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2015-2019 Subaru Outback

How to upgrade the stereo system in your Subaru Outback

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. We'll tell you all about:

Then, use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your Subaru.

Overview of the Subaru Outback

The fifth-generation Subaru Outback is an evolution, not a revolution, which is exactly what Subaru intended it to be. Subaru owners know what they like and Subaru's designers know that, so the Gen 5 car is a new and improved take on the Gen 4, not a crunchier version of a Chevy Tahoe or something.

There are tons of differences inside and out, of course, but they're subtle. Subaru fans will recognize them instantly, but if you replace your Gen 4 with a Gen 5 in the same color, most of your neighbors won't even notice. And if you're like many Subaru owners we know, that'll suit you just fine.

It's what's inside that counts, of course, and that includes a good stereo system. Like most recent Subarus, this Outback's factory stereo systems are reasonably okay, but that's about all. If you're ready to improve your car’s audio performance, you really should install an aftermarket receiver and speakers. It's easier than you think and the results will be worth it.

subaru outback factory radio

The Gen-5 Outback was offered with three different stock receivers (Crutchfield Research Photo)

The factory stereo system

This Outback was available with two basic stereo systems. The base system starts with an AM/FM/SiriusXM/CD and plays through six speakers. The top-shelf Harman Kardon system sports an AM/FM/SiriusXM/HD/CD receiver with 12 speakers in eight locations. Both systems include USB and AUX inputs in the lower dash storage compartment. You’ll lose that AUX input when you replace the radio, but it’s easy enough to find receivers that have AUX and USB inputs in much more convenient locations.

As for the stock receivers, there were three of them during this Outback’s production run. The base receiver was a 6.2" model, and the upgrades were 7" at first, then an 8" model from 2018-up. Interestingly enough, the replacement process is pretty much the same for all three.

You can replace the stock receiver with a wide range of single-DIN (2" tall) or double-DIN (4" tall) aftermarket models, and when you buy the new receiver from us, you’ll save money on the dash kit and wiring harness adapter needed to make the swap. The kits and harnesses will vary depending on the system you’re starting with, so it’s a good idea to talk to a Crutchfield Advisor before you order. We’ll make sure you get exactly what you need.

The Harman Kardon system found in 2018-up Outbacks is a wee bit complicated, but it's still do-able for the DIY-er. Then again, the stock HK system doesn’t sound awful as-is, so there’s nothing wrong with keeping it for a little while, at least.

You should also know that aftermarket amplifiers and/or high-powered receivers will not play nicely with the Starlink telematics system. That's because the front speaker wiring is routed through an external module, which could be damaged by amplifiers and receivers rated at more than 25 watts.

Again, if you have questions about any of this (and you very well might), just give us a call.

subaru outback radio removal

No matter which factory radio you have, the removal process is basically the same (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing your Outback's factory radio

Whichever receiver you’re removing, the process is, as we said, pretty much the same for all of them and it’s not that difficult.

You’ll start by prying out the center dash vent assembly to release seven retaining clips. Disconnect the harness, remove the assembly, and then remove the two exposed Phillips screws. Next, you’ll pry off the lower climate control trim panel to release four clips (two on 2018-up cars) and remove the trim panel. That’ll expose another pair of Phillips screws, which you’ll need to remove.

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.

Pry out the climate control panel to release the retaining clips, then disconnect harness and remove the climate control panel. Next, you’ll remove yet another pair of Phillips screws. With that, you’ll pull the receiver towards the rear of the vehicle (there are retaining clips on the 8" receiver, so mind those), disconnect the harnesses and remove the receiver. Be sure to keep all those screws handy, because you’ll need them to put the dash back together once you’ve tested the new receiver to make sure everything’s working properly.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver

Read our Car Stereo Buying Guide for shopping tips and advice.

Shop for car stereos that fit your Subaru Outback

Steering wheel audio controls

In most cases, it's reasonably easy to retain your Subaru'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 a compatible aftermarket receiver.

subaru outback aftermarket radio installed

Here's what a new double-DIN receiver looks like installed. The sleek-looking dash kit is available at a discount with your Crutchfield stereo purchase (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the factory speakers

The Outback's speakers aren't too hard to work with, so replacing them is a great way to improve your sound even if you don't want to install a new stereo.

subaru outback center dash speaker

Removing and replacing the Harman Kardon center dash speaker is pretty simple, really (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the Outback’s center dash speaker

The Harman Kardon system’s 3-1/2" center dash speaker is generally easy to deal with. Just pry up the grille to release nine clips, then set the grille aside and remove the two Phillips screws that secure the speaker.

No wiring harness adapter is available for this location, so you’ll want to use a set of Posi-Products connectors to connect the new speakers to the factory wiring. You can also splice or solder, if that’s your preference, but the connectors are a ton easier.

Note: Some 3-1/2" speakers do not come with speaker wire, so you might need to order that (and maybe some quick-slide connections) to tap into the Posi-Products connectors and the factory wiring. Your Crutchfield advisor can help with this.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver

subaru outback corner dash speaker

There are two varieties of corner dash speakers, and both are easy to remove and replace (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the Outback’s corner dash speakers

The 3-1/2" dash tweeters are located underneath grilles in either dash corner. They’re wired in parallel with the front door speakers, so installing a set of component speakers is great way to go here. The base speakers are just tweeters, while the HK speakers have a woofer and tweeter mounted in tandem. The removal and replacement process is the same for both systems, though.

And it’s pretty easy, too. Just pry up the grilles, remove the two Phillips screws holding them in place, and disconnect the speakers. No wiring harness adapter is available for this location, so you’ll probably want to use a set of Posi-Products connectors here, too.

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, right-angle Phillips screwdriver

subaru outback front door speaker

The stock door speakers are 6"x9" models. You'll need to remove the door panels to remove and replace them (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the Outback’s front door speakers

The stock 6"x9" front door speakers can be replaced with a healthy variety of 6-1/2", 6-3/4", or same-size models. You’ll need mounting brackets for your new speakers, and when you buy from Crutchfield, we’ll include the brackets with your order.

You'll need to remove the door panel before you remove the stock speakers, but the entire procedure is pretty simple and it’s a good project for even a first-time car audio DIY-er.

You’ll start by prying up the screw cover behind the door release handle and removing one exposed Phillips screw. Next, pry up the screw cover inside the door pull cup and remove the Phillips screw you see there.

Pry out the sides and bottom of the door panel to release eight retaining clips, disconnect the harnesses and the door lock and release cables, then remove the door panel. From here, just remove the four Phillips screws securing the speaker to the door steel, disconnect the harness, and remove the old speaker. Using the bracket we sent you, install the new speaker, test it out, and if all’s well, start putting the door back together.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver

subaru outback rear door soeakers

Replacing the rear door speakers is pretty much the same as replacing the front door speakers. If you can do that, you can do this. And you can do that. (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the Outback’s rear door speakers

In the rear doors, you’ll find 6-3/4" stock speakers. On the base system, they’re regular full-range speakers, but the HK speakers have a woofer and tweeter mounted in tandem. Removal is the same for both systems, and you can replace the stock speakers with 6-1/2" or 6-3/4" aftermarket models.

The actual work involved is basically the same as the work done on the front doors, which means it’s pretty simple. Complete, illustrated instructions can be found in your Crutchfield MasterSheet, and if you run into any weirdness, your Crutchfield speaker purchase includes free tech support for the life of your gear. You can totally do this, but if you have questions, our experts are here to help.

Before you button up these doors (and the front doors, too), make sure the wires aren’t interfering with window operation, and also make sure the door and locks are functioning properly.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver

subaru outback harman kardon subwoofer

The Harman Kardon subwoofer can be replaced, but it takes a bit of work (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the Outback’s stock subwoofer

The Harman Kardon system includes an 6"x9" subwoofer that’s located in the right rear corner of the Outback's cargo area. When you look at it, it seems like it would be easy to get to, but well, not exactly.

Removing and replacing the sub takes more work than you'd think, and while it’s not intensely technical work, you’ll need to remove a fair number of panels and that’ll take some time. You’ll probably need to trim the mounting bracket to get a good fit, too. This is a thoroughly do-able project, but you’ll want to be patient, stay organized, and hang onto all the various screws you remove.

The stock sub only receives bass frequencies from the factory amp, and the same will hold true for your new 6-1/2", 6-3/4" or 6"x9" sub, so keep that in mind. All the disassembly instructions you need can be found in your Crutchfield MasterSheet, of course.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, 10mm and 14mm sockets, ratchet and extension

Read our Car Speakers Buying Guide for more information.

Shop for speakers that fit your Subaru Outback

subaru outback cargo area

There's plenty of room back here for a subwoofer box, if you want one (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Adding bass to your Subaru Outback

The average Subaru Outback stays pretty busy ferrying people, dogs, and folding lawn chairs over all kinds of roads in all sorts of weather. This usually doesn't leave time for the average Outback driver to worry about rump-shaking bass.

But if you're in the mood to rock out in your Outback, you can and you should. The spacious rear cargo area offers a 38" W x 16" H x 42"/31" D space for a subwoofer box, so go for it. If you need more cargo space, that's what the roof rack is for.

Should practical concerns outweigh your bass needs, you can still add an enjoyable amount of thump 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.

Learn more about building a bass system in our Car Subwoofer Buying Guide.

weathertech floor liners

A set of custom-fit WeatherTech floor liners will be a great addition to your Outback

Other options for your Outback

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

Roof-mounted storage and more

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.

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.


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.

Let's get started!

Ready to shop? Use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your car or truck. If you have questions, give us a shout via phone, chat, or email

  • Casey Rice from Los alamitos

    Posted on 11/29/2022

    "here is a wiring harness available, but you'll still need to bypass the factory amplifiers by running speaker wires from your new stereo to each speaker" Yikes, won't that kill the quality?

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 11/30/2022

    Casey, Not really. 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.
  • Jordan Goldsmith from Missoula

    Posted on 8/21/2021

    Was hoping for info on best amps to pair with factory receiver and also mounting locations for the amp - thank you !

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 8/23/2021

    Jordan, 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.
  • Pete from Lafayette,IN

    Posted on 10/10/2020

    As usual from Crutchfield, an excellent article on this model's equipment and options...better than the dealer!

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 10/12/2020

    Pete, Thanks! If you have some time, visit our Custom Car Showroom and tell us all about your car and your system!

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