Car Audio Help

I’m looking for a replacement stereo for my car. The stereo is just fine, but it runs on cd’s and I can’t use my iPhone or iPad to stream music or podcasts. It’s a 2006 Subaru Outback 3.0 VDC, and the whole radio and climate control are part of one big panel.

Priorities for me are blue tooth and the ability to plug my iPhone in and hands free communication, because I am tired of making long drives with my phone in the backseat in a leather satchel so I am not tempted to answer a call without hands free. Another priority is making sure the installation will not degrade the current interior. Sirius and all that other crap don’t matter at all. Oh, it is very important that the whole thing work with the existing controls on the steering wheel.

If needed, I’ll also upgrade my speakers and get a subwoofer if that is required. Dunno why it would, but whatever.

Any suggestions?

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66 replies
  1. 1
    dp says:

    Call/search Crutchfield. They’re really helpful with this stuff, and they can hook you up with installation kits that deal with the ideosyncracies of your vehicle.

  2. 2
    trollhattan says:

    You should get an iphone shaped like a CD.

  3. 3
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Most radios after around 1999 use a standard form factor. A quick trip to Amazon brought several radios for you car.

  4. 4
    max says:

    It’s a 2006 Subaru Outback 3.0 VDC, and the whole radio and climate control are part of one big panel.

    Apparently, but not actually. The car takes a single-DIN radio. You have to pull the panel to swap radios.

    Instructional Youtube on swapping out the radio in 2006 outback.

    Priorities for me are blue tooth and the ability to plug my iPhone in and hands free communication, because I am tired of making long drives with my phone in the backseat in a leather satchel so I am not tempted to answer a call without hands free.

    Right… well, the Pioneer DEH-X8600 is up on Amazon for 159$. The pioneers work pretty well.

    max
    [‘Next. Pigtails.’]

  5. 5
    joel hanes says:

    Although it makes a legal difference, hands-free really makes no significant safety difference.

    If you care about your own safety, don’t answer the phone or initiate phone conversations while driving, period. It really isn’t that burdensome to pull over.

  6. 6
    ruemara says:

    I plug 99 cent store speakers into the headphone jack of my kindle, so it can read to me. You’re welcome.

  7. 7
    max says:

    @max: Guy gave out the part numbers which seem to check – these would for any radio, BTW. So:

    Metra 99-8901 replacement panel installation kit

    Metra 40-SB10 OEM to new radio antenna adaptor.

    max
    [‘That’s my two link allowance.’]

  8. 8
    srv says:

    I suggest an 8-track player.

    While you’re working on that, I’ll be listening to George Clinton.

    Live, that is, this week.

    http://www.yoshis.com/sanfranc...../show/4127

    Life. So hard.

  9. 9
    max says:

    Hrmm. I misinterpreted that. It’s a double-din radio port, with a custom facing panel. Right.

    So you could also go for the Scosche single/double-din install kit.

    Basically, if you install the Metra kit (with manual climate controls) you do a single-din radio. If you have auto climate control or want a double-din aftermarket radio, you go the Scosche kit, which doesn’t seem to be as nice.

    In any event, you need the Metra 70-8901 pigtail.

    So: pull the front panel (see video), hook the antenna adapter to the native antenna wire, tape up the pigtail from Amazon to the pigtail that came with whichever radio, snap together, and put the whole mess back together with the aftermarket install kit, which replaces the panel. (Afterwards, if you change radios, it’s a snap – you don’t need to swap the panel again. Subaru shipped a non-standard front panel.)

    max
    [‘That should cover it.’]

  10. 10
    KG says:

    If needed, I’ll also upgrade my speakers and get a subwoofer if that is required. Dunno why it would, but whatever.

    Pretty sure upgrading speakers and getting a subwoofer is always needed.

  11. 11
    KC says:

    Pioneer is a good brand to stick with. I went with a knockoff brand, and it does a lot of things mediocre (and all of the things you want it to do, so it’d probably be tempting). I do like it enough, but I broke my own rule – cheap radios still aren’t worth the money – and I wish I’d waited two more months to buy a Pioneer or a Clarion. Spend a little more and you’ll be a lot happier.

  12. 12
    🌷 Martin says:

    iPhone/iPad? Get a CarPlay compatible unit: http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/CarPlay/

    Other brands will also support it, but not sure when they’ll hit the market. Basically, it pushes your iPhone to the stereo and uses the standard controls on the dash, steering wheel, etc to control it. Pushes your turn-by-turn, iTunes, pandora, etc.

    (Ok, those are really expensive. Cheaper ones will come – those were the units that CarPlay could be backported to)

  13. 13
    techno says:

    Go to your dealer or try a shop that specializes in car audio systems. Getting this right is a lot harder than it looks and is WAY beyond the do-it-yourself stage.

    Of course, if you don’t actually care what it looks like, sounds like, or how it actually works, buy something from Amazon and install it with duct tape.

  14. 14
    TriassicSands says:

    @joel hanes:

    Although it makes a legal difference, hands-free really makes no significant safety difference.

    If you care about your own safety, don’t answer the phone or initiate phone conversations while driving, period. It really isn’t that burdensome to pull over.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to cell phone and vehicles, most people seem to be Republicans — science doesn’t matter; inconvenient studies are ignored.

    As for his own safety, that’s up to John. If he wants to kill himself, that’s up to him. (Good for him if he keeps his phone(s) out of reach in the car.) However, it’s the other people he could hurt or kill that are worrisome, and talking on the phone (or texting) in a moving vehicle (that one is driving) is a terrible idea that is equal parts irresponsibility and selfishness.

  15. 15
    NotMax says:

    @joel hanes

    You got it in first, but it bears repeating as often as possible.

    Mr. Cole, you are under no obligation to answer. Let the calls go to message box or voice mail or whatever while driving. If you were a brain surgeon or a firefighter, for example, a call might have dire, extremely time-sensitive urgency. Otherwise, either pull over or call them back after you park.

  16. 16

    I’m no help. My current daily driver has a single-disc CD player and my other car has a cassette deck. Sorry.

    (BTW, the cassette deck was a step up from the previous car with an 8-track.)

  17. 17
    NotMax says:

    @Mustang Bobby

    Step up from mine, which has a radio. Period. (20-year-old vehicle which just passed 48k original miles.)

  18. 18
    Ecks says:

    Let me add the scientific details that Johns lizard brain (not an insult, we all have one) will tell him to ignore.

    Driving while talking on the phone increases chances of a collision four fold, which is roughly equivalent to being drunk. Hands free makes no difference to this, its a cognitive distraction, not a physical one. Your mind is elsewhere in a conversation, while you are in command of thousands of pounds of hurtling metal. Think about Rosie being naughty and running into the road, and think about what a car would do if the person was too busy reacting to news from a friend to see what was in front of them. Sorry for the brutal imagery, but car crashes really are brutal. Substitute a kid or neighbour or stranger if you think it’s more realistic. It doesn’t change the conclusion.

    The good news is that talking to a person in the car next to you does not increase risk. They see the road too, so conversations naturally lull at tricky bits, and there is an extra pair of eyes to warn you if something happens.

    So Ixnay on the andshay eefray. Good luck with the music, though.

  19. 19
    raven says:

    The Prince flew coach. I‘m sure there will be some “meh” but I think it’s cool.

  20. 20
    Wag says:

    @Ecks:

    So does speaking to a blind passenger eliminate any benefit in on road conversations?

    And what is the difference in risk between phone calls while city driving vs interstate highway driving?

  21. 21
    NotMax says:

    @raven

    Link fail, but I presume it refers to the British?

    What else do the simple folk do
    To perk up the heart and get through?
    The wee folk and the grown folk
    Who wander to and fro
    Have ways known to their own folk
    We throne folk don’t know
    When all the doldrums begin
    What keeps each of them in his skin?
    What ancient native custom provides the needed glow?
    Oh, what do the simple folk do?

  22. 22
    raven says:

    Prince William schlepped home from a weekend wedding in Memphis just like any other weary traveler – in coach.

    Dressed casually in jeans and a baseball cap, Will was spotted leaving the American Airlines Admiral Club at Dallas Fort Worth Airport on Sunday where he changed planes on his way back to London.

    http://entertainthis.usatoday......res-proof/

  23. 23
    NotMax says:

    It’s excerpted from the Telegraph in the U.K., but the article’s sources are somewhat less sketchy.

    China has drawn up detailed contingency plans for the collapse of the North Korean government, suggesting that Beijing has little faith in the longevity of Kim Jong-un’s regime.
     
    Documents drawn up by planners from China’s People’s Liberation Army that were leaked to Japanese media include proposals for detaining key North Korean leaders and the creation of refugee camps on the Chinese side of the frontier in the event of an outbreak of civil unrest in the secretive state.
    [snip]
    According to Kyodo News, the Chinese report says key North Korean leaders should be detained in special camps where they can be monitored, but also prevented from directing further military operations or taking part in actions that could be damaging to China’s national interest.
    [snip]
    “This only underlines that all the countries with a stake in the stability of north-east Asia need to be talking to each other,” Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, told The Telegraph.
     
    “What we have learned from the collapse of other dictatorships – the Soviet Union, Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya – is that the more totalitarian the regime, the harder and faster they fall,” he added.
     
    “This is why we need contingency plans and I am sure that the US and South Korea have extensive plans in place, but the release of Chinese measures is new,” he said.  Source

  24. 24
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @raven: When the kid was stationed in the UK, William(good name) was on her base and wanted to buy a camera at the BX. He didn’t have his military ID, he didn’t get his camera that day.

  25. 25
    raven says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: Typical case of American Blind Justice!

  26. 26
    NotMax says:

    @raven

    Princes do not schlep, they set forth. Or journey.

    Royalty employs retainers to do the schlepping.

  27. 27
    raven says:

    @NotMax: I report, you decide.

  28. 28
    NotMax says:

    @raven

    Writer of the article was being too cute by half.

  29. 29
    raven says:

    @NotMax: I bet he’s got a couple of ex-SAS dudes with him that would be happy to rip one’s head off and shit down their neck.

  30. 30
    raven says:

    @NotMax: Ah, it’s the singer not the song!

  31. 31
    NotMax says:

    And as Memphis was William’s departure city, may as well mention this gem from the Volunteer State (HuffPo link):

    Tennessee GOP State Senator Likens Obamacare Sign-Ups To Nazi Death Trains

  32. 32
    NotMax says:

    @raven

    Ah, it’s the singer not the song!

    You betchum, Red Ryder.

  33. 33
  34. 34
    Betty Cracker says:

    We got a Pioneer stereo with AUX, USB cord, Bluetooth, hands-free, etc., to replace the basic factory stereo in our truck. It was about $250-$300 installed, and worth every penny. I generally do not answer the phone when driving, even with the hands-free.

  35. 35
    Schlemizel says:

    We replaced the stereo in our 11 year old Chevy & found that several option went through the stupid thing (even that far back – I am sure it is worse now) that limited the options for radios we could use. Some things act weird now, nothing important but the seat belt alarm & door ajar notification don’t work like they should. WHile that is not critical to us it scares me to think that running more functions through the radio may leave us with no option but the dealer with future cars.

  36. 36
    kdaug says:

    @Schlemizel: Come on, Schlemizel. Srsly? Your shocked and amazed that they want to stovepipe you into buying their product?

    You need to brush up on your “Fuck The Man 101”.

    There is always a way.

  37. 37
    danielx says:

    Crutchfield.com is a great resource for figuring out what you want and what fits in your vehicle. Give the year, make and model and some other details (with/without automatic climate controls, etc) and it gives you a list of stereo models that will fit. You can then filter for additional features you want, bluetooth and so forth. Also gives you the list of things needed for the installation – dash kit, harness, all the fiddly bits needed, including the dongle you need to connect steering wheel audio controls. Spend more money, it’s better to get everything you want now and might want in the future and car stereo is very definitely a case of getting what you pay for.

    Installing one is a pain in the ass if you’ve never done it before, but it can be done.* Takes about three times longer than they estimate if you do it right, what with soldering and taping about fifteen wiring splices – among other things. But it can be done by someone who has some tools, some time, attention to details and a taste for drudgery. I did it for the spousal unit’s 2007 Outback and it took between four and five hours. Hint: don’t start it at five in the afternoon, you want lots of light the whole time. Trouble lights are fine, but the sumbitches get hot.

    *Not you, Cole. You’d stab yourself with a screwdriver or put a soldering iron in your eye or something, and I don’t see you fitting your torso into the foot well under the steering wheel. Crutchfield has great prices, but by the time you factor in installation cost if you have somebody else do it, the price isn’t that much better than going to Fry’s or Best Buy, either of which will likely be somewhat cheaper than an independent auto accessory shop although the latter may have more expertise. Summary: use Crutchfield to figure out what you want and need, then either buy it from Crutchfield or elsewhere, but get somebody else to install it. The money you save by doing the installation yourself isn’t worth the grief you’ll go through, and you get a warranty on installation.

  38. 38
    danielx says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    There you go! Tell Cole NOT to try the do-it-yourself installation thing, there’s no end to the different ways he might maim himself. Cole with a soldering iron::::shudder::::.

  39. 39
    slipz says:

    Save yourself a lot of headaches. I have a 2006 Outback and a ’99 Jaguar and had the same problem. You can fix it for under $50.
    I bought a couple of these: GOgroove FlexSMART X2 Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter with Charging , Music Control , and Hands-Free Calling for Smartphones , Tablets , MP3 Players & More! Sure, upgrade your speakers, but for $50 bucks, give something like this a try. It will do everything you want. Seriously. FM transmitters used to suck. This one does not.

  40. 40
    kindness says:

    Best Buy’s installation department is really good out here in Ca. I’m partial to Alpine but currently have a Kenwood deck. Get a poweramp no matter what. Crutchfield & Bestbuy will tell you what will fit. Spend money on good speakers. Makes all the difference. I require there is a connection in the rear or the deck to hook my ipod in to I can leave it in the glove box without anyone seeing it there for obvious reasons.

  41. 41
    danielx says:

    Something else to consider, think about a double DIN unit even if you don’t need all the features. Single DIN units have these itty-bitty buttons for selecting radio stations, changing tracks, all that. If you have big fingers, get big buttons. You’d think aftermarket manufacturers would have that part squared away, but they try to cram in so many audio features above and beyond the basics (bass, treble, balance and fade) that they kind of forget about the whole ease of use business.

  42. 42
    Ecks says:

    @Wag:
    You are well named, Wag, it would seem.

    So does speaking to a blind passenger eliminate any benefit in on road conversations?

    That would be a great research project. You’d just need to find enough car crashes in which there were blind passengers, and know what the base rate of blind passengers is in the general driving population. Good luck with that.

    And what is the difference in risk between phone calls while city driving vs interstate highway driving?

    That really is a good question. Probably worse in cities, because that is inherently more dangerous for driving. Highways are actually remarkably safe per mile driven, although they tend to be more fatal if you do crash, because there’s a lot more kinetic energy in the car (plus any other ones that run into you). Remember, kinetic energy is equal to mass times velocity SQUARED. It goes up as an exponential function of your speed.

  43. 43
    Mike E says:

    I installed an after market Crutchfield cassette player into my brand new ’90 Nissan Sentra; take everyone’s advice about getting a pro to do it for you. My back still hurts 20+ years later.

  44. 44
    Digital Amish says:

    I’ll vouch for Crutchfield. Admittedly, it was a 96 Ford pickup, but I upgraded the radio and speakers with a Pioneer deck and Jensen speakers purchased from them. Came with detailed, product specific instructions, and all the proper pigtail adapters. Took about three hours to change out the stereo and four speakers. The deck was nice but the interface, supposedly meant to emulate iPod controls, was obtuse. I still have to get the owners manual out twice a year to adjust the clock.

    That being said, looking at the dash and radio in our 2013 Toyota Rav4, I’m not sure I would attempt it. There’s a lot more shit under the dash these days then there was in 1996.

  45. 45
    mattH says:

    @joel hanes:

    Although it makes a legal difference, hands-free really makes no significant safety difference.

    If you care about your own safety, don’t answer the phone or initiate phone conversations while driving, period. It really isn’t that burdensome to pull over.

    Right, The U of U study, by the Neurology department mind you, made it pretty clear there’s something going on with mental states. Best explanation I can give is that phones were the first virtual reality devices where your mind creates a virtual environment where the conversation takes place and much of your “mental space” exists there instead of where your body is. I can’t wait for their follow-up studies.

  46. 46
    GHayduke (formerly lojasmo) says:

    You’ll need a head unit that does what you want (anything iphone compatible, I presume) with a USB port in front (and in the back, if you want to run a cord to your glove box)

    You’ll also want a trim kit, a wiring harness, and a steering wheel harness.

    It’s damn easy to pull these subaru dash boards apart. You should be able to do it yourself in an afternoon.

  47. 47
    chopper says:

    @Wag:

    We need PSA’s right now urging drivers not to talk to blind people.

  48. 48
    Death Panel Truck says:

    We use our Garmin GPS with Bluetooth to make calls, and we had the dealer install an iPod jack in our ’06 Outback. Problem solved.

  49. 49
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    You should look into the offroad package so you can drive it out of a field, in the event it should find itself in a field.

  50. 50
    Tone In DC says:

    @chopper:

    We need PSA’s right now urging drivers not to talk to blind people.

    Hey, I’d like to converse with Stevie Wonder, Jeff Healy and other kewl US Americans while I’m on the road.
    And such as.

  51. 51
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    Put a Pioneer in the wife’s car. The Bluetooth for music part worked great. The calling quality was pretty meh. The factory POS in my truck sounds epic for calls. Needs to have the speakers replaced for better music quality but that’s so far down on my list of stuff that I need to do that it will likely never happen.

    Having put in quite a few stereos as a youth, I really must recommend that you go someplace like Best Buy and let them do the install. As others have said, it really is a four-hour job (and that assumes you have a reasonable idea of how wiring is supposed to be run and how electricity works) and I have found that when I do it, I spend a lot of those four hours at least partially upside down. Not too pleasant.

    We solved the wife’s issues by getting her a new car. That worked very well.

  52. 52
    cckids says:

    @ruemara:

    I plug 99 cent store speakers into the headphone jack of my kindle, so it can read to me. You’re welcome.

    My daughter discovered at college that you can put your Ipad or Iphone into a Solo cup & it magnifies the sound just fine. Even cheaper!

  53. 53
    Ukko says:

    Just a thought you should also look into just a Bluetooth retrofit kit. It will let you keep your existing head unit. I put a parrot kit into my 2007 FJ Cruiser and it did everthing you wanted so much cleaner.

    I didn’t need direct iPod connectivity, I just stream over Bluetooth.

    I did add a pioneer head unit to my 1990 BMW. Yes it works but I really hate the interface.

  54. 54
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    Although it makes a legal difference, hands-free really makes no significant safety difference.

    True. Pilots have a slew of rules about when they can and when they should not use the radio (hint: most of them are “don’t use the radio” when you’re doing anything else.)

    The reason, of course, is because they found a long time ago that you’re really NOT paying attention while talking, and that’s not a good thing at 70mph, never mind 250.

  55. 55
    ice weasel says:

    jesus, this thread is a great example why I don’t bother commenting very much.

    Thanks for all the lectures on distracted driving.

    To the question, the tricky part can be, but isn’t always, integrating with existing controls (steering wheels controls). Some do, some do not. Make sure you ask specific questions.

    Upgrading everything, speakers, amps and the head unit is always a great idea albeit, one that ain’t cheap. Depending on the condition of the existing speakers, a new head unit will frequently have a much better amp than the old, OEM one, so adding more amps isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes it’s just a good way to blow old speakers. And speaking of speakers, a lot depends on they were designed for. Sometimes the speakers in a cars are built specifically for one system (Bose is probably the worst offender here). So again, ask questions and get answers. Unless you’re going to upgrade everything, speakers, amps and head unit, just getting a new head unit will likely offer you the features you need and increase the quality, at least a little bit.

  56. 56
    cckids says:

    @GHayduke (formerly lojasmo):

    It’s damn easy to pull these subaru dash boards apart. You should be able to do it yourself in an afternoon

    Are you new here?

  57. 57
    Tractarian says:

    Go back in time about a month and get a car with a cassette deck or auxiliary input port.

  58. 58
    KS in MA says:

    Please skip the subwoofer if you can. Your neighbors will thank you (i.e., your grown-up neighbors; the frat boys won’t notice).

  59. 59
    Gromit says:

    I installed an aftermarket receiver in my Honda about a year ago, and what I learned is this: the people who design these things clearly don’t use them.

    If you can find a unit that doesn’t use the volume knob as a multifunction do-everything button-and-dial, get it. Every unit I tried uses this stupid, stupid, stupid excuse for an interface. The knobs were all slippery, too short to grip, and nestled inside these horrendous clusters of weirdly-shaped buttons. Even the unit I finally settled on is a bit of a nightmare, since it is very easy to accidentally press the knob while trying to adjust the volume, which puts you into a menu, meaning you have to find the tiny “menu return” chiclet in the clusterfuck they call an interface. The knob should be an on-off button, if it is a button at all, and it should stick out far enough to grip without accidentlly hitting the forward/back buttons. The point where I need to turn down the volume is the absolute worst time to be suddenly plunged into some byzantine menu system or to have to be searching for the microscopic on/off button.

    Also, the one I did eventually buy has another idiotic feature, which is that “play/pause” is a secondary function of one of the miniscule radio preset buttons. These things should be easy to operate without even looking, but instead they take attention from the road.

    And don’t get me started on the truly awful “Pandora Control” which prompted me to uninstall and return the first unit I tried.

  60. 60
    jc says:

    Hi. I just replaced my stock Toyota deck with the Sony mex-n5000bt.

    This unit uses NFC to configure the bluetooth connections. Just hold the device next to the deck and NFC makes the connection. No stupid pins and keys.

    It also uses a smartphone remote control app, front facing usb, and aux port.

    Best thing it’s $130.

  61. 61
    Ex Regis says:

    Regarding driving with blind passengers versus talking to a person on a cell phone: we don’t tolerate long silences in telephone conversations very well so your cell phone partner will continue — Can you hear me? Did we lose connection? Etc.

    Meanwhile we are all aware of sudden changes in velocity (direction or speed) in a car. I would imagine blind people would be even more sensitive due to brain plasticity. So a talking blind person will probably pause during the sudden motion one needs in problem times. And the driver will probably say something like Whoa, or Shit.

    Anecdotally: my wife usually drives on long trips because she’s scared of my driving. So I try to pay no attention while reading e-mail on my iPad. But I look up automatically (and stop reading) every time there’s an unexpected change in velocity.

  62. 62
    jamesbfranks says:

    @dp: I agree go with Crutchfield, the install kits are great! http://www.crutchfield.com/p_1.....ml?tp=5684

  63. 63
    burnspbesq says:

    @NotMax:

    Agreed. The step you didn’t mention is to manage callers’ expectations. If you know you’re going to be in the car for several hours, change your voice mail greeting to let people know that you’re off the air for a while. It’s no different that using Out of Office in Outlook.

  64. 64
    trnc says:

    I have a Pioneer, and I see that several people have recommended Pioneer. The display on mine is impossible to read most of the time, and based on other customer posts several of their models have the same problem. It sounds pretty good, but probably no better than another brand that I’ll actually be able to read for around the same price.

  65. 65
    Clusterphuck says:

    >$35 will get you these: http://www.kinivo.com/Kinivo-B.....B005LKB0IU

    Those will get you portable tunes and hands-free telephone. Using voice commands you can even control your device remotely. And, you can take them with you where ever you go.

    I’ve used BT headsets for telephone (since 2001) and stereo/telephone (since ’08) and I’ve gone thru a shit-ton of headsets. These are, by far, the best I’ve ever used. GREAT stereo sound and phone quality (decent transmit, excellent receive). Far better sound and phone than a $200 pair of Sennheisers.

    I realize this isn’t specifically what you asked (and I’ll confess to not reading all the previous comments) but, it’s a great, very inexpensive option that gets you a lot of what you want.

    Peace.

  66. 66
    draftmama says:

    Oh lawdy – if this was the most important issue in my life. So not.

Comments are closed.