I'm summarizing my experience upgrading the stock sound system with the VW Helix Sound System kit in my 2016 Golf S. I'm hoping to pull all the needed info into one post for anyone wanting to do the upgrade.
- What It Is
The Helix System comes with an amplifier, a subwoofer, and the necessary cabling. The amp and sub replace the small spare tire in the Golf's trunk, though people have found ways to keep their spare. Power and control cables are re-routed from the head unit located in the glove box to the amp/sub in the trunk then back into the head unit. This is handled by the included wiring harness that must be run along the door sills on the passenger side of the car.
- How Much Work Is It To Install?
If you're a cautious first-timer like me, the whole process should take about 4 hours. It's not quite "plug-and-play," but there is no need to cut and crimp your own wiring since everything is included (except for some simple tools). The installation requires removing the head unit in the glove box, removing panels that run along the door sills on the passenger side of the car, and removing the entire rear seat. With the right tools, it was not very difficult to remove everything (the rear seat simply pops out). However, re-installing the panels and putting back the head unit was somewhat of a challenge.
- Where To Buy / Cost
I purchased the system for a total of $314 ($254 plus $60 shipping) from VWPartsCenter.Net. I also had to purchase the tools listed below for roughly $50, and renting the amplifier programming dongle from users in this forum costs between $20-$35 dollars. Total price: about $400.
- Installation Instructions
- Tools Needed
For panel removal you'll need something like this. For head unit removal, you will need something like this (but only two are needed). For one step during the wiring process, you will also need a terminal release tool as seen in this video. I did not have one, so instead used a tiny flat-head screwdriver and alternately poked the left and right sides of the terminal connector to release the wire. The tool definitely would have made my job easier.
Disconnect the car battery! At one point, you will be removing the head unit power cables from their terminal connector, exposing bare wire ends that, if touching, will zap a fuse.
Don't be afraid to pop out the rear seat. It takes some force.Make sure you have the tools mentioned above.The head unit removal tools will be stuck once inserted. This is normal. To release them, simply press down on the spring loaded mechanisms on either side of the head unit, then slide the tools back out without using any force.The door sill panels are easy to remove as you simply need to pop out the tabs from their slots. However, there is one aluminum tab on the kick panel (the big side panel at your foot below the glove box) that easily slides out of the panel and stays stuck in its slot. Pop it out of its socket and place back into the kick panel prior to re-installing the panel. I had to use this tool to pop it out of its socket.When re-inserting the head unit, pull on the wiring harness at the back to remove slack. Push the loose wiring connectors into the space above the head unit if you can.
- Flashing (Coding) the Amp
After the physical installation, you will still need to flash the amp with the correct sound profile for your car. This dongle is needed. Since it is a "dealer only" device (and costs roughly $170), and since most dealers either don't seem to know about this or have inconsistent pricing for the programming service, there are a couple of threads in this forum for renting it out so you can flash the amp yourself. Is this step necessary? From my experience, absolutely (see below). See this thread or this thread for rental details.The steps for coding the amp take only a few seconds and are as follows.
(1) Plug dongle into amp without SD card inserted.
(2) Turn on radio.
(3) Insert SD card into dongle.
(4) Turn knob on dongle until your car's code shows (For a 4-door Mk7 Golf, the code is 57).
(5) Press down on the knob and wait a few seconds for the flashing to complete.
- Sound Comparision - Before and After
Before installation: shrill, ear-piercing upper mids that could not be remedied by adjusting the EQ.After installation: the music definitely sounded amplified and a little better, with deep bass and crystal clear high frequencies. The high mids were still shrill and the bass sounded a bit distant and laggy.After programming the amp: much better, balanced sound. The mids are now smoother and the bass sounds more present.I detailed my sound comparison in this post. Despite the amount of work, this whole endeavor was definitely worth it.