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Highlander Hybrid Audio & Entertainment Questions



  • The kit arrived on Fri, and I successfully installed it on Sat (12/3) within a few hours. The included instructional DVD was incredibly helpful; especially for one who's done nothing more than change burnt-out bulbs.

    It was a bit difficult to remove some of the panels though, as they were much tighter than the DVD implies. I was sorely tempted to buy one of those tools that can pry open panels without scratching them. Fortunately, patience prevailed and no fingernails were broken in the process. Also, for the uninitiated, like me, the loud popping sounds made while removing the panels was a bit disconcerting.

    This is my very first satellite radio, and I love it. So much so, that I purchased a portable receiver, Tao xm2go, for my husband.

    Only one problem though:
    The song Title & Artist fields are truncated to only 10 characters, or so. Is this normal?
  • I sent an email to Factory Interactive. The response was that the text truncation is a "limit imposed by the vehicle".

    This is disappointing, especially given the relatively high cost of the kit when compared to other satellite radio options.

    That being said, any of you know of a way around this alleged vehicle limitation?
  • I have noticed this as well. I'm guessing somewhere in the design process someone was thinking more "Cher", less "The Dave Matth".

    Anyhow, I still think that it's integration is worth every penny. I have nothing against aftermarket, I just really like the changes I make to be invisibile.

    If there is a fix I hope you find it or it finds you (service flash somewhere down the line).

    Good Luck!
  • So, I'm very happy with my Highlander Hybrid. We've had it since July 1. The power steering failed within the first month (computer problem) but otherwise it has been great. But I'm not too impressed with the Limited's JBL "premium" sound system. I'm thinking the biggest bang for the buck, and the least invasive place to start is with the speakers. Crutchfeld doesn't have detailed specs for the 2006 HH, so I'm wondering if anyone on the board knows exactly what will fit?

    Specifically, I'm looking at the Polk component speakers in their db series, like maybe the db6750. Anyone know if a 6.75 inch woofer and 1 inch tweeter and crossover will fit into the Highlander front and/or back doors without any modification? Also ,is it pretty easy to get the door panel apart to access the speakers?

    Any input would be appreciated.


  • Hi boylan1,
    Can you please elaborate on weaknesses of the stock speakers? There have been a few posts here regarding this but nothing specific. I would love to know your views.

    I am not expert in car stereo but did dabble in better home audio and it normally is not just the speakers. I heard a friend's home $20K all vacuum tube CA/pre-amp/amplifier driving a pair of $500 speakers and they sing straing into my soul. He uses good cables of course (Nordost Valhalla) to connect all the components.

    He told me 2 "opinion"-of-thumb :-) for car stereo:
    1. First change should result in noticeable difference.
    2. Identify and address your needs step by step starting with source components.

    This means knowing what you dislike about the stock system and then systematically and slowly add things to improve it. The weakness may be poor focus and image, lack of depth and clarity, mush bass, no midrange. These things could be speaker mounting is in the wrong place or the speakers are not properly protected from resonance. Resonance in the car can cause the sound to smear. It may be cheap wires, poor quality CD player or amplifier.

    The first things to change then may be the CD player or the amp or the cables depending on which is the most likely culprit. The last thing to change would be the speakers.

    A good shop should be willing to work with you through this to install a custom system in your car.

    This is how he put together his home system, 1 component at a time.

    Just my 2 cents, and if you are already an audiophile, please forgive my rant. :-)
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Considering that the ambient noise level in most cars at highway speed is at least 70Db (LS430) the first thing you might want to consider is a musical content preprocessing program so that you can copy your CDs to new copies to be used exclusively in a car.

    The preprocessing software would raise the low volume music passages to at least 70Db so you could hear them in the car without constantly fiddling with the volume control.

    Since music often contains passages as high as 120Db if you simply left the volume constant the 190Db result would undoubtedly damage your hearing permanently.
  • I agree, the kit's seamless integration with the existing stereo/nav system is a big plus.

    I absolutely love the sound quality of satellite radio. I never realized before just how good it is compared to regular broadcast radio.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,678
    preprocessing software would raise the low volume music passages to at least 70Db

    Excellent idea. We have a lot of classical CD's that have a very wide dynamic range. I find myself turning up the Pepe Romero guitar solos, then down when the whole Orchestra comes in. Do you have a software you like for this change in dynamics?
  • Hi discussion1,

    I've been into high-end audio and home theater since I was about 13, and have written professionally about audio gear for about 6 years in Enjoy The Music and now Big Picture Big Sound magazines. My main rig at home features all Martin Logan electrostatic speakers, a Conrad-Johnson tube amp and other fairly esoteric gear. I won't get into debates about ultra-expensive cables or the value of high quality electronics - if your friend enjoys what he does, isn't mortgaging the house to pay for speaker cables and is happy with the results, then more power to him!

    But a car is far from the controlled listening environment of the home and the priorities of a car system are different than those of a home system. Specifically, my Toyota dealer intimated that changes to electrical components of the Highlander Hybrid (of which the stock head unit is certainly an electrical component) may void the car's warranty. This is why, he tells me, the dealers are not authorized to install the DVD entertainment system on the Highlander Hybrid, among other things.

    So I'm thinking that changing the speakers is the simplest, most non-invasive change and if it does not make a dramatic difference in ths sound (which I believe it will) then it will allow me to at least assess the performance of the rest of the components.

    As for the stock JBL speakers... To me they sound tubby, thumpy and a little thin. Certainly not the worst I have heard, but definitely worth experimenting with replacements.

    So if anyone here has experience with replacing the speakers and/or has details on the size or replacements, then please feel free to chime in.


  • I have an '01 non-hybrid HL with the "premium" JBL sound system and agree the "premium" adjective is only perhaps marginally justified.

    There is quite a bit of info on upgrading the HLs sound system's components on the Toyota Highlander Owners: Accessories & Modifications board so definitely check it out.

    My vague recollection is the HL speaker size is 5-1/2" to 5-3/4"; I suspect the 6-1/2"ers wouldn't readily fit assuming the HH is the same as the '01 HL in this respect. I was able to mount the 5-3/4" drivers easily enough but for the 1" tweeters I ended up gluing them to the inside of the door panel. For the rears I used coaxials to keep it simple. See post 602 in discussion Toyota Highlander Owners: Accessories & Modifications for info on removing door panels on the HL; is probably identical for the HH.

    General consensus on the HL sound system near as I can tell is upgrading any of the three components will improve the sound (HU/amp/speakers); each has it's short comings. But once again the aforementioned discussion has detailed info on various poster's experiences. My guess is the HU will have the most affect, the amp next, and the speakers last. But myself I'd leave the HU to last just because I prefer not upsetting the aesthetics of the HL interior, though the '04 and later HL/HH are less affected by the styling of aftermarket head units by virtue of the bold styling of their interiors contrasted to the more sedate styling of that of the '01-'03s, which are more sensitive to some of those aftermarket HUs that look like they belong in a Las Vegas casino.

    Since we have audiophiles here and I'm relatively new to car audio I have a question. My HL has modestly-priced aftermarket speakers that exhibit a very boomy frequency hump centered around 120 Hz. If one were to design a equalization filter to compensate for the peaks and valleys in the frequency response as measured by a sound-power level meter with a test disk with sinusodial tones, would this result in marginal-sounding speakers in the low end sounding way better, or will they still sound cheap? My roommate doesn't think it will work as he contends the marginal quality results from non-linear cone distortion rather than from frequency response variation. I sort of suspect he's right; it's my hunch too that buying more expensive (and better sounding) speakers will be more effective than designing an equalization filter (which by the way I've already done using active filter topology but have been too lazy to put it together these past three years).
  • Hi, landdriver,

    Thanks for the reply and the tip to check out that other thread. I checked out the Accessories and Mods forum with a few searches before posting the message here, but didn't see any specific info about the size of the speakers in the 2006 HH model so I thought I'd ask here. I'll do a few more searches there but it looks like I'll probably have to dissect the doors myself and take some measurements in order to be sure. I'm getting the speakers directly from the manufacturer, so I'm sure they won't be too impressed if I try to return them saying they didn't fit.

    As for replacing the head unit, I'd really rather not go there. It's integrated with the touch screen, NAV, climate control and steering wheel controls. I'm convinced that a good efficient, well-designed pair of speakers will make a difference, so long as I get ones that fit!

    And your EQ approach is sound. A peak at 120 Hz is most likely caused by a poor crossover, bad EQ in the circuit already and/or interaction between the driver and its surroundings - the "cabinet" (your door) and the car interior itself. You could address this with EQ software (though I'm not sure how you're going to get EQ software into your system) or a good parametric EQ. You could also try using some absorptive material like Dynamat inside the door (behind the speaker) to see if this helps. A peak at 120 Hz could be a standing wave caused by reflections of the sound onto itself.

    Make sure your tests tone CD has tones at least as frequent as 3 per octave, and your software or parametric EQ (if simple door treatment does not help) needs to have the same degree of control. Also, you'll need to take SPL readings from multiple positions in the car as the bass frequency response can vary widely (unless you only want good sound in the driver's seat).

    As they say, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but assuming your current speakers are pretty decent, then proper EQ and treatment of the cabinet will definitely make a noticeable improvement. Maybe try the Dynamat first and see if this helps.

    Good luck!

  • The factoryinteractive Highlander XM kit looks interesting. It would be nice to integrate XM into the factory controls and display, even if the display is limited to 10 characters (no biggie, in my opinion). I contacted them to see if they were interested in sending a review sample for the site but they were not... which I find a bit troublesome.

    Does anyone know if installing this aftermarket radio would void the Toyota warranty? My dealer (Prestige Toyota in NJ) told me that they could not install an aftermarket DVD entertainment system into the Hybrid because Toyota sent out some kind of bulletin saying any electrical work on this car would void the warranty. I'm checking with them again to see if this is still the case, but has anyone heard anything similar?


  • Hi landdriver,

    What brand speakers did you use? How did the sound improve after changing?

    All this audiophile chat is getting me interested. I have a vac coming up, be perfect time to play with this.

    I find the stock system unable to handle dynamic range of orchestral pieces. Besides ambient noise, soft passages lack details.

    The bass is disconnected from the rest in that 1-notch up, it is boomy and mushy. 1-notch down and it vanishes.

    My real audhiophile buddies think it is resonance, reflection and placement of speakers. They wave their hands and tell me to give up :-).

    Thanks for the pointer to the other board.
  • Thanks for tips Boylan.

    Hope earlier attempt-to-help post did not offend you. Had a feeling you are an audiophile. Went to your reviews and enjoyed them.

    I checked with 2 local Toyota shops and got the same story:

    1. The shops will not install anything that is not factory onto the HH.

    2. If we install something onto the HH, it may not automatically void the warranty but if there is ever a problem and they trace it to the audio system, that will void the warranty.

    1 shop advises against changing anything by anyone except by a Toyota shop. The manager says when it comes to the hybrids, they have been told by Toyota to tow the official line.

    The other shop advises against changing anything "officially" but privately, the manager said changing just the speakers will likely do the least harm. He said he really won't even try to touch any wiring unless it is service, repair or warranty work. He also warned that if a non-certified shop touches the electrical, it muddles the water of "who is at fault" if there ever is a warranty problem. I take that to mean Toyota can easily claim that someone untrained touched the wiring so all bets are off.

    They were both very nice but I came away a bit disappointed. Like you said though, cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
  • Hey, again,

    I wouldn't worry about speaker replacement affecting the warranty. They are not technically part of the electrical system - they have no power connection. The speakers and crossover should be passive components. There's voltage in the wires of course, but it's really low level.

    But the factoryinteractive XM radio is a little more worrisome to me. My guy from Prestige Toyota's reply about it was "As far as I am aware it would void your warranty." Unless I hear otherwise, I don't think I want to chance my warranty coverage on a radio. I can use my Pioneer Airware portable XM radio with the cassette adapter for now. It's not too unwieldy and mounts pretty conveniently to one of the vents.

    I took a closer look at my door speakers today and it looks like the woofers are around 5.5" or 6" plus there are flush mount 1" tweeters near the top of the door panel below the window. I do still plan to replace these but a free weekend isn't in the cards for a while so it might be some time. I'll report back with results when I get to it.


  • I ended up upgrading both the speakers and the amp (the JBL system has a separate power amp whereas the non-JBL sound system's speakers are driven directly by the HU). I chose some aftermarket JBLs but I wouldn't recommend them as a boomy-sounding base was the result with these particular mid-priced models ($200/pr for the front components and $100/pr for the rear coaxials). Others have upgraded to better speakers with better results; once again see Toyota Highlander Owners: Accessories & Modifications for specifics. (To do a search of that discussion, go to that discussion, on the left sidebar click "Advanced Search," enter "speakers," select "Search Within: Message Text," under "Message Text Search Options" select "Toyota Highlander Owners: Accessories & Modifications," and click "Search.") See post 289 for a detailed description of the path I took in upgrading my speakers and amp (note that in this post the location of the HH amp may be different than the location of the amp in the '01-'03 HLs).

    I came to the same conclusion as you as to the possible cause of the boomy response, that is, was thinking the modal resonance of the HL cabin (i.e. reflections relating to the shape and size of the interior) is around 120Hz -- others who upgraded their speakers complained about boomy bass as well, while others still said their new speakers sounded great; I suspect the disparity is due to the quality of the speakers. But contributing factors could also be due to vibrational resonances of sheetmetal or plastic panels, or holes in the door panel acting as untuned bass-reflex ports (though I tried covering the largest of these holes with a heavy phonebook with no marked improvement).

    That's why I started designing the pre-amp equalization filter referenced in my reply to boylan13 -- I figure instead of trying to isolate the cause of the boomy resonance I'd simply de-emphasize the frequencies of interest to flatten-out the response. Parametric equalizers will do this as well; you'll have to buy 2 stereo units at $200 ea to maintain the ability to independently control the volume of all four channels; I'm trying to design one from scratch but may just try buying better speakers first. Played with the bass and mid-range controls, as well as with a cutoff filter in my aftermarket amp, but with negligible success.

    An interesting pair of posts is from someone who was successful in upgrading his sound system; I think he dynamatted his entire HL: 210 & 237.

    Let me know how it turns out for you guys, and what speakers you get!! :)
  • katzjamrkatzjamr Posts: 146
    there are two dealers in cali owned by the Penske group doing factory installations of xm sattelite radio, with free components and no monthly charges for nine months. i dont think there will be warranty problems with a professional installation.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    A while back, several forum members posted plans to upgrade the HH speaker system.

    Has anyone done it and if you did, can you post the brands you installed?

    My wife is seriously interested in switching these speakers despite my best effort to dissuade her. She is making me install a system that integrates iPod with the HH NAV screen and she wants new speakers to go with that.

    Thanks in advance.
  • I was one of those members who was planning speaker upgrades a while back. My research at the time led me down a path that would have required what I considered major changes, including a new amp. I even went to a major car stereo outfit and they were worried about the "small 12 volt battery" being powerful enough but were still willing to WELD :surprise: an amp into the roof.

    The HiHy practically ran away on it's own before I could get in and join it. I like upgrades, not Frankensteins (no offense intended to any Frankensteins out there). The XM radio upgrade improved sound quality tremendously. For now the OEM speakers stay.

    Good Luck!
  • myladdiemyladdie Posts: 9
    Have the HH Limited with the JBL sound. Have noticed static on the am radio band when braking. The further the station, the more the static. I assume this is being caused by the regen. system. Maybe a static supressor going bad?
    Anybody encounter this problem?

    Will have the dealer check next week when I get my 15k service.

    Great improvement in mpg since the outdoor temp is moving up. And yes I have the same surge when slowing to a stop that some of you have, though it is intermittent, of course.
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