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New Subaru radios weaker than old?

I’m wondering if anyone else has encountered this, as my dealer does not seem interested in helping. I just traded in my 2005 Forester for a 2013 Forester (great car!). We live out in the country, and listen to the radio when we drive from one cow pasture to another. Our 2005 radio, a basic model, got over a dozen stations clearly. But the hi-tech marvel that came with the 2013, filled with fancy capabilities and an amazing display screen, barely gets anything! Even a strong station 20 miles away is filled with static, and other stations are totally dead. It’s fine in the city, but poops out as soon as we get ten miles outside. It seems incredible that this fancy looking radio could be vastly inferior to the old basic model we had before. In fact, I have a 40-year-old pocket transistor radio that performs better than this 2013 car radio! Any thoughts? Thanks!


Does it have the same type of antenna system?-Kevin

Perhaps the antenna isn’t connected. Unfortunately there are performance differences in radios and all the fancy features they load them up with, doesn’t mean they will receive a station with a weak signal. Have the antenna checked, and try tuning some of your know stations manually. The seek function might not recognize weak signals the same as the previous radio. Also, check the manual to see if there is a “city” and “country” mode in the radio. If it does and it is set on city you’d get poor reception of weak distant signals.

Hey, you may not be able to get reception on the new car, but you do have all those fancy knobs, buttons, and screens to play with!

My thoughts? Designers are so focused on adding more and more new technolgy that they’ve lost sight of what makes cars usable. Today one has to take one’s eyes off the road and rummage through the menus of a touch-screen for three minutes just to turn the fan up a notch.

Maybe subtle way of getting customers to order more then the base grade model. Marketing at it’s best. There is no excuse for not getting good sounding audio systems on the cheap in any car unless by design.

Most likely a difference in radio quality, that varies widely. Or a difference in the antenna. But do make sure there’s nothing loose in the antenna wiring. Check with the dealer as to substituting a different one. A cheaper one may have a better radio, all the money is now in displays and nav features.

Dagosa–Read the OP’s post again, and you will see that he stated, “the hi-tech marvel that came with the 2013, filled with fancy capabilities and an amazing display screen, barely gets anything!” . He is comparing the “basic” radio in his old Forester to a new, supposedly more sophisticated, high-end radio in his new Forester.

I agree that the antenna may be to blame, or it just may be that this newer radio is just not as good with receiving anything other than very strong signals. As audio mfrs now tend to emphasize Satellite radio, graphic equalizers, and the ability to connect to I-pods, they may just be ignoring basic radio functions, such as reception of weak signals.

Ask your dealer for a loaner with the same radio, drive ten miles outside the city, and see what happens. If the loaner’s radio works, then you have a valid problem that they should fix. Contact the manufacturer’s representative if they still don’t want to help.

@lion9car - good idea. And if the loaner with the same radio behaves the same way, maybe try one with a different radio. Like I said, a cheaper one might work better, and it’s always easier to replace one factory radio with another one than find an aftermarket one that works.

As audio mfrs now tend to emphasize Satellite radio, graphic equalizers, and the ability to connect to I-pods, they may just be ignoring basic radio functions, such as reception of weak signals

My thoughts on this mirrors this statement. Also, it’s probably geared for bluetooth connections as well, so they might have had to “dumb” down the AM/FM reception to better be able to pick up the BT signals

I think the aftermarket’s missing a marketing opportunity: replacement audio units with clean and SIMPLE controls, no multi-color displays, etc. Trying not to be a geezer here, but the unit my son and I put in his Forester was staggeringly complex, and it was FAR from ‘top-of-the-line’.

Guess I am missing something. Reread the post and OP did not say so he had a Primium, Touring or Sport model. It seems that the radio he got was the standard one found on ALL models. So the radio is the base model, regardless of how many fancy features it has. I will repeat what I said before.
The is no excuse for even the cheapest base anything to function poorly except by design. I’m sure the dealer could offer a better sound system, for a price. It’s marketing. The sound system looks good in ads with all the jucy goodies, but doesn’t even perform as well as the base radios in the past. Typical and planned.

Does Subaru still have the McIntosh option for car head units.

I don’t know how good their car stuff is…but their home audio is legendary. They designed a Tuner back in 1978 called the MR-78 that to this day is considered one of the BEST analog tuners you can buy.

Although I do agree that even the cheap unit shouldn’t perform as described.

I agree @MikeInNh, and, I am not saying that it’s entirely the radio’s fault. For the sake of design, a lot of things, including reception can be compromised. But, like you have said, perhaps for a price, and a McIntosh, whose name alone will cost a new car payment, everything can be made better. Before I would whine to much to a dealer who might gladly replce it for a price, I would sooner pay an independent sound system installer to give me the straight skinny and pay him for a new Mc, if that’s what is decided. He might even find it coukd be as simple as a bad connection.

Many of our local dealers work through the same installers regardless.

@dagosa - but how does that work (‘planned’)? He already bought the car, dealers don’t typically swap radios after the fact. A bit too much conspiracy theory to me.

Are you listening to AM radio or FM radio? Sometimes, I think radio manufacturers forget that there is an AM band. Did your old Subaru have a rod antenna and your new Subaru have the antenna built into one of the windows? I have found that the old rod antenna gives much better reception.
At any rate, I think you need to push the dealer on this. Radios used to have an antenna trimmer–a variable capacitor that could be tuned. It was near the antenna input. I don’t know if present radios have such a trimmer or not, but it is worth checking out.

I hate it when new cars come with crap equipment. We had so much fun with the old radios at news time by randomly pressing the preset buttons. News gets really wild if you change stations at the right time.

I think we are thinking too locally here. It’s not the dealer who engineers the car. It’s the manufactureer.and it’s not he manufacturer who engineers the radio. Making components on one level perform inferior to options on a different level is not rocket science technology. Nor, is it a particularly conspiratorial idea. It’s logic to those trying to make money.
I am not saying that Subaru planned on making a radio with less ability bring in stations. What I am saying is Subaru plans on spending x amount per unit of their base radio and frills are more important or as important as actual performance. Their contractor gets it and supplies a unit with compromises for the base radio. You can spend extra if you want a better one…and everyone but the buyer profits by making a base radio with compromises.

“Does Subaru still have the McIntosh option for car head units.”

Unfortunately, not in North America anymore. For reasons that I cannot fathom, a McIntosh system is available in Australia, and possibly in other markets, but not in the US or Canada.

“a McIntosh, whose name alone will cost a new car payment”

When I bought my '02 Outback, among the reasons that I selected the 3.0 VDC model (the most expensive one at the time), was that it included the vastly superior 6-cylinder engine, vehicle stablity control, a McIntosh audio system, and a few other extra features for a grand total of ~$3k over the price of the Limited model.

The LL Bean model was very similar to the 3.0 VDC, but w/o stability control and w/o the McIntosh system, and was only ~$1k less than the VDC model. So, somehow, Subaru was able to include that incredible audio system for way less than the cost of a new car payment.

My 2011 Outback has a Harmon Kardon audio system that is better than average, but it is clearly not as good as my old McIntosh system in the 2002 model.

My car payments depend upon my trade in and how much I saved as a down payment. So, if you are used to borrowing the entire amount…you could be right. But, I would argue too that the difference in cost bettween many high end components and not is less in technology and more in name. I think you know it was just a statement that talked about what OP would have to spend on a Mc NOW, not back in 2002. Remember, he already has the car without it. Where they do not now make Mc as an option, it could easily be more then a car payment, if you save like me and not borrow it all like you…car payments are so variable, I say I’m right. ;=)

Rod antennas, AM radio…never heard of them. I 'm too young to remember or so old I can’t.