiovox speakers were. Crummy chinese made with light paper cones - just total junk.
I upgraded to new 6x9 speakers from Aura on closeout sale at Parts Express. They were just $50 marked down from $105 - and they make a vast improvement in sound quality. Normally I would have spent more on speakers, but these got good reviews and seemed like a steal at $50 on sale. They sound just fine. You can see the old 5 inch round paper speakers vs. the new 6x9 modern speakers in the pictures below.
In the picture you can also see that I switched out the stock white plastic reading lights for new satin nickel LED fixtures - these were on sale recently at camping world. This was a very fast and simple upgrade, made easier because I had access to the inside of the compartments the lights mount to when the speakers were out.
Overall this project took about four hours and seems well worth it. I soldered all of the connections; you could probably finish about 30 minutes faster if you used wire nuts instead.