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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.

  • Herb from Lansdale

    Posted on 4/3/2022

    So, gen 10, hatchback owner here. I'm having the same bad audio experience as most people. After browsing around here, there and everywhere, I've come to the conclusion that, I will make this work. I was really hopeful to get better tips and better prices but I see that will not happen, especially here, your prices are; by FAR the most astronomical and unfriendly I've seen yet.

  • Sharath from Charlotte

    Posted on 2/1/2021

    I have a 2019 Honda Civic Hatchback sport and I'm looking for a stereo with Apple car play and android auto without loosing factory camera and mic. Could you please suggest any Head Units I can go for

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 2/3/2021

    Sharath, your best bet to get started is to use our vehicle selector to confirm which stereos fit your Honda. When you add a radio to cart, we'll show you a choice of installation packages and which factory features you'll be able to retain. If you have any questions at all, reach out to an Advisor via phone or chat.
  • Jack from Los Angeles

    Posted on 4/15/2020

    Hi, I have a 2019 Civic sport so I do not have the factory subwoofer. How would I do this same build? Would I need to get a 6-channel amp instead? Or can I still use the 4-channel amp? Thanks

  • Alex from Ann Arbor

    Posted on 4/6/2020

    I have a 2017 Civic sedan and the install guide that came with the speakers was very inaccurate and also incomplete. Just a couple of examples, the removal of the rear seat bottom it said to pinch to release the tabs but you need to pull them forward, a frustrating omission that could have had me break the tabs. Then on the removal of the trim panels around the curtain airbag the instructions just said to "remove the 4 clips" without mentioning one is a reverse clip - meaning you have to hit it into the body for it to release. I could have ruined my trim panels if I wasn't already aware Honda has used these in in other vehicle so I knew in the back of my mind something was not right. After those 2 omissions I threw your instructions in the trash and just watched a YouTube video.

  • Ryan Sheldon Shakespeare from Petaling jaya

    Posted on 3/1/2020

    Hi there, I'm planning on running my focal utopia beryllium 3 way , seas full range for the rears, phase linear 12" sub in the boot, Genesis 4 and 2 channel amp and phase linear amp for the subwoofer. Since I need to maintain the factory civic head unit, could I use my Alpine PCI H990 and the RUX C701? (Was using it with my F1 status head unit before). Would this set up be workable? I ran this system in my W211 e280 but I'm buying a civic x in a few weeks and would love to reinstall my audio system.

  • Ryan Sheldon Shakespeare from Petaling jaya

    Posted on 3/1/2020

    Hi there, I'm planning on running my focal utopia beryllium 3 way , seas full range for the rears, phase linear 12" sub in the boot, Genesis 4 and 2 channel amp and phase linear amp for the subwoofer. Since I need to maintain the factory civic head unit, could I use my Alpine PCI H990 and the RUX C701? (Was using it with my F1 status head unit before). Would this set up be workable? I ran this system in my W211 e280 but I'm buying a civic x in a few weeks and would love to reinstall my audio system.

  • 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?

    Commenter image

    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.

    Commenter image

    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.

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