2015-2021 Subaru WRX
Upgrading the stereo system in your WRX
In brief: This Crutchfield Research Garage article gives you an overview of your WRX'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 WRX
Then, use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your Subaru.
Overview of the Subaru WRX
Whether you're already driving a Subaru WRX or just really, really wanting to, you probably don't need us to tell you how awesome it is. Enough words have been written about this little pavement-ripper to line a rally stage, so there's not a lot we can add to the canon.
That said, we'd be remiss if we didn't spend a bit of time discussing the WRX's remarkable combination of turbocharged grunt, all-wheel drive traction, and remarkably agile handling. It's fast, it's slick, and it's both of those things in crummy weather, too, so what's not to like?
Well, the stock stereo systems, maybe. They're not as awesome as the rest of the car, and the rest of the car happens to be pretty loud, so an aftermarket upgrade is essential if you want to hear the soundtrack to your daily drive.
Replacing the 2015 radio is reasonably easy. The 2016-up models are a bit more challenging (Crutchfield Research Photo)
The factory stereo system
The WRX was available with a nice assortment of stock stereo systems. The base six-speaker system is pretty basic, but it can be upgraded with a navigation receiver. The premium system is a Harman Kardon design that adds an 8" rear deck subwoofer. The HK's actually pretty decent for a factory system, but the base set-ups are rather less impressive.
Plenty of good speakers are available for the WRX, and the dash will hold a wide variety of single-DIN (2" tall) or double-DIN (4" tall) aftermarket receivers.
When you replace the factory nav radio, you'll lose some factory functions, including satellite radio capability. Anything that goes missing can be found on many aftermarket radios, so it's not a big deal, really.
Note: If your 2016-up WRX is equipped with the Starlink system, you’ll need to relocate the Starlink module in the dash and make sure the module remains connected in order for the front speakers to continue working.
Starting in 2016, there's a lot more disassembly involved in removing the stock radio (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the factory radio
The degree of difficulty involved in radio replacement depends on your WRX's model year. The 2015 model is pretty easy to deal with, but the 2016-up models are a bit more challenging. There's nothing a reasonably skilled DIY-er can't handle, but it's worth noting the differences.
Before you start replacing the audio gear in any car or truck, make sure you set the parking brake and disconnect the negative battery cable to prevent any electrical short. Once that's done, you're ready to work.
A variety of single-DIN or double-DIN receivers will fit in this spacious dash opening (Crutchfield Research Photo)
On your 2015 WRX, you'll start by using a panel tool to pry out the receiver trim panel and release the retaining clips. Disconnect the wiring harnesses and remove the trim panel, then remove the six Phillips screws securing the factory radio. Pull it out, disconnect everything, and set it aside. Installing the new receiver basically entails doing all of that stuff in reverse.
Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver
A double-DIN receiver (and its dash kit) looks pretty sharp in the WRX. You'll save money on the dash kit when you buy your receiver at Crutchfield (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Thanks to a mild redesign, there's a bit more going on with recent WRX models. Quite a bit, really.
You'll start this process by prying out the center vent assembly to release nine retaining clips. Disconnect the wiring harnesses and remove the assembly , then remove the two 10mm screws you've exposed.
Next, pry off the driver’s side dash end cap to release four retaining clips, remove the panel, and remove the Phillips screw exposed when you get the panel out of the way. Then, you'll pry off the driver’s side left knee panel to release eight retaining clips. Disconnect the wiring harnesses and remove the panel. Remove the Phillips screw at the bottom of driver’s side right knee panel, then pry out six retaining clips and remove the panel.
Remove one 10mm screw securing the lower receiver bracket on the driver’s side, then move across the car to the glove box.
Open the glove box door, then pinch the door retainer to release it. Squeeze inward on both of the glove box stops, lower the door, then pull it towards the rear of vehicle to remove it. From here, you can remove the one 10mm screw securing the lower receiver bracket on the passenger’s side.
Detailed stereo and speaker removal instructions
Lastly, pry out the receiver/climate control assembly to release those retaining clips. Disconnect the wiring harnesses and remove the entire assembly.
The non-nav radio is generally uncomplicated, but wiring is a bit of a challenge on navigation-equipped cars. With the nav receiver, you'll need to hardwire all the wiring connections, because there's no wiring harness adapter available as of yet. You'll also need to bypass the factory amplifier by running speaker wires from the new stereo to the factory amp's speaker outputs.
If you have questions or run into trouble, you have lots of backup. Your Crutchfield MasterSheet contains all of these details, plus helpful illustrations. And if you get stuck, remember that your Crutchfield purchase includes free tech support for the life of the stereo.
Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, 10mm socket, ratchet and extension
Read our Car Stereo Buying Guide for shopping tips and advice.
Steering wheel audio controls
In most cases, it's reasonably easy to retain your car's steering wheel audio controls when you install a new stereo. When you enter your vehicle information, our database will choose the adapter you need to make your factory steering wheel controls work with a compatible aftermarket receiver.
You can tell by the magnet size that these are not the most impressive stock speakers on the planet (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the factory speakers
The speakers are easy to deal with in these cars, but removing the Harman Kardon subwoofer will take a bit of time and effort. It's a do-able project for the DIY-er, though.
The dash tweeters are pretty easy to reach and replace (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the corner dash speakers
The corner dash tweeters, which are wired in parallel with the front door speakers, are generally pretty easy to reach and replace. You'll start by prying up the speaker grille to release four clips. Remove the grille, then remove the two Phillips screws securing the speaker and get the speaker out of there.
There are speaker wiring adapters available for both the base and Harman Kardon tweeters, and we'll include them at a discount with your speaker purchase.
Tools needed: Panel tool, stubby Phillips screwdriver
There might be some drilling involved in the front door speaker replacement process (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the front door speakers
The front door speakers, regardless of system, can be replaced with a healthy variety of 6-1/2" or 6-3/4" component speaker sets. You can also choose 5-1/4" speakers, but you'll need to drill a new mounting screw hole for the adapter bracket.
Overall, the work's not hard, and it'll make a big difference in your car's sound quality.
Pry open the screw cover behind the door release and remove one Phillips screw, then pry open the screw cover inside the door pull cup and remove one Phillips screw from that location.
With that done, pry out the sides and bottom of the door panel to release those retaining clips. Disconnect the door lock and release cables, then disconnect the wiring harnesses and remove the panel.
From there, all you need to do is remove the three Phillips screws securing the speaker/bracket assembly, then pull it out and set it aside.
Secure the new speakers to the adapter brackets included with your speaker purchase, then start connecting things and secure the new speakers. Test them out, make sure they're working, and, after you've checked the doors and locks to make sure they're working, start putting the doors back together.
If you drill new mounting screw holes, make sure you know what's around and behind the area you're drilling into, work carefully, and wear eye protection.
Tools needed: Panel tool, small flat blade screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, drill with 1/8" bit
Replacing the rear door speakers is an awful lot like replacing the front door speakers (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the rear door speakers
You can install 6-1/2" speakers in the rear doors, and we'll include the required mounting brackets with your Crutchfield order.
The door panel removal process is basically the same here as it is on the front doors, so if you can do that, you can do this. All the details are in your MasterSheet, of course. And don't forget to check the doors and locks before you start buttoning things up again.
Tools needed: Panel tool, small flat blade screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, drill with 1/8" bit
Getting to the rear deck sub will take a bit of time in the WRX (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the Harman Kardon rear deck subwoofer
The HK system includes and 8" dual voice coil subwoofer mounted in the center of the rear deck. It's not as hard to get to as some we've seen, so we'd rate this as a thoroughly do-able DIY project.
You'll start by folding down both rear seat backs. Next, pull the rear door gasket off, along the rear pillar trim panel. Starting at the top edge, pry off that pillar trim panel to release four retaining clips and remove the panel. You'll then need to remove the gasket and trim panel from the other side of the car.
With that done, start at the front edge and pry up the rear deck panel to release seven retaining clips. Disconnect the center brake light wiring harness from inside the trunk, then pull the rear deck panel toward the front of the vehicle and remove it. The center seat belt will remain in the panel during all this activity, by the way.
Remove the five 10mm screws securing the speaker/bracket assembly, then disconnect the wiring harness and remove the entire subwoofer assembly.
Installing a new subwoofer could be dead-simple, or it could involve some more drilling. It all depends on the sub's mounting hole pattern. In some cases, it'll line up with the factory screw holes and you'll be good to go. In others, you'll need to mark and drill some new mounting holes with a 1/8" bit. In any case, you'll need Posi-Products speaker connectors to connect to the factory wiring.
Once you've installed and tested the new sub, make sure the seats and seat belts are secured properly and test the rear third brake light to be sure that's working. If all's well, finish putting it all together again.
Tools needed: Panel tool, 10mm socket, ratchet and extension, maybe a drill and a 1/8" bit
Read our Car Speakers Buying Guide for more information.
With the seats up, there's actually a decent amount of room for a sub enclosure back here (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Bass in your WRX
The WRX has a decently spacious trunk, so you can install a pretty healthy subwoofer box back here. The actual measurements are 42" W x 15" H x 38"/32" D with the folding rear seats in the "up" position. If you use your WRX to haul more than (ahem), you might want to go with a smaller sub or even a powered subwoofer.
Learn more about building a bass system in our Car Subwoofer Buying Guide.
WeatherTech floor liners will look as good in your WRX as they do in this Lexus
Other options for your WRX
Here are some other ideas for your Subaru WRX. If you want to see more, check out our Automotive Accessories section.
The WRX is a lot of things, many of them wonderful. Whisper-quiet, it ain't, though, so you might want to add some sound deadening material. While Lexus-like silence is probably unattainable, there are some things you can do to hear more music and less exterior noise. Lining the doors with Dynamat when you install your new speakers can really help seal in the sounds you want to hear.
Add an amp (or two)
A new amplifier will help you get the most out of your new speakers. You'll get cleaner power (and a lot more of it), which will result in much, much better sound. A mono amp can provide the juice you need for your new subwoofer, too. You can learn more about adding amps to your system in our Car Amplifier Buying Guide.
Floor mats and cargo liners
Quality mats and liners from WeatherTech will help protect your WRX from dirt, damage, dog hair, and discarded coffee cups, not to mention whatever pops out of the cupholder when you're giving the car a workout on a back road.
Installing a security system in your WRX isn't easy (security systems rarely are), but it's less complicated than it could be and it's definitely a good idea. Our Crutchfield Advisors can help figure out what you need to get the job done, but we usually recommend taking your car and new gear to a professional installer.