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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello!

I finally took the plunge and bought a 2021 Limited XT. I absolutely love it. I spent a lot of time in a Limited that wasn't the one I ended up buying. One of the reasons for considering the limited was for the HK sound system. I flattened the EQ to give it a listen and even though it's not the world's best factory sound system, I thought it was fairly adequate.

The vehicle I did end up buying (decided to go with a different color) I did not spend much time in. Almost immediately after driving it off the lot. I could swear that there was something weird with the HK system... it didn't sound the same. I had flattened the EQ as soon as I drove it off the lot but something just didn't sound right. (It almost sounds like a tweeter in the dash is distorting at low-moderate volumes). Last night I brought up a tone generator on my phone and panned to all four corners of the car to try to isolate speakers. At around 2khz the front right dash speaker wasn't playing a pure tone the same as the other speakers... there was definitely a harmonic and it sounded subtly but noticeably different. (Fun fact at 119hz even at low volumes the side door panel will rattle like crazy)

Am I being crazy? (Loaded question) Could this be something in the processing of the head unit (feature not a bug that I just didn't notice before?) Or do the HK speakers have a tendency to get damaged? The Outback had a little over 60 miles on it when I drove it off the lot. I know the first thing some people do when they test drive a car with a "premium" sound system is smiley face the EQ and turn it all the way up.

I figured I would ask here first to see if anyone has experienced this and if anyone knows if Subaru techs have a process for assessing the speakers before I call the dealer and make them think that I'm going to be a crazy person.
 

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If you can give the name of the app or suggest some youtube links or something where I can test this in mine, I can let you know. I'm an avid audiophile (My current headphones are a pair of neumann ndh-20s) and while I agree, the system is good enough, but not mind blowing, I haven't noticed this. Granted, I don't drive it a lot (yet)... but happy to listen!

Edited to add: the system has dsp, it should be pretty hard to blow the speakers and damage them. h/k is known to be pretty sturdy in that regard.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If you can give the name of the app or suggest some youtube links or something where I can test this in mine, I can let you know. I'm an avid audiophile (My current headphones are a pair of neumann ndh-20s) and while I agree, the system is good enough, but not mind blowing, I haven't noticed this. Granted, I don't drive it a lot (yet)... but happy to listen!

Edited to add: the system has dsp, it should be pretty hard to blow the speakers and damage them. h/k is known to be pretty sturdy in that regard.
If you can give the name of the app or suggest some youtube links or something where I can test this in mine, I can let you know. I'm an avid audiophile (My current headphones are a pair of neumann ndh-20s) and while I agree, the system is good enough, but not mind blowing, I haven't noticed this. Granted, I don't drive it a lot (yet)... but happy to listen!

Edited to add: the system has dsp, it should be pretty hard to blow the speakers and damage them. h/k is known to be pretty sturdy in that regard.
That would be awesome! Yeah you’re right, and it seems like that a system like this would have a limiter.

this is the Tone Generator I was using. I had my phone plugged in via USB. It was when I put the audio in the front corners that I noticed it the most.
 

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That would be awesome! Yeah you’re right, and it seems like that a system like this would have a limiter.

this is the Tone Generator I was using. I had my phone plugged in via USB. It was when I put the audio in the front corners that I noticed it the most.
My partner has my car, but I will check this in the am for you and let you know! I set a reminder for ya! Thx for linking the tone generator site
 

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@UsersName I would go back to the dealer and listen to the floor model in the same manner using the same tone generator to determine if yours is audibly "different" and if it is, check yet another car.

You're the first person I have seen that has commented that just one speaker sounds bad so it's possible you do actually have a bad one. The corner speaker grille is easy to remove and you can look at the speaker to see if there's some tape in it or some other visible weirdness going on with it. It's also plug-and-play so you could swap left and right speakers and see if the bad sound moves with the speaker or stays in the right corner.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
@UsersName I would go back to the dealer and listen to the floor model in the same manner using the same tone generator to determine if yours is audibly "different" and if it is, check yet another car.

You're the first person I have seen that has commented that just one speaker sounds bad so it's possible you do actually have a bad one. The corner speaker grille is easy to remove and you can look at the speaker to see if there's some tape in it or some other visible weirdness going on with it. It's also plug-and-play so you could swap left and right speakers and see if the bad sound moves with the speaker or stays in the right corner.
Haha yeah, that was my first instinct.. but then came the feeling of not wanting the samesman/dealer that I had an all around great experience with starting to think I was crazy. 😂 I probably will do that, though; especially if Alpaca doesn’t hear the same thing.

Thanks for the tip. That’s good to know that they’re fairly easy to swap. I’ve always been wary of pulling plastic pieces off cars.. especially the first brand new car I’ve ever bought. Haha. It’s honestly hard to tell if it sounds “bad”... saying it sounds “not right” would be a more apt. I would actually be more inclined at first guess to say that it’s a power issue from how it sounds, so maybe head unit related. But I could just be hearing some processing at work.
 

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I understand the fear of taking apart your brand new car but the materials are much more robust than you think, and even if by chance you cracked a grille (I don't think you can but for the sake of argument) the part isn't crazy expensive. Many of us have replaced the corner tweeters in the non-HK version and none of us have had any issues removing the grille or changing the speakers. No interference from the A pillar or any nonsense. It's totally straightforward using a dull butterknife or something similar to pry up the edge of the grille until the fasteners pop out.
 

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Haha yeah, that was my first instinct.. but then came the feeling of not wanting the samesman/dealer that I had an all around great experience with starting to think I was crazy. 😂 I probably will do that, though; especially if Alpaca doesn’t hear the same thing.

Thanks for the tip. That’s good to know that they’re fairly easy to swap. I’ve always been wary of pulling plastic pieces off cars.. especially the first brand new car I’ve ever bought. Haha. It’s honestly hard to tell if it sounds “bad”... saying it sounds “not right” would be a more apt. I would actually be more inclined at first guess to say that it’s a power issue from how it sounds, so maybe head unit related. But I could just be hearing some processing at work.
Hey there,

Good morning! I tested this in my Outback with the tone generator, and also some other apps to replicate certain frequencies and could not reproduce the issue you described. I'd take it into the dealer and have them listen to the one on the showroom floor and compare it.
 

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If you think there is something wrong, as the dealer to replace the speaker. Parts are cheap and the install fast so their should be minimum pushback. That said, I wonder if the other car had a different software suit. There were significant changes that came out in the "504 update" that changed the sound field/quality significantly in the HK systems. p.s. try covering the center dash speaker with a rubber mat/ cell phone holder. ( Like $10 off Amazon) If you can tone down that speaker, it makes it easier to here the corner dash speakers for diagnosis.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hey there,

Good morning! I tested this in my Outback with the tone generator, and also some other apps to replicate certain frequencies and could not reproduce the issue you described. I'd take it into the dealer and have them listen to the one on the showroom floor and compare it.
So I took it to the dealer today and I was able to listen to my Limited side-by-side with another. There definitely was a noticeable difference, albeit subtle. I could especially tell when I put the tone generator through... In my vehicle there is definitely a harmonic happening, rather than a pure tone. It's odd because it doesn't sound like there's a blown speaker, it just sounds different. With that confirmed I asked if they could take it back to service.

The tech came out two hours later and said that he listened to it, didn't hear anything wrong with it, and that my Outback was out of service and ready to go. I asked if he compared the two Limiteds and he said no that he had just listened to mine and it sounded fine. I asked if he would be willing to listen to both one after the other. When we did that he did acknowledge that with the EQ flat, volume exactly the same, same phone, same cable, they did sound somewhat different, especially using the tone generator. He told me that he thought mine was "louder" (I would agree with that because it oddly was) and he said in his opinion that mine sounded "better." (I disagree with that part of the assessment) He said that it was normal for there to be variation in the head unit amp and speakers and there is nothing to be done.

I have a feeling that was just to get me out the door but at this point I'm not sure what to do. Honestly, it's not absolutely terrible and I could live with it... but it definitely doesn't sound the same as the two Limiteds I test drove (I had flattened the EQ in those) and it didn't sound like the Limited I compared it to today.

Thanks for everyone's feedback in this forum so far.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If you think there is something wrong, as the dealer to replace the speaker. Parts are cheap and the install fast so their should be minimum pushback. That said, I wonder if the other car had a different software suit. There were significant changes that came out in the "504 update" that changed the sound field/quality significantly in the HK systems. p.s. try covering the center dash speaker with a rubber mat/ cell phone holder. ( Like $10 off Amazon) If you can tone down that speaker, it makes it easier to here the corner dash speakers for diagnosis.
Thanks for the tip. Part of me wants to continue troubleshooting this until doomsday... and another part of me wants to let it go so I can just enjoy the new Outback. I did check with the dealer today and they said it's on the most recent software update for the head unit. I honestly didn't think to ask about the one we were comparing to but it had about 160 miles on it so I'd imagine it can't have been on the lot for too terribly long.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I understand the fear of taking apart your brand new car but the materials are much more robust than you think, and even if by chance you cracked a grille (I don't think you can but for the sake of argument) the part isn't crazy expensive. Many of us have replaced the corner tweeters in the non-HK version and none of us have had any issues removing the grille or changing the speakers. No interference from the A pillar or any nonsense. It's totally straightforward using a dull butterknife or something similar to pry up the edge of the grille until the fasteners pop out.
I did take a closer listen this morning and I'm almost sure it's not just one speaker... but I will probably give this a try. I'm also going to take the advice about covering the dash speakers as well to try to isolate. It's tough because this is something I can only troubleshoot for about 10 minutes at a time because of ear fatigue. haha
 

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I did take a closer listen this morning and I'm almost sure it's not just one speaker... but I will probably give this a try. I'm also going to take the advice about covering the dash speakers as well to try to isolate. It's tough because this is something I can only troubleshoot for about 10 minutes at a time because of ear fatigue. haha
Just take it to the dealer and insist they fix it. IF they push back, gt Subaru of America involved via Email. I've found that SoA wants their customers happy for the most part.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I understand the fear of taking apart your brand new car but the materials are much more robust than you think, and even if by chance you cracked a grille (I don't think you can but for the sake of argument) the part isn't crazy expensive. Many of us have replaced the corner tweeters in the non-HK version and none of us have had any issues removing the grille or changing the speakers. No interference from the A pillar or any nonsense. It's totally straightforward using a dull butterknife or something similar to pry up the edge of the grille until the fasteners pop out.
I just had a revelation that this actually sounds like a phasing issue! I'm starting to wonder if I have a speaker that has been wired out of phase. This could explain the fact that when playing a tone it sounds so weird when i move my head around. It would also explain why it's uncomfortable to listen to. If so, hopefully at the speaker side. Before I open up the dash speaker grilles; would you happen to know what the wiring harness is like? Is it a plastic mating connector or is it just a wire terminal on the speaker? Kind of curious before I dig in if it's going to be somewhat pointless.
 

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IIRC that dash speaker is just a tweeter and the other 2 speakers are in the door. They are not really separated by a normal crossover because of the way the system is built, plug, play, and harman/kardon (aka samsung)

That said, it's totally possible you got one out of phase. They are probably wired up by hand and maybe someone was sleepy that day and did it backwards. It happens. Plus as Samsung bought Harman, a lot of people have reported quality going down hill, even on high end reference gear from Harman Subsidiaries, like Mark Levinson.

I went to Starbucks the day before yesterday and got a Venti White Mocha with Ristretto shots and they only gave me steamed milk. I guess they needed the espresso more than I did.

Honestly, if you determine there's nothing inherently wrong, it sounds like you may want to take it to a Pro Audio shop and have it tuned. You can get an audio processor like the Audio Control LC2i (see here for Crutchfield products that will do this) that will sit just after the headunit and intercept the signals coming out of it, flatten them, or tune them to your preference if you have one. I guarantee you, despite having a flat EQ on screen the EQ curve coming out of the headunit is NOT flat. ;) If you tune it, it will sound hecka better. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
IIRC that dash speaker is just a tweeter and the other 2 speakers are in the door. They are not really separated by a normal crossover because of the way the system is built, plug, play, and harman/kardon (aka samsung)

That said, it's totally possible you got one out of phase. They are probably wired up by hand and maybe someone was sleepy that day and did it backwards. It happens. Plus as Samsung bought Harman, a lot of people have reported quality going down hill, even on high end reference gear from Harman Subsidiaries, like Mark Levinson.

I went to Starbucks the day before yesterday and got a Venti White Mocha with Ristretto shots and they only gave me steamed milk. I guess they needed the espresso more than I did.

Honestly, if you determine there's nothing inherently wrong, it sounds like you may want to take it to a Pro Audio shop and have it tuned. You can get an audio processor like the Audio Control LC2i that will sit just after the headunit and intercept the signals coming out of it, flatten them, or tune them to your preference if you have one. I guarantee you, despite having a flat EQ on screen the EQ curve coming out of the headunit is NOT flat. ;) If you tune it, it will sound hecka better. ;)
I definitely think I'm going to check to see if they are in phase. I'm upset I didn't think of this earlier because it almost sounds as if the system is fighting itself, which would make sense. It's tougher to hear a phasing issue without isolating down to two speakers.

The main thing that's bugging me is that it doesn't sound like the other vehicles I drove, all things equal. I'd totally accept this if it was just how the system sounded and the other three Limiteds I've listened to sounded like it. They all sounded the same and mine is a "one of these things is not like the other" situation. I've never done anything after market to cars because I'm often in them and on my way to venue to step in front of a console driving a multi million dollar rig. :D
 

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It's a 4 conductor plastic connector I believe for the HK corner dash speaker (non-HK is two conductor), and the HK corner dash speakers are coaxials.

The phasing issue could be part of the DSP and not a wrong-wired speaker but it's worth investigating.
 
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It's a 4 conductor plastic connector I believe.
Yea, to the speaker and back to the amp. Where with a proper speaker it would be a 3 way component system, tweeter, mid, and bass, each a separated speaker all connected via a cross over with 1 lead wire back to the amp.

The speaker in the door is a 2 way component speaker, not physically separate speakers. It's kinda a cheat.
 

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I definitely think I'm going to check to see if they are in phase. I'm upset I didn't think of this earlier because it almost sounds as if the system is fighting itself, which would make sense. It's tougher to hear a phasing issue without isolating down to two speakers.

The main thing that's bugging me is that it doesn't sound like the other vehicles I drove, all things equal. I'd totally accept this if it was just how the system sounded and the other three Limiteds I've listened to sounded like it. They all sounded the same and mine is a "one of these things is not like the other" situation. I've never done anything after market to cars because I'm often in them and on my way to venue to step in front of a console driving a multi million dollar rig. :D
You work in Professional Audio?
 
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