Standard sound systems direct from the factor have been getting better and better as time goes on. However, if you own a third gen Toyota Tacoma, you know that your stereo leaves quite a bit to be desired. For many, it’s more features, cleaner sound, more low end, or more dynamic range. If you own a 2016, 2017, 2018 or 2019 Tacoma and are in the market for a new sound system, there are plenty of options that won’t break the bank! Let's jump in...
Before we get started, here are some common audio terms, just so we can all be on the same page.
Amplifier/Amp: The unit that powers the speakers in your car
Driver: The main part of a speaker that projects certain frequencies of sound
Tweeter: The driver responsible for the higher pitched sound
Sub Woofer: The driver responsible for the lower sounds
2 Way Speaker: This means the speaker has two drivers, and two way is generally a high driver (tweeter) and a mid driver
3 Way Speaker: This has three dedicated driver (high, mid, and low) – each driver is responsible for the respective band of frequencies
Head Unit: The device you directly interact with (radio, CD player, etc)
What to Replace and Why
The tweeters in the Tacomas are known to be on the weaker end. Upgrading them will lead to a more crisp sound with more clarity in the high end. Some folks over at Tacoma World recommend these Subaru tweeters. While you can shop around for cheaper ones, it could also be best to go with what’s tried and true by your fellow Taco drivers. A crisper high end will really make the sound come alive.
While the factory system can bring you loud low end, it isn’t exactly clear. Factory speakers, while better then they have been, are designed to focus most on the mid frequencies of sound (not the best on the highs or lows, but best in the middle). Getting a more full range speaker can produce a richer low end, without having to invest in separate subwoofers.
If you don’t want to go through to process of making extra holes and whatnot for sub woofers, you can easily get a better sound by replacing your front and rear speakers. Front speakers are generally more responsible for the mids and highs, while the rear speakers are generally more responsible for mids and lows.
Decent speakers are actually relatively inexpensive, and as long as you get ones that match the same power as you factory ones, they are completely plug and play. You can find out how many watts your factory speakers are with a quick Google search. Only a few parts and panels have to be taken off to access them.
Cructhfield is one of the best websites when it comes to finding speakers that fit your ride. All you have to do is enter your year, make, model, and trim level, and it you will give you exactly what speakers are plug and play, and if they are not, it will match the hardware you need as well. The prices are generally low too, but you can always do a search on Google for the same speakers it shows.
Some guys over at Tacoma World have had good look with these Kicker 6”9” speakers in the front and these Kicker 6.75” speakers in the rear. The front speakers are Just under $100, and the rear ones are just under $70. If those options are too expensive for you, there are plenty of other options.
Sound deadening is something you also may want to consider. Sound deadening material keeps the road noise out, and the good noise in. Why is that important? Sound waves reflect and travel. This why you hear reverberation in your voice when you enter a bathroom, but not so much in your carpeted bedroom. For some extra money, you can invest in some sound-deadening mat to put inside your doors and behind your rear speakers. This will help you achieve and richer and warmer sound in your music, and help keep some of the roar of your mud tires out.
At this point, you’re looking about $250 for a life changing sound. All of this can be achieved with the stock head unit. But what if you want more options? While the stock Toyota Tacoma head unit on the newest trucks are pretty nice, the older ones can get sort of basic.
If you want better EQs, touch screens, iPhone cables, and more, you may want to consider a new head unit. While you DO NOT need to do this when you get upgraded speakers, you can. This will up your cost too, and you will be over the $300 amount. So, consider this a bonus section.
Let’s take a look at four options:
Just as a disclaimer, head units are not usually plug and play. You usually have to take quite a bit of the dashboard apart, and sometimes you have to do some custom wiring with specific harnesses. There are plenty of experts out there who do this stuff for a living, so keep that in mind.
The Alpine iLX-F309 is currently the most expensive of the group at just under $870. It comes full with plenty of features: HDMI input, works with Apple and Android, SiriusXM ready, USB playback, Bluetooth, 9 band parametric EQ, iDatalink connectivity, a camera input, and more. While it can fit in more vehicles with the smaller unit size, that means the 9 inch display sticks out and hovers. If you can deal with that and the price, it does everything you would need it to.
For about $200 less, you can get the Alpine ILK-107 for just under $680. It offers most of what the iLX-F309 offer but is flush fitting with a 7 inch screen. This unit has many positive reviews and seems to be a favorite amongst truck owners.
At just around $330, the Kenwood DDX6704 is the least expensive of the bunch. The 6.8 inch flush fitting screen comes with Apple and Android compatibility, camera inputs, navigation, Bluetooth, and more. Some of the reviews are not pleased with the Bluetooth and navigation, but overall, most people are happy with it. If you are looking for a less expensive touch screen to replace your buttons and knobs, this could be the option for you.
The Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX is packed with the most features and is around $540. The 7 inch, flush fitting screen has WiFi, Bluetooth, SirisXM ready, back-up camera ready, iDatalink, 13 band EQ, USB and SD card playback/input, fast USB charging port for Android, HDMI input, and more. If you are looking for every option you can think of, this may be for you.
Make your System Yours
Your sound system has almost limitless options for customization. You do not need to break the bank to do it. For less than $300, you can make an entirely new sounding experience in your Tacoma.
I would like to share some expert advice though. You can spend thousands of dollars on your sound system, but if you play low quality music back, it’s going to sound bad. Thankfully music downloads have come a long way from the days of low quality .mp3 files, but some of them still exist, and you may be listening to them. Your best formats would be uncompressed formats like .wav (CD quality) or certain compressed formats like FLAC. This is a topic for a whole different post, but basically don’t listen to those old .mp3 tracks your downloaded off Limewire. Good speakers let high quality music sound good, but can’t make low quality stuff sound any better.
Sound-Deadening – Tacoma World forum user drscott11
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