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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Looking for some general audio advice. Some background first.

My 2007 RTS has suffered the dreaded backlight issue. I've fixed it [termporarily] three times on two separate radios, but it doesn't last. So either I suck at soldering [quite possible], or there's something else going on with my set up.

So I'm toying with the idea of getting an aftermarket head unit. Done a lot of research here and I'm going back on forth about it with pros and cons yadda yadda yadda.

I guess what I want to know is whether an aftermarket head unit run through the factory speakers without the subwoofer will sound better than my broken-ass no backlight ghetto factory set up. Can I get enough bottom end without the subwoofer or is it going to sound tinny and extra crappy? Or the better sound quality from a modern, new head unit overcome any shortcomings with the second-rate speakers and lack of subwoofer?

I'm a bass player, so I dig the extra thump of the subwoofer. I would love to be able to hook it up to the new head unit I was thinking of buying, but I'm thoroughly confused about "bridging" and what that entails in terms of splicing, wiring etc.

What I'm not looking for is any advice about swapping out speakers or adding an amp to power the factory subwoofer or any of that stuff. All that stuff is beyond my desires/abilities. I'm only really interested in adding a new head unit, and I don't want to spend a ton of money having it installed. I'm going DIY so I need to keep it as straightforward as possible.

Thanks in advance.

PS - If someone can give me a general idea how to bypass the rear speakers to instead power the subwoofer, that'd be great. I've read a couple of threads on this already and truly don't understand if it involves hacking into the factory harness or what.
 

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Unless you change out speakers (doors or sub) I don't see how you would experience a difference in bass you can appreciate with just a head unit change.
You may get a somewhat cleaner sound.
You could forgo the sub entirely and put in more bass capable door speakers. But without sufficient damping material that could lead to more artifacts as well.
A new HU would take care of your 'lighting' issue, give you skosh more power and more features like interface with bluetooth, and a smartphone, etc.
But only a 'good' sub is going to get you close to what you are seeking.
There are options there like a powered sub that work even with your stock unit, being the most cost-effective. Bazooka being the first that comes to mind. Not an audiophile's sub but certainly a level above the stock one.
Pumping more power into the stock sub might give you some boost, but the quality of tone will not be changed much IMO.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the insight, Rollin. After reading your response, I think I framed my original question poorly.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm leaning to getting a new head unit because of the backlight issue, but don't want to do it if sound quality is going to suffer. So my question is really: Will an aftermarket head unit hooked up to the stock speakers without the sub sound worse than the factory set up [lesser head unit but the working sub].

I'm not an audio snob by any means. I always though the OEM stereo set up sounded pretty good even if a little mid-rangey. So I'm pretty easy to please. I just don't want to buy an aftermarket unit and find out that it sounds like a tinny 1972 Pontiac LeMans AM radio because of the lack of a sub.
 

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I too wondered about this before replacing my HU....the answer is yes, go for it! Here's how I went about it. My stock HU was working so first thing I did was replace the front tweeters with Cadence 1" models as outlined in the pimp your sound system thread. Super simple install, and the cost was under 30 bucks. This immediately brought the bass and overall sound to a new level. Moving on, I used a Jensen VX3022 touchscreen unit. Now to keep the stock subwoofer, you have to add an amp. I did, tried it, and noted the response. Next I wired the HU without any amp or subwoofer and just used the loud setting. Amazing sound and good thump with the stock speakers and new tweeters! This should answer your question.
My final set up ended up using an 2 channel amp to power the rear door speakers which I replaced with larger Cadence 2 ways and no subwoofer.
 

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I remember very well that some of the Pioneer AVH Head Units, allow bridging the rear channels for 70W mono and a 2 ohm load.

These head units not only will provide extra power to the front speakers but also 10 Eq bands, time alignment to center and raise your stage and the only trade is no rear speakers, a good trade for sub bass.
 
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