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Improving the factory sound in a 2016 Honda Civic

Save the day with new speakers, an amp, and a powered sub

In this article... Crutchfield employee, Mark, wasn't satisfied with the sound quality in his 2016 Honda Civic but didn't want to lose his factory stereo in an upgrade. No problem. With the addition of new speakers, an amp, and a powered sub, we were able to transform his listening experience.

More and more, auto manufacturers have equipped new cars with receivers so well appointed that there’s less and less argument for swapping them out. But that doesn’t mean the factory sound can’t be improved. Enter your information in our vehicle selector tool and discover what works for your ride.

Everything goes but the stereo

Mark, Crutchfield education and corporate sales specialist, loves his cherry red 2016 Honda Civic. Leather interior, sporty angles, and pep from the Touring package make it a super-fun drive. Its receiver rocks a plentiful display thoughtfully integrated into a sleek dash. Apple CarPlay® and Garmin navigation have kept Mark happy since the day he drove it off the lot. The “premium” sound system, however, has not.

Mark told me, “It’s not that the factory sound is bad, but it just isn’t good enough to be labeled ‘premium’. What bothers me most is a lack of definition and a muddled soundstage. And the subwoofer vibrates the rear deck which drives me nuts.”

Taking measurements with a mic and iphone

Using AudioControl’s SA-4140i SPL real-time analyzer and pink noise, we were able to see the deficits Mark was hearing. When the music moved him to turn it up, it wasn’t hard to hit the ceiling. 

Upgrading with new Focal speakers

Since we knew the factory stereo was staying put, the best first step toward improving factory sound was to replace the factory speakers. For a serious step up in quality, we added Focal Universal Integration component speakers to the front doors and 2-way speakers to the rear deck.

In a side-by-side comparison with these new aftermarket speakers, the Civic’s factory speakers had all the heft and substance of paper cups. Mark was glad to see them go.

New speaker in the door panel

While Honda makes it easy to remove the front door panels, accessing the rear deck was a bit more challenging.

With the doors and deck exposed, we jumped at the opportunity to add Dynamat sound deadening material. It was the sure-fire way to rid the rear deck of its rattle and reduce road noise. Applying Dynamat to every reachable nook and cranny can feel like tedious work, but it makes a big difference in sound quality.

After the speaker upgrade, Mark listened for a day and noticed this difference: “The instruments are more pronounced, and I can hear much more detail and clarity.”

Adding an amplifier for power

The Focals gave Mark’s sound a nice boost but running speakers with respectable power-handling off of factory power is a little like eating pasta without any sauce. So, our next step was to add a 4-channel AudioControl amplifier to power the speakers.

Pulling amp wiring to the trunk

Now, in an ideal world, we would cut out factory power entirely. But as is the case with so many new vehicles, there are more audio elements to consider than just music. In Mark’s Civic, navigation prompts run through a center dash speaker, which can’t be accommodated by an aftermarket amp.

For a growing number of vehicles, companies like iDatalink offer solutions that allow customers to integrate those factory features into an aftermarket system, but that’s not currently the case for Mark’s Civic.

Rather than interfere with some potentially touchy factory settings, we let the center channel remain driven by factory power, knowing that we could make adjustments on the new amplifier to smooth out the overall sound.

With the new amp tidily mounted in the trunk, Mark took a few days to soak in his new system, prepping for the addition of a powered sub.

Reinforcing the low end with a subwoofer

When it comes to adding bass, there are several options, but Mark opted to stick with Focal and use their well-reviewed Universal Integration powered sub. His factory sub in the rear deck had provided a decent amount of low-end reinforcement, and the newly added Dynamat had really improved its impact. But while he wasn't looking to rattle any windows, Mark was still ready for a step up in the bass department.

wiring a distribution block

Because of its 75-watt RMS power draw, we felt good about using a power distribution block to tap into the power wire we’d already run for the AudioControl amp — that kept installation straight-forward and clean.

bass knob

Focal includes a bass knob with the powered sub, and we installed that to the left of Mark’s steering wheel for easy adjustment from song to song. And just to go the extra mile, we lined Mark’s trunk with Dynamat to maximize every thump of his new sub.

Wiring a subwwofer in the trunk

Once we were done, we sat with Mark to enjoy the full impact of that new sub using Crutchfield's Spotify® Bass Test playlist. There were some great moments, but listening to the atmospheric, all-consuming "Title Theme from Jaws" really sent it home — this compact sub has transformative powers when it comes to bass.

Impressed with the results of his new system, Mark said, “This doesn’t sound like music streaming off of a phone, this sounds like I’m there and the music’s all around me. There’s a presence that wasn’t there before. And the great part is, my dash looks exactly the same!"

Find out what we can do for your vehicle

If you've been contemplating an upgrade but are unsure of where to start, contact one of our advisors or enter your vehicle information in our vehicle selector.

  • James Herrera from Houston, Tx

    Posted on 1/19/2020

    I have this exact same setup with a JL sub and amp for the past year and I love it, but I notice some instruments and vocals sometimes sound super low I believe they are the Mids.. any way to improve this?

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield on 1/20/2020
    James, Audiocontrol allows multiple EQ presets with their built-in software. It could be worth adding a new preset, specifically focused on the midrange, to see how that sounds for a while.
  • Kelly from North Hollywood

    Posted on 10/23/2019

    I just leased a 2019 Honda Civic EX and want to improve the audio quality without getting spanked at the end of the lease for altering the car. It sounds like switching out the door speakers would be one of the least intrusive alterations that I could change back in 3 years. I'd appreciate some advice. Hopefully, not too expensive. Thanks!

  • Michael from San Francisco

    Posted on 3/22/2019

    Hi, how much does it cost for an upgrade to the 2019 civic Model and will it break factory warranty?

  • Walid from Frisco tx

    Posted on 2/10/2019

    Can a tech representative send me the available instructions for this install? I have the same car and would like to perform this installation.

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield on 2/14/2019
    Walid, we don't have step-by-step instructions for this whole installation per se, but I've passed your question along to our team of Advisors. Someone will contact you soon to help you with the gear you need along with a MasterSheet for your vehicle. We consulted Crutchfield Tech Support frequently during this installation, and you'll be able to as well (for free with your purchase) to ensure your new system sounds great. It's worth noting that other products have become available since we published this article, so you might consider newer gear options as you plan your installation.
  • Noel Naranjo from Livingston

    Posted on 1/18/2019

    im adding subs as well as a LC2i, what "fullrange" speakers did you tap into for full range signal? 20hz-20khz

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield on 2/11/2019
    Noel, we used one of AudioControl's amps that has high and low speaker-level inputs. It provided us with a matrixed full-range signal by combining the signals from the front tweeters and woofers.
  • Phil from Orlando, FL

    Posted on 11/25/2018

    Same as James Herrera I would be very interested to know what had to be done to bypass the factory amp for some connections (dash spkr) but not others and how the speakers wires and signal routing happened. Reading your response I understand I will have Crutchfield tech to support me along the way, but for me it would be helpful to know exactly how much work I am biting off. I have the 2018 Civic Touring Sedan. I just ordered the Focal speakers from Crutchfield and was looking at the Alpine 445U amp but removed it from my cart after talking with the sales support who told me the car has an active amp in it that I would have to bypass. Then I found this really insightful article for a vehicle build similar to mine. Would Crutchfield be willing to review the process with me before buying the amp to make sure its something I am comfortable taking on? Some of the questions I have is where is the factory amp located, with this option can I still use the factory speaker wiring or do I need to run new speaker wires to all speakers. Does Crutchfield have the amplifier by pass wiring config recorded? I have been doing a bit of research on my own with people who added aftermarket amplifiers and still were not happy with the sound suggesting the issues are in the HU and its EQ curve outputs. I was considering the AudioControl LCQ-1, would this be a good option to correct that? I saw you did an RTA on the factory system but the article didn't mention what you did with these results.

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield on 11/30/2018
    Phil, all great questions. First things first, this can be a time-consuming installation. Taking your time and double-checking your connections is really the name of the game. So, you'll want to go at your own pace. Depending on how many hands you have helping you and how much time in a day you can set aside, this could take a couple days or so. To answer another question, we did use factory speaker wire, which saves a bit of time. I've passed your question along to an Advisor to help you get the right gear for the job and they can also ensure you have accurate wiring information. Your factory amp is located in the passenger side kick panel and we do have the wire assignments in our vehicle research. A couple things to note. We did leave the center channel as is because it handles navigation prompts and other notifications in this '16 Civic (you'll want to confirm that the same is true for your system because you don't want to lose any essential functionality). We used speaker-level signal from the factory amp with an Audiocontrol amp that has speaker-level inputs. You could get the same functionality from a line output converter and the amp(s) of your choice. And you'll be able to work with a flat signal. We did not bypass the factory amp.
  • James Herrera from Houston

    Posted on 8/14/2018

    I have the exact same car and wanted to try this build out. Do y'all have instructions for how y'all hooked up the speakers to the amp and the reccomeneded settings for the amp in this particular build?

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield on 8/15/2018
    James, we don't have step-by-step instructions for this whole installation per se, but I've passed your question along to our team of Advisors. Someone will contact you soon to help you with the gear you need along with a MasterSheet for your vehicle. We consulted Crutchfield Tech Support frequently during this installation, and you'll be able to as well (for free with your purchase) to ensure your new system sounds great. It's worth noting that another option for this type of installation would be to go with a 5- or 6-channel amp running the speakers and a component sub.
  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/22/2018

    Brian, thanks for the suggestion. It's usually a good idea to confirm speaker fit using our vehicle selector in case there's a difference between trim level (and to explore other options for your car). That said, we installed these components in the front, and these coaxials in the rear deck.

  • Brian from Portland

    Posted on 2/20/2018

    I have the exact same car. A "shopping list" would be nice at the end of this article so that after reading, users can simply start checking off the parts they want that were used in this build. I followed the link for the FUI component speakers provided in the beginning of the article, but it takes me to a page with all of FUI's speakers, not the specific one used in this build.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/15/2018

    David, we can help you with this. I've passed your question along to our advisor team for assistance. Someone will contact you soon with ideas to upgrade your system.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/15/2018

    Xavier, we had good luck with the fit. It took a little wiggling, but they pressure-fit really nicely. It may be worth taking that sail panel piece and a tweeter to your local friendly hardware store and see if they have anything that could help with a better fit.

  • David from Tolland, Ct

    Posted on 2/14/2018

    Mark, Can a similar speaker/amp/subwoofer upgrade be done on the 2016-2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee, leaving the factory head unit in place? Thanks

  • Xavier Perez from SPARKS

    Posted on 2/13/2018

    I have a new Honda civic also. How did you make focal tweeters fit in front stock location for tweeters the tweeters don't seem to have the perfect fit yours do ? It's like 1/8 in to small to make a perfect fit

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