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2010-2014 Subaru Outback

Upgrading the stereo system in your Outback
2010 • 2011 • 2012 • 2013 • 2014

2010-14 Subaru Outback

In brief: This Crutchfield Research Garage article gives you an overview of your Outback's stock stereo system and your aftermarket upgrade options. Use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your Subaru. 

Overview of the Subaru Outback

In case you haven't noticed, the Subaru Outback has quietly become a very popular vehicle. Well, in certain parts of the country, anyway. We noticed because Crutchfield's headquarters are located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where hilly terrain is everywhere and recent winters have been rougher than usual. You'll find a lot of Outbacks in our parking lot, and it's nigh on impossible to drive anywhere in town without seeing at least one on the road.

But we're not the only ones buying (or really wanting to buy) this go-anywhere wagon. Now in its fourth generation, the Outback is much more than just a Legacy wagon with a lift kit. Sure-footed, luxurious, and big enough to handle your hauling duties, the Outback has carved out a niche as the utility vehicle of choice for people who wouldn't be caught dead in an SUV. Even if you don't live in the mountains, there's a lot to like in this comfortable, versatile car.

Subaru Outback radio

The Outback's factory radio (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Factory stereo system

In the not-too-distant past, it often seemed as though Subaru had an "Oh yeah, right, whatever…." approach to factory audio. They've been trying a lot harder in that area lately and those efforts showed on the Outback and its more genteel stablemate, the Legacy.

The standard AM/FM/CD system (with 4 speakers or 6) didn't blow anyone away, but the optional Harman Kardon system was a real step up and a navigation receiver was also available. All in all, the Outback's factory systems were reasonably okay, but if you're serious about sound and connectivity, you really need to install an aftermarket receiver and speakers.

Detailed stereo and speaker removal instructions

MasterSheet image
With step-by-step disassembly instructions and plenty of up-close, detailed photos, our exclusive Crutchfield MasterSheet™ takes the guesswork out of removing the factory stereo and speakers. It's free with your Crutchfield order, or you can purchase one separately for just $9.99.

When you replace the factory radio, you'll lose factory features (if present) like the AUX input connection and the hands-free cell phone interface. You can replace those features and add plenty of others with the right aftermarket stereo, so that shouldn't be a deal-breaker.  

A variety of receivers will fit with the help of the dash kit that's included at a discount with your Crutchfield stereo purchase. Enter your vehicle information to see the receivers and kits that work with your Outback.

Replacing the factory nav receiver in a 2013-2014 Outback, on the other hand, is a challenging job that involves fabricating a new dash kit. That's not a job for the average DIY-er, so you'll probably want to consult a car audio installation professional.

Replacing your factory radio

If you're starting with an Outback equipped with a factory AM/FM/CD receiver, you're in pretty good shape for an uncomplicated installation. To remove the old one, start at bottom edge and pry out the receiver trim panel to release the retaining clips. Remove the panel, then remove the four Phillips screws securing the receiver to the dash. Disconnect the harness, remove the receiver, and you're ready to install the new one.

When you buy your stereo at Crutchfield, you'll get a deep discount on both the dash kit you'll need to fit a new receiver into the dashboard, and the wiring harness adapter you'll need to connect the new stereo to the car's factory wiring. You'll also get our Crutchfield MasterSheet, which includes detailed, illustrated disassembly instructions.

Removing the big-screen factory nav receiver is a bit more complicated and it's covered extensively in your MasterSheet. As noted earlier, you'll probably want to leave the replacement part to your neighborhood installer. Unless, of course, your skill set includes some serious fabrication skills, in which case, have at it. When you're done, send pictures to our Customer Car Showroom, because we'd love to see your work.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver

Shop for car stereos that fit your Subaru Outback

Steering wheel audio controls

It's relatively easy to retain your Outback's steering wheel audio controls when you install a new stereo. When you enter your vehicle information, our database will choose the adapter you need to make your factory steering wheel controls work with your new receiver.

Subaru Outback front door speaker

The Outback's front door speaker (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Replacing your factory speakers

Your Outback has speakers in the front and rear doors, and, in all but the base 4-speaker system, the dash. The HK cars also have a subwoofer behind the right rear panel in the cargo area.

Subaru Outback dash tweeter

The upper-level systems include dash tweeters (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Dash tweeters

The dash tweeters are located underneath grilles in either dash corner. The tweeters measure 2.772", so exact same-size aftermarket replacements are not available. This is, however, a great place to put the tweeters if you're installing a set of component speakers.

Removing them is easy – just pry up the grilles, remove the Phillips screws holding them in place, and disconnect the speakers. You can cut and bend a set of our universal backstraps to hold the new ones in place.

Your new speakers (here and elsewhere in the car) might not come with mounting screws, so check before you start working. It's always best to hit the hardware store before you tear the car apart.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver

Subaru Outback front door

A variety of speakers will fit in the front doors (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Front door speakers

A variety of 6-3/4", 6-1/2", or 5-1/4" speakers will work in the Outback's front doors. You'll need to remove the door panel, which is easy enough, and removing the stock speakers is a simple procedure, too.

Installing aftermarket 6-1/2" or 5-1/4" speakers is pretty straightforward. Just secure the speaker to the mounting bracket included with your order, then hook up the harnesses and secure the bracket to the speaker location.

Installing 6-3/4" speakers is a bit more complicated, because you'll need to drill new mounting holes for the speakers. If you have any experience at all with a power drill, this isn't hard, but you're still drilling into your car, which can be a bit stressful. Relax, take your time, and make sure you're aware of everything that's around the area where you're drilling the new holes. And definitely be sure to wear eye protection. 

The stock Harman Kardon speakers are 2-ohm models, while the base speakers are rated at 4 ohms. Replacing 2-ohm factory speakers with higher-impedance models will result in lower volume levels, so be sure to match your speakers properly.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, drill with 1/8" bit

Subaru Outback rear door

The rear doors are easy to work with, too. (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Rear door speakers

Replacing the rear door speakers involves a lot of the same techniques you used up front. The same 2-ohm/4-ohm differences apply, so make sure you order the right speakers for your application. And, whether you're installing 5-1/4" or 6-1/2" speakers, you'll need to drill new mounting holes for your new speakers, so be careful and wear eye protection.

The Outback isn't exactly monster truck-noisy, but we still recommend a set of foam speaker baffles for the rear doors. These inexpensive waterproof baffles will not only improve speaker performance, they'll also protect the speakers from dust and moisture. Outbacks are rarely used for hard-core off-roading, but they tend to get dirtier than the average wagon or SUV, so these baffles are a wise investment. You might want to get a set for the front speakers, too.

Before you button up these doors (or the front doors, of course), test to make sure the speakers are working, check to see that the wires do not interfere with window operation, and test the door lock and release operation.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, drill with 1/8" bit

Shop for speakers that fit your Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback factory sub

The factory sub looks easy to replace, but there's more to it than you think. (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Bass in your Subaru Outback

The factory subwoofer that's part of the Harman Kardon system is an 8" model located in the right rear corner of the Outback's cargo area. It looks easy to get to, but removing it and replacing it takes more work than you'd think. It's not hard work, but you'll need to remove some panels and drill new mounting screw holes for the aftermarket sub. Not tough, but not exactly "plug and play," either.

This dual 2-ohm voice coil sub only receives bass frequencies from the factory amp, and the same will hold true for the new one. If you install an aftermarket dual voice coil sub, you'll need two speaker wiring harnesses to connect it properly. All the disassembly instructions you need can be found in your Crutchfield MasterSheet, of course. And your new sub might not come with mounting screws, so check before you start working.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, 1/4" socket, ratchet, and extension, small flat blade screwdriver

Subaru Outback cargo area

Plenty of room for bass if you need it (Crutchfield Research Photo)

The average Outback stays pretty busy ferrying people, dogs, and/or stuff over hill and dale in all sorts of weather. This usually doesn't leave time for the average Outback driver to ponder the need for rump-shaking bass. But why be average? If you're in the mood to rock out in your Outback, you can and you should. The spacious rear cargo area offers a 42" W x 15" H x 38"/28" D space for a sub enclosure stuffed with subwoofers, so go for it. If you need more cargo space, that's what the roof rack is for, right?

Should practical concerns remain a factor in your life, you can still add plenty of bass with a compact powered subwoofer. You'll get the rich, full sound you want, plus you'll still have room for groceries, camping gear, and just about anything else you need.

Shop for vehicle-specific subwoofers for your Subaru Outback

Thule Force

Available in four sizes, the Thule Force carrier features dual door openings that allow you to load or unload from either side.

Other options for your Outback

With a popular, versatile vehicle like the Outback, there are lots of ways to upgrade your in-car experience. Here are some of the ways Crutchfield can help.

Roof-mounted storage

Outback owners tend to have a certain affinity for outdoor adventures. Recreational pursuits such hunting, fishing, and camping require a lot of gear, so sometimes you need even more space than this wagon can offer. Lightweight cargo carriers, bike racks, and other travel storage gear from Thule will give you the extra space you need.

iPod® adapters and satellite radio

If you don't want to (or in the case of the nav model, can't) replace your Outback's factory receiver, you can still improve the performance of your car's stereo system. We offer several adapters that will allow you to use an iPod, MP3 player with the factory receiver. Another great option is a SiriusXM satellite radio subscription. We have all the gear you need to enjoy their vast array of music, sports, news, and entertainment programming.

Floor mats

The Outback combines luxury and utility in a uniquely Subaru kind of way, which means it's easier than you think to mess up the comfy interior while going about your daily business. Floor mats and cargo mats from WeatherTech will help protect your floors from dirt and damage. 

Security

Installing a security system in your Outback isn't easy (security systems rarely are), but it's less complicated than it could be. Our Crutchfield Advisors can help figure out what you need to get the job done, but we usually recommend taking your car and new gear to a professional security system installer.

Shop for car security systems for your Subaru Outback

Find the audio gear that fits your car or truck

Visit our Outfit My Car page and enter your vehicle information to see stereos, speakers, subs, and other audio accessories that will work in your vehicle.

  • Jennifer from Denton

    Posted on 7/2/2021

    I replaced the head unit in my 2010 Subaru Outback (w/HK & power amp w/o Nav) with a Pioneer DEH-S6220BS I bought from Crutchfield (along with the wiring harness & applicable bits & bobs). Ever since there is no sound from my front speakers. Did I mess something up in the wiring? Back speakers work fine.

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 7/21/2021

    Jennifer, There might be a loose wire or two somewhere, but with questions like that, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. The good news is that since you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system.
  • Rick Vander Jagt from Grand Rapids, MI

    Posted on 3/20/2021

    I want to install the JBL Club 602C component mids and tweets in my 2012 Outback. They come with crosses but my question is, is the signal to the 6-1/2" door speaker full range? Can I connect the factory wire to the door speaker to the X-Over INPUT as a full freq. signal so the X-over can cross the proper HF to the tweeters? I am obviously going to have to run a new and separate wire from the crossover back through the door to the dash tweeter because I plan on mounting the crossovers in the doors.

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 3/22/2021

    Rick, With questions like that, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. Give us a call and talk to one of our advisors. We can help you choose the right gear and give you the right advice on how to install it.
  • Steve from Chicago

    Posted on 12/24/2020

    John, great direction, it's appreciated. As I look now for a little clarity again in my drive, I'm not looking to do as much (that time has passed), but still get great sound. Gone for me are the days of modified alternators, marine batteries, and 2kwatts of power to push active crossover CDTs & JBLs likely now providing a comfortable home to squirrels in the shed. Reading through the warnings regarding the 2 ohm setup on the HK units/speakers - With a head unit replacement (like a Sony XAV-5500) - I'm not running preamps out to anything but the front passenger floor amp @ 2 ohm, then to the 8" HD Sub, correct (If I don't replace the amp)? I wouldn't believe the HK amp could push all 7/9 speakers, but wanted to ask so I match my RMS/max @ 4 ohm from the Sony to the front 6/8 speakers. Appreciate your input.

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 12/24/2020

    Steve, Thanks! With questions like this, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. Give us a call and talk to one of our advisors. We can help you choose the right gear and give you the right advice on how to install it.
  • Christopher Mermagen from Aberdeen

    Posted on 12/7/2020

    Hello, I'm looking at replacing the front speakers in my 2014 outback without Nav and without Harmon Kardon. What I'm trying to figure out it why your guide says I shouldn't have an in-dash tweeter, when I do :) I just flipped up and look. I already have a nice kenwood in and wanted to buy components, and was curious how the current wiring of the 2014 works, but your guide says I shouldn't have any in-dash tweeters. Thoughts?

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 12/8/2020

    Christopher, You clearly have the six-speaker, non-Harmon Kardon system. The article, however, wasn't very clear about that variation, so we've adjusted the copy to make it more accurate. Thanks for pointing this out!
  • Hoku from Honolulu

    Posted on 10/19/2020

    I have a 2011 suabru outback. Am I able to install a 10 inch subwoofer in the back? Is there a kit I can install for a bigger speaker?

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 10/20/2020

    Hoku, There's certainly plenty of space. But with questions like that, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. Give us a call and talk to one of our advisors. We can help you choose the right gear and give you the right advice on how to install it.
  • Jonathan from Phoenix

    Posted on 8/17/2020

    If I swap out the head unit, can I retain the backup camera and factory sub on my 2012 Outback Limited with the Harmon system including nav/backup cam?

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 8/17/2020

    Jonathan, That'll work. When you enter your vehicle's info into our Outfit My Car tool, you'll see which stereos fit your car, plus the correct harness. If you have any questions, our advisors are available via phone or chat.
  • Nate from Boston MA

    Posted on 7/14/2020

    Purchased a Sony XAV-AX1000 for my 2011 Outback w/ Harmon Kardon and w/out Nav. Instructions say I'm going to have to splice the amplifier remote wire to the pink wire on the factory harness. I haven't received my order yet and I'm just reading up on how to put in the system myself and I'm stumped as to how I am supposed to do that. Do I have to remove the pink wire pin from the factory harness (or perhaps remove the factory harness entirely so I don't have to work in the limited space in the car)? Your help would be greatly appreciated.

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 7/15/2020

    Nate, We can help with that. Since you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help with your installation. But even if you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you could still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.
  • James from Birmingham, AL

    Posted on 10/25/2019

    Is this guide also applicable for 5th gen (2015-2019) outbacks? Speakers are probably no big deal, maybe different mounting adapters, but the big question to me is the HK system's compatibility

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 10/28/2019

    James, Funny you should mention that. There's a 5th-gen guide that's almost ready to publish, but in the meantime, we have all the info you need to upgrade your Outback's stereo. Give us a call and talk to one of our advisors. We can help you choose the right gear and give you the right advice on how to install it.
  • chris from Houston

    Posted on 7/3/2019

    is there an article like this for a 2015 otback

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 9/12/2019

    Chris, Not yet, but there's one in the works. In the meantime, when you enter your vehicle's info into our Outfit My Car tool, you'll see all the gear that fits your Outback. We also have MasterSheet instructions for this model, too. If you have any questions, our advisors are available via phone or chat.
  • Matt from Manchester, NH

    Posted on 7/2/2019

    I have a 2011 Outback with the HK sound system (but no nav) and I've always been disappointed with the sound. I plan to buy a new Sony deck with Apple CarPlay, and I have two questions about my Subaru: 1. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the HK system was designed to work differently than your typical system. That the dash tweeters, for example, were designed to bounce sound off the windshield. Is this true, or just BS? 2. How important or good is the under-seat amplifier? Like I said, I've always found the sound lacking, so it doesn't seem like the amp is really helping. My previous car, FWIW, was a '97 Camry with an Alpine deck.

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 7/3/2019

    Matt, The Harman Kardon system was certainly tuned for the car, but it's not all that different from similar factory systems. An aftermarket upgrade can definitely give you better sound, so you're on the right track. I've sent your question to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.