Options for Improving the 4Runner’s Audio System in Stages vs Complete System Upgrade
Toyota engineers are renowned for building reliable long lasting vehicles, known for the infamous 2JZ, a virtually indestructible truck, and the million-mile Tundra. But, what their vehicles aren’t known for is their audio.
The 5th Gen 4Runner isn’t bad, but it’s not the greatest.
Subsequently, leading to a full audio overhaul of the 4Runner. While some owners have used a full kit, like that of OEM Audio Plus, or pieced together their own, a variety of ways exist for improving the stock audio system.
Top 7 4Runner Audio Focus Areas
Let’s explore some of those ways to increase the sound quality of our 4Runner. In this post, we also look into examples of a complete system upgrade.
The easiest and most effective way to dramatically increase your listening pleasure is to choose higher-quality source files. If you want to get the best out of your current audio system, you’ll need to choose the best quality of the files you play. Simply put, it’s like playing a VHS as opposed to a Blu-Ray disk, on your new 72” 4K monitor.
If you’re using a phone or MP3 player, opt to use the USB connection as they typically have the least audio compression.
Explore your settings in your music streaming apps, and if possible select a higher audio quality or bit rate, using as little compression as possible. Some apps like TIDAL offer high-quality uncompressed music streaming and downloads.
TIP: Cambridge audio created a well-rounded playlist, that is also available on Spotify, to test on your audio system. (Here)
#2: Factory Speakers vs Aftermarket
Most factory speakers are made from cheap materials, and paper which is easy to power with inexpensive amps. Their sound is tolerable, yet leaving you unsatisfied, and worse, can distort over time. A quality set of speakers can provide better bass, and clarity, allowing you to hear those fine details in the music you’ve been listening to all along.
Upgrading the current dash speakers is a common great budget-friendly to help increase the clarity of the 4Runner’s audio system.
Install (more on that here)
Next in line would be the door speakers. However, after sifting through threads on the 4Runner forum, it seemed as if others had negative results when continuing to upgrade the others, advising others to stop after doing the dash. Higher quality speakers will require more power, and for that, we’ll need an amplifier.
Paper cone speakers don’t require much power, and sometimes a factory head unit isn’t enough to really get that push that aftermarket speakers require.
A separate amplifier and new speakers go together like peanut butter and jelly. With a proper amplifier, you are able to get the best performance out of your new speakers.
#4: Sound Deadening Materials (Optional)
Have you noticed that your vehicle sounds great when parked or driving slow, but at highway speeds, it sounds different?
Wind and exhaust can drone and muddle sound quality. Sound deadening materials create road noise operation to create a more immersive environment, creating a barrier to the outside noise of your exhaust, tires, and wind.
When flying in a plane, if you have basic earbuds, more than likely you’ll be blasting your music to overpower the mindless droning of the engines and wind noise.
Adding over-ear protection on top of your earbuds can help block out a majority of that droning.
A subwoofer adds depth and punch added back into the mix.
It is one side of the audio spectrum and can be complementary to the listening experience.
A dedicated subwoofer will relieve the other speakers of the duty to fill on those low tones, trying to add bass. The subwoofer can be tuned to your preference, either overpowering, booming the rest, or subtly complimenting the rest of the system.
#6: Signal Processor/Equalizer
Plastic? Metal? Glass? OH MY!
Car interiors can be a nightmare to tune given their mixed material environment and stock head units don’t allow for much flexibility.
A dedicated equalizer allows you the ability to really dial in your sound, eliminating peaks, polishing bass, to get the acoustics just right.
Some digital sound processors even come with a data acquisition microphone to self calibrate to the exact acoustics of your vehicle’s interior.
#7: New Head Unit (User Preference)
A new head unit will allow you preference and features to fit your lifestyle, as opposed to the sound of your system.
Aftermarket head units can offer improved adjustability over the system with high and low pass filters, parametric quilters, and capabilities to play MP3, WMA, AAC, and FLAC music files. Some newer units offer features such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, even control of Pandora and Spotify.
For those of us that log large amounts of seat time, either adventuring or commuting, a full upgrade would be well worth the investment. Increasing the audio bliss from each song, podcast or even audiobook.
Knowing what types of products I would need to invest in inspired me to search for a comprehensive system that would pair well for the 4Runner.
By any means, I am no audiophile, and after diving into this black hole of information in the search for the best kit for me, even Crutchfield’s help, I still felt overwhelmed. Just the basic components would cost me around $800 (see below), not including any wiring or connectors.
Bestowing on me arranging the wiring, cutting, splicing, and where to mount all these items in my vehicle, especially the subwoofer.
Example Audio Build:
- Digital Sound Processor $200
- Dash Speakers $50
- Front Door Speakers $40
- Rear Door Speakers $40
- Hatch Speakers $70
- Subwoofer $230
- Amplifier $180
After installation, all of these components would need to be tuned to work harmoniously together. Like high-performance engines, audio systems need tuning to achieve their optimal performance.
OEM Audio Plus – The Ultimate Specific Kit
What intrigued me about OEM Audio Plus was that they had a specific kit that is plug-and-play, even coming with a prewired harness. No cutting, measuring, or splicing, all of which saved me time.
To learn more I called their SoCal headquarters to speak to one of their team members.
Opposed to the “one-size-fits-all” package, that I could have put together, they offered a very vehicle specific kit that’s built from the ground up.
The speakers they manufacture in-house are specifically engineered with one another in mind (complementary frequency response) and tailored to produce the best sound for my vehicle.
The accompanying amplifier and digital sound processor would already be tuned for my 4Runner, even taking into account the interior materials used (cloth vs Softex) and acoustics within the cabin. Even including a form-fitting subwoofer enclosure, all with an OEM look, barely taking up excess cargo space.
Going the direction of an OEM Audio Plus system would definitely save me the time and headache of attempting to do this all on my own. Allowing me the peace of mind knowing that every component would be wired correctly, performing its best with a pre-programmed tune for the 4Runner’s acoustics.
In the end, it comes down to user preference.
If you’re an audiophile and love a good challenge, upgrading the 4Runner’s audio system can be a fun project to piece together yourself, tailoring it to your budget, and sound preferences.
Or for those that seek a high quality professionally tuned upgrade, with little guesswork, and formed fit subwoofer, an OEM Audio Plus system might just be for you.