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Subaru Forester: Audio & Entertainment Systems



  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Mine are still stock.

    What I've heard, in general, is that the tweeters are worth it. Subwoofer is debatable, you can probably do better for the price of the OE, but it won't be as integrated.

    To be honest Subaru's audio stuff is really only so-so, even the upgraded stuff. It's just not their strength.

    I think they'll soon add audio upgrade options - it's a rumor for the next Legacy.
  • red927red927 Posts: 118

    Did you ever check if you get sound from the rear speakers when in the enhanced SRS mode?

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    No, we had a crazy weekend and we drove the van around the whole time.

    My wife will be out tonight taking the kids to Dance, maybe someone else can check on that?

  • I just purchased a new Forester from dealer stock. The radio is satellite radio compatible, which means that the dealership wants to sell me a XM unit for $390 plus installation. Are there any compatible alternatives?
  • Yes you can purchase a receiver independently and have an audio shop install for you. I paid $150 for my installation and about $80 for my receiver.
  • red927red927 Posts: 118
    After several weeks with a new radio (6CD Changer w/SRS), I have now started using the radio without the enhanced surround sound. It just sounds better. I have also noticed that in irder to hear the radio, I have to boost the volume up to between 18-22. That is ridiculous. The radio in my wife's Outback LL Bean is too loud at volume 8.

    I broke down and called Subaru Customer Service at about 1:00PM and expressed my dissatisfaction. The rep took down the information and said that he would research this and get back to me later this afternoon. I said OK.

    Much to my surprise, he did call me about 6:15PM with a response. He said that I would not be happy with what he found out. I got the "that's the way its supposed to be" response. In all fairness, the rep told me that the technical department guy told him that he was also not satisfied with the quality of the sound system in the car. He said he knows because he has one too. I mentioned that it would have been better if Subaru put the new HK system in the high end Foresters for 2009. He said he didn't disagree.

    The Customer Service rep said that he was going to e-mail the manufacturer my questions and if he gets a response from Panasonic then he will contact me.

    Although I am not pleased with the answers I received, I am pleased with the time it took to get an answer.

    I'll keep everyone posted.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Well, not all radio volumes are the same.

    My van sounds right at around 18-20 or so.

    My Miata I have to crank up to 30 to hear when the top is down. 22 the rest of the time.

    My old Subaru only needed 6 or 8. My wife's new Subaru needs more, though.

    They all use different scales.
  • I ran across this forum while doing a search on factory audio systems for the Forester 2.5xx.

    I was thinking about installing the factory Sirius satellite radio, until I found out the price tag was $390.00! Considering that the existing factory system is less than stellar, I am now considering just doing retrofitting it with an aftermarket system from Crutchfield or some other supplier. The current factory system is the double DIN type "B" unit, with a 6 CD changer and aux inputs for an Ipod and satellite radio. (By the way, does anyone know who makes this for Subaru?)

    I haven't yet tried to dig into the dash to see how the cabling is configured for the system, and I hate butchering cable harnesses and chassis mounts. I was curious as to whether anyone on the forum has had any experiences, either negative or positive, with an aftermarket system.

    I am an audio engineer by profession, so I know how to tackle the technical issues, but I'm unfamiliar with the wiring configuration of this particular vehicle (especially the control interface)

    As others have noted here, Subaru is not particularly known for their audio systems, but I love the car otherwise (OK, the road noise it a little excessive). The major weakness of the existing factory unit is the FM band. In a congested RF area (I live in Chicago), it has terrible problems with intermodulation and signal overload.

    Given all this, it would seem that I might be better off just chucking the existing system and replacing it with something which (hopefully) has better performance. However, I don't want to end up with bastardized system which makes a mess of the dash.

    I would welcome any comments from those who have "been there, done that".

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Well, it's a double-DIN opening, so you have tons of options.

    If I were going to go through that much trouble, I'd probably install one with a GPS. You may want to consider that.
  • I put an aftrmarket radio in my 08 forester sports and could not be happier with it. I put in a Kenwood touch screen DD unit and it looks great,sounds great and with sirius radio, and full Ipod control it much better than the factory radio. I purchase the plug so you dont cut any car wire and can wire it up to the radio in you house and just plug it into the car harness. I put in a kenwood ddx512. and like I said it looks much better than the factory radio and the touch screen is waaaaay coool.I can add on navigation later if I want. :)
  • I checked around and it looks like the head unit (indash 6 disk changer c-123) is made by Clarion. I took mine out of the dash and it has the square 13 pin connector that only Clarion uses.
    Does any know where the sirius tuner goes?
    I am going to get the Clarion adapter and universal Sirius tuner and save $250.00 over the factory unit, but I wanted to know where then factory unit is put. ( in the dash or in the back?)
  • I put both under the passenger seat . The interface cla-sci has a long cord that I ran along the side of the middle counsel and out and down under the seat. It plugs into the tuner sc-c1 and I ran the antenna up under the window rubber along the luggage rack and put the anntena on the back top of the roof.You cant see anything and it works great.
  • I bought a 2009 Forester Limited X in Sept 08. Soon afterwards I realized that fading to rear speakers resulted in very little sound in the rears. I told the dealer about the problem and they asked me to bring the car in. They said that Subaru thought it could be a radio programming problem. After less than an hour they said the problem was fixed. They said that the 6-CD unit had two settings, one for SRS Surround (which they claimed was not yet available) and one for standard units. Mine was set for SRS. When they reprogrammed the radio to the standard setting with their computer hookup, the rear speakers worked fine and the front speakers sounded better (more rich sound in the front door and tweeter speakers). So if you or anyone else is having similar problems with rear speakers, you may want to have the dealer check it out as I did. Hope this helps.

    P.S. I plan to replace all four door speakers with some good aftermarket ones.
  • red927red927 Posts: 118
    I believe that the dealer gave you a bit of double talk. It is true that there are 2 settings on the radio but it does not need to be reprogrammed to take it off the SRS "Enhanced" Surround Sound. All you have to do is to hit the menu button and you can switch back and forth between the settings. Just remember that it is not a true surround sound system.

    As I stated in another message a few days later, Subaru says that with the SRS, the rear speakers do not produce very much sound. Many owners have noted that the sound system in the Forester is very poor. Since mine is leased I cannot do anything, but if I owned it I would definately rip out the OEM system as soon as I could.

    Good luck,

  • Phil, I am also leasing but can't stand the stock system so I am swapping it out. I will just replace it back to stock when the lease is up. I can't stand living with a poor system for 3yrs.
  • jrock56jrock56 Posts: 5
    I just leased a 2009 forester XT Premium and i will agree, the sound system is poor!!! I almost got the 2009 outback premium, which comes with Harmon Kardon, but hte forester just rides better.

    I am leasing, but will probably do what Golfnff is doing and swap it out then swap it back. Maybe i will like the car so much after 3 years and just buy it after the lease anyway :-)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    You ought to slap in an in-dash GPS, Kenwood makes them with Garmin navigation built-in.

    I'm thinking about doing that for my Miata.
  • medic481medic481 Posts: 32
    edited August 2010
    Has anyone purchased the XM kit and installed it themselves? Would love to hear if it's possible and how hard it is. Don't feel like paying the dealer's inflated price. I can buy the XM install kit online for $318, not the $400 the dealer quoted (less labor!).
  • medic481medic481 Posts: 32
    I just installed the XM module and antenna in my 2010 Forester. It was really painless, taking about 1 hour or so. Subaru provides all the parts you'll need, and everything fits perfectly, without any adjustments needed. The instructions they provide are like the ones you get at Ikea, pictures with no words. If you aren't good with interpreting drawings like this, you may want to get someone to help, as some of the illustrations can be a little confusing to figure out. The antenna installation is the dicey part- you have to remove a trim clip on the driver's side A post by inserting a screwdriver underthe airbag assembly, being very careful not to damage it. If you do, it will have to be replaced, meaning $$$$. To remove the interior trim, order a set of nylon trim removal tools from JC Whitney (still the best) for about $15 bucks. They won't leave marks on the plastic trim. I had the radio up and running in no time, and it sounds great. I ordered the kit online from Subaru parts mall for $318. The dealer wanted close to $500 to install it. Next project: installing the tweeter speaker kit in the doors.
  • jm815jm815 Posts: 1
    Hi, my girlfriend just bought a 2010 Forester yesterday. She has a Sirius subscription, but didn't get the factory Sirius stereo setup. Instead of her going back to her old FM transmitter listening option, I am looking to buy her a Sirius tuner (Model SC-C1) and connect it to the factory receiver.

    From what I learned through Subaru & Crutchfield, the stereo is made by Kenwood, but the standard Kenwood connection kit won't work. Some sort of special adapter or connector is needed. I've struggled to get any response from the dealer - much less any actual information - on this adapter or its availability through Subaru.

    Has anyone else encountered or heard of the issue I've described? If so, I'd really appreciate any information you could provide on the adapter and/or where I might look to find one. I saw some references to XM on 2010 Foresters, but nothing about Sirius.


  • medic481medic481 Posts: 32
    Hi there- I just installed the XM kit (read my post above), and it was pretty easy. Subaru makes a Sirius kit, if thats your choice. You can order it from They are actually a dealer that sells accessories on the 'net. You will find the price much cheaper than your local dealer, especially if you install it yourself. It took my about an hour and a half to do the job, and everything fit quite nicely. I just got the tweeter speaker kit and installed that this afternoon, a 10 minute job, tops, and the difference in the sound is amazing. I recommend installing those as well, they are about $71.00. Good luck!
  • aloha88aloha88 Posts: 1
    I have '10 Forester Premium w/o cd changer. What site can I order changer or must I get whole audio system replaced? thanks for researching this for me--Jeff
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Too bad Edmunds doesn't have a classified section...
  • I have an 09 Forester and I wanted to upgrade the stereo. So I did so with an Alpine deck. Everything went together just fine, but it seems like the idle was a little low afterward. In fact, the first time I drove the car after I installed the stereo, the car idled so low that it cut off. A long time ago I had a similar problem (although it was consistently off and on) with a Jeep Wrangler that I put an Alpine deck into. Does anyone have any idea what could have happened?

    One thing I was really wondering if anyone know about was the extra little plug that went into the back of the factory stereo. There was the one that has the factory wire harness, which needs the adapter for the Alpine deck, but there was a second one with, I believe, 4 wires that I had no place to plug into. Is that thing important to the electrical system in any way? In an 03 Pontiac I once owned, you had to do some extravagant wiring in order to keep the factory stereo in the loop, but non-functional in the stereo scope. Has anyone heard of something like that for Subarus?

    It seems like there are a lot of posts with people who have happily and with no problems replaced the stereo. So this really seemed strange...

    Thanks in advance
  • dave87120dave87120 New MexicoPosts: 6
    Not me. That's way out of my knowledge base. But the radio upgrade idea brings a question to mind.....I wonder if Subaru has a hard drive based radio option for Forester.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    No, but do you really want your music to reside in your car? What do you do when you trade it in?

    If you must have it, the opening is double-DIN so easy to find aftermarket stuff cheap.
  • goc78goc78 Posts: 2
    That's easy, I don't trade it in. I plan on driving this thing until the wheels fall off. That is why I was concerned. However, I noticed that the air filter was really dirty which caused a loss of power and it affected the idle. I think that along with re-starting the computers after I had the battery disconnected for the installation caused the problem.
  • Thinking of buying a 2013 Forester. Really like the car. Looking at pictures, I see the "Sat" button on the radio display. But looking at the "specs" on the car, it doesnt say its satellite ready. All it says is that it has AM/FM.

    I would have thought that seeing the Sat button would mean its satellite ready. But maybe not necessarily?
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