Audio System: Version 1.5

Much of this is available at the link here, if you want to comment or ask questions: NASIOC


After nearly 3 years with my Clarion HU (which has served me quite well, I might add) I decided to upgrade to something with HD Radio for my 100-mile commute. I considered models form several companies, but knowing how much I have liked Pioneer in the past, I went with the new AVH-X3500BHS.

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I considered the 5500BHS for the 4V pre-outs but did not need the larger screen or motorized face, and since I don’t know if item #2 (below) is going to allow my 100% steering wheel functionality I did not want to spend any more money on a HU that might not be staying in place.

Drumroll, please…

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HUGE thanks to warpdwhim on here, who sourced the Pioneer of Canada harness with the PAC unit that (supposedly) has the custom programming to integrate into the Subaru steering wheel controls.

The HU arrived a few weeks ago and I was waiting on the harness to do the install. It finally cleared customs last week and arrived at the end of the week, but I did not get a chance to install it over the weekend.

I will have to run the front speakers off of the HU for the trial period, as my current front stage pathway runs the speaker wire form the amp and is connected to the Metra “20-pin” wiring harness that I got from svxDC. Before I go hacking into the Pioneer harness to make that amp to speaker connection, I want to be 100% sure that I like the HU and its function- $130 (shipped) for the harness is a lot to waste if I don’t like the HU.

Thanks to JSchell1309 for his guidance ( NASIOC ), as well as evilspoons for the dissection of the SportTech option that features the PAC PSUBFSTI unit.

In other news, I sent money for a new (to me) sub enclosure and 12″ subwoofer. I liked the in-spare sub enclosure that I got from JSEnclosures, but I wanted to make a change, so I snagged a customs 12″ enclosure (similar to the AI option) that holds a Memphis 12″ sub. It should arrive this week.

Lastly, I have started discussions with Don from about a whole new deadening project for the WRX doors. It won’t be anything mind-blowing, but I will document it here on the site alongside the existing deadening info.


So I finally got the basic install done on the HU. Long story short…not terribly impressed. Not terribly happy. Not sure whether I will keep it.

I installed the AVH-X3500BHS last night using the Pioneer harness and while it functions pretty well with the SWCs, it is not perfect. I knew that it would not be, but it is really somewhat irksome.

My 2 main operability issues:

1. You cannot “power off” with a long-hold on the “Mode” button, as could be done with the Clarion aftermarket HU. It will turn on the unit and will switch modes, but it won’t turn it off. I got really used to this when I got an incoming phone call (I use an in-ear BT because I have 2 phones and 4 cars and all of the synching would be a pain) so today when I went to answer a call and had to do a 2-step process on the screen to turn it off it was a bit cumbersome.

2. As suspected, the radio preset skip function on the HU was not compatible. It tunes with the ^V buttons, though if you hold them down, it will skip presets. You have to be super fast in the release or it jumps 2-3 presets. I can probably live with that, but it is a PITA.

Aside from that, the sound quality is pretty good so far. I have not re-connected the amp, thus I have no subwoofer and the front stage is driven off of just the HU power and it still sounds pretty good. Not great ,but pretty good.

The real deal-killer issue, however, is the tuner sensitivity. Stations that used to come in with the Clarion (and the OEM HU) are very static-y with the Pioneer and the HD Radio function is nearly useless due to the poor signal strength. 5 of my 6 presets are HD Radio-capable but they won’t lock due to the poor reception. It may be a case of the antenna amplifier wire not being connected, but as this is a Subaru-specific harness made to work with a Pioneer head unit, I don’t have high hopes.


More new toys…

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Focal coaxials to go in the rear doors. Just because I wanted a change. Someone who wanted spacers for their own Focals offered to buy me those Focals if I would make him a set of adapters and do a full pre-drill of every mounting hole for his install. Seemed like a good deal for both of us (he did not have access to a drill) so upgrade, here I come!

More progress on the Focal install…

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Making the adapters for the rear doors, as detailed below:


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Drilled mounting holes:

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Cutout made:

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And now cut into the 2 adapters:

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Test-fit (like a glove):

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Took a while, but I finally had an update…

Installed the Focals in the adapters:

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Align with top screw hole:

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Now add the bottom 2 and tighten down:

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For those who don’t want to break the rear sail panel covers, I recommend using a screwdriver to hold the door panel away from the inner door skin then use a stubby #2 Philips screwdriver to attach the speakers. Not easy if you are not used to working in tight spaces or without good visibility but most “car” or “audio” guys/girls can work without good access or visibility so it should not be too tough.

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Next up I finally re-installed the JDM panel, routed my USB cable down to the cubby and buttoned things up. I somehow un-set the ASWC but it took all of 5 minutes to remedy that.

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More later on my impressions.

A bit of an aside here…

So I went through a couple subwoofer options – JL 12W1 in a fiberglass enclosure in the driver’s side panel (never installed), NVX underseat subwoofer (info below), and finally a Polk DXi104 in a “universal” enclosure (info below). Skip to the Polk for the current setup, or check out my impressions on the NVX, as they will apply to most underseat subwoofers.


It has been a while, but a little update.

I sold the hatch enclosure that I had been using for a while. My daughter got into snowboarding and we were piling up the hatch with gear so we kept caving in the grille that covered the 10″ in-spare sub. I bought a custom 12″ enclosure that nested on the left side but after fit-testing I decided it was too big and that I needed the space for other stuff. I still wanted some bass so I went with an NVX QBUS8. Supposedly this is (was) a re-badged Focal BUS 20 and in looking at photos, that appears to be the case ( SonicElectronix ). The QBUS8 is now discontinued, however, so who knows whether there will be a version 2 like there is with the BUS 20.

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Anyway, for now the front and rear speakers are running off of the HU until I decide what I want to do for a main amp. I still have my Boston amp but I might go with an Alpine PowerPack and call it a day. With the increase in bass (as compared to no sub) the QBUS8 has enough to allow me to have some bass with the windows down. I still need to fiddle with the gains and boost to get it right but the improvement is worth the time and cost for the install.


While I liked the NVX at first, over time I found some flaws and shortcomings and it was un-installed today. I have car ADD and decided to install a Polk 10″ subwoofer that I bought about 2 years ago and never used, so I bought an amp (RF PBR300x1, PBR300X1 ) and small box to put in the hatch. If I like the sub may swing for a better enclosure down the road but I just wanted to change things up. I also bought an Alpine universal PowerPack (KTP-445U ) that I need to install.

The NVX sub was small, convenient, and inexpensive but even moderate volume led to “chuffing” and the sub tended to bottom out on “kick” bass, with long, deep transient bass resulting in it sounding huffy and unpleasant. I was really hoping that it would work out but in the end the Polk setup ended up being much better.


I realized when someone (local) came to get some brackets from me and was looking at my setup that I had never updated the website. Even this update is not totally up-to-date but it is getting closer.

So first off, the AVH-X3500BHS has a known issue with the 12V constant failing. Pioneer has a fix for it but even the fix is not always successful and it entails having the unit out for service for 2-6 weeks, plus you have to pay shipping to a service center if one is not local. I decided to just do a return through Amazon and pay a restocking fee and then went through sonicelectronix for the AVH-X3600BHS as a replacement. Functionally it is nearly identical but the power supply issue has been rectified.

Somewhere in this pile is the AVH-X3600BHS:

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While I was at it I also talked to the sonicelectronics rep about my lack of satisfaction with the NVX subwoofer. He was sympathetic and I exchanged it toward an amp to use in a “real” subwoofer setup that used a Polk DXi 10″ DVC sub that I bought for $30 when Best Buy had them on some crazy sale. Not the greatest sub ever but I have been quite happy with it.

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I decided that for the sake of size and convenience that I would try the “new” Rockford Fosgate PBR300X1 “micro” amp. Driving my DVC sub run in parallel this is more than adequate to add some good bass in my hatchback.

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You can also see in the picture that I picked up an Alpine PowerPack KTP-445U for the front stage. I considered another PBR amp (the PBR300X4) but the 445U can be mounted in the dash behind the HU and make use of the OEM wiring much more easily than the PBR300X4. Unbelievably, I have still not installed the Alpine for the door speakers but the PBR300X1 is working well for the subwoofer.

I REALLY thought that the photos that I took during the PBR300X1 install were better than this but unfortunately I had something on my camera lens for many of the pictures and these are the only ones that turned out:

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So the sub was originally installed in a small enclosure (the grey one in the picture above) but it really ate up the hatch area. I should have bought a “truck” style enclosure over a “hatch” style but I was placing the order over the phone and not through the website so I just took what they offered. I ended up with the Belva MDFS10, which is actually one of the best made prefab enclosures that I have seen. I wish that it had taken up less space (I should have ordered the 10ANTCM truck enclosure), but at least I was able to determine that I like the sound form the sub.

I then started shopping for a vehicle-specific enclosure like the AI, SubThump, or WickedCAS enclosure but even the cheapest of those was still pretty expensive for a hollow box full of air. In case other people want to go that route, here are the current links:




So I decided that at least for now I was going to just run a different prefab truck box. It takes up very little space in the hatch, nests tightly against the rear seat, and is easily removable. I did have to secure it with a bungee (for now) to keep it from flopping over.

Syncho Sound Woofer Box

So my only issues (lessons learned) are that it was not lined with polyfill (an irritation since I went to install it and had to get polyfill) and the terminal cups are on the back (not the end, where it would have been better/safer, particularly since I USE my hatch to haul stuff. The 10ANTCM from sonicelectroinix has them on the end and comes with polyfill. Like I said- I should have ordered that one from the beginning.

So anyway, that is my update so far. I have a ton of deadener from Don over at but have been too lazy to install it. I was tied up most of the summer with my project car ( ) and really did not do much on the WRX other than change the HU and do the subwoofer install.

I’ll try to do a better job of updating future changes.