Subaru Liberty Sound System Installation

14 Hours in the Workshop. Worth It.

What Is It?

The 4th generation Subaru Liberty (also known as the Legacy for the rest of the world that isn't Australia) was Subaru's answer to the increasingly popular mid-size sedans and wagons becoming popular in the early 2000's. It was released in 2003 and won the Japanese 'Car of the Year' award for the same year.

Ewen's Liberty is a 2005 3.0R Spec.B Touring Wagon with the 6 speed manual transmission. Having a wagon provides plenty of room for the substantial volume of equipment to be installed, along with plenty of room left over for carrying whatever it is people with wagons carry around. The McIntosh stereo system that comes as standard on the 3.0R is a highly regarded setup for a stock vehicle but is prone to failures and would not be able to drive the speakers and subwoofer chosen for this project. The complex arrangement of amplifiers and the integrated style of the head unit into the rest of the dashboard provided most of the complexity in this build.

What Was Installed?

The brief was simple: Make this the best sounding Subaru Liberty in NSW, without spending over $2,500. With both the goal and budget in mind, we set about selecting components. For the head unit, we've chosen the Sony MEX-N4200BT, a mid-range unit with integrated 55w 4 channel amplifier with support for resistive steering wheel controls and a pre-amp output for both rear and subwoofer channels. To provide the power to drive the system, we've selected a pair of Sony amplifiers. For the speakers, we're using the Sony XM-N1004 4 channel amplifier providing a peak output of 1000w. For the subwoofer, we've chosen the Sony XM-GTR3301D single channel amplifier, also featuring 1000w peak power output.

The speakers are what will make or break any sound system installation, the best amplifiers in the world won't be able to improve low quality factory or aftermarket components. We've chosen to go with our friends at JL Audio and their excellent C2-600 range featuring a 6.5" long-throw woofer and 1.5" tweeter with active crossovers. For the front doors, we're using the 6.5" woofer in the stock location but keeping a stock tweeter. A JL Audio 3" component mid-woofer is also installed in the factory mid position. For the rear doors, modification was required to the mounts for the 6.5" woofer to fit comfortably, and a new mounting position for the tweeter was created next to the door handles.

Rounding out the speaker selection is the subwoofer. We've chosen to go with a Sony NW-1200 12" compact subwoofer which provides a great trade-off between a full and rich sound and compact sizing. With a peak output of 1800w it certainly does pack quite a punch.

What Was the Process?

As we mentioned previously, the 4th generation Subaru Liberty in this trim comes with quite a reasonable sound system from the factory, with McIntosh amplifiers and speakers all-round. This complicates the process of installing aftermarket components however as it is tightly integrated in to the dashboard fascia and includes a DIN format link to the amplifier making re-use difficult. In our case, this was not critical as all components are being replaced with aftermarket equivalents.

This leaves us with one remaining problem, where to install the head unit, as this vehicle does not have a standard mounting point for the equipment. Third-party dashboard panels are available to enable the installation of standard single- and double-din units, but the quality is lower than the factory part and they can cost anywhere up to $500. To keep the factory look of the car in place and save a few hundred dollars, we opted for a more bespoke installation placing the head unit in the glove compartment retaining all factory power and illumination connections to the McIntosh unit, keeping that sweet red and blue glow when the headlights are turned on.

The amplifier was installed in the factory location under the passenger seat with trailing cables then travelling to both the front and sides of the vehicle connecting to the head unit and speakers. The factory subwoofer connection was re-used and an additional connection added in the boot to connect the new Sony subwoofer.

The Sony head unit includes integrated support for resistive steering wheel controls allowing easy mapping of the standard subaru buttons, including remapping the 'mute' button to answer phone calls and activate Siri or the Google Assistant on a connected bluetooth mobile device. As the unit was installed in the glove box where accessing connections would be difficult, a new aux panel was installed into the cigarette lighter location in the center glove box featuring a 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB connection linked to the unit.

Wrapping Up

All-in, the Liberty was in the workshop for a little over 14 hours. In that time, the factory amplifier and speakers were removed and a new set of accessory power lines were run into the glove box in addition to the main battery connection running to the passenger seat. Between speakers, amplifiers, head unit, and wiring, we were able to remain comfortably within the budget for the project and the result is easily the most well-rounded system created in the Moondemon Garage. In the 18 months since the system was installed, it still sounds fantastic and has not needed any components replaced, although that's not for any lack of trying on Ewens part...