Project Subaru BRZ: Sound System Transformation

Project Subaru BRZ: Sound System Transformation
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There’s no denying the performance and handling capabilities of the Subaru BRZ from the factory, but one thing’s for sure, the stereo leaves something to be desired.

So in transforming our project BRZ into the ultimate daily driver, I budgeted $1,000 to enhance the stereo. With that budget in mind, I decided that swapping out the factory navigation head unit of the BRZ Limited was out of the question. Though many audophiles would argue that the head unit is the weakest link in any stereo setup, I decided to focus on swapping the speakers while adding an amplifier and subwoofer rather than spending most of the cash on a flashier (and higher quality) head unit.

Next Stop, Online Speaker Shopping

Given my previous experience with project cars, I started with the reputable companies for car audio that I have used in the past: Focal and JL Audio. Both brands have are known for building high-quality products at a reasonable price.

First to be replaced would be the front door speakers and to swap out what’s in the front dash with something better. If you’ve cranked up the volume in either a BRZ or an FR-S, you probably noticed significant distortion. I settled on a set of Focal Access 165 A1 components for the front, 6.5-inch two-ways that come with a new tweeter. Price tag? $145 plus tax and shipping.

Expensive rear speakers aren’t necessary given how small the cabin small is, but replacements were still in order. Sticking with the Focal brand, a set of its Polyglass 100 CVX speakers only cost about $100.

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Next on the list: an affordable subwoofer. JL Audio subwoofers pleased me in the past and I found a JL Audio 10W3v3-2, which is a single 10-inch two-ohm subwoofer  for  $178. While some car audio enthusiasts would prefer to build their own box, I found affordable enclosures available online for around $40.

With almost half our budget gone with new front and rear speakers and a subwoofer, I decided to spend the rest on a high-quality, five-channel amplifier to power all of it. After some research, I opted for the JL Audio XD700/5, which provides plenty of power for our new speakers. Its small size was a welcome bonus, too. The amplifier cost $350, shipped.

Matching New Speakers to an Old Head Unit

Because I chose to maintain the factory head unit, I needed a speaker level converter. It only cost $20 and allows the new speakers to connect. The SLC4 from Scosche I chose handles up to four speaker-level inputs and four RCA inputs while reducing the incoming speaker-level signals so the outgoing signals are compatible with the amplifier. I headed to a local stereo shop to pick up speaker wire, power wire, a fuse holder, a fuse, and some RCAs to begin our installation.

Installing Wires Can be a Tricky Business

This is the point where rookies might be better off paying a professional for installation. I used a wiring diagram for the head unit and began dismantling the door panels and removing the speakers from the dash. For the front, I replaced the door speakers with the new Focal unit while installing the tweeter in the dash. I disconnected the factory dash speakers before moving onto the rear of the car. In the back, four-inch speakers aren’t a direct bolt-on fit, so a little modification was in order for the four-inch speakers to fit.

With all the wires ran to the trunk, I hooked everything up to the Scosche SLC4 speaker level converter and to our JL Audio five-channel amplifier. Thanks to our pre-built enclosure, the subwoofer was a quick drop-in-the-box install. A quick tune on the new JL Audio amplifier and I was impressed by the sound quality the BRZ now had and I didn’t even spend our entire $1,000 budget.

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So those looking for an affordable way to enhance the stereo in your FR-S or BRZ, consider a setup that maintains the factory head unit while swapping it out for some high-quality budget speakers, a nice amplifier, and a reputable subwoofer.

Project BRZ is Complete… For Now

Overall, I couldn’t be any happier with the way our Project Subaru BRZ looks, sounds, and performs inside and out. As I mentioned from the outset, over-the-top modifications were out of the question; I wanted to keep what little daily driving comfort the car offers.

With a little bit of patience and wrench-turning, even a novice should be able to take on everything in this series. The possibilities moving forward are endless.

Surely as time goes on, the aftermarket will develop even more parts for the BRZ that could offer more bolt-on performance. But as it stands, I’m more than satisfied with how our BRZ performs and look forward to enjoying it on the road.

GALLERY: Project Subaru BRZ Part 4

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