Guide: Replacing door speakers in '08+ WRX/Impreza: Spacers, adapters, instructions
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This is a discussion on Guide: Replacing door speakers in '08+ WRX/Impreza: Spacers, adapters, instructions within the Electronics/Car Audio forums, part of the Interior Mods category; So I see a lot of questions about swapping out the speakers in WRX/Impreza models. Not much is different in ...

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    Guide: Replacing door speakers in '08+ WRX/Impreza: Spacers, adapters, instructions

    So I see a lot of questions about swapping out the speakers in WRX/Impreza models. Not much is different in the front of the cars, but this thread will focus on the 08+ models rather than the earlier models.

    The biggest thing to understand is that you can't just yank off the doors, drop in speakers, and call it a day. If you add more power to the doors, the speakers move more. more cone movement equals more metal reverberation, and that means distorted sound and less efficient reproduction of the music.

    Let's skip over proper (or even basic) sound deadening (it has been covered a few times in here and in car audio forums) and focus on the mechanical aspects of upgrading door speakers. Door disassembly, speaker replacement, adapters, spacers, wiring, etc. Just the basics.

    Door Disassembly:

    First up, I found digital copies of how to disassemble and reassemble the doors, both front and rear. There are a few minor errors (more below), but overall, the directions are pretty good and there is not too much to be added.









    Figure 7 on the Front door diagrams shows the rear door. No big deal.

    I found another good thread with some real pictures. It may be good for more info:

    2008 Subaru Impreza Hatch Front/Rear Door Panel Removal - NASIOC

    Also, I always recommend grabbing plastic prybars from somewhere cheap like Harbor Freight or the local discount auto parts store. They are cheap from HF if you are ordering other stuff, but you might as well buy them locally if you are in a hurry or if they are all that you need to buy. You can see them used to remove the armrest in the pictures above, but they are also good as a panel popper, and for removing the trim around the headunit.

    Anyway, the basic disassembly instructions above are pretty good. At least look them over before taking the doors apart.

    Spacers/adapters:

    Why do you even need door spacers or adapters? Well, your stock speakers have an odd shape. They speakers are contoured to fit the door, and the mounting holes are 3 holes in a roughly triangular shape where the screws go into a nylon insert (as opposed to the inner door skin). This helps prevent the screws from backing out too easily. This is a good thing, so you should try to re-use the stock mounting points. This means that you need some sort of an adapter, because aftermarket speakers typically use 4 mounting holes that are on a different mounting pattern than the stock circle.

    In addition to an adapter for the mounting holes, most aftermarket speakers are more robust than the stockers. This means bigger baskets, bigger magnets, and an overall deeper profile. Sometimes, the basket diameter is much larger than the stock ones. You need an adapter that has a larger cutout diameter.

    You will also need something that will allow your window to clear the larger magnet assembly on the back of aftermarket speakers. For this, you need a spacer.

    Here is the stock mounting depth in the picture below. As you can see, not very deep. If you don't have a spacer of some sort, you pretty much have the depths below to work with. Really, you only have 1.5" (the shallower depth), because the OEM bracket is angled.

    EDIT: I forgot that there is a little space between the window and the OEM speaker, so your max depth (with out a spacer) would be more than 1.5" and WITH a spacer should be fine for most common speakers. Somewhere in the 2.5-2.75" range seems about right. If you have doubts, break out the tape measure and get a reading from the door skin to the window, when it is down (I'll try to do this when I re-open my doors to do more deadening).



    Also, I disassembled the OEM bracket to see if it can be reused, but it only allows for a mounting diameter of 4 13/16" for a speaker to drop in. You COULD modify it, but I woudl not. At the end of the day, it is still flimsy ABS plastic, and once modified you can't ever take it back to stock.

    No matter what adapter/spacer you get, plastic or a synthetic, non-porous material is preferred. You can get them made from wood, but even if sealed, they can rot, split out, warp, or even mold. This is not a good thing.

    As far as type of plastic, you can get injection molded plastic, but it tends to be thinner and more brittle than other options. The preferred material is PVC (just like the pipes) or High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). Either of these are strong, dense, and will withstand the rigors of being in car doors.

    You have 2 main options here: DIY or buy a set.

    Buying can be from a mass-market vendor or a local shop or individual.

    Mass market:

    iA and Kartboy are the 2 main companies for the Subaru community. Both are 1-size fits all, and both adapt to the stock mounting holes.

    KartBoy spacers are HDPE and are about .5" thick. This helps with the depth, but not enough for all applications. They are well-made, but are 1-size-fits-some.

    iA spacers are also 1-size-fots-most, but you get 2 sizes. 1 set is thin- about .25", while the other is about .5". Some people stack them to make a deeper spacer, but then have nothing to use in the rear. Also only 1 cutout diameter. These are made of injection molded plastic.

    Of the 2 above, I like the KB ones better, but they were not deep enough for my application, so I made my own.

    Local shop or other 1-off source:

    If you go with a local shop or contact someone to make you a set, you can get the accuracy of a custom-cut set, which has some sognificant benefits. Just make sure that they use a quality material (see above) and have them made to your specs. Expect to pay the shop their hourly rate for fabrication, plus material costs. They might save you some money on the economy of scale if they have PVC or HDPE for these sorts of projects.

    You also might find a friendly forum member (me) who can make them for you, if you ask nicely.

    DIY:

    To make my own adapters, I used 3/4" PVC (about $30 for a sheet, which is more than enough for a few sets of adapters, but only sold in 8' and 12' lengths. Yes, that was FEET, not inches.). Various widths are are available- I use 7.25" wide material for mine. I used PVC for my WRX and in all of my past cars. It works well, does not split or rot, and was easy to work with. The 3/4" depth has worked well for 95% of speakers that I have seen.

    The tools needed to make your own depends on what you have available. You need a drill for the mounting holes, but otherwise you can be flexible.

    I use a fly cutter in a drill press for the center cutout, then a drill press for the mounting holes, then a bandsaw to cut the outer perimeter. You can do them with a router and a hand drill, a coping/jig saw, whatever you have. The material is not cheap (about the cost of buying a set), but you'll have leftover material, even if you mess up a few times.

    I make them for other people by request, so PM or contact me if you need a set made and don't want to DIY.

    Here are some that I made, which I finally installed recently. Obviously, this is without the speaker:



    Wiring:

    You will need to either run new wire from your amplifier/headunit to your speakers, or you can use the stock wiring (definitely fine for running speakers off of the HU).

    If you re-use the stock wiring, you will need an adapter to get from your stock connector to the terminals on your speakers. You can get them from Crutchfield, BestBuy, etc.

    EDIT: According to crutchfield, the 2011 requires 2 pairs of the adapters below:

    You need Metra 72-8104

    Toyota Speaker Harnesses Speaker adapter plugs at Crutchfield.com



    /edit

    If you decide to add an amp, you'll need to add wiring from the amp to the speakers in the door, wither direct with a 2-wire traditional speaker wire (for coaxials or if you have components with the crossover in the door) or a 4-wire setup if you put the crossover in the passenger compartment. In-wall speaker wire is good for this. You want a 16/4 wire or a 12/4 wire, both of which are 4 insulated wires in a single sleeve. 16 gauge is smaller than 12 gauge, FYI.

    Large zipties are good for snaking the wire through the stock wire boot between the kickpanels and the door.

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    Vibration Control and Deadening:

    First off, the 2011 have a terrible vibration issue with some mystery box in the door, behind the panel. This has been covered time and time again, so I won't rehash. Great info in this thread (and also a good how-to with pictures on removing the door panels):

    08+ Impreza Buzzing Front Speakers - Fixed - NASIOC

    It is amazing what can be done with very little foam weatherstripping tape. Truck cap/camper top tape is also a good way to go for this.

    No matter what method(s) you employ for noise control, the key to a good application is good surface adherence and a clean, dry, grease/oil-free surface to which it will be applied. I use Windex Vinegar as a cleaner, but you can get any good automotive degreaser to clean things up. I also try to wipe things down with alcohol (or even white vinegar) right before I apply the noise control.
    Deadening:

    As posted above, there is a lot on the forums about deadening. I'll explain the very, very basics of it, but don't want to get too much into specific brands or tactics. Sorry- you have to do your own research there. Try caraudio.com or diyma.com for good info.

    That said, there are 2 primary methods for deadening sound- adding weight (mass loading) and blocking the sound (barrier membranes). The most effective strategy is to apply mass loaded deadner first, then to apply barrier membrane over that mass deadener and to use the barrier membrane to cover large openings in the inner door skin.

    I also STRONGLY recommend securing the edges of deadner (mass loaded or barrier membrane) with aluminized HVAC tape. One roll is far more than needed for an average installation, but it is designed to adhere to sheet metal (like HVAC ductwork) and to maintain its adhesion in changing temperatures, and in varying humidity conditions. It is a cheap way to provide extra security that the deadener won't detach from the metal.

    What is the difference?

    Mass Loading:

    Mass loading is what most people think of when you say that you are doing sound damping or deadening in your car. Metal reverberates when the speakers move, when road noise causes vibrations, when you hit a bump, etc. The main area that vibrates is the inner door skin. That is the metal inner door that is covered by your door panel. Your outer door skin also has reverberations (primarily from road noise), but the inner skin is where your speaker is located, so it is responsible for holding still while the speaker moves (violently) within the plane of the inner door skin. Simple physics, but heavier the object the more energy that is needed to make it vibrate. Not only does it take more energy to make them vibrate, but when they do vibrate, it will be at a lower frequency (typically more difficult to hear).

    Mass deadener is your typical sticky, heavy material that is added to surfaces in your doors, floorboards, firewall, ceiling, hatch, etc. to control vibrations by adding weight (mass) to the surfaces. This is what the old-school dynamat is. It was the first widely-popular mass loading product for automotive deadening, but there are dozens of other products at all kinds of price points. You can get sheets, strips, mats, squares, rolls- all kinds of "flat" applications and products.

    Without good contact and adherence, mass deadner does not do much. It has to be attached to the surface to be effective. Applying these is usually best done with a clean surface (see above) and with the aid of a heat gun or hair dryer to help the material flex to make good contact with the surface. To get the material tight and to ensure that the adhesive makes good contact, small rollers (such as wallpaper rollers) are also a good idea.

    Below is an example of some mass deadener applied to the door of my past vehicle (will be updated with pics of WRX deadening, once completed). It is best laid in large sheets, but you also have to do your best to make maximum contact. Taping the top and sides with HVAC tape is a good idea.



    Very basic idea of how to do the area around the speaker in a WRX:



    You will have to do the rap-and-tap method of determinig where you need to add deadner (basically, tap or bang on the metal and see what reverberates the most. Add deadner, re-tap, repeat as needed). Popular places to add mass deadener are the inside of the outer door skin, particularly low on the outer door skin, and in the area immedately behind the speakers. On the inner door skin, the common place to use it is in the area near/around the speaker. Using it in this location also functions as somewhat of a gasket if you put it behind your spacer/adapter.

    Barrier Membranes:

    Barrier membranes actually block sounds from transmitting into the vehicle cavity. Typically an adhesive-backed closed-cell foam or similar, these actually absorb sound waves, blocking their entry. Several companies make these products, so look around for a good price on the amount that you need. I actually went the el cheapo route with the material below (my only specific endorsement, since I have used it myself and have found it to be a good value that actually works).

    Here is a picture of barrier membrane applied to a past vehicle. I had not completed the sealing of the voids in the picture above, but you get the idea. Again, this will be replaced once I finish the WRX install.



    Barrier membrane is good not only for going over the mass loaded deadener do block sounds that make it past the mass loading, but is also great for covering large openings or voids. Without sealing off the big holes, sounds from the outer door skin are free to pass right through to the inner door panel.

    A really cheap option for covering large areas in the doors with a foam product is a self-adhesive foam roll product made by Frost King. It is (or was) about $12-15 at HD or Lowes, and has foam with a metallic outer coating. I have used it in the past as a barrier membrane. It can be applied to a clean metal surface and is best used in conjunction with the aluminized HVAC tape to promote permanent adhesion.

    Frost King

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    This post focuses on installing my Rainbow CSX 265 component set, running off of the HU and with the crossovers in the doors. I did this for simplicity, though when (if) I amplify them, the crossovers will be relocated...probably.

    So here is how it went down...

    First off, I forgot to take a picture of the back side of the door panel to show the location of the door pins. This is REALLY helpful for people doing door speakers, because if you know where they pop spots are, you can pull in the right places.

    There is no secret to successfully removing the door panels without feeling like the car is about to break. You can use the special plastic or metal door panel tools, and they sometimes help. The real trick is practice. You WILL feel like the door panel is about to break, especialy your first time removing the panel (and/or the first time opening up any door). If you are to nervous, go to a pick-and-pull that has a car of the same make and the same or a similar model and practice there. Don't kill the car for the sake of it, but get familiar with how they come apart.

    What I did get a picture of was the underside of the armrest assembly. Knowing where the retaining clips are located will make it easier to know where to apply pressure.



    After getting the armrest off and popping the panel, you have a couple of choices. I try not to remove the lock mechanism and handle assembly unless absolutely necessary. When I am doing a full deadening, I usually pull it all off, but for the speaker install and basic deadner install, it was not needed. I just used a soft cloth to rest the panel on and worked around the panel.

    Tweeters:

    The first thing that I did was to remove the stock sail panel. To show where the stock clips are located, I took a side-by-side pic of the sail panel and of the location where it clips into place. Note in the picture below that I had not removed the metal clip that goes in the center hole. It is the silver/metal part in the middle of the door. You have to remove this from the door and put it on the post on the sail panel to reattach the sail panel. Don't forget to do this, if theat seperates from the sail panel.



    On to actually mounting the aftermarket tweeter into the stock tweeter housing. While this was my greatest fear about the install (and the greatest unknown until I got the door apart, it ended up being the best part of the install! The Rainbow CSX 265 set comes with the CAL 20 Silk 20mm silk (duh) dome tweeter.

    So the big question for a lot of people wanting to use aftermarket components is whether the tweeters will fit in the stock housing. While a little caulk or hot glue will help position a smaller tweeter, and while a Dremen and/or file can enlarge the stocl location, many people just don't want to permanently hack into the stock parts. Just an FYI on that- the stock parts for the sail panel assembly are fairly cheap, and even getting a set of sail panel blanks and surface (or even flush, depending on the tweeter depth) mounting tweeters there would work for many people.

    The stock tweeter is somewhere in the 1" range, which leaves a lot of options. If you look at how the stock assembly is in 2 parts (plus the actual driver), it becomes apparent that a little caulk and some space filler (foam tape, plastic, etc.) would allow most tweeters under 1" to work in the stock location.

    Knowing this, I figured that the 20mm CAL 20 would be fine in the stock location, even though I might have to do some space filling to make it work without any excessive movement.

    Below is a picture of the stock housing, the stock tweeter, and the CAL 20 aftermarket tweeter.



    I test-fit the CAL 20 in the stock location and the tweeter was a perfect fit. Not a close fit- a PERFECT fit. When the tweeter was placed in the ring where the stock driver rests, there was no movement from side to side. This was awesome.

    My next step was to reassemble the stock assembly to see how the depth worked out. I had a small gap between the back of the tweeter and the rear part of the housing assembly. I knew that I woudl need to fill this with something to hold the tweeter in place. Step 1 was to lay a really thin bead of caulk around the mounting ring of the housing, then to press the CAL 20 into place in the housing. This would reduce the likelihood that that the tweeter would have any movement, particularly once I added something to the back of the tweeter to hold it in place from the back. The caulk that I used was clear (it looks white in the picture but dries clear).



    I then pressed the tweeter in place, being careful to position the tweeter wires in the direction where I wanted them to go.



    The next step was to cut a small (5/8" x 5/8") square of foam adhesive weatherstripping. This is about 3/8" to 1/2" thick, but compresses well. Once I affixed it to the back of the tweeter, I replaced the back of the stock tweeter housing and reinstalled the 3 mounting screws. Once this was done, the tweeter was locked into place. From the front, it is completely invisible.


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    Midranges:

    The midranges were very easy to install. The CSX midrange requires a 143mm (5.63") cutout diameter, so I made yet another set of PVC spacers/adapters (PM me if you need a set made) then marked and pre-drilled the mounting holes to attach the midrange to the spacer.

    Once that was done, I cleaned the mounting area well with a degreaser, then took a small amount of deadner and applied it to the mounting area. This functions as both deadner and as a gasket for sealing the spacer to the inner door skin.

    First, I cut a pie-cutout in the deadner and folded the excess around the back of the inner door skin. Then, I applied a single layer of deadner to the outer door skin immedately behind the speaker location. This may not do much, but it does not hurt.



    Next, I used (3) 1.5" #10 sheet metal screws to attach the spacer to the door skin. You want to use a #10 sheet metal screw, but for length you can use 1-1.5" without any complications. I usually use 1.25" screws with my 3/4" spacers, but I only had 1.5" #10s handy. I had a picture of all of the fasteners that I used, but the 10-picture limit is killing me.



    Finally, you want to attach the speaker to the spacer. I used 1/2" sheet metal screws, but you will usually get mounting screws with your speakers. Whatever you do, PREDRILL YOUR MOUNTING HOLES! This will prevent stripping or cracking. Predrill the holes based on the shank/body size of the screw (not the thread size).

    Next, you want to pull your wires to your crossovers and slide the midrange into place.

    You can't see it too well, but I used another layer of deadner as a front gasket. I cut a 1/2" wide strip and made relief cuts, then curved it to match the curve of the spacer, then I sandwiched it between the speaker and the spacer. After that, I tightened it down.



    That was it for the midranges. With the right adapter/spacer and the right wiring, mounting them up and running the wires is as simple as installing coaxials.

    Wiring & Crossovers:

    If you are not running an amplifier, and thus are re-using the stock wiring, the easiest and most solid way to do the wiring is to use a wiring adapter. I bought mine on Amazon for $7 shipped, but you can get them at Best Buy, Crutchfield, etc. The harness that I used is the Metra 72-8104. According to crutchfield, the 2011 requires 2 pairs of the 72-8104 adapters (1 pair front, 1 pair rear). I only did the front speakers for now.

    I also have a comparison of the Metra harness to the stock speaker input, but they are the same. That is what makes them useful adapters.

    I connected the Metra harness to the stock wiring, cut the spade connector ends off of the adapter, and ran the positive and negaties wires into the inputs on the Rainbow crossovers. From that point, I connected the tweeter wires from above and the midrange wires that I had pulled up from below. I know that the tweeter wires look ugly in their zip-tied condition, but the tweeter wires are soldered to the tweeters, so until I have everything finalized, I did not want to cut off the excess wire.

    Mounting the crossovers was pretty straightforward. I mounted them horizontally up under the lock/handle assembly, righ tin the area where the door panel bulges outward to contour to meet the dash. I first tried to mount it vertically and a little bit forward, but the location interfered with the panel. I tried to move it backward but there were structural impediments. After some playing around, I ended up turining it 90* and mounting it in the location below. I attached it with (2) 1/2" sheet metal screws.

    From there, I ran my wiring to and from the crossover, tightened it down, and wired it up.



    That should be it. If you have any questions, ask away. As I update the thread with more pics and as I install more gear, some of this info may become obselete, so bear with me.

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    Excellent write up.
    Life is like riding a bicycle in order to keep your balance you must keep moving.

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    Great write up. Does the foil barrier membrane replace the plastic vapor barrier on the stock door? Thanks.

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    Dude, you are a special kind of thorough. Awesome write-up; thank you!!
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    Superb writeup. If all else fails, you could make a living as a technical writer. Those Rainbows are really going to shine when you feed them some more power!

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorcalWRX415 View Post
    Great write up. Does the foil barrier membrane replace the plastic vapor barrier on the stock door? Thanks.
    You can leave the plastic in place ot remove it. I chose to leave it in place. It is a good moisture barrier between the inner door skin and the door panel. The CCF will do the same thing, but I did not see a reason to abandon the plastic.

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