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2004-08 Acura TL
2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008
2004 Acura TL (Crutchfield Research Photo)
As Acura nears its 30th anniversary, it's hard to believe that anyone ever doubted Honda's ability to invent a brand and compete head-to-head with European sport sedans. "Not a chance," harrumphed the same sort of "industry experts" who thought the Cadillac Cimarron was a great idea. "Who's gonna pay that kind of money for a Japanese car?"
Quite a few people, as it turned out. Acura quickly went from a risky proposition to a serious player, and it's held station ever since. The brand's success changed the automotive landscape, as Nissan and Toyota quickly followed suit with upscale marques of their own: Infiniti and Lexus.
In the face of increased competition, Acura just kept cranking out great automobiles. The 2004-08 TL, for example, is a comfortable, stylish, sporty sedan that's sure to make both drivers and passengers happy. While upgrading the TL's sound system has its challenges, the effort is worth it. This car's looks, performance, and typical Honda quality make it a great choice for anyone looking for a sedan with a little something extra.
The TL's factory audio system was pretty impressive, with 225 watts of power pumping through eight speakers, plus built-in Bluetooth and XM satellite radio capability. This was actually the first 5.1 surround sound system available in a regular production vehicle, and, though you needed to load the in-dash, 6-disc AM/FM/CD changer with discs specially formatted for 5.1-channel audio (DVD-Audio or DTS Surround – remember those?) to get the full effect, the sound was considered to be quite good with even a regular CD.
The only step-up for the TL was a DVD-based navigation system with an 8" touchscreen, voice-recognition, and a rear-view camera. The nav system also included Acura's 3D solar sensing technology, which would figure out where the sun was in relation to the passenger(s) and adjust the climate controls accordingly.
Pardon us for a moment while we abandon our usual editorial detachment and note, for the record, that a solar-sensing climate control system is just plain neat! Ahem.
Replacing your factory radio
The Acura TL's factory radio (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Here's bottom line when it comes to replacing the stereo in your TL:
- It'll require a lot of work just to get to the stereo so that you can remove it.
- You'll have to run all new speaker wire to your front and rear speakers.
- You'll lose the center channel speaker and the factory subwoofer.
- And as if all of that isn't bad enough, you'll have to fabricate your own mounting kit to secure and trim out the new stereo. This is such a difficult stereo to replace that there just aren't any kits on the market.
We usually don't spend a lot of time and space describing factory systems, but this third-gen TL is an interesting case. Acura was quite proud of the work that went into the TL's stereo, which might explain why it's so incredibly difficult to remove and replace the receiver. It can be done, but the process seems designed to make you think long and hard about why you'd ever want to tamper with the wonderful stock system that Acura and Panasonic worked so hard to give you.
The TL's interior is a beautiful, smoothly integrated design that's lovely to look at and maddening to take apart. Removing the receiver is a complex, time-consuming 19-step process (trust us, we counted 'em all…) that involves dismantling the TL's lower dashboard and center console.
Once you've gotten the radio out of there, you can choose from a wide variety of single-DIN receivers, many of which are packed with great features like smartphone compatibility, built-in Bluetooth® connectivity, and customizable sound-shaping tools.
Alas, none of those receivers will fit straight into the dash, so you'll need to fabricate your own mounting bracket—which is not easy. And, if you replace the factory receiver, you'll lose your factory XM satellite radio. If you're replacing the nav unit, you'll also lose all those functions. And you'll also need to bypass your factory amps by running speaker wires from your new receiver to each speaker.
Before you remove the TL's radio, you'll have to remove a lot of other things (Crutchfield Research Photo)
In all honesty, replacing the TL's factory receiver might involve more work than the average DIY enthusiast is equipped to handle. If you're an experienced installer or "good with tools," you might be okay. If that doesn't sound at all like you, it's probably best to have the work done by a professional.
Of course, the other, easier, better option is to leave your TL's receiver where it is and upgrade everything else. The base radio actually has a lot going for it and the nav unit, while likely bested by your smartphone when it comes to finding the nearest coffee shop, is still a useful thing to have. Your speakers, on the other hand, are getting rather old in "speaker years," so replacing them is a smart way to improve your sound. We'll focus on your speaker options in the remainder of this article.
Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, small flat-blade screwdriver
Steering wheel audio controls: If you go to the trouble of replacing the radio in your TL, you'll undoubtedly want your steering wheel audio controls to work with the new receiver. You'll need to install an adapter for that, and we offer three choices. Our recommendation for this car is the iDatalink Maestro ADS-MSW interface, primarily because it offers double-button functionality. Obviously, the best time to do this is when you're installing the new stereo, so purchase the adapter at the same time.
The Acura TL's front door (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Replacing your factory speakers
Front door speakers
The TL's front doors contain a set of 6-1/2" 2-ohm speakers. Due to a rather shallow speaker cavity, aftermarket 6-1/2" replacements won't fit. Most 5-1/4" replacements won't fit, either, but Polk Audio offers a component set that will work just fine in the TL.
The problem is two-fold. There isn't much space behind the speaker or in front of it. You can solve the "behind" problem by cutting out the rear of the factory mounting bracket to create room for your new speaker. But, alas, there's no way to make more room in front of the speaker.
To access the speakers, you'll need to remove the door panel. Start by prying out the screw cover behind the door release handle. Remove two exposed Phillips screws, then remove one Phillips screw located under the door pull handle. You'll then remove another Phillips screw in the rubber door stop, before removing the stop itself.
The TL's stock speaker bracket (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Next, you'll pry around the sides and bottom of the door panel to release a series of retaining clips. It's best to work slowly and carefully here, since you're dealing with plastic bits that can break off when treated roughly. Once you've gently loosened the clips, lift the panel, disconnect the wiring harnesses and door release cable, and remove the whole thing. Remove the three Phillips screws securing the factory speaker, pull out the speaker, and disconnect it.
With the old speaker out of the way, secure the new speaker to the speaker adapter bracket that's included free with your Crutchfield speaker purchase. As we mentioned above, you will probably need to remove the factory speaker bracket and cut out the rear portion to create the depth you need for the new speaker.
Connect the new speaker's wiring adapter to the vehicle's speaker harness, then secure the speaker with the screws you removed earlier. Give it a quick listen, and if everything works, you're ready to put the doors back together.
Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, small flat-blade screwdriver
The TL's upper dash features a center speaker and two tweeters in the corners, near the base of the A-pillars. They're all relatively easy to reach and replace, and it's definitely worth your time. Improving your soundstaging will make it seem as though your favorite band is playing a concert on your dashboard.
Removing the center speaker is surprisingly easy (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Center dash speaker: The center speaker is a 3-1/2", 4-ohm model located at the top of the center stack. To access this speaker, pry up the speaker/grille assembly; then disconnect and remove it. Remove the two Phillips screws securing the speaker to the bottom of the grille and set the old speaker aside. Replacement 3-1/2" speakers are available, and they can be attached to the grille using the screws you just removed. Connect the speaker wiring adapter of the new speaker to the vehicle's speaker harness, reinstall the speaker/grille assembly and test to make sure it's operating properly.
Dash tweeters: While there aren't any individual replacements for the (roughly) 1-1/2" dash tweeters, this is a great place to install the tweeters that are part of any component speaker system. You'll need an adapter to hold the tweeter in place, but our universal backstrap will help here. To access the tweeter, pry up the assembly, then pry out the clips on the rear of the speaker to release and remove it. Use your universal backstrap to fix the speaker in place, then connect the speaker wiring adapter of the replacement speaker to the TL's speaker harness. Reinstall the speaker/grille assembly, and you're done.
Tools needed: Panel tool, small flat-blade screwdriver
Rear deck speakers
The TL makes efficient use of its rear deck, housing two 20-watt 6-1/2" speakers and a 40-watt 8" woofer. These 2-ohm models are quite easy to replace once you get to them, but getting to them, as with so many sedans, is a bit of a process. You'll need to remove both the bottom and back seat cushions, the rear deck cover, and the C-pillar trim. None of this is hard, as you'll see in the detailed Crutchfield MasterSheet included with your order, but it does take time, tools, and (perhaps most of all) patience.
The TL's rear deck houses two speakers and a subwoofer (Crutchfield Research Photo)
If you do it yourself, we recommend blocking off at least an afternoon, depending on your level of experience. In other words, don't rush. We also suggest that you have a couple of old (but clean) blankets handy to protect your Acura's nice leather seats from dust and damage.
A wide variety of 6-1/2" or 5-1/4" speakers are available for the TL, and we include adapter brackets that will help them fit right into the factory openings.
Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, socket wrench and extension, 8mm and 10mm sockets
The TL's 40-watt subwoofer (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Bass in your Acura TL
As we mentioned above, the factory subwoofer is an 8", 2-ohm woofer. If you replace it with another sub, you'll want to add a new amplifier too, because the factory amp just isn't going to have the power for an aftermarket sub.
If one 8" subwoofer isn't enough bass for you, there's always the trunk. The available space for a sub box is 35" W x 16" H x 37"/33" D. If you only need a bit more bass and still want to occasionally haul luggage and groceries back there, you can choose from a number of powered subwoofers, or pair a compact class D amplifier with a woofer box. Either way, you can take your sound to new places without taking up the entire trunk.
Security: If you're thinking about adding an alarm or remote start to your Acura TL, the FlashLogic FLCAN module is the place to start. It connects to your vehicle's databus interface, enabling communication with a wide variety of security systems. A Crutchfield Advisor can assist you in ordering all the equipment you need, but if you don't have car audio installation experience, you should consider having this work done by a professional.
Dynamat: One good way to get the most out of your Acura's sound system is to keep more of the sound in your Acura. The Dynamat Xtreme Door Kit is the perfect way to seal out road noise and seal in the sound. This heavy-duty insulating material is easy to install, and it really makes a difference. This is a great thing to do while you’re installing new speakers. Why take the doors apart twice if you don’t have to? One kit will take care of the front doors on your TL. If you're adding a powerful subwoofer out back, purchase some extra Dynamat and line the trunk lid.
Good, better, best
Good: The TL's factory receiver is really hard to replace, so we suggest that you focus on what you can do. The first, best thing to do is install a set of component speakers in your TL. While you're at it, replace the center dash speaker, which will make your soundstaging even better than it already was.
Better: Replace the rear deck speakers and subwoofer. If you're going to do all that work to get back there, you might as well replace everything. When you hear the improved depth and richness of your music, the work will be worth it.
Best: If you really want more bass, add a subwoofer. A powered sub will fit right in, or you can put together your own box of bass and add an amplifier to give it the juice it needs.
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