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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So recently I bought a 2002 Outback which came with the McIntosh stereo. I'm by no means an audio nut and don't especially care to have a phenomenal sound system with amps, subs, high end speakers, etc. I just want it to work.

The McIntosh, however, does not play burned CDs and will only play originals. This severely limits my listening options and my wife and I have a cross country road trip coming up. I was about to buy a new unit from Crutchfield when it gave me a message saying:

  • If equipped, factory subwoofer and/or sub amplifier will be lost.
  • To install a new radio, you'll have to run new speaker wires from the radio to each speaker.

I don't know if the first applies to me or not, but the second one worries me. Would I really have to run new speaker wires? That seems like an all day job which may require professions. Does anyone have any experience with replacing this stock system? Can't I just wire up the new harness and go like I've done in every other car I've ever owned

Also, is there any value in the McIntosh unit once I replace it or should I just trash it? It works fine other than the CD thing.
 

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Onyx, 2008 LL Bean 3.0R and 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
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The problem may not be with your current McIntosh unit. In fact, installing another unit may not solve the problem. The problem may be in how you created the CDs. Here is a link to and article that can give you some tips for success in the process. CD-Recordable FAQ - section 4 It can get a bit "thick" in places. Briefly, you will have more success when using CD-R instead of CD-RW type CDs. You must also "close" the recording on the CD. When using software like iTunes or Windows Media Studio you should look for the option to close or finalize the disc as the last step of the process. What software are you using to burn the CDs?
 

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^^^ Yep, burn the CDs in a different format so the stereo will read it.

If you don't want to spend the time to burn the CDs, then you'll spend a few hours making a speaker wire harness that will reach from the stereo head unit to the harness under the passenger front seat.

You'll need to remove the passenger front seat, take out the McIntosh amp, remove the Mc HU and get to work with making a harness. Wiring diagram for the speakers attached.

The new HU will have a harness "pig tail". You'll need about 25' or so of stereo cable, solder and iron, and either splice into each wire independently at the speaker harness or get a mating plug to make a harness plug.

In this photo, you can see the large white plug behind the first floor rail support on the pass side where the seat is supposed to be. That's the Speaker harness that feeds to the speakers and rear subwoofer that plugs into the MC amp. I ran my wires up the side of the door sill, along the base of the ECM case and into the center console. (This photo is from my carpet replacement DIY, so you won't have to do all this. You could run the harness around the front or across the floor to the center console and then to the HU.)

Its made this way because the amp needs air flow and under the seat was the best option. And the Mc amp runs ALL the speakers. You'll see how in the diagram attached.



Once you take that McIntosh out, unless you replace it with a similar system, you won't like the sound. I went with a Clarion DD that bolts right up to the HU bracket, an 8" subwoofer (with the quarter panel cover modified to let it fit) and an amplifier for the sub in the storage tray. The HU allows for full sound control supplying sufficient power to the door speakers and tweeters as well as controlling power level to the amp for the sub.

If you replace the McIntosh, the HU and the amplifier sold together are going for as much as $1000. New Mc HU run $1700 without the amp. I have two Mc units and one amp. The amp works, both HUs have separate issues and no one around to repair the circuits. Closest Mc repair is in Houston and he didn't know what the error codes meant. So they sit until someone comes around that wants to mess with them.

Good Luck. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The CDs are burned correctly and have all be finalized. I have burned CDs using iTunes, Nero, WMP, and PowerISO and all will work in every other CD player I own--tabletop, other cars, etc. They simply don't work in the subaru.

The ridiculous amount of effort it seems is needed to simply swap this out is unbelievable.
 

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2013 OBW 2.5i, & 2002 WRX
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Yeah, I was shocked when I took my brand new/used rig to Cartunes and the gave me lowdown for the unit on my car.

I couldn't believe it. Well FM modulator...Radio sound quality, but I'm happy.
 

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I seem to recall my McIntosh playing CD-Rs, burning them at a lower speed helps a lot. Since I mostly use an Mp3 player though, I ended up swapping it out for a Pioneer double din so I could have an aux port. It's not too much work to swap in a new stereo and keep the McIntosh amp.

This blog has all the instructions to create your own harness that will plug into the existing amp harness at the radio. This is probably the best way to do it and requires no cutting of the existing wires so you could easily put the original Mc unit back in.
McIntosh wiring guide

I ended up just cutting the amp connector and splicing on some RCA plugs hooked into the line-out of the new head unit. It's not the neatest way, but I did it in a Michigan parking lot while I had some downtime :p
I did solder the connections at least :)
This way saves you all the trouble of running new wire down under the seat, but there is not a lot of room to work behind the stereo with a soldering iron and the harness isn't very long...
 

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Onyx, 2008 LL Bean 3.0R and 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
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Older car=older CD player technology. I'd try burning at least one test CD-R at the lowest speed in any of the software you mentioned above. If it doesn't work, you've wasted maybe 20 minutes and a CD disk. If it does work, you have saved yourself a lot of time and money by using your existing system.

Of course maybe you really just want a new toy and don't want to bother with re-burning all those CDs using the specs above. In which case, get a head unit with an AUX intput and maybe even a USB input. I've still got my CDs, but also have every one of them on my iPhone that plugs into a cassette adapter in the Subaru head unit. It's lots easier than hauling and sorting through those plastic disks. Kinda like cassette vs. LP in the old days.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I tried one of those old cassette tapes hooked up to my ipod but apparently the cassette player doesn't work at all either--didn't think to try that before buying because I didn't expect to need it. I was looking for a usb/aux head unit. I'll check out the blog about rewiring to match the current harness so i can just use the built in amp. i'm savvy enough to get that done but not up to the challenge of removing seats and carpet, etc to rewire everything and certain that the cost to get that done professionally would be ridiculously out of the budget.
 

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I sold an entire working McStereo to another forum member a while back. Think he had aspirations of hooking it up in his 1st gen. I did see he was trying to sell it a while back. Maybe pm him?

kreggor is his username. Search classifieds. I'm too lazy right now.
 
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