1984-1989 Chevrolet Corvette
How to upgrade the stereo system in your Corvette
In brief: This Crutchfield Research Garage article gives you an overview of your Corvette's stock stereo system and your aftermarket upgrade options. We'll tell you all about:
- The factory stereo system
- Removing the factory radio
- Removing the factory speakers
- Adding more bass
- Other options for your Corvette
Then, use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your 'Vette.
Overview of the Chevrolet Corvette
By the time you read this, people are possibly just starting to calm down a bit after the introduction of the latest Corvette, the C8. Makes sense, because the mid-engine Corvette of tomorrow is finally here, and it’s kind of a big deal.
Back in 1984, this C4 Corvette was a pretty big deal, too. As the first all-new Corvette since 1963(!), the C4 had to be a great leap forward, and it was. The Corvette engineering team, no doubt in need of some joy after watching the C3 wheeze to its end, poured a ton of thinking into this new car and it showed.
The styling took the C3’s familiar shape and smoothed it out for the aero-obsessed Eighties, while plenty of attention was paid to the interior, too. Besides more interior space, the most noticeable thing was the digital dashboard, which was pretty cutting-edge back when digital wristwatches really were actually cool, not retro-hipster-nerd cool.
As for the stereo, the C4 Corvette’s top-line Delco-Bose system was also pretty hot stuff in 1984, which, as you might’ve noticed, was a little while ago. Replacing it will make those weekend drives in your C4 ‘Vette a lot more enjoyable.
The C4's digital displays were some pretty space-age stuff back in the Eighties. And look at all those little tiny buttons! (Crutchfield Research Photo)
The factory stereo system
The C4 Corvette's base stereo system is not and never was all that awesome, but at least it’s reasonably easy to remove and replace — mostly. As for the Delco/Bose system, the key thing to know is that this system uses amplified speakers that only work with the Bose® radio. If you replace the radio or even one of the factory speakers, you'll have to replace the entire system. You probably want to do that anyway, but if you were having doubts, well, this should take care of that.
You'll need to cut out that center dash brace to install most new receivers (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the factory radio
Before you start working on your Corvette, remember to set the parking brake and disconnect the negative battery cable to prevent any electrical short. And don’t forget to check the tape deck to see if there’s anything in there that you might want to digitize. Hey, it could happen….
Remove one Phillips sheet metal screw from the left side of the radio console, then remove the two Phillips sheet metal screws that secure the right edge of the instrument cluster trim panel. Next, remove two Phillips sheet metal screws from bottom of radio trim panel and two more Phillips sheet metal screws from the right edge of the radio trim panel.
Move the shifter into its rearmost position, then pull the right side of the radio trim panel away from the console and slide the left side out from under the instrument cluster trim panel. Remove the four hex-head sheetmetal screws that secure the radio mounting bracket assembly to the dash, then slide the radio out of the cavity. Disconnect the antenna, speaker, power, and all electrical connections, then remove the radio.
To install the new receiver, you’ll need to remove the factory radio’s rear support bracket to create the space you’ll need. Be sure to wear eye protection when cutting out the support. You’ll also need to use the brackets attached to the side of the factory radio to mount your new receiver, so keep those handy.
The RetroSound Newport M4HD is a great performer with exactly the right look for your Corvette
Receivers have changed a lot since the mid-eighties, but if you want to upgrade your stereo and functionality without changing your ‘Vette’s interior aesthetics, try a RetroSound Newport. These receivers (there are three models to choose from) offer all the high-tech features you need to bring your car's audio system into the 21st century. Another bonus is that you won’t need to remove that stock radio support bracket when you install one of these 1.5-DIN receivers.
You'll need a line output converter, though, and we recommend the Crux CS-LOC1. This interface will lower the speaker-level audio signal from the new radio to a signal that's compatible with the factory amp. Individual adjustable gain controls for each channel allow you to match the output levels.
Tools needed: Phillips head screwdriver, panel tool, hex-head screwdriver, something to remove the rear support bracket (rotary tool with cutting discs, side-cutting pliers, or hacksaw)
Read our Car Stereo Buying Guide for shopping tips and advice.
Replacing all of your Corvette's speakers is a good idea anyway, but if you're upgrading the Bose system, it's mandatory (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the factory speakers
As noted above, the speaker replacement process in your Corvette will depend on the speaker system you're removing. There are a few parts of the job that can be challenging for the average DIY-er, so if you're not comfortable with anything you see below, you might want to have the work done by a car audio professional.
Replacing the dash speakers is not a job for the average DIY-er (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the dash speakers
The Corvette’s dash speakers, if present, are a tricky situation. As far as we can surmise, the factory installed these things before installing the windshield. Great for manufacturing efficiency, no doubt, but not so great for DIY car audio upgrades. Because of the angle, there’s really no room to work with these speakers, which are attached to the dash pad.
These speakers can be replaced, of course, but only if you’re willing to do an insane amount of work. If you’re taking the car apart anyway, well, okay. We think 4"x6" speakers can work, if you can find some. But if you’re an average DIY-er, this is not the project for you, so just bypass these speakers and move on.
Replacing any of the Delco/Bose speakers means replacing all of them (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the door speakers
Depending on which system you’re dealing with, the Corvette’s front doors will house either 6"x9" speakers or the Delco/Bose speaker/amp enclosures. They’re not that hard to get to, but there are some tricky parts to replacing these speakers. Don’t let that dissuade you — they’re old, they really weren’t that great to begin with, and did we mention that they’re old?
You can replace the base speakers with a variety of aftermarket 5-1/4" or 6-1/2" speakers, but you’ll either need to fabricate a mounting bracket or use a set of our universal backstraps to secure them. And before you do that, you'll have to cut the door panel and the steel substructure, then drill new mounting holes. And since there’s no wiring harness available, you’ll need to use Posi-Products speaker connectors to connect the new speakers to the car’s wiring.
Step-by-step speaker removal instructions are included free with your Crutchfield stereo or speaker purchase, and they’ll be a big help. If you run into trouble, remember that Crutchfield customers get free tech support for the life of the gear. Got questions? Our Virginia-based tech experts are here seven days a week and they’ll be happy to help you with your installation issues.
Tools needed: Phillips head screwdriver, panel tool, hex-head screwdriver, cordless drill and bit
The rear speakers are easy to get to, but the replacement process can be challenging (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the rear speakers (Corvette coupe)
The Corvette coupe’s rear speakers are located on the rear quarter-panels and, as with the doors, they’ll be either 6"x9" speakers or Delco/Bose speaker/amp enclosures, depending on the stock system.
If you remember what we said about the door speakers (It’s right up there if you don’t…), you’ll be happy to know that a lot of the same removal and replacement notes for those apply to these, too. There will be drilling, there will be speaker-connecting stuff, and you will need to fabricate a mounting plate to mount your new 5-1/4" or 6-1/2" aftermarket speakers.
The Bose speakers are amplified and only work with the factory Delco/Bose radio, so if you replace these, you have to replace the entire system. Step-by-step speaker removal instructions are included free with your Crutchfield stereo or speaker purchase.
Tools needed: Phillips head screwdriver, panel tool, hex-head screwdriver, cordless drill and bit
Removing the rear speakers (Corvette convertible)
In the Corvette convertible, the rear speakers are in the floor behind the seats. As with the coupe, you’ll find either 6"x9" speakers or the Delco/Bose speaker/amp enclosures, and all the same rules apply.
These speakers are pretty easy to reach and remove. You’ll start by removing four Phillips head sheet metal screws from the speaker grille and removing the grille. Next, remove four Phillips head sheet metal screws from the speaker or enclosure, then disconnect the speaker leads and remove the old unit. Route the speaker leads to the radio or amplifier location.
You’ll need to drill new mounting screw holes here, too. This isn’t hard, but you’re drilling into a car, so work carefully, know what you’re drilling into, and wear eye protection. Once you’ve secure the new speakers, test them out to make sure they’re working.
Tools needed: Phillips head screwdriver, panel tool, cordless drill and bit
Read our Car Speakers Buying Guide for more information.
A powered sub like the Sound Ordnance B-8PTD can boost your bass without taking up too much valuable space
Adding bass to your Corvette
There’s obviously not a ton of room for a big subwoofer box in this car. Or luggage or groceries, even. If you want to improve your bass sound and retain maximum functionality (such as it is!), a powered subwoofer might be a good idea for your Corvette.
Learn more about building a bass system in our Car Subwoofer Buying Guide.
Installing Dynamat will reduce road noise in your Corvette and improve your audio experience
Other options for your Corvette
Here are some other ways to make your Corvette an even cooler ride.
Add a portable navigator
You can still get aftermarket nav functionality even if you can't install a touchscreen nav receiver in your car's dash. A portable GPS will mount on your dash and (depending on the model) give you turn-by-turn directions, traffic updates, and other things you need to make your road trip go smoothly. Plus, when you get where you're going, you can put your GPS in your pocket and use it to find points of interest around town.
Quiet road noise with Dynamat
The Dynamat 10435 Xtreme Door Kit is the perfect way to seal in sound. This heavy-duty insulating material is easy to install, and it really makes a difference. If you're a dedicated audiophile, you might want to install Dynamat under your Corvette's seats and carpeting, too. Some owners who've done this report noticeable reductions in road noise and heat.
Add a security system
DIY car security installation isn't easy in this car. We can help you choose the right gear, but we recommend leaving the actual work to a qualified professional installer.