Help Upgrading Audio on Tight Budget


Indigo2003

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Sep 16, 2021
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California
I just got a 2004 WRX and the speakers sound absolutely terrible. I was planning on upgrading my speakers, but I don't know much about car audio and I don't know where to start, especially on a tight budget of $400-$500. I'm not looking for a top-of-the-line system, I just want my music to sound pretty good without breaking the bank. I'll definitely be replacing my HU and front speakers, but beyond that, I just have a ton of questions:
  • Should I replace the rear door speakers?
  • Should I get 2-way, 3-way, or component speakers (especially since my WRX has separate tweeters in the front doors)?
  • The doors in the WRX are very shallow, so should I get 6.5" speakers or are 5.25" fine?
  • Should I get an amp given my budget, or would it be more cost-efficient to just get better speakers?
  • Would it be doable to also buy a sub, and if so, are powered subs a good idea since they tend to be cheaper?
  • What should I expect to spend on each component?
  • Which ones are worth purchasing with my budget (e.g. just speakers and a HU, or add an amp)?

Sorry for the long post; I really don't know anything about car audio. Also, my WRX does not have the stock sub under the passenger seat. Thanks in advance.
 

RobGMN

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Jul 1, 2021
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A different point of view:
Even a modest set of speakers can sound pretty darn good when supplemented by a proper subwoofer, especially if you can EQ the tunes you are feeding them.
Most stock speakers are not that bad, but get overtaxed by doing work they are not designed for, along with sometimes being made to sound bad due to poor location choice. Most people could not tell the difference between stock and upgraded speakers (when properly EQd) unless the stock ones were SO shltty that they could not even be EQ'd to sound "flat".

On that budget and with careful shopping, you could get a decent head unit that has DSP correction, plus a sub and amp.
Buy it from the right store and you could get free head unit install plus wiring to mount the sub for about a hundred bucks.
Will it be a show vehicle? No.
Will it sound 100x better and give you lots of smiles until you get rid of car or decide to do little upgrades here and there? YES.
 
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metalheadjoe

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What specifically don't you like about your current stereo? That's the ultimate question to decide what to upgrade.

A wrx is a performance vehicle; are you ok with added weight? Older sti's didn't even have a radio.

I would start with some dynamat or foam speaker baffles using the speakers you have. If you're not sure, always start with the cheapest solution.
 

Slo_Ride

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So $400-500 for head unit, speakers, amp, wiring and adapters? That's gonna be tight. Also you're gonna need to deaden the doors or else you are just wasting your time.
 

Indigo2003

CarAudio.com Newbie
Sep 16, 2021
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California
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #7
A different point of view:
Even a modest set of speakers can sound pretty darn good when supplemented by a proper subwoofer, especially if you can EQ the tunes you are feeding them.
Most stock speakers are not that bad, but get overtaxed by doing work they are not designed for, along with sometimes being made to sound bad due to poor location choice. Most people could not tell the difference between stock and upgraded speakers (when properly EQd) unless the stock ones were SO shltty that they could not even be EQ'd to sound "flat".

On that budget and with careful shopping, you could get a decent head unit that has DSP correction, plus a sub and amp.
Buy it from the right store and you could get free head unit install plus wiring to mount the sub for about a hundred bucks.
Will it be a show vehicle? No.
Will it sound 100x better and give you lots of smiles until you get rid of car or decide to do little upgrades here and there? YES.
This is really interesting; I hadn't really considered leaving the stock speakers. However, I don't think this is an option for me. My speakers currently rattle at very low volume without changing any equalizer settings (if you count the +/- treble/bass buttons as an eq), even with music that doesn't have a whole lot of bass.
 

Indigo2003

CarAudio.com Newbie
Sep 16, 2021
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California
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #8
What specifically don't you like about your current stereo? That's the ultimate question to decide what to upgrade.

A wrx is a performance vehicle; are you ok with added weight? Older sti's didn't even have a radio.

I would start with some dynamat or foam speaker baffles using the speakers you have. If you're not sure, always start with the cheapest solution.
My current stereo has almost no bass and rattle even at low volumes. I don't think I've heard many car stereos worse than mine. I'm not looking for a super high end system, but I do want to be able to enjoy my music at moderate volumes and feel the bass a little bit without breaking the bank.

Yes, I'm okay with adding weight. A usable stereo outweighs any performance loss to me.

Should I still try dynamat or baffles given how bad my current speakers are?
 

Indigo2003

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Sep 16, 2021
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California
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #9
So $400-500 for head unit, speakers, amp, wiring and adapters? That's gonna be tight. Also you're gonna need to deaden the doors or else you are just wasting your time.
Yeah, I'm starting to realize that. I don't really need a touchscreen HU and I found one for $90 that I think would work well: JVC KD-X370BTS. Also how necessary is an amp? Like I said, I really don't know a lot about car audio.
 

Coolhand20th

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Mar 27, 2019
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I would save up some more money. Pick up some Second Skin Sound Deadener for the front doors, some baffles for the speakers you do choose, do a component system in the front doors, 4 channel amplifier for them along with a new head unit and of course 1/0 in OFC or welding wire in case you ever want to upgrade to a set of subwoofers if that is not something you want to do then 4 gauge in OFC or welding wire will work fine for the 4 channel. For the rear either do a cheap set of coaxials run off the head unit or leave the stock ones in and just have it faded more towards the front.

JVC Head units and Kenwood are the same company. That only does bluetooth and what not. I would find one that has at least a CD player, at least 6 channel rca outputs that are 4V. Heck I still use a Ipod loaded with over 3.5K in songs and my cd's as well.
 

nauc

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ditch the rears


 
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metalheadjoe

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My current stereo has almost no bass and rattle even at low volumes. I don't think I've heard many car stereos worse than mine. I'm not looking for a super high end system, but I do want to be able to enjoy my music at moderate volumes and feel the bass a little bit without breaking the bank.

Yes, I'm okay with adding weight. A usable stereo outweighs any performance loss to me.

Should I still try dynamat or baffles given how bad my current speakers are?
I would still try dynamat or baffles. They will NOT make your stereo sound worse.

Can you tell what is rattling? Burnt voice coils can sound like rattling. If you push in the speaker's cone and hear any scraping sounds, the voice coil is burnt, and the only solution is a new speaker.
 

Indigo2003

CarAudio.com Newbie
Sep 16, 2021
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0
California
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #13
I would save up some more money. Pick up some Second Skin Sound Deadener for the front doors, some baffles for the speakers you do choose, do a component system in the front doors, 4 channel amplifier for them along with a new head unit and of course 1/0 in OFC or welding wire in case you ever want to upgrade to a set of subwoofers if that is not something you want to do then 4 gauge in OFC or welding wire will work fine for the 4 channel. For the rear either do a cheap set of coaxials run off the head unit or leave the stock ones in and just have it faded more towards the front.

JVC Head units and Kenwood are the same company. That only does bluetooth and what not. I would find one that has at least a CD player, at least 6 channel rca outputs that are 4V. Heck I still use a Ipod loaded with over 3.5K in songs and my cd's as well.
Ok. How much would enough deadener for the doors cost? Also, what does "1/0 in OFC or welding wire" mean exactly? Again, very new to all of this. Is it an issue having different speakers in the back than in the front, or would I even notice in the front seats? Also, nauc suggested just getting a head unit with a built-in amp. Would this be sufficient? So far, I'm leaning towards upgrading the front speakers and head unit and either leaving the rears or replacing them with a cheap pair that at least don't sound terrible. No sub yet. Still on the fence about the amp though.

Didn't realize they were the same company. I don't really need a CD player, I'll almost exclusively be playing music from my phone.
 

Indigo2003

CarAudio.com Newbie
Sep 16, 2021
17
0
California
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14
I would still try dynamat or baffles. They will NOT make your stereo sound worse.

Can you tell what is rattling? Burnt voice coils can sound like rattling. If you push in the speaker's cone and hear any scraping sounds, the voice coil is burnt, and the only solution is a new speaker.
I can't tell what is rattling. It is definitely coming from the speakers though, not from other parts of the car vibrating. I'll definitely check if I hear any scraping. I would need to remove the door panel right?
 

Buck

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I would spend almost all your money on the fronts. I'd get a nice component set up front and a strong 2 channel for up front.

You could run some cheaper midranges-only in the rear, or midbasses for some rear-fill sound.
 

Indigo2003

CarAudio.com Newbie
Sep 16, 2021
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0
California
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #16

Indigo2003

CarAudio.com Newbie
Sep 16, 2021
17
0
California
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #17
A different point of view:
Even a modest set of speakers can sound pretty darn good when supplemented by a proper subwoofer, especially if you can EQ the tunes you are feeding them.
Most stock speakers are not that bad, but get overtaxed by doing work they are not designed for, along with sometimes being made to sound bad due to poor location choice. Most people could not tell the difference between stock and upgraded speakers (when properly EQd) unless the stock ones were SO shltty that they could not even be EQ'd to sound "flat".

On that budget and with careful shopping, you could get a decent head unit that has DSP correction, plus a sub and amp.
Buy it from the right store and you could get free head unit install plus wiring to mount the sub for about a hundred bucks.
Will it be a show vehicle? No.
Will it sound 100x better and give you lots of smiles until you get rid of car or decide to do little upgrades here and there? YES.
So do you think I would be better off replacing the head unit, just replacing the door speakers with entry level speakers (like $80 per pair?), skipping the amp, and adding a powered subwoofer? I do like bass, and door speakers sound like they would have trouble with low bass.
 

audiobaun

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What head unit do you have in right now? Does it provide for your needs? Like BT and features needed or wanted? This is the Main source for your music listening needs and wants and what will be needed for your expansion needs and wants of the system. Get the best within your budget for your needs.If the existing radio/HU meets your criteria, then utilize it/use it.
Secondly.. I would pull each door panel and investigate your current speaker conditions. Looks can be deceiving as they may appear to be fine. Pushing in and out on the cone fairly easy as stated earlier and hearing scratching sounds and poor resistance leads to a bad speaker, as well as the surround torn. you can remove each speaker and test each with a DMM at its ohm value to see if its within its limitations of a 4 ohm or 2 ohm speaker.There is a You Tube Vid to view to learn and show how to use the DMM(Digital Multimeter);
The tweeters may still be just fine and can still be used to save funds with a simple inline Bass Blocker and wired to the new mid and use a blocker on those to save funds without a passive crossover(approx. $20 bucks on up) and run off HU power as well as placing blockers on rear speakers to run off HU power if they are still good as well.
You can add a small 4 ch. 50-100x 4 channel amplifier to get a better source of clarity and power than most 200$ hu will not provide. Id place an amplifier on the front at the min. and 2 ch amplifier(and bass blockers on rears.) Use the PLASTIC speaker baffles in the front doors rather than the Foam ones, or deaden the speaker location . Save more funds and add your sub stage later.
 
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audiobaun

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A $400-500 budget is pretty tight, but can be done if doing some shopping and doing the work yourself and maybe some help of someone with car audio knowledge and with hands on experience.

1)- HU with dash kit and wiring harness = https://www.sonicelectronix.com/cart $158.93

2)-Front speakers call for 5.25 = http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&toolid=10001&campid=5335951755&icep_item=182351170470 $124.49

3a)-Amplifier#1 on sale for front stage= http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&toolid=10001&campid=5335951755&icep_item=282122380302

3b)-OR Amp #2 front stage= http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&toolid=10001&campid=5335951755&icep_item=110761322982

4)-Two Ch. amp kit with an extra set of RCAs for your sub amp later = http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&toolid=10001&campid=5335951755&icep_item=390675795868

5)-Door deadner. just enough around front door speaker location till you get more funds to do the rest= http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&toolid=10001&campid=5335951755&icep_item=304021312704

6)-Roller deadening tool, or worst case you can use a baseball or equiv.= http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&toolid=10001&campid=5335951755&icep_item=265161009606

7)-Bass Blockers for rear speakers if they are good to use = http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&toolid=10001&campid=5335951755&icep_item=191726642522

8a)-If rear speakers need replaced Id just pick up a pair of 50-60 rms Mids or Coax of your choice and use bass blockers on HU power.. Example=http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&toolid=10001&campid=5335951755&icep_item=124313611234

8b)-Or ?= http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&toolid=10001&campid=5335951755&icep_item=184180673265

This is what I myself would choose from for the budget at the moment. You can run another supply line later for the sub stage after getting some funds saved up, Or save some funds and choose a bit better gear.
 
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audiobaun

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I know you said you do not need a CD player.. but for the budget.. That HU I posted with a dash install kit and wiring harness would be ideal for the $ at this point. I like that Sony you chose.. Yet, who can beat that 3 year warranty?? Though proven the brand Ive posted has had a decent run upon no issues within 2-7 years of reliability that I have experienced
 
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