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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have a 2021 Ascent Premium which means I have the non-HK audio system. While the sound is OK and liveable, I'd like to get a little more out of the system. I don't have plans to go crazy with a DSP, high-powered amps, etc. This is more of a quest to get some decent sound with a (mostly) factory looking setup.

So I will document my setup here to help anyone else trying to get some better sound from an Ascent with the "plain" audio system, and to also get feedback from what does/doesn't work well from anyone else who has made similar updates.

Current Setup:
Head Unit: Stock 8.5-inch NAV unit (non-Harmon Kardon system)
Amp: RF amp/harness (Subaru RF upgrade kit)
Tweeters: Alpine R series 1" tweeters
Front door speakers: RF 6x9s (Subaru RF upgrade kit)
Rear: Stock speakers

Previous Setups:
Head Unit: Stock 8.5-inch NAV unit (non-Harmon Kardon system)
Amp: RF amp/harness (Subaru RF upgrade kit)
Tweeters: Audiofrog 1" tweeters (from G60S component set)
Front door speakers: RF 6x9s (Subaru RF upgrade kit)
Rear: Stock speakers

Head Unit: Stock 8.5-inch NAV unit (non-Harmon Kardon system)
Amp: RF amp/harness from the Subaru RF upgrade kit
Front speakers: Audiofrog G60S components
Rear: Stock speakers

Future Plans:
Front: try Alpine Type R tweeters
Sub: find something workable that's semi-hidden
 

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21 Ascent Premium, 18 Outback Ltd 2.5
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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
So, the first step was the Rockford Fosgate audio upgrade. I decided on this due to the ease of installation of the amp, courtesy of the included harness. While it's not huge on power it does include some additional processing and is surely providing a bit more power than the stock head unit. However, the speaker offering didn't wow me. It includes 6x9 mid-range woofers for the front and that's it. It relies on the stock tweeters and keeps the stock rear door speakers. So, I decided if I was going to have everything pulled apart I might as well install a quality speaker set too.

After a lot of research, and wanting to stick to Crutchfield due to the quality of their service, I picked Audiofrog G60S components. The main considerations were ease of crossover install, RMS power, price, and reviews. The other front runner was Alpine 6.5 Type R components but they have a bit higher power rating, so I figured the Audiofrogs would be a better match.

Install:
Between the RF kit instructions and the Crutchfield info sheet, the install was pretty smooth. The biggest chunk of time was spent trying to get the tweeter wiring nailed down. They include an inline crossover, but only about 10-12" of wire between the crossover and proprietary plug into the tweeter, so it was not enough slack to drop the crossovers down low and somewhere accessible to secure them. I spent a ton of time trying to get it to work (I didn't want to solder in extensions) and in the end I settled on loosely zip tying them to the metra tweeter bracket. It made it a bit of a pain to stuff everything into the dash but it all worked out. Unfortunately I don't have a pic of this.

Stock tweeter vs Audiofrog mounted in metra harness. Note the additional sensor plug (looks like an ambient light sensor, mounted in the pass. side tweeter grille).
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Tweeter mounting hardware. I screwed the metra bracket into the wood and used a hole saw to cut the mounting hole.

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The door skins come off easily (2 screws, pop 9 clips, then slide it up). The metra brackets for the 6.5s were spot on, and they had plenty of room for me to ziptie the crossovers to, so that install was pretty seamless. The bulk of the time was spent soldering the harness to the crossover.

Woofer and crossover mounted in the metra speaker bracket
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The RF amp install was relatively easy, but involved. It requires pulling the head unit. I did not pull it completely, but there was also not a lot of slack in the wires which made plugging in the amp harness a challenge. You also have to remove the trim piece above the glove box (pulls off), remove the glove box (easy, no screws), and remove the glove box frame (6? screws I think). You also have to pull the passenger door jam trim (easy), all of this is to run the amp harness.

The install guide tells you to ziptie the harness at particular locations, but the illustration is very poor and its tough to figure out where it is supposed to run and be secured. By far the biggest PITA was fishing the harness from the door jamb, under the carpet and to the cutout under the passenger seat. It's a tight spot to work in and you need to fish 2 huge plugs under the seat rail. It was doable, but not easy. From there it was just plugging in the harness, bolting down the amp under the passenger seat, and replacing all of the trim. By this point I was running low on time and I didn't take any pics unfortunately.

Impressions:
The tweeters provide a noticeable improvement. Highs are much more crisp and defined, and they have not seemed harsh at all. However, the bass response has been less than impressive. I can't tell if it's due to the signaling from the amp, or limitations of the 6.5 woofers, but there's a lot more "miss" than "hit". With the $400 price tag I'm left wanting more, so I plan to experiment.

Next idea is to swap in the RF 6x9 woofers and see what they do. If they are on par or better than the Audiofrogs I will send the Audiofrogs back and grab a different set of tweeters up front. The difference will go to the toy fund and eventually go towards a subwoofer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
A good chunk of my listening is streaming mp3s from my phone. I listened to an album that I had not in quite a while (Incubus Make Yourself) and realized that the bass response was much better than some of the newer music I've been listening to lately. I initially chalked it up to the mix of the album (undoubtedly a factor) but then I got to thinking. I ripped this album years ago, when I used to rip everything at a high bitrate (ipod days with decent storage). In later years (last 10+) I've gone vbr rips (192ish) to fit more music on my phones. I started to wonder how much influence this might be having on my desire to experiment with different speakers.

So this morning I grabbed a CD and I was blown away by how great it sounded! I immediately played the same song from my phone and could hear the difference. I decided to do a but of a blind test and play a bunch of different albums to see which sound better. After I get some observations down I will check the bitrate of the MP3s and see if there's anything to this.

I know that there are sacrifices with mp3s but I was never able to tell in the past. Probably due to the crappy systems I've been listening to since I sold my Accord in 2009
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Today I finally got the opportunity today to swap out the front door speakers. I removed the Audiofrog 6.5s and installed the Rockford Fosgate kit 6x9s. Total time was about 30 minutes including getting tools and putting them away. It's almost too easy to get to the speakers, I suspect I may be tempted to swap again, but I suppose that's foreshadowing!

In a perfect world I would have taken some frequency readings before and after with a handful of songs. In a semi-perfect world I would have at least done a before/after listen with said songs. I started that but got disrupted, then just decided to finish the swap and move on.

First impression: there's a clearly noticeable increase in low end bass and low end punch with the 6x9s, giving an overall "fuller" sound. After a little more listening I noticed that the upper mid range was lacking and seemed to cut off before the 6.5s. (Pearl Jam - Tremor Christ, the high bass notes in the intro fade out quite noticeably). This is interesting since there's no capacitor on the RFs that I can see, and the Audiofrogs have an inline crossover. Maybe this is just a weak spot in the RF speakers? They also have a plastic basket FWIW, I'm wondering if there's a certain frequency range where they just don't resonate well. I've yet to compare the frequency range of these speakers to see of there's anything sensible there, but I will get to that eventually.

On deck I have some Alpine Type R tweeters to go with the RF 6x9s. If they are on par or better than the Audiofrogs, well I don't know....I'll have to hear them then go with my gut. The Audiofrog woofers had a nice accurate midrange and seemed to improve past my initial impressions after a bit of break-in. However, they didn't produce the same fullness as the RF 6x9s. The RFs don't leave me feeling that I need a sub like the Audiofrogs did.

Do I go with the Audofrogs and a sub? Try the Alpine Type R 6x9 components? Decisions decisions...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've yet to compare the frequency range of these speakers to see of there's anything sensible there, but I will get to that eventually.
The Audiofrogs go down to 50hz. While I don't have an exact spec for the RFs, their low-end Prime 6x9s go down to 48hz, so I'm guessing the kit speakers are similar. If my assumption is correct these speakers effectively have the same low end frequency range. I wonder if the bass difference simply comes down to the surface area?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I decided to try out the Alpine R series 6x9 component set

I'm hoping to achieve bass on par with the RF 6x9s (even slightly less would be fine) but with a cleaner sound on the upper end of the mid range. I did a quick test of the Alpine R tweeters and they are on par with (or maybe just a hair better?) than the Audiofrogs. I don't think you could go wrong with either set really, but I decided to send back the Audiofrog components in favor of the Alpine set.

I will likely add some sound deadening in the doors when I do the next swap. Nothing crazy, just a bit in the area accessible behind the speakers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The Alpine 6x9 components arrived a while back. There was no separate crossover for the 6x9 so it was a pretty easy install. I swapped in one, and thankfully took a minute to see how it sounded before I swapped in the other. Compared to the RF 6x9s the bass was quite weak, so I just put the RF woofer back in. A lot of the reviews on the Alpine said they need some power to shine. Maybe that's true, but I wasn't going to find out with the ~45 watts the RF amp is pushing.
So, looks like I'm sticking with the RF 6x9s despite the upper end leaving a little to be desired.

I also installed the Alpine R series tweeter set that I had on hand. A first listen they seemed great, but I did notice a little breaking up at some points at higher volume which caught me by surprise. I'll see if I can pin it down.

Otherwise, I think that's it for now. I'd love to add a sub, but I just don't see a logical location for one right now.
 

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Otherwise, I think that's it for now. I'd love to add a sub, but I just don't see a logical location for one right now.
How about the OEM sub location in the way-back?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
How about the OEM sub location in the way-back?
I poked around a bit, and it looks like it will be a custom fab job to get it done. The "storage area" that's in the place of the HK sub is not very deep, so it would require hacking up the trim and building a custom box, then making it blend in.

Another option would be trying to retrofit the HK sub enclosure into the space. I suspect it would also require a different interior trim over the quarter panel too. Not insurmountable, but probably pricy unless I could find a wrecked donor.

Either option requires more time/effort/cost than I'm willing to invest at this time. Someone else recently posted about the HK sub option, I'll wait and see if that pans out and re-evaluate.
 

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At this point, with the fourth model year being delivered, I would think that wreck parts would likely be available to use the HK enclosure, etc. It's worth looking into at least.
 
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