Real cause of lousy sound quality in non-Nav '11 stereo- HU or speakers?
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This is a discussion on Real cause of lousy sound quality in non-Nav '11 stereo- HU or speakers? within the Electronics/Car Audio forums, part of the Interior Mods category; I am trying to determine the real cause of the lousy sound in the '11 non-Nav WRX/STi. I listened to ...

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    Real cause of lousy sound quality in non-Nav '11 stereo- HU or speakers?

    I am trying to determine the real cause of the lousy sound in the '11 non-Nav WRX/STi. I listened to it for about 2 minutes before deciding that the best word for the sound is "muddy."

    I dialed back (all the way) the midrange on the built-in EQ and bumped up the bass to +2 and the highs to +1, but it still sounds lousy, even at a volume in the high 20s. Above 30, it all goes to hell.

    So in some factory systems (the Legacy comes to mind), the HU is okay but the speakers are complete crap, while in others, the speakers can sound passable with a good HU pushing good sound to them. In those cases, changing EITHER the HU or the speakers are an improvement, normally one moreso than the other. Obviously, changing it all out has the best improvement.

    My initial inclination with the '11s is that the speakers suck. Clarion knows how to make a HU, but who knows how Subaru specified the particulars on bass attunation or other artificialities, so I could be way off.

    it seems that most people just swap out the HU as a knee-jerk reaction to bad sound, but is that really the best solution?

    If you had to nail down the cause of the muddy, dull sound in the '11s, would you say that it was the HU or the speakers?

    I am considering pulling it all out, but I want to do one step before the other. If I could get by with just upgrading the front speakers now, I could live with the HU functionality (I actually like it). I would also be fine keeping the stock speakers for a while, assuming that a higher-quility HU would be able to drive them better than the stock one and that it would sound significantly better then what is in there now.

    No matter what, I am adding a small underseat sub to help with bass reproduction, since neither the factory HU nor speakers seem suited to that.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

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    Sammich Makin' Pwincess wrxtreme06's Avatar
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    The factory setup in subarus are known to be really crappy. In my 06 I swapped out the HU and also added 2- 10" subs. I left all the factory speakers in It made a world of difference and I'm sure it would be even better with swapping out speakers too.

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    Master Baiter EJ257's Avatar
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    My guess: amplifier or new head unit; both will help, since OE doesn't send much power to the speakers.

    Unless you have a need for the extra features of the H/U, I'd say try an amp - look into aftermarket speakers while you're amp shopping, and make sure the amp will cover speakers that you may end up buying down the road (so you're not buying an amp twice).
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    Moderator rage-wrx's Avatar
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    Like discussed on the forum I plan on keeping the stock setup ,and add a JL Cleansweep JL Audio CL441dsp CleanSweep® Sound processor for use when adding amps and speakers to a factory system at Crutchfield Signature ,and an amp,maybe an underseat subwoofer(probably OEM)and if necessary change the speakers..This helps you keep the steering controls for sound & bluetooth.It also deters car thieves bcoz all they see is ur factory HU.
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    Registered User anxiouz's Avatar
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    My personal opinion is that the speakers suck more than the HU does. If you turn the bass down to like +1 or +2 and bring the treble up to +4 or +5 I feel that the sound quality is pretty good actually...there's just no bass. The stock speakers can't handle bass barely at all.

    Although a new HU would allow better separation of bass which may allow the speakers to handle it better. But the stock speakers will never bump.

    So I think you can go both routes...speakers or HU...and possibly get the same end result. But do them both and add an amp and you should be rockin.
    Steve // 2010 Cadillac CTS-V // 2011 WRX hatchback (SOLD)

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    Quote Originally Posted by rage-wrx View Post
    Like discussed on the forum I plan on keeping the stock setup ,and add a JL Cleansweep JL Audio CL441dsp CleanSweep® Sound processor for use when adding amps and speakers to a factory system at Crutchfield Signature ,and an amp,maybe an underseat subwoofer(probably OEM)and if necessary change the speakers..This helps you keep the steering controls for sound & bluetooth.It also deters car thieves bcoz all they see is ur factory HU.
    I don't want to lose control of the volume through the HU or the SWCs. With a CleanSweep, you have to set it up for a particular volume level, then leave the stereo set at theat volume, using (instead) the CS volume dial.

    I am not willing to make that sacrifice.
    Last edited by phenryiv1; 12-20-2010 at 11:08 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anxiouz View Post
    My personal opinion is that the speakers suck more than the HU does. If you turn the bass down to like +1 or +2 and bring the treble up to +4 or +5 I feel that the sound quality is pretty good actually...there's just no bass. The stock speakers can't handle bass barely at all.
    That is right around where I have them set, although I also have the Mid down all the way.

    Quote Originally Posted by anxiouz View Post
    Although a new HU would allow better separation of bass which may allow the speakers to handle it better. But the stock speakers will never bump.

    So I think you can go both routes...speakers or HU...and possibly get the same end result. But do them both and add an amp and you should be rockin.
    Hopefully, adding a sub will help with the amount of bass that I need to send to the main speakers, allowing them to not buzz when presented with even the slightest amount of bass...

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    Registered User anxiouz's Avatar
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    Yeah. I was wondering about the OEM subwoofer and if that would be all I would need to be happy with things.

    My HU settings IIRC are:

    +4 Treble (possibly +5)
    +1 Mid
    +2 Bass (which I turn down to +1 depending on the music)

    I think the rear speakers can handle a (very) little more bass so sometimes I try putting my Fader to +1 or +2 towards the rear. But eventually I set it to zero since the treble is cleaner up front.
    Steve // 2010 Cadillac CTS-V // 2011 WRX hatchback (SOLD)

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    Supporting Member mjboudreaux77's Avatar
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    My experience says the HU is the right place to start. I put a Pioneer AVC-3200BT, and the stock speakers sound amazing with it. I tried using the low profile Boss Audio 8inch sub under my passenger seat (this is the setup I had in my 07 WRX), but there isn't enough room between the sub cone and the bottom of the seat. In my 07 WRX, the Boss sounded great - in my '11 STI, there just wasn't enough air so the cone wasn't able to move enough and it sounded lousy.

    My current setup is the Pioneer HU, stock speakers, 10inch Alpine Type R DVC sub in a 0.6cu ft sealed enclosure powered by a Kenwood KAC-8105 amp. The Sub only takes up a small amount of space behind the drivers side rear seat. I really like my setup - it sounds amazing.

    Warning.... My stock stereo certainly didn't sound great - but when I upgraded all the rattles came out. Maybe thats why the stocker is so bad!
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    Registered User Lightning's Avatar
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    The real cause is simply a lack of decent amp power... the quality of power determines the ability to control the speaker and therefore, sound quality.
    I replaced the head unit with an Alpine for starters, and was shocked at the difference just from doing that. Adding a sub to take the bass load off the door speakers will also be a huge difference. Obviously, replacing the speakers will be an upgrade, not to mention further quality amplification, but this whole thing starts with the HU.
    Try it - I'd be stunned if you didn't see a huge difference, too.
    s e t h
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    Registered User BANSwee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lightning View Post
    The real cause is simply a lack of decent amp power... the quality of power determines the ability to control the speaker and therefore, sound quality.
    I replaced the head unit with an Alpine for starters, and was shocked at the difference just from doing that. Adding a sub to take the bass load off the door speakers will also be a huge difference. Obviously, replacing the speakers will be an upgrade, not to mention further quality amplification, but this whole thing starts with the HU.
    Try it - I'd be stunned if you didn't see a huge difference, too.

    Lightning, what alpine unit did you get? What other things/accessories/harness should I buy to replace the unit?

    and,,,, is it not that hard to replace the HU? ( I haven't tried changing car audio,, yet)

    Thanks
    2011 WRX HB in WR blue

    budding audiophile

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    Registered User Lightning's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BANSwee View Post
    Lightning, what alpine unit did you get? What other things/accessories/harness should I buy to replace the unit?

    and,,,, is it not that hard to replace the HU? ( I haven't tried changing car audio,, yet)

    Thanks
    Not hard to replace it.. there are few youtube videos out there showing it. Some say to use something really flat to get under the radio's bezel, but the official method is to go in thru the trim starting on the right side of the dash and work backwards. Takes about a minute longer and is a lot easier then trying to pry the bezel off.
    As for what you need... Alpine harness, a dash kit, and a SWIC kit if you still want to use the stock dash controls; I didn't bother with the last part.
    As for the HU, I'm using the IWA-X404 (I think that's it) - the double DIN, touchscreen, iPod-friendly model. Throw in a TR7 adaptor and I've got video up front, too. "No, officer - you saw the iPod display, not Metallica's "One" video playing, I swear." -- actual conversation from this past weekend
    If you want/need further details, PM me and I can help you out.
    s e t h
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    Registered User hamz01's Avatar
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    The real cause is simply a lack of decent amp power... the quality of power determines the ability to control the speaker and therefore, sound quality.
    I replaced the head unit with an Alpine for starters, and was shocked at the difference just from doing that. Adding a sub to take the bass load off the door speakers will also be a huge difference. Obviously, replacing the speakers will be an upgrade, not to mention further quality amplification, but this whole thing starts with the HU.
    Try it - I'd be stunned if you didn't see a huge difference, too.
    Absolutely. There is no debating that the lack of quality in the 2011 sound system is due to the head unit far more than the speakers. Installing a new head unit and evening the car's frequency response with an eq and an analyzer will change the sound of the car so drastically it will shock you. Swapping the speakers and keeping the stock head unit will do far less. You can keep the stock unit and externally amp and tune it, but I believe this is less effective than swapping the entire head unit.
    Brandon
    '11 WRX 5-Door, Dark Gray Metallic

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    Registered User BANSwee's Avatar
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    so guys THERE was a "significant" difference if I do replace my head unit, right?//?

    Lightning, I did find the same unit that you have & I will see if it's still available (I believe it was discontinued).. Regarding the install I think I'm pretty much intimidated. lol. I guess for $75 more I'll just go to best buy to have them install it.. I really hope there is big difference on the sound..

    Hmm, can I still use the steering wheel controls?
    2011 WRX HB in WR blue

    budding audiophile

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    You can still have the SWCs, but you need an adapter.

    As for me, after reading on here, NASIOC, and iwsti, I ended up ordering a Pioneer AVH-3200BT from Crutchfield. On sale for $339, free install gear, plus a $20 refer-a-friend discount. $319 shipped.

    It is on backorder, but the order is placed so I get it at the sale price.

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