By on November 2, 2017


Look, I’ll take this opportunity and cop to the fact I spent entirely too much money on aftermarket stereo systems when I was a kid. There is a very good chance, actually, that most of my systems were worth many multiples of the car in which they were installed.

This is why I applaud manufacturers who offer oontz-oontz-oontz levels of tunes as factory options. Subaru did just this on their 2015 WRX and WRX STI. However, it would seem that teenage Matthew was not the only one to haphazardly install speaker wiring, as the Exploding Galaxy has recalled 9,178 Rexys for a fire risk in the factory subwoofer.

According to an NHTSA recall, certain 2015 Subaru WRX and WRX STI models equipped with the optional factory subwoofer could experience an electrical short in the wiring, possibly leading to a fire. According to the recall report:

The subject vehicles are equipped with a factory installed subwoofer, which is located inside the trunk. Luggage in the trunk could contact subwoofer wire and move the wire out of its fixed position. If the wire touches the metal frame of the subwoofer, this may result in an intermittent short, causing the integrated circuit (IC) in the subwoofer amplifier to be damaged. In some case, the damaged IC may create a continuous electrical current into the subwoofer. If this occurs, the subwoofer could overheat, increasing the risk of a fire.

Once again, The Man is trying to stop kids from listening to modern music.

The recall goes on to clarify that the location of the subwoofer wire makes it susceptible to potential contact with subwoofer frame when cargo in the trunk hits it. Also, the subwoofer amplifier has insufficient protection from an intermittent electrical short. Crackling noises will likely occur when intermittent short happens, so the recall recommends turning off the audio system to prevent this defect from occurring.

You can’t tell me to turn off my music, NHTSA! You’re not my dad!

Ahem, yes. Anyway.

Owners of the affected cars will be notified and can then go to their dealer, who will fix the problem by plugging the thing into the thing. Actually, the dealer apparently has one of two options: installing a spacer clip on the wire or replacing the entire subwoofer and amplifier. We recommend owners demand the latter.

The NHTSA recall number for this issue is 17V-625, while the manufacturer’s recall number is WTQ-76. Get it fixed, kids. Don’t let The Man keep you from rocking out.

[Image: Subaru]

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18 Comments on “Fire ‘em Up: Subaru Subwoofers Belt Out Hot Tunes...”

  • avatar

    Let’s all just agree never to say or type Rexys, ever again.

  • avatar

    A loose speaker wire starting a fire? I’ve been installing audio systems since the mid 80s and find this hard to believe. However having the amp short out would release the magic smoke that makes electronics work. This could be viewed as “fire” (as they say: where there is a smoke). In a properly designed system such a short would cause a fuse to pop long before any wires passed enough current to actually catch fire, especially on the output side. Now on the input side things might be different. Once again I would assume proper fusing at the factory to ensure safe loads are maintained. Then again if the speaker wire doesn’t stay connected my confidence in the rest of the system working “as designed” is a bit low.

    • 0 avatar

      There is some small concern that the connection could become compromised such that it becomes fairly high resistance and overheats even with comparatively low current (most speaker drivers are quite low impedance, so low voltage but high current) that is an insufficient load to pop the fuse. I suppose if you have some kindling set on top, it can cause a fire.

      In the litigious-trigger-happy consumer culture, one can’t be too cautious :/. Besides, they tend to throw the F-word out when discussing any electrical fault.

    • 0 avatar

      What it sounds like happens when the failure occurs is that the amp is putting out its maximum, but as a continuous current. So no excessive current draw to trip the supply fuse. That current is also not enough to cause dangerous amounts of heating in the wiring between the amp and speaker. The speaker’s coil on the other hand isn’t designed for a straight DC current and certainly not at the level the amp is capable of producing. So the speaker’s coil overheats and catches the speaker itself on fire.

    • 0 avatar

      read the recall notice. the wire(s) from the amp to the speaker could short to something tied to chassis ground, and they apparently don’t have short circuit protection. this can cause transistor(s) in the amplifier output stage to burn out which will send full DC supply voltage to the speaker voice coil, causing it to overheat.

  • avatar

    To quote Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, but regarding rap music instead of VX:

    “It’s very, very horrible sir. It’s one of those things we wish we could disinvent.”

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    First of all . love the Lego movie Batman reference.
    Second of all, I’ve noticed these plug and play dealer installed optional subwoofers/speakers in a lot OEMs. Has anyone heard in person what they sound like?
    I know a lot of them install in the spare tire well , which would seem counter -intuitive.Compact spare tires are now a luxury abandoned by many OEMs.I think it’s easier to secure small subwoofer than a compact spare (I know this 1st hand , we have an AWD Sienna which has no spare)

    • 0 avatar

      it depends how it’s integrated. if you just throw a bunch of speakers in the car (like most aftermarket “installs”) it’ll probably be a bunch of noisy crap.

      if you have a decent DSP and know how to properly set your x-overs and time alignment, then you can get surprisingly good results w/o needing a ton of power or enormous speakers.

      but I don’t think the average numpty working at Car Tunes or Mickey Shorr knows about any of that.

      • 0 avatar

        Most dealer installed OEM-based add ons will not be near up to the standards of high quality aftermarket stuff. The main problem I’ve seen is what OEMs charge for such upgrades. You are talking big money for very low quality junk. However your average consumer will think its great especially if it comes with a full warranty and is well integrated into the vehicle. As my wife has said of her cars: you are not putting holes in my car just to install speakers. Yet when she gets in my car the first thing she does is crank up the volume and remarks how great it sounds.

        My current install is completely stealth, I used all the factory locations and just replaced the crappy (BOSE amps and speakers) with much better aftermarket versions. Thankfully the factory provided a (not optimized but usable) subwoofer location for me to use. My install includes a full DSP and x-overs tuned via software using a microphone that takes various location readings. The sound stage is incredible with everything front and center as it should be. This is amazing given the poor location of my speakers. Digital time alignment has truly revolutionized car audio installs… to the point where I wouldn’t recommend a system without some form of it today.

  • avatar

    No one cares if the obnoxious subwoofers in your car cause it to catch on fire. Personally I would call it a “feature” not a “bug”.

    Or, maybe we should just call it wish fulfillment.

  • avatar

    I have seen electrical shorts heat wires and melt the plastic insulation even on fused circuits.
    A few times trouble snowballed through the electrical system until it reached something tied directly to the battery leading to a fire.
    Also I have seen the results of “professional” audio installers doing bad things to wiring harnesses. This results in something electrical not working, the car unable to start up, or major (expensive) repairs required.
    One audio shop installed kick panel speakers in a Mitsubishi. They drilled through the PCM.
    BTW most don’t know or care about time alignment or phase distortion. They just want a loud, “Woom-Ka-Boom”

    • 0 avatar

      Actually I feel blessed i don’t my “time alignment” from my “phase distortion”. It’d probably drive me insane like what happens to quality “custom home” builders. Their brains fry every time they walk into a new “tract home”, but have to suffer in silence.

      But why does it have to be all one way or the other? What if you just want to improve what the factory put in your basic 1/2 ton, a hundred times over, for around $100 in flea-market equipment?

      You’d be (OK maybe not YOU) amazed the “highs” a basic, poverty spec stereo can put out when you tune-out most of the bass, up the treble then crank it.

      OK then you “piggyback” whatever amp/box/subs you can integrate without affecting cargo/people carrying ability (much). Meaning you tap into either rear speaker for “high level” input, using the “fader” on the stock stereo to control/balance sub (amp) volume, tuning out all the amp highs.

      Yes OMG it’s not gonna land you trophies at the local soundoffs with a picture of a hot young thing in a teeny bikini hugging on you, but it’s just one of the those things that improves the quality of life a hair, makes the commute much “shorter”, for not much cash outlay, and completely un-installs in literally seconds.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t even want to think about that stuff either. I just want a system that plays the full frequency range powerfully, with minimal resonance, so that I can crank it up on highway trips and immerse myself in the sound. If I can’t notice any distortion or harshness, then there’s nothing more that I need.

        It always started in high school by just changing a pair of speakers or a head unit. Nothing expensive, but the results were typically so dramatic that every guy would catch the bug and want to do more. Everything was a hack job at first but we continually learned from each other. It was evolution at work. The systems were constantly being compared and we worked on things together, so it was obvious who was doing it right and using the best components.

        And by best I don’t mean the most expensive. It really doesn’t cost much to get decent sound. My favorite car speakers ever were a pair of paper cone two-way Clarion 6×9’s. Speaker shopping was a lot of fun. Every electronics shop had huge soundboards, and you could listen to dozens of speakers in an afternoon between all them. You’d take a CD with some heavy guitar rock that sounded harsh on bad speakers but glorious on good ones, set everything flat, and quickly compare a bunch with the push of a few buttons. I listened to other types of music too, but any speaker can come across as decent on a quick listen with the more heavily produced electronic stuff. That stuff was used for testing subs, to make sure they can play the entire bass line without tapering off.

        I’m somewhat saddened at the idea that kids typically don’t experience this anymore; learning about and refining those things until they have something unique that they’re proud of creating. I imagine they just accept that these overpriced and overcomplicated factory stereos are good enough. They’re not, if you know what you’re missing.

        • 0 avatar

          I used to work for a couple of (big name) car audio companies who had both big aftermarket and OEM businesses.

          90% of the aftermarket stuff is junk. they spin these wonderful stories about their mica-and-fairy-dust-impregnated cones, the “rigid” cast tungsten basket, and their “75 watt continuous” power rating, but in reality they have 80% THD at 16 watts (typical head unit power) in the lower frequencies and terrible modulation distortion.

          and they sucker rubes into buying this junk because they have you listen to these things at about half a watt of power on the “sound boards” at the car audio shop. then when you put them in the car and start playing them at actual listening levels they’re a blatty distorted mess.

          don’t get me wrong, most OEM speakers are pretty bad too (though I have some which buck the trend and are rather good) but you’re not automatically going to get something better in the aftermarket. maybe by the time you get into Focal territory you can find decent stuff, but I’m not going to shell out that much money just to evaluate them.

          • 0 avatar

            The speakers that sound better on the board are going to sound better installed.

            Look at it this way: if it already sounds bad on the sound board, it’s going to sound even worse in the vehicle.

            Why do you think you can’t turn the sound board up as loud as you want, anyway?

            I have returned aftermarket Pioneer speakers that I wasn’t able to listen to on a sound board, because they were even worse than the factory speakers.

            But yes, I’m sure it’s all just junk and it only seems better because they or their friends have been suckered into buying it and so their minds play tricks to avoid damaging any egos. Maybe it only happens in a social context, thus rendering you immune to its effects.

            If only we had had the guidance of a brilliant mind like yours. You should volunteer as a mentor. Make sure the next generation of kids knows that everything sucks so they don’t waste any money and can just stay at home on the computer and be miserable in solitude.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this how the term hot hatch came to be?

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