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2020 Touring XT, 2013 Outback Lim SAP 270K, 2003 Outback Lim MT 2.5L, 241K..
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Discussion Starter #1
So, as some have seen here - I have been a bit puzzled due to the bad sound of my audio - going from a 2003 Limited (9 speaker) system to a similar system in the 2013.

Today I did some serious listening with specific source material and isolating the front and rear speakers.
I am 98% sure the speakers are wired out of phase from left to right. Ill leave the 2% to it being a strange combination of phase issues from front to back as well and not just left to right.
This has a MAJOR impact on any stereo sound system and would explain a lot of what I am hearing as a problem. I am pondering though, who I should contact first. This is not something that the service guys at the dealer are going to necessarily know or even be able to hear without comparisons.

If I knew how to easily get into the door speakers or the back of the head unit I could see if the wires are hard wired or switchable.
In the mean time, the only way I can think of to further prove my theory is to go to work and physically swap the phase of a song that has a lot of fairly center imaging. Then play that version of the song in the car. This will be my comparison to show them at the dealer - whenever I get the chance to go there and show someone - which wont be easy.

sigh.
Makes me wonder though - does anyone know?
at what point is this wiring done - at the factory, at the regional "port" place? - how many other cars could be wired out of phase between the speakers.

I mean, I once had a professional stereo installer on a past car wire up new speakers and HE wired them out of phase and he had no idea when listening to it that it was, though I knew it right away and I made him swap the phase and then they sounded MUCH better - and he agreed. I understand that I make my career in audio engineering but well, SO did that guy to an extent.
No offense to anyone - but Im sure if a lot of OB's out there were wired wrong, the owners would only hear strange if not crappy quality - with weird issues with low end and high end - they wouldnt recognize it as phase swapped speakers.
Makes me wonder.







I am puzzled by a couple other things as well, but its hard to judge if the speakers are out of phase, but for instance, why, if the rear doors have a tweeter and woofer in it (albiet small woofers) why they sound so crappy. Im fully aware that a 100mm woofer cant produce the low frequencies like a 160mm woofer can (front doors), but all in all they sound really crappy and partly cause the sub volume is so low. I can hear the sub if I sit in the rear seat with my head leaning back - but I can hardly hear it from the front at all. Most low end I hear (including real low frequencies) are comign from the front door woofers (only a bit smaller than the sub)


All I know is Im making some phone calls to SOA and maybe HK this week while Im at work.

My question (lost in all that) was, does anyone know at what point in manufacturing the speakers are wired up? Is that at the factory, or at the port, or what?


edit:
I would LOVE to find out I am wrong, in which case - the car shape itself with speaker placement is creating some really crazy phase cancelling issues. Not impossible but highly unlikely.
 

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2013 Outback 3.6R Ltd- Nav, Eyesight, HK, Graphite Gray Metallic
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Very thought provoking analysis, and I for one hope you're right. It would be nice to find a relatively easy fix to the sound issues with the '13 HK system.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Very thought provoking analysis, and I for one hope you're right. It would be nice to find a relatively easy fix to the sound issues with the '13 HK system.
I cant imagine that the speakers are commonly wired wrong from the factory - but it REALLY sounds like it on mine, and I have seen aftermarket installers make that mistake. But if mine ARE - then I can imagine others must be too sometimes.

What it means, to those that dont know - is that the positive and negative terminals on the speakers are reversed from the left speaker to the right. Depending on how the wire connects- its an easy mistake to make. If any of you have stereo speakers where you can access the wires in your house - if you flip the positive and negative wires on one side - then sit between the speakers - you can hear the effect. If you are well within the stereo image - the effect is obvious. Phase problems are something you deal with a lot in music recording, more subtle than this, but when you reverse the polarity of speaker wire on one side - you have full reversal of phase on one side.

I just know at the dealer it will be hard to get them to deal with this, unless you can SHOW them the problem, and just saying "listen" wont necessarily make it obvious to them.

I would like to investigate other issues though - like the sub being FAR more absent then the LAST OB Limited 9 speaker system I just traded in.
But if speakers are out of phase - it could be doing a lot of weird things in a car setting so I cant look into that till I verify the phase issue.
I will certainly post here with anything I find that could be affecting anyone else.
 

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2019 Forester Sport. Love the Orange.
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Pure spec on my part but I would think the harness is installed very early on. I don't know if any audio wiring is included in any main "trunks" of electrical wiring or if audio is stand alone for each trim level. It seems everybody gets tweetie wiring in the dash so doors could be there also.

I looked back in Taiguy's install pics but couldn't get a clean view of the actual factory speaker connection at the speaker. It could be spades on the speaker and press-ons on the wires or a manufactured proprietary plug.

If there is a directional plug on the end of the speaker wires I would think that the wires would follow the wiring diagram and be manufactured with them in the right position with little or no chance of cross wiring. If the are just two loose spade press-ons at the ends then whoever puts in the speakers on the assembly line could easily cross them up. It only take one.:eek:
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Pure spec on my part but I would think the harness is installed very early on. I don't know if any audio wiring is included in any main "trunks" of electrical wiring or if audio is stand alone for each trim level. It seems everybody gets tweetie wiring in the dash so doors could be there also.

I looked back in Taiguy's install pics but couldn't get a clean view of the actual factory speaker connection at the speaker. It could be spades on the speaker and press-ons on the wires or a manufactured proprietary plug.

If there is a directional plug on the end of the speaker wires I would think that the wires would follow the wiring diagram and be manufactured with them in the right position with little or no chance of cross wiring. If the are just two loose spade press-ons at the ends then whoever puts in the speakers on the assembly line could easily cross them up. It only take one.:eek:
yeah - Im hoping Im wrong. As much as I know how things are all connected in a recording studio, I just have NO idea the connections and hardware used to hook up a car system like this to know how easy it would be to get it wrong.
I have to create a music file of a song that has a lot of good center imaging and throw it out of phase and then play it in the car. That should confirm it.
 

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Wow, what a coincidence. I just bought my 2013 Outback Limited three weeks ago and I am completely perplexed by the poor sound quality of the HK audio! I am no sound expert, but it's equal to, or worse than, the factory sound in my RAV4, and that model was notorious for having crummy audio. I am wondering why I paid for "premium sound" that is so sub-par. Anyone know what it will take to get Subaru to fix this, if it's a common problem (since it's not a safety issue)? Also, as a side note, I think the spex on the invoice say "9-speaker" but I've only found 7... can someone tell me where the speakers are located? --Wendy in L.A.
 

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2005 3.0 R n totaled
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Sequoia225 - what makes you say: ".... installed at the port..." these cas are assembled in Indiana... there is no "port" involved here....most (if not all) options are installed at the factory!
There are several spots in the NAV unit, where you can adjust sound. It took me several months (and teen-age kids) to figure that one out!

Love2drive
The speakers are all there - all you have to do is find them and adjust them to your likings!
 

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I actually work at SIA and can tell you the wire harnesses are one of the first parts put into car. We have the harnesses subed out by someone else. It is possible they [vendor] put the connector on wrong. The dash comes to us complete, as it already has radio and all wiring in it. So for the factory to hook it up wrong I think would be very hard to do. But anything is possible
 

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love2drive, Rear door speakers are co-ax and are counted as two each. Also reduce the two lowest frequency bands using the eqalizer in the audio menu. The fronts are notoriously "muddy". Reducing cleans up the whole sound quite a bit. Also use bigger music files for better sound. Small MP3 files can sound awful.

EDIT: Just noticed your first post. Congrats and welcome.
 

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I actually work at SIA and can tell you the wire harnesses are one of the first parts put into car. We have the harnesses subed out by someone else. It is possible they [vendor] put the connector on wrong. The dash comes to us complete, as it already has radio and all wiring in it. So for the factory to hook it up wrong I think would be very hard to do. But anything is possible
Do you know if the speakers in the doors use a "special" plug or just slide on spade connectors?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Sequoia225 - what makes you say: ".... installed at the port..." these cas are assembled in Indiana... there is no "port" involved here....most (if not all) options are installed at the factory!
There are several spots in the NAV unit, where you can adjust sound. It took me several months (and teen-age kids) to figure that one out!

Love2drive
The speakers are all there - all you have to do is find them and adjust them to your likings!
only cause the dealer used that term with me - though what they meant was the "regional" location where the options and stuff are put on the car - as it was explained to me at the dealer. No idea where that location is but somewhere more local than the factory. Im only telling you what the sales manager at Subaru of Ontario told me.
 

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Thank you! I don't know audio stuff at all, but I've known something wasn't right with my HK sound system from day one. Hopefully it's an easy fix like you're speculating.

After driving the Outback for a while, I get used to its sound system and think it sounds fine. But if I get in my 300C and listen to its Boston sound system at all, it puts the Subaru to shame... badly. I'm not expecting the Subie to pound the way the Chrysler does, but a premium audio setup should at least be comparable.
 

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only cause the dealer used that term with me - though what they meant was the "regional" location where the options and stuff are put on the car - as it was explained to me at the dealer. No idea where that location is but somewhere more local than the factory. Im only telling you what the sales manager at Subaru of Ontario told me.
I've been told several different stories on that one too. The most common one is the place at the factory where the add on accessories are installed after the assembly line is referred to as the "port". It's a carry over from when all foreign cars were unloaded at a real port and had those type additions done. I'm also told there are several location on the left coast where installs have also been done. I was recently told they are doing away with those so who knows. All I know is it gets done.:D
 

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Discussion Starter #14
? Also, as a side note, I think the spex on the invoice say "9-speaker" but I've only found 7... can someone tell me where the speakers are located? --Wendy in L.A.
look here:
Subaru and Harman/Kardon
tweeter and woofer in each rear door - smaller woofer than in front.

icobob - I am still holding out that I COULD be wrong. having such a close proximity spread of speakers - 2 by winshield, 2 by floor, others behind - with the odd shape of a car can do a lot to throw around the imaging in strange ways. But the stereo imaging in this car is severely strange - and usually the cause of that is out of phase speakers. The fact that I can put my head in the middle - just send audio to the front - and the music seems to have no clear defined center - until I move my head a bit to one side - and suddenly I hear the center - where the center should be - thats a sign of phasing issues - either from reflections or more likely the wiring.
And considering I came from the same car with a similar layout (of course 2 redesigns later), I am very surprised that the "premium" sound system is SO far off.

Again though - I am not trying to hint that everyones disappointing audio is this problem. Let me investigate further first. I am curious to know though how the speakers connect to the wires - and if there was an easy way for me to get to them and flip the phase of one side.

edit - but once I can take some song files and manually flip the phase myself in the file - then play it in the car - I can get more to the bottom of it. I forgot my audio drive though when I went to work today so Ill have to do it another day.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
love2drive, Rear door speakers are co-ax and are counted as two each. Also reduce the two lowest frequency bands using the eqalizer in the audio menu. The fronts are notoriously "muddy". Reducing cleans up the whole sound quite a bit. Also use bigger music files for better sound. Small MP3 files can sound awful.

EDIT: Just noticed your first post. Congrats and welcome.

The EQ has very little range - even with the low down all the way its still quite boomy. A good sound system should let you take out and add more than this one does - but, on graphic eqs like that - it is bad for speakers to take narrow bands and slam them hard, and these speakers probably arent great - so maybe they are just making sure no one can abuse the speakers.
You can bet I dont use small mp3 files. I use AAC and have pretty low compression - compared to what I see a lot of people do. I cant stand it when I can hear the compression.

I also am really surprised there is no link to a "loudness" setting. are we to expect there is a setting always on - that automatically engages when it goes above a certain volume? I am going to doubt that until I see something official otherwise.

;)

HAving come from a premium audio system in the same car 10 years older - I am really frankly quite disappointed in this one. I was quite happy with the setup in the 2003 Limited OB. I cant remember the maker - but I had the "premium" system in that car too.
 

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2005 3.0 R n totaled
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OBnube + Sequoia - wow, that is the first time I hear about such "ports" for domestically assembled cars. I know that most modern assembly plants have sub-contractors located in side corridors of the assembly lines (away from robotics) where they add such stuff as roof-top carriers, optional seats and perhaps other "options" - but those subcontractors are normally located at the same physical location, as assembly plant. Perhaps Icobob from SIA could shed some light into these "mystery ports" - if it is not a confidential disclosure... I see that he mentioned earlier, there are some options subcontracted out but aren't those subcontractor located at the plant?
 

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No, for the Leg and Outb there are no ports. All of that stuff is done across the lot. After the cars are tested and cleared they go over to SOA, across the parking lot. These cars no longer belong to SIA. They install some of the options there and it makes no sense to me at all. They take such things as speakers out that we just put in and install diff. ones. Then they have to throw the speakers they take out and throw them away.(foreign trade zone thing) Not sure what all they do over there now as it changes all the time and havent been over there in a couple years
 

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I cant imagine that the speakers are commonly wired wrong from the factory - but it REALLY sounds like it on mine, and I have seen aftermarket installers make that mistake. But if mine ARE - then I can imagine others must be too sometimes.

...

I would like to investigate other issues though - like the sub being FAR more absent then the LAST OB Limited 9 speaker system I just traded in.
But if speakers are out of phase - it could be doing a lot of weird things in a car setting so I cant look into that till I verify the phase issue.
I will certainly post here with anything I find that could be affecting anyone else.
Just out of curiosity, why can't you test this more simply? Why not tune the radio to an AM station and roll the balance knob to see if the bass comes up when you shift to full left or full right?

AM is still a mono source in most of the world, and should be an excellent way to detect phase cancellation.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Just out of curiosity, why can't you test this more simply? Why not tune the radio to an AM station and roll the balance knob to see if the bass comes up when you shift to full left or full right?

AM is still a mono source in most of the world, and should be an excellent way to detect phase cancellation.
haha - I didnt even think of using AM radio. I dont even really listen to radio anymore. Thats why Im on here - so you smart people can point out the obvious. ;)

This morning - when I was listening to my ipod on the way to work - I was pondering the unlikeliness of it being wired wrong from a factory install, doubting what my ears are hearing, but if that IS the case - there is some REALLY screwed up imaging going on in that system - which blows me away since I just came out of a similar car with a "similar" audio layout that sounded great.

Cant leave work for a few more hours.
 

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haha - I didnt even think of using AM radio. I dont even really listen to radio anymore. Thats why Im on here - so you smart people can point out the obvious. ;)

This morning - when I was listening to my ipod on the way to work - I was pondering the unlikeliness of it being wired wrong from a factory install, doubting what my ears are hearing, but if that IS the case - there is some REALLY screwed up imaging going on in that system - which blows me away since I just came out of a similar car with a "similar" audio layout that sounded great.

Cant leave work for a few more hours.
Extra funny as there really isn't much that I dislike more than talk radio, and it seems that is all that remains on AM. I couldn't tell you if the AM receiver in my car even works as I have never tried it. But it's good to keep it in mind as a test facility anyway...

Some stereos will deliberately change their output when set to AM, so it may not be a valid test. I would encourage you to try it, but be ready to test with a file if the result is at all ambiguous. I suggest 40 year old music, because they had figured out stereo by then but weren't into completely abusing it, so most vocals are dry mono and will "go instrumental" on a cancelled system.

Either that or knock out some actual tome tests and dc pulses.
 
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