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Hi Ascent owners,
I’ve been lurking here on the forum for several weeks now learning from all of you, and I’m excited to say that I’ve put in an order for a brand new Ascent Touring in Magnetite Grey Metallic.

When I test drove the Ascent at Berman Subaru here in Chicago, they only had a Premium to drive. I obviously loved the vehicle, but I was very curious about the audio quality. I thought the stock system sounded surprisingly good using my phone and Apple CarPlay. So, now I’m wondering... I’m getting the upgraded Harman Kardon audio system with the Touring... how is it and how do you think it compares to the stock Ascent audio, and how does it stack up against others? I thought the Bose system in the Mazda CX-9 sounded quite good (not usually a Bose fan either), and thought the Fender system in VW’s Atlas and Touareg both sounded excellent. Anyone have experience with these that can comment? Happy with the Subaru Harman Kardon?

Also... I keep reading 14 speakers with the Harman setup. How is this possible? I recall seeing three speakers on the dash (left, right, center channel), then a speaker in each front door, a speaker in each back door, a sub in the right rear cargo space... im getting 8... where are these additional six speakers!? Or are they counting the tweeters in the L/R pairs separately from the midrange drivers?

Very curious about this and won’t likely be taking deliver of our Ascent until sometime in January.
 

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The Ascent's Harmon Kardon system is ok. I would give it 2.5 stars out of four. The upgraded speakers are clear and precise and the external amplifier ensures most difficult passages do not clip and distort, which is common with less capable, internally amplified car audio systems. The sub-woofer works well and supplies sufficient bass, but it cannot be overdriven like an aftermarket subwoofer/amp for those who like massive bass.

My only major criticism of the Ascent's Harmon Kardon system is that it lacks an essential equalizer. What you get, and what they attempt to call an equalizer, is nothing but a bass/midrange/treble tone control. This is a major oversight because you cannot tease out the right frequency balance to properly equalize the speakers within the vehicle. This is truly a shame because with a proper equalizer I'm certain it would sound much better. As it is, it's very difficult to balance the midrange and treble which leaves the sound way too harsh for my ears. But I'm an old audiophile so I may simply be fussier than others.

This is so unnecessary because the lack of a proper equalizer is probably only a software deficiency. Even most cheap aftermarket car audio head units contain multiband equalizers. To advertise and sell at great cost a "premium" audio system without a proper equalizer is insane. I hold out some minor hope that Subaru will correct this with an upgrade.
 

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I recently got rid of my Ascent Touring and moved into a Lexus RX350L with the Mark Levinson audio upgrade. I agree with your assessment that the HK system was too bright and no amount of fidgeting with the "EQ" settings helped. Fortunately, the Mark Levinson system, by default, sounds much flatter with better bass and an overall cleaner sound. However, it, too, is hobbled by the same dumb Bass-Mid-Treble EQ controls. Seems like these aftermarket audio manufacturers aren't making the EQ work correctly, regardless of brand. Perhaps the car makers themselves are putting that constraint on the audio equipment suppliers?
 

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it's all about costs. the mfg saves a few pennies from the vendor spread across thousands of units. unfortunately the few of us audiophiles don't count for much in the big picture; when most buyers cannot tell the difference, and would not know how to set the eq properly if they could do so.
 

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it's all about costs. the mfg saves a few pennies from the vendor spread across thousands of units. unfortunately the few of us audiophiles don't count for much in the big picture; when most buyers cannot tell the difference, and would not know how to set the eq properly if they could do so.
But the equalizer is most likely just software. I'll bet they could implement a 7-14 band equalizer via only a software update using the same hardware. I believe the reason they didn't was because someone demanded that the operation be simplified.

You don't need to be an audiophile to hear that without proper equalization the Harmon Kardon implementation sounds way too harsh. This seriously degrades an otherwise fine system. It's like supplying an excellent 4K TV monitor with no way to properly adjust the color.
 

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The biggest problem I have with the Harman Kardon system is that when using CarPlay it "skips" or "stutters" repeatedly. I have tried several of the posted suggestions, but nothing seems to fix it when using CarPlay. As the other threads say Bluetooth is fine.

I don't mind the sound. I just wish it would go louder.
 

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The biggest problem I have with the Harman Kardon system is that when using CarPlay it "skips" or "stutters" repeatedly. I have tried several of the posted suggestions, but nothing seems to fix it when using CarPlay. As the other threads say Bluetooth is fine...
This would be the fault of the base infotainment system and not the Harman Kardon upgrade per se which consists of an external amplifier (mounted under the front passenger seat) and upgraded and additional speakers.

The base infotainment system, found on all trims, with various options such as internal TomTom navigation, is simply a specialized computer desiged to be a head unit. To improve the sound, Subaru offers either the Harman Kardon upgrade, which must be purchased as part of a package, or the Rockford Fosgate upgrade, which can be purchased seperatly. Both consist of an external amplifier and upgraded speakers, but both employ the base infotainment system as the head unit. The Harmon Kardon upgrade offers additional speakers over the Rockford Fosgate upgrade. The Harman Kardon system also offers a "QuantumLogic" surround system which is supposed to provide a 7.1 channel surround sound experience.
 

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This would be the fault of the base infotainment system and not the Harman Kardon upgrade per se which consists of an external amplifier (mounted under the front passenger seat) and upgraded and additional speakers.

The base infotainment system, found on all trims, with various options such as internal TomTom navigation, is simply a specialized computer desiged to be a head unit. To improve the sound, Subaru offers either the Harman Kardon upgrade, which must be purchased as part of a package, or the Rockford Fosgate upgrade, which can be purchased seperatly. Both consist of an external amplifier and upgraded speakers, but both employ the base infotainment system as the head unit. The Harmon Kardon upgrade offers additional speakers over the Rockford Fosgate upgrade. The Harman Kardon system also offers a "QuantumLogic" surround system which is supposed to provide a 7.1 channel surround sound experience.
Thanks. Makes sense. Yes, I have the Harman Kardon in my Touring so I assumed it was specific to that system. I guess it sounds like a problem for all Ascents if it is due to the base infotainment system.
 

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Hello! I've been driving a Touring for almost a week now and I must say I surely am disappointed with the Harman Kardon sound system. The mid-to-high frequencies especially just don't "sound good". I truly hope this will be resolved somehow in the near future.
 

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I'm pretty sure we're stuck with the H-K system as-is. Subaru has no incentive to upgrade or improve the system, as they are selling every Ascent they can make.

The system is great with regards to ease of use, but sound quality is very poor.
 

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If Subaru would only add an equalizer to the existing system, the sound could be much improved. This could be done entirely with only a software upgrade. No hardware would need to be changed. Even inexpensive aftermarket audio systems include an equalizer these days.

It's truly hard to believe that the HK system is advertised as a premium sound system and yet it lacks an equalizer. That's like buying a 4K Ultra-HD TV with no decent way to adjust the picture settings.
 

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If Subaru would only add an equalizer to the existing system, the sound could be much improved. This could be done entirely with only a software upgrade. No hardware would need to be changed. Even inexpensive aftermarket audio systems include an equalizer these days.

It's truly hard to believe that the HK system is advertised as a premium sound system and yet it lacks an equalizer. That's like buying a 4K Ultra-HD TV with no decent way to adjust the picture settings.

Its the HK way. Most stuff they have doesn't have a EQ and considers itself active processing.
 

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I'm pretty sure we're stuck with the H-K system as-is. Subaru has no incentive to upgrade or improve the system, as they are selling every Ascent they can make.

The system is great with regards to ease of use, but sound quality is very poor.
Write Subaru with your concerns. They actually do listen and revise things based on customer feedback.
 

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At least my ‘16 Outback Premium non HK had a true equalizer ,why would they illuminate it in the ‘19 Ascent Premium along the fog lights is beyond me.You would think with so many drivers a 5 or 7 band EQ will come in handy,not everyone have the same hearing perception.
 

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The Ascent's Harmon Kardon system is ok. I would give it 2.5 stars out of four. The upgraded speakers are clear and precise and the external amplifier ensures most difficult passages do not clip and distort, which is common with less capable, internally amplified car audio systems. The sub-woofer works well and supplies sufficient bass, but it cannot be overdriven like an aftermarket subwoofer/amp for those who like massive bass.

My only major criticism of the Ascent's Harmon Kardon system is that it lacks an essential equalizer. What you get, and what they attempt to call an equalizer, is nothing but a bass/midrange/treble tone control. This is a major oversight because you cannot tease out the right frequency balance to properly equalize the speakers within the vehicle. This is truly a shame because with a proper equalizer I'm certain it would sound much better. As it is, it's very difficult to balance the midrange and treble which leaves the sound way too harsh for my ears. But I'm an old audiophile so I may simply be fussier than others.

This is so unnecessary because the lack of a proper equalizer is probably only a software deficiency. Even most cheap aftermarket car audio head units contain multiband equalizers. To advertise and sell at great cost a "premium" audio system without a proper equalizer is insane. I hold out some minor hope that Subaru will correct this with an upgrade.
I agree with your assessment. This system is somewhat on the harsh side. Even just using a phone based spectrum analyzer shows there is a massive peak in frequency around 2-3kHz.

Bass is good, reasonable tight and powerful. It isn't quite thunderous, but gets pretty darn impressively close. If only I could cut the harshness.... BTW sounds great when you have earplugs in..
 
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