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Old 07-01-2013, 02:32 AM   #1
Karce.
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Default Solution to stock radio quality - Amp or Headunit?

Hey all,

I'm looking for a solution to the sub-par quality of the stock sound system of a 2012 WRX. After much research, I have boiled down to two options:

1. New head unit (something like AVHS5500, costing around $400 plus harness, bypass, steering wheel module, dongle to keep center console USB/aux, etc)

2. Amp after the stock head unit to increase power to stock speakers. (Any recommendations?)

What is the most bang for the buck solution? I am not looking for anything amazing but just want an average sound system that should have came stock. New head unit is nice due to the screen and all, but if its double or triple the cost without a justified increase in result then the amp may be a more economical solution. I have no plans for better speakers or a sub in the future. I may do some sound deadening but that's mainly for road noise.

Any thoughts or recommendations would be much appreciated!
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Old 07-01-2013, 12:39 PM   #2
locozildjiangodx
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I am not sure about the amp, but I just did a new HU (Pioneer DEH 9500BHS) and it sounds 100x better to me on stock speakers.
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Old 07-01-2013, 12:43 PM   #3
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I think even having an amp with the stock head unit won't be good. I remember my stock hu switching from radio to usb, there was a huge volume increase. I don't think an amp will remedy that.

I could be wrong, but I am happy with my z140bh from pioneer.
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Old 07-01-2013, 02:03 PM   #4
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The best thing you can do to start with upgrading the sound quality is new speakers. Yes the amp will allow you to go louder without having to turn the head unit up as high (higher volume levels = more distortion) but you will still be limited by the factory speakers. Yes a head unit will also increase sound quality slightly by providing slightly more power to the speakers as well as giving you more control of the sound, but speakers have the greatest impact on sound.

Start with the speakers, then a 4 channel amp (and amp & sub if you need additional bass), and work from there.
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Old 07-01-2013, 02:09 PM   #5
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^ Above is correct. Start with speakers and go from there. You'll immediately notice a large difference in sound clarity and loudness with speakers. After that go head unit to drive more power to those speakers. If you do it right, you can get 4 speakers and a decent head unit for under $300. If you must have a touch screen or navi though, you may as well finish with a sub and amp for the hundreds you'll be spending. Just my buck o' five worth of sense.

EDIT: I'm a pioneer fan personally, hit up crutchfield and check out some prices.
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Old 07-01-2013, 03:13 PM   #6
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Upgrade the head unit first. I upgraded and immediately had an amazing increase in quality. The OEM speakers aren't half bad but the head unit is horrendous. I also put in an underseat sub at the same time.

My head unit is the clarion cx501. You can change the colors and the red is a perfect match for our red. All my steering wheel controls work except for hanging up a phone call but that's not a big deal. I got a steering wheel control module.
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Old 07-01-2013, 03:26 PM   #7
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I highly disagree with switching speakers first. Step 1 is head unit. The stock head unit is REALLY underpowered which is why they sound like crap. New headunit should power them far better AND give you a better EQ setup which = much better sound.
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Old 07-01-2013, 03:33 PM   #8
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It depends on what you are looking for. For function and added features then yes, head unit first. But for sound quality, speakers are always the go to first upgrade. New head units do not give THAT much power over factory. Most aftermarket head units are usually 15-20 watts (maybe 25 watts) RMS per channel. The factory head units are typically (this is on average, not sure what the actual Subaru power rating is) 10-15 watts RMS per channel. This slight difference is not that great. It may sound it, but that is just because there are more controls of the sound. Most factory speakers are also power matched to the head unit so you will actually be over-powering them. The factory speakers are also made of poor quality material (usually paper and foam surrounds). Where-as a decent aftermarket speaker is usually poly and rubber (depending on the speaker). This allows easier movement of the speaker and better sound.

My advice is coming from 10+ years in the car electronics industry including currently owning my own mobile electronics install shop (part time).
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Old 07-01-2013, 03:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by klarowe View Post
It depends on what you are looking for. For function and added features then yes, head unit first. But for sound quality, speakers are always the go to first upgrade. New head units do not give THAT much power over factory. Most aftermarket head units are usually 15-20 watts (maybe 25 watts) RMS per channel. The factory head units are typically (this is on average, not sure what the actual Subaru power rating is) 10-15 watts RMS per channel. This slight difference is not that great. It may sound it, but that is just because there are more controls of the sound. Most factory speakers are also power matched to the head unit so you will actually be over-powering them. The factory speakers are also made of poor quality material (usually paper and foam surrounds). Where-as a decent aftermarket speaker is usually poly and rubber (depending on the speaker). This allows easier movement of the speaker and better sound.

My advice is coming from 10+ years in the car electronics industry including currently owning my own mobile electronics install shop (part time).
Speakers are first for sound quality usually but in these cars head unit first. That's just the way it is.
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Old 07-01-2013, 04:57 PM   #10
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Interesting debate going on!
I do hear that speakers are a first for most cases but I have read on here somewhere that the stock speakers aren't that bad. Its just that the stock head unit doesn't output enough power to them, hence the new head unit/amp solution that I was originally thinking of.

If I were to change HU, I'd probably go double din for the screen and added aesthetics of a higher class looking unit. This drives the price to over $500 or more.

Versus an amp (maybe 150-200?) Is it worth it in terms of quality of sound? The screen is nice for navigating files and more lines for texts but that's about it.

Also what are the chances of overpowering the stock speakers?
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Old 07-01-2013, 07:21 PM   #11
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Change the HU first, it makes the sound so much better with the stock speakers. Then I uograded the speakers. I put my stock HU back in after selling my previous HU and waiting for my new one to come, and then sound is awful even with upgraded speakers. Definitely go with a new HU first.
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Old 07-01-2013, 07:53 PM   #12
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If you're happy with the OEM HU features, go with an Amp. and

separates. Separates sound better than coaxials and require an amp.
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Old 07-01-2013, 09:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by klarowe View Post
The best thing you can do to start with upgrading the sound quality is new speakers.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Captdonno View Post
^ Above is correct. Start with speakers and go from there.
NO AND NO!!!

The GR Silver weave 20w fronts are DAM good for stockers.
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Old 07-01-2013, 09:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karce.
What is the most bang for the buck solution?
Mat the doors. The mid bass improvement is phenomenal.
$80 for 25sq/ft will be more than enough to do the inner/outer front door skin with let overs to do spot applications down the road
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mega-Mat-25-...-/190709871430

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karce.
Also what are the chances of overpowering the stock speakers?
Power doesn't blow speakers, distortion does. I've run 125w to stock speakers before. No problem at all. They get dam loud too

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karce.
Amp recommendations
Something in the Class D range. Cool, small, and cheap. Something like a PPI 600.2 for $140 or a PPI 900.4 for $180

Yummy

Last edited by Mike 01Hawk; 07-01-2013 at 09:58 PM.
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Old 07-01-2013, 09:48 PM   #15
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Ahh... I wasn't aware the new Subarus had a higher quality speaker. What materials are they made out of? I have yet to see a standard OEM audio system (non Bose, etc) that came with quality speakers...
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Old 07-01-2013, 09:50 PM   #16
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I went amp, speakers, processor, small sub, $650 or so with all wiring and matted the doors and hatch, looks stock and sounds amazing.
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Old 07-01-2013, 10:02 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by klarowe View Post
Ahh... I wasn't aware the new Subarus had a higher quality speaker. What materials are they made out of? I have yet to see a standard OEM audio system (non Bose, etc) that came with quality speakers...




I replaced my stock fronts with some CTX65cs components just cause I had them laying around. Honestly it was a huge waste of my time, labor, and $.
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Old 07-01-2013, 10:52 PM   #18
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Those actually are quite better than normal. I'm still not a huge fan of the surround (I prefer a rubber surround for smooth sound) but the cones do look solid.
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Old 07-01-2013, 10:58 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Sep View Post
I think even having an amp with the stock head unit won't be good. I remember my stock hu switching from radio to usb, there was a huge volume increase. I don't think an amp will remedy that.

I could be wrong, but I am happy with my z140bh from pioneer.
Don't really agree with this. I put an Alpine 5 channel in my car with the stock head unit. Even with the stock speakers it made a world of difference. The Alpine has the high level inputs, so you don't need a line converter in between.

I was shocked at how much better it sounded, and I did not have to worry about what to do with the steering wheel controls, mic and USB/AUX ports in the armrest.

I did end up upgrading the speakers and putting in a sub, but the quality was very good after putting in the amp.
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:14 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mejifair View Post

Don't really agree with this. I put an Alpine 5 channel in my car with the stock head unit. Even with the stock speakers it made a world of difference. The Alpine has the high level inputs, so you don't need a line converter in between.

I was shocked at how much better it sounded, and I did not have to worry about what to do with the steering wheel controls, mic and USB/AUX ports in the armrest.

I did end up upgrading the speakers and putting in a sub, but the quality was very good after putting in the amp.
Did the amp remedy the crappy radio issue? Or is that a problem with the actual feed from the head unit?
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:15 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike 01Hawk View Post
Mat the doors. The mid bass improvement is phenomenal.
$80 for 25sq/ft will be more than enough to do the inner/outer front door skin with let overs to do spot applications down the road
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mega-Mat-25-...-/190709871430
How do these compare to other ones such as dynamat or raamat? Actual quality difference or just brand?

Thanks for all the help and input everyone!
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:25 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike 01Hawk View Post
I replaced my stock fronts with some CTX65cs components just cause I had them laying around. Honestly it was a huge waste of my time, labor, and $.
I was surprised when i popped the door panels and didn't find the the usual paper cone speakers.
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Old 07-03-2013, 02:51 AM   #23
Mike 01Hawk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karce. View Post
How do these compare to other ones such as dynamat or raamat? Actual quality difference or just brand?

Thanks for all the help and input everyone!
Butyl is butyl. Mass is mass. What I linked worked great for me for 2 cars and is cheap
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Old 07-03-2013, 08:36 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike 01Hawk View Post

Butyl is butyl. Mass is mass. What I linked worked great for me for 2 cars and is cheap
I used that roll of duct insulator from the depot and did my whole car for like $40
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Old 07-03-2013, 09:36 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Sep View Post
I could be wrong, but I am happy with my z140bh from pioneer.
I am too...! Z140BH, stock speakers, and a Rockford Fosgate 2 channel amp powering a 12 inch sub in the trunk gives ample sound for me.

Sidenote: If you get a late model Pioneer head unit, MAKE SURE YOU GET THE OPTIONAL MICROPHONE AND DO THE AUTO EQ!!! Makes a HUGE difference in sound... The stock Z140BH setup wasn't accurately using the tweeters. Auto EQ on a Pioneer system is a night and day difference in sound quality.

Last edited by nightdown fox; 07-24-2013 at 10:50 AM.
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