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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So... About 8 months ago, I got a new WRX. Admittedly, I only drive it 6 miles a day to the subway station, so I don't really pay too much attention, but the radio stinks. When it's on HD, it fades in and out. When I turn off HD, it sounds muffled even though I've been playing around with the equalizer. I see a lot of comments about this, so I'm not sure if it's something worth bringing into for service. It's probably the only thing I don't like about the car.

Do y'all just replace the radio? If so... recommendations on what's good?! I don't even know what's out there anymore. The last time I had to replace a radio was 30 years ago when there were shops all over the place. I think the only place that sells them is Best Buy. Thanks!
 

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Go to a local audio shop. From what I have heard, replacing just the factory head unit with a good aftermarket unit is a massive upgrade from the factory unit. I would start there. I believe a shop once quoted me around $400 to replace the factory head unit with a good aftermarket unit.

If you're not satisfied, I'm sure the audio shop will be able to point you in the right direction with upgraded speakers or the addition of a subwoofer.
 

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I am not an audiophile by any means but the stock radio is horrendous.


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What would you be looking for in the radio? I wouldn't consider something that isn't a double-din touchscreen model.

These are generalizations, but can give you some guidance...
All-around budget: Pioneer
Best navigation: Kenwood (uses Garmin software)
Best audio: Alpine

You might need items like wiring harness, Metra ASWC-1, trim, etc. for proper install, so I would consult with someone to make sure you have everything purchased for a seamless install. Additionally, if you don't already have a soldering iron, solder, and shrink tubing, now would be the time to buy it; don't need anything big/fancy for this, something like the Weller WPS18MP would be perfect.
 

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How do you turn the HD part off? Where I live/work it is right on the outskirts of Philly, so whenever I listen to one of the Philly channels it fades in and out of HD. I couldn't find anything in the settings.
 

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Yeh it's pretty annoying spending 30k in 2017 and getting a radio you'd expect on a 1998 geo metro.
Didn't even get a radio in STIs back in 2004
 

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I actually think the factory radio sounds ok when the car is sitting still. On the road the wind and tire noise block out so much of radio. I agree with the all around budget Pioneer suggestion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the validations and the suggestions.

This weekend, my errand was to visit local audio shops. Shocked they are still around; guess I just haven't noticed. The owner at the first shop said he hears a lot of complaints about factory stereos and didn't feel they were really that great to start with (like not top of the line or equivalent to good name brand ones), but if it were the radio I was complaining about, there was nothing that could be done. I could put sound deadening material in there and get better speakers (he recommended some Focal ones) or get that and a subwoofer. I thought he was sincere about not selling me stuff I didn't need. He said the HD fade will happen but hopefully the speakers and sound deadening will help my sound better using non-HD. Speaker upgrades include parts and labor would cost about $480.

The owner of the second place I went to suggested that I return to the dealer and see if there's anything they could do in case it was a faulty radio (the Best Buy guy said the same thing about a month ago). He also confirmed there was nothing he could do about the fading. He didn't offer any help regarding speakers/subwoofers. When we asked about getting an entire replacement, he did show us an item, but it was probably $1200. He could install it where I could still use all the buttons on the steering wheel. Man... gone are the days of pulling out a unit and sticking something else in its place! I'm not changing the stereo at that price! I wasn't really interested in changing, so I didn't ask him about less expensive units.

Both just felt that since everyone is going the route of Pandora or using their own playlist that manufacturers really aren't spending the money on the radios.

Any thoughts about whether changing speakers would help? Was hoping someone already made modifications that worked that I could just copy, lol.
 

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Thanks for the validations and the suggestions.

This weekend, my errand was to visit local audio shops. Shocked they are still around; guess I just haven't noticed. The owner at the first shop said he hears a lot of complaints about factory stereos and didn't feel they were really that great to start with (like not top of the line or equivalent to good name brand ones), but if it were the radio I was complaining about, there was nothing that could be done. I could put sound deadening material in there and get better speakers (he recommended some Focal ones) or get that and a subwoofer. I thought he was sincere about not selling me stuff I didn't need. He said the HD fade will happen but hopefully the speakers and sound deadening will help my sound better using non-HD. Speaker upgrades include parts and labor would cost about $480.

The owner of the second place I went to suggested that I return to the dealer and see if there's anything they could do in case it was a faulty radio (the Best Buy guy said the same thing about a month ago). He also confirmed there was nothing he could do about the fading. He didn't offer any help regarding speakers/subwoofers. When we asked about getting an entire replacement, he did show us an item, but it was probably $1200. He could install it where I could still use all the buttons on the steering wheel. Man... gone are the days of pulling out a unit and sticking something else in its place! I'm not changing the stereo at that price! I wasn't really interested in changing, so I didn't ask him about less expensive units.

Both just felt that since everyone is going the route of Pandora or using their own playlist that manufacturers really aren't spending the money on the radios.

Any thoughts about whether changing speakers would help? Was hoping someone already made modifications that worked that I could just copy, lol.


It's not all that difficult to replace the head unit.. no idea why they would say "nothing can be done". Also, spending money on good speakers, then running them off of the OEM head unit is terrible advice. The signal from the head unit is crummy (that's the whole problem in the first place).. plus it doesn't provide near enough power to run high end speakers.

You don't need to spend $1200 on a head unit to get better sound either. There are good double din touch screen head units for half that price, and with the right one and the necessicary dongles you can wire in all the steering wheel controls, bluetooth, and back up camera without too much trouble.


I don't know which model head unit you got with the car. My 2017 Outback Premium has the upgraded 7" nav unit (which still has crummy sound). In the past replacing the head unit right off the bat was almost always your best bet with just about any car.

However the head unit in my Outback has various controls for other non-stereo related functions of the car, like how the interior/door sill lights behave, horn chirps, etc.. as well as read outs from the car's ECU. My wife insisted on not losing any functionality, so that brings us to option #2. You can install a digital signal processor to take the speaker level outputs from the stock radio, clean up the signal, and balance everything. Then you would run the outputs from the DSP to an amp, then to the speakers. The factory speakers will sound MUCH better with a good signal and a little more power pushing them. The nice thing about going this route is that you don't have to fool with anything tied into the car.. simply wire in the DSP, amp, and run the outs to the factory speaker wires. The drawback is that you don't gain all the functionality you would have with an aftermarket unit (I would LOVE to have an Android head unit to run Waze, Pandora, internet, youtube, etc).


A really good DSP isn't cheap, and neither are amps. So if you're not that concerned with having great sound quality I would go with the cheaper option of replacing the head unit. As for myself, we had some unexpected financial stuff come up (as well as a new baby at home), so I have resigned to running an AudioControl LC2i from the factory head unit to gain a pair of line level outs as a stop gap so to speak. I already had a really good amp and an EQ just laying around (along with a bunch of Dynamat Xtreme). When I get the time I'm going to install the LC2i hooked into the front speaker level outs from the head unit and run those to the EQ. Then I'm going to run an additional AUX cable to the EQ which I can plug into my phone. I will still be able to use the factory stereo like always, but with a real EQ, and a LOT more power pushing the factory speakers (this doesn't do anything for the poor output signal, but the additional power, high quality EQ, and sound deadening in the doors it should sound somewhat better). Then when I really want to listen to music I can plug my phone in, which the EQ automatically switches to when it sees a signal on the AUX line. The output from my phone will have a clean signal, so it should sound pretty good, even with the factory speakers. All in I will have spent $60, but I already had the amp and EQ on hand. Later on I might think about replacing the speakers with some inexpensive aftermarket ones, but if I really want it to sound good I'm still going to need a DSP and some component speakers with 3-way active crossovers.. which won't be cheap.
 
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