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2018 Outback Ltd 2.5i
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Didn't get a reply in the Electronics forum, anyone here have input?
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Haven't bought the car yet.

Scenario 1: Would the stock Premium head unit have enough oomph to drive some upgraded speakers to a decent volume level? How much improved sound could I reasonably expect? Any good brand recommendations for a simple swap out from the original speakers?

Scenario 2: How difficult might it be to add an external amp to the stock Premium head unit, along with upgraded speakers, and maybe even adding a sub by using a 5-channel amp. I wouldn't want to replace the stock head unit, due to losing the "turning" backup camera, as well as possible issues with losing steering wheel controls, or introducing any other weirdness. I'm assuming the stock head unit would not have line-level outputs, so I would likely need an amp that would have speaker-level inputs, and then could just use the existing speaker outputs from the head unit. Any advice on this? I actually lean towards the Premium Outback over the Limited, except for its basic stereo.
 

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All good question and am following though I have some opinions.
I also picked the premium I just wanted to have to sunroof.
But to relate to your question I have seen a long post about a guy who install a small amp behind the head unit although I'm unsure of you can use the same wires.


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2002 3.0 VDC Wag + 2018 2.5 Leg Ltd
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deleted your thread from yesterday,

this gen5 section is the right place for 2018 questions of all kinds anyway. (or at least a good place to start)


but don't expect a internet forum with 200 or less members on it at any given time to give instant answers. (unless its about bird crap on the center of a windshield).
 

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2016 Outback 2.5i Premium
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Didn't get a reply in the Electronics forum, anyone here have input?
-----
Haven't bought the car yet.

Scenario 1: Would the stock Premium head unit have enough oomph to drive some upgraded speakers to a decent volume level? How much improved sound could I reasonably expect? Any good brand recommendations for a simple swap out from the original speakers?

Scenario 2: How difficult might it be to add an external amp to the stock Premium head unit, along with upgraded speakers, and maybe even adding a sub by using a 5-channel amp. I wouldn't want to replace the stock head unit, due to losing the "turning" backup camera, as well as possible issues with losing steering wheel controls, or introducing any other weirdness. I'm assuming the stock head unit would not have line-level outputs, so I would likely need an amp that would have speaker-level inputs, and then could just use the existing speaker outputs from the head unit. Any advice on this? I actually lean towards the Premium Outback over the Limited, except for its basic stereo.
I have a Premium trim and replaced my speakers and added an amp. You won't be getting the most out of new speakers without an amp, but they will likely sound better than the factory ones. I love the way my stereo sounds now and all factory wiring and harnesses were left intact; had I not tossed the OEM speakers I could easily revert back to stock.

I put Polk Audio components in the front door panels and dash with crossovers mounted behind the head unit, Polk Audio two-ways in the rear doors, and an Alpine KTP-445U amp (45Wx4) mounted behind the head unit. I got the speakers from Crutchfield with the appropriate harnesses and brackets. The amp is fairly small and can use speaker-level inputs.

I purchased this breakout harness which made the wiring incredibly easy. All of my splicing was done to this harness which let me do the wiring in my house and I didn't have to mess with any of the factory harnesses.

The door speakers were straight forward: remove panels with trim tool, mount the speakers and bracket to the door, connect the harness. The dash tweeters required me to make some rough brackets for mounting (picture) and run new wiring to the crossovers. Bracket isn't visible behind the grille and the old wiring is still in place.

Amp was also not too challenging if you're comfortable splicing wires. Mine is offset more behind the glove box for space. Gain is turned all the way down which is fine for my needs.
 

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2018 Outback Ltd 2.5i
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
commiecat, I really appreciate you taking time to write all that out. That looks likes a great and relatively pain free way to upgrade the sound. That breakout harness looks ideal, I can check with the seller to see if the 2018 harness would need to be different with the new style head unit.

I'm amazed there is room behind the head unit for an amp, I guess they are getting pretty small these days. My '01 VDC has the McIntosh system with big amp under the passenger seat, and sub in the right rear cargo area. I like your idea of going with component speakers in the front doors- seems like that would eliminate the need for a sub unless someone really wanted to push it.

I've used Crutchfield before and would definitely go that way again. I'm probably two-three months away from ordering the new car, but it's great to know the stereo upgrade on a Premium would be doable with keeping factory harnesses and head unit intact. Thanks again.
 

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'13 Outback 3.6R
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Scenario 1: Would the stock Premium head unit have enough oomph to drive some upgraded speakers to a decent volume level? How much improved sound could I reasonably expect? Any good brand recommendations for a simple swap out from the original speakers?

commiecat is pretty spot on, they will sound better but an amp would help.

Scenario 2: How difficult might it be to add an external amp to the stock Premium head unit, along with upgraded speakers, and maybe even adding a sub by using a 5-channel amp. I wouldn't want to replace the stock head unit, due to losing the "turning" backup camera, as well as possible issues with losing steering wheel controls, or introducing any other weirdness. I'm assuming the stock head unit would not have line-level outputs, so I would likely need an amp that would have speaker-level inputs, and then could just use the existing speaker outputs from the head unit. Any advice on this? I actually lean towards the Premium Outback over the Limited, except for its basic stereo.

I have an HK stereo, but the general process is the same. I spliced the factory head unit output into a DSP and sent the signal to an amp. Replaced all the speakers and added a subwoofer too. Used components speakers up front (tweeter / mid range) and coaxial in the rear doors. I used a DSP because I wanted to be able to tweak the sound of the system to better match the cars characteristics, plus it acts as a built in cross over so I did not have to worry about wiring those into the system. A little more than most need, but I like it.


Size of the amp will dictate where you can mount it. I used a JL Audio XD700/5 (100W ea for 4 channel and 300W for sub) unit and it is far to big to fit in the dash. But there is plenty of space under each seat that is out of sight. A bonus is that the ventilation system comes out under each front seat, which helps to provide cooling.


As mentioned, the door panels are pretty easy to remove and replace the speakers. The bigger pain for me was running the new wiring which I had to remove the carpet in order to do it right. By that I mean the amp power/ground and new speaker wires as well. If you want a decent sub, you should at a minimum consider running a new 16ga wire just for that. You can run the stock speaker wires with a moderate amp. Anything more than commiecat and I would look to upsize the wiring. I did leave all the stock wires and kept all the speakers in the event I want to return the system to stock when I sell.


But to answer your question, it is not that difficult to add an amp and speakers. Just takes a little patience and time to do it right. I am including the wiring diagram to help with figuring out which wire is which if you want to go this route.
 

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commiecat is pretty spot on, they will sound better but an amp would help.




I have an HK stereo, but the general process is the same. I spliced the factory head unit output into a DSP and sent the signal to an amp. Replaced all the speakers and added a subwoofer too. Used components speakers up front (tweeter / mid range) and coaxial in the rear doors. I used a DSP because I wanted to be able to tweak the sound of the system to better match the cars characteristics, plus it acts as a built in cross over so I did not have to worry about wiring those into the system. A little more than most need, but I like it.


Size of the amp will dictate where you can mount it. I used a JL Audio XD700/5 (100W ea for 4 channel and 300W for sub) unit and it is far to big to fit in the dash. But there is plenty of space under each seat that is out of sight. A bonus is that the ventilation system comes out under each front seat, which helps to provide cooling.


As mentioned, the door panels are pretty easy to remove and replace the speakers. The bigger pain for me was running the new wiring which I had to remove the carpet in order to do it right. By that I mean the amp power/ground and new speaker wires as well. If you want a decent sub, you should at a minimum consider running a new 16ga wire just for that. You can run the stock speaker wires with a moderate amp. Anything more than commiecat and I would look to upsize the wiring. I did leave all the stock wires and kept all the speakers in the event I want to return the system to stock when I sell.


But to answer your question, it is not that difficult to add an amp and speakers. Just takes a little patience and time to do it right. I am including the wiring diagram to help with figuring out which wire is which if you want to go this route.
Thanks to both of you.

Do I need a new amp even if I listen to my music at rather low volumes? Is the built in amp in the premium model not enough to drive the new (better) speakers at low volumes?

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Do I need a new amp even if I listen to my music at rather low volumes? Is the built in amp in the premium model not enough to drive the new (better) speakers at low volumes?

Recommended but not required. Factory radio will do fine if you only listen at low volumes.
 

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Recommended but not required. Factory radio will do fine if you only listen at low volumes.
Thanks. I was debating between a new amp or a sub to be added next. Since I listen at low volumes (but above the noise floor of almost 70 dBA in a running car), I thought a sub may be of better value to me. Any thoughts?

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What about finding a junk yard 2017 premium or touring with the Harman Kardon. Pull the speakers and amp.

Has anyone with a sophisticated ear compared the two stock stereos?

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Thanks. I was debating between a new amp or a sub to be added next. Since I listen at low volumes (but above the noise floor of almost 70 dBA in a running car), I thought a sub may be of better value to me. Any thoughts?
You will need an amp to run a sub on the stock system (unless it comes with a built in amp). Most of the installation is running the wiring for the amp, I would do that first to get it out of the way. Save a little more then add the sub. The flip side is that the sub will add more depth to the sound than just an amp. Chicken or the egg?

What about finding a junk yard 2017 premium or touring with the Harman Kardon. Pull the speakers and amp.

Has anyone with a sophisticated ear compared the two stock stereos?
You would have to pull more than just the amp and speakers, you would need to pull the head unit and the HK amp wiring harness + reroute all of the speaker wiring. More hassle than it would be worth, doesn't sound that good anyway. For that amount of effort, install a decent aftermarket.
 

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You will need an amp to run a sub on the stock system (unless it comes with a built in amp). Most of the installation is running the wiring for the amp, I would do that first to get it out of the way. Save a little more then add the sub. The flip side is that the sub will add more depth to the sound than just an amp. Chicken or the egg?



You would have to pull more than just the amp and speakers, you would need to pull the head unit and the HK amp wiring harness + reroute all of the speaker wiring. More hassle than it would be worth, doesn't sound that good anyway. For that amount of effort, install a decent aftermarket.
Thanks for your comments. You are correct rewiring is the biggest time consumer. So anything I can do without rewiring will save time.

How about if I buy door speakers that are capable of producing lower freq. May be buy 6x9 speakers and then use the new amp to drive them.

I understand that the limited model uses a 6x9 speaker as the sub.

What do you think?

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Thanks for your comments. You are correct rewiring is the biggest time consumer. So anything I can do without rewiring will save time.

How about if I buy door speakers that are capable of producing lower freq. May be buy 6x9 speakers and then use the new amp to drive them.

I understand that the limited model uses a 6x9 speaker as the sub.

What do you think?

For ease of installation, replacement of the stock speakers with quality aftermarket units will improve the sound, especially if you add a small 4 channel amp to drive them. IMO, if all you ever listen is at low volume, you will not get a lot from a sub anyway (unless you crank the amp gain way up and then you may run into clipping issues). Using a 6x9 will get you a little more low freq response but will be limited compared with a dedicated sub.


This is one area of a car that is very subjective. I have found I like my wife's '13 OB with the HK system. Pretty well rounded and the sub sounds good.. But the HK in my '16 Legacy just sounded horrible to me. Uses basically all the same components (I checked the P/N's) but lacked any rear fill and low freq response. Not sure what changed in three years, perhaps it is just the geometry of the vehicle. So I left her car alone and I upgraded my car.
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For ease of installation, replacement of the stock speakers with quality aftermarket units will improve the sound, especially if you add a small 4 channel amp to drive them. IMO, if all you ever listen is at low volume, you will not get a lot from a sub anyway (unless you crank the amp gain way up and then you may run into clipping issues). Using a 6x9 will get you a little more low freq response but will be limited compared with a dedicated sub.


This is one area of a car that is very subjective. I have found I like my wife's '13 OB with the HK system. Pretty well rounded and the sub sounds good.. But the HK in my '16 Legacy just sounded horrible to me. Uses basically all the same components (I checked the P/N's) but lacked any rear fill and low freq response. Not sure what changed in three years, perhaps it is just the geometry of the vehicle. So I left her car alone and I upgraded my car.
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Thanks. It makes a lot of sense. What speakers would you suggest? Infinity or Morel or Focal?

Does it make sense to look for 6x9? There is less choice there.

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Re-boot - same question

Hey C3156-
how long did that take you to do all the rewiring?
i remember doing that in a few old beater cars that i didnt care about the final fit/finish, but i'd be intimidated to do that on a new car ... and my wife's eyes would roll out of her head if she saw me "wasting" my time on that.

i am imminently going to pick up an OB and am a little disappointed in the audio setup so i wanted to upgrade w/o taking out the head unit (similar reasons to earlier poster). did your guys upgrade retain the fader / eq functions well? can't see why it wouldnt and i know they're not stellar, but just wanted to check.
chances are, i'll select some components i want (speakers, amp, sub, dsp?) and get a shop to install for me

appreciate anyones advice on this and/or update on how your plans worked out (OP)

jj
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
appreciate anyones advice on this and/or update on how your plans worked out (OP)

jj
As the OP, I ended up getting the Limited with the HK system. Not so much for the stereo at all, but several of the other Limited features. I just got the car last week, so don't really have any comments on the HK system yet. I still think the idea of adding an amp and better speakers to a Premium stock head unit would be a good way to go without too much trouble. Good luck.
 

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thanks for the update - hope the car is working out well for you!

i'll prob do the same - pick up the car and wait a few weeks before diving in. suspect i'll go the amp/sub/speaker direction too

jj
 

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2018 Outback 2.5i Premium with Moon Hole.
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Adding an amp and a sub will do wonders for the Premium stereo. I have yet to upgrade the stock speakers and am blown away, literally, by the sound quality that comes out of the stock speakers with some real power behind them. Had to get a new sub setup just to keep up with them. I'd be curious to know if anybody else has added an amp first and then upgraded the speakers later? I'm wondering how much of a difference you could hear and what speakers you went with.

For more info on my install, go here.
 
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