From Awful to Great (A Jeep Audio tale)

The stock stereo/headunit sucks.

I have never in my adult life seen an automobile with a worse stock radio/headunit/Stereo or what ever you want to call it as what is installed from FCA. On my previous Jeeps (including my wife’s Liberty) the stock stereo was alway bad. But, with technology that is available today, what is included as standard or even as an upgrade is embarassing. So much that one of the first upgrades I did to the Jeep was new speakers. I was hoping for a somewhat better sound. That really didn’t help.

From the first moment that I stepped on a lot a couple of years ago, until I purchased my JKU, I knew the audio in a Jeep was bad. It was so dissappointing in so many ways. First, it was poorly laid out and looked dated. Nothing modern about it. The UConnect was so poorly implemented. BT/USB and Aux audio is so much an after thought that the stereo doesn’t even start up to the last setting being used. This is a first for me. My last 3 cars had pretty spectacular stock audio with Bluetooth built in. Each of them were Ford’s Sync System. I actually purchased each of the cars because the audio features were so good. I purchased my Jeep inspite of the audio features.

I lucked into a new head unit. And that completely changed my outlook for my audio in my Jeep. I guess this could be a review for the Pioneer AVH-X391BHS. From everything I had read online, this DVD receiver with touchscreen was great. My friends had all been trying to talk me into getting CarPlay. My life is completely immersed in the Apple ecosystem. But, the way the dash and the closeness of the Rugged Ridge phone mount that I have, CarPlay didn’t make sense. I don’t think it is worth the money spent when my iPhone is mounted merely inches from the deck.

I was so completely impressed with the way this deck worked. Pairing my iPhone through Bluetooth was remarkably simple. The only pairing that is easier is Apple’s W1 chip in the Airpods and Beats headphones. It was simple to pair it by just finding the unit in the Bluetooth settings in the phone’s Settings. Tapping on the unit brought up a dialogue box on the iPhone and headunit. Accepting both and it was paired. That easy. It synced my contacts and was ready for Bluetooth audio, right away. For some strange reason my phone was still trying to connect to the UConnect even though the deck had been removed. So I just went into settings and removed the pairing completely. I will never need UConnect in my life again. Yay!

This deck does have Pioneer’s AppRadio system in it. It looks like a half-prepared cheap imitation of CarPlay or other app-based systems. I played around with it. It has a Point or Interest map system but doesn’t provide turn by turn. It has an app for your calendars. I’m not sure why I need this dedicated app for this. It does connect natively to Pandora and Spotify. I don’t use Spotify and I very rarely use Pandora so this isn’t a benefit for me, but I can definitely see the value here. You can launch Waze from your iPhone and it will be displayed on the touch screen. I’ll give this a try this week and see how it goes. I don’t necessarily see me using this in the future, but who knows. I have also set one of my images as the background. It looks really good with the red and black trim.

What does the unit sound like? Well, it sounds OUTSTANDING! Clarity and volume are going hand-in-hand with this unit.  Even the stock speakers are sounding good. I will probably upgrade the other speakers that I haven’t yet someday. But, after this install, I may not need to so quickly. I haven’t had the top down yet, but even with windows down, the sound is clear and loud enough without any distortion. I have listened to rock, metal, jazz and classical. Each time, I needed to adjust the 13 band EQ. But after I did, the sound was as good as I was expecting.

I have paired my wife’s iPhone as well. It is very easy to switch audio between them and both will receive phone calls. She was able to learn the basics of using the deck quickly. We can add a third phone to the mix but I think only the first two will receive phone calls. I am looking forward to taking this thing on an extended trip to see how it works in a real world scenario with multiple passengers.

Tell me about your audio and share your experiences in the comments below:

6 thoughts on “From Awful to Great (A Jeep Audio tale)

  1. Jeep radios have to be designed to hold up to rain and moisture. Leave your top off a few times when it rains and see how your current radio holds up. My JKU came with the Alpine system with integrated NAV and Bluetooth and has been great thus far – even after been through a couple of torrential thunderstorms with the top off. I don’t expect it to be the equivalent of the audio system in my S550 and it is not. However it serves the purpose top on or off, doors on or off, in severe dust, in rain and occasionally a little mud. It is purpose built to hold up under tougher conditions. No audio system will sound good in a Jeep compared to vehicles with non-removable tops and doors.

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    1. So you’re saying there’s no way to seal a head unit and make sure the speakers sound good at the same time. Riiiiiiiggggggghhhhhttttttt. Just another way for FCA to not spend extra money.

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  2. So far, it has gotten wet several times. Dried and it still works. Even if I have to replace my pioneer, it is still worth it to not have a shitty system. Sound isn’t everything but ease of use can make or break a system in my mind.

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