Alpine X409-WRA-JL Review

Alpine X409-WRA-JL Review

The Alpine X409-WRA-JL may seem like a pricey head unit solution for Wrangler JL owners at first glance. However, once you give it chance and get to know it, it’s not hard to see the value in this all-inclusive top of the line head unit upgrade.

Alpine X409-WRA-JL review – Installed in our 2019 Wrangler MOAB Mojito!

Let’s dive into this Alpine X409-WRA-JL review, shall we? As many of you probably already know, my husband John and I own a 2019 Wrangler MOAB Moijito! Our audio upgrade adventure with this vehicle started sometime in January 2019 and it has been evolving ever since. We originally started out with our beloved PAC Audio AP4-CH41R2 which we used with our stock 8.4” touch screen radio. We installed that along with the JL Audio Twk-88, DRC-205 control knob, our PDXV9 high powered 5 channel amp, two JL Audio Stealthboxes and two sets of Morel Hybrid 402’s. As time progressed and newer parts became available, we swapped out those 4” components to 6.5” using the Metra JP-1014 adapters and later we did the same thing in the rear with the SSV Works sound bar adapters.

SSV Works JJT-SAO65 – 6.5″ sound bar adapters installed in our 2019 Wrangler with Morel Hybrid Integra 602

Our Jeep Wrangler JL sounded fantastic at this point. I recall one persnickety client, a self-described audiophile with a very discerning ear. He sat in our vehicle to take a listen using his Astell and Kern high end portable music player and responded “It’s not right that a car stereo can sound this good”. In the past year we have had numerous clients come through our shop, take a listen and order up the same type of audio upgrade package for their Jeep Wrangler JL. Every one of them has been extremely satisfied with the end result.

This head unit though? The X409-WRA-JL takes the sound quality of our system to a completely different level.

Alpine X409-WRA-JL Review – Sound quality

Prior to setting up the EQ and time alignment, the first thing we noticed was how the sound had been transformed. It became smooth, silky and easy on the ears. Not only that, multiple new layers of detail and nuance emerged. Any stray hints of harshness were completely eliminated with this one single upgrade. The main components of the X409-WRA-JL are made in Japan so I am not at all surprised about the superior sound quality. I have always found Alpine’s products that are made in Japan to be superb.

But it costs so much…

Keep in mind, with a head unit like this, you eliminate the need for any type of DSP (assuming you are doing a basic 5 channel set up – front, rear and subwoofer). The X409-WRA-JL features a 4-volt RCA pre-amp output, a 9 band parametric EQ, digital time alignment, built in crossovers and various EQ presets. In Wranglers we usually set up multiple presets: one for the driver, another for driver/passenger and top up vs top down, etc.

When you consider the cost of a quality DSP processor such as the JL Audio Twk-88 and the PAC Audio AP4-CH41R2, the steep price tag of the X409-WRA-JL doesn’t seem quite as steep since it accomplishes the same functions as those two products and then some.

For example, it’s pretty hard to beat the 9” water resistant display featuring high end finishes with a mix of gloss black, satin titanium and matte black buttons. It looks great on sources like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and HDMI input.

Alpine X409-WRA-JL Review - HDMI input with iPhone 8 connected.
Alpine X409-WRA-JL Review – HDMI input display using iPhone 8

Off-road maps with built-in GPS

The X409-WRA-JL is feature packed. Not only does it have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it also features sat based navigation and includes an off road mode. This is perfect for those of us who like to venture off the grid. My husband John especially appreciates the center cluster display with turn by turn directions.

Alpine X409-WRA-JL with built-in GPS and off-road maps
Alpine X409-WRA-JL with built-in GPS and off-road maps

You are not losing any features.

Do not forget, the head unit in your Wrangler JL, whether it’s the 5”, 7” or 8.4”, is part of the computer network in the car. Things like your blind spot warning chimes, reverse park sensors, reverse camera, HVAC display, vehicle settings, steering wheel controls, etc. are all functioning through your stock stereo

Alpine X409-WRA-JL retains OEM HVAC controls and display.
Alpine X409-WRA-JL retains OEM HVAC controls and display.

If you remove that stock stereo, you need to have parts in place that are designed to retain that chain of information flowing through your aftermarket radio. Although iDatalink is currently working on a solution, there is no ETA or release date. For the time being, the Alpine X409-WRA-JL is the only aftermarket head unit solution for the Wrangler JL that can truly retain everything including the OEM volume knob equipped with stock 7″ and 8.4″ models.

Alpine X409-WRA-JL vehicle settinsg screen.
Alpine X409-WRA-JL retains access to vehicle settings.

The picture quality on the reverse camera retention could be better, but at least it’s there. That is my real only complaint on this head unit. It appears to be using a converter box and it reminds me of when you convert HDMI to analog, there is an obvious degradation in picture quality. Yet, we can still clearly see what is behind us. As far as we are concerned, the sound quality improvement this head unit has provided, far exceeds any drawbacks on the camera picture quality. Then again, this is what we do for a living, this could be a deal breaker for some. I’m not sure what solution iDatalink will release or if their interface will have any better picture quality. Only time will tell.

Alpine X409-WRA-JL reverse camera retained
Alpine X409-WRA-JL retains your OEM reverse camera.

One audio USB port – wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

This head unit does not have wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It might surprise you to learn that it features a wired connection only. After doing some research for another JL Wrangler client, I realized at the moment, no aftermarket head unit manufacturer appears to offer a shallow mount, mechless, Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto head unit that is iDatalink Maestro compatible. My guess is the WiFi module to enable this feature adds too much bulk to the chassis and that is probably why it was not a feature of the X409-WRA-JL. There simply is no depth in the Wrangler JL dash to support this option.

Alpine X409-WRA-JL OEM style USB and HDMI hub
Alpine X409-WRA-JL OEM style USB/HDMI hub

Although our Wrangler JL’s come with USB’s galore, keep in mind the factory USB’s in your center console and on the back of your center console are not compatible with the Alpine X409-WRA-JL. They will still function for charging only. This Alpine restyle head unit includes a replacement USB/HDMI hub which provides a USB connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AUX input, HDMI input and an extra USB port just for charging.

So can I install this thing myself?

This thing takes some time to install. If you haven’t watched it already, I highly encourage you to check out Quadratec’s install video to get an idea of what is involved.

See what it takes to install the Alpine X409-WRA-JL in this Quadratec video.

Not only is this video super helpful if you want to attempt to do the install yourself, but it’s also helpful for anyone who plans on bringing their Wrangler JL to an Alpine dealer for professional installation. You’ll have a better understanding of why they are charging you what they’re charging for installation. We work on these vehicles every day and feel 5-6 hours is a fair install time. There is just a lot that needs to be disassembled and accessed to do this upgrade, but it’s well worth it.

Feature packed – well worth the upgrade cost

As you can probably tell by this Alpine X409-WRA-JL review, overall, we are super happy with our Alpine X409-WRA-JL. I have been very critical in the past over Alpine’s X009-WRA, X109-WRA and I felt they finally got it right with the i209 and X209 series. Thankfully Alpine has only built on that success with this next generation of X409 series. This head unit really has it all:

  • Sat based GPS navigation including an off-road mode
  • Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Super clean 4-Volt front, rear and subwoofer pre-amp output
  • 9 band parametric EQ
  • Built-in crossovers
  • Digital time alignment
  • SiriusXM capable (need SXV300 tuner)
  • Retain steering wheel controls
  • Retain HVAC display
  • Retain OEM reverse camera
  • Retain access to vehicle settings
  • Retain warning chimes for ADAS
  • OEM quality HDMI input and USB Hub

Is there room for improvement? Of course. It would be nice to see a higher quality adapter to retain the OEM camera and it would be cool if we could change the illumination on the display from Amber to anything else (you can’t). However, for us, the sound quality improvement alone far outweighs any minor critiques we have. If you own a Wrangler JL and are truly looking to install a high-fidelity system, consider the X409-WRA-JL. It really is the best sounding head unit/pre-amp/DSP solution we have tried thus far in our own Wrangler JL.

Jeep Wrangler JL dash kit CES 2020

Wrangler JL dash kit

Metra Electronics announces new shallow mount 107-CH3B for Jeep Wrangler JL and Gladiator.

Here it is folks, the long awaited Wrangler JL dash kit. Many Jeep Wrangler JL and Gladiator owners with the basic 5″ non CarPlay/Android Auto stock radio have been patiently waiting.

Metra 107-CH3B Wrangler JLU dash kit – Image credit Amy Gilroy – CE Outlook

The patent pending design will allow Wrangler JL and Gladiator owners to replace their factory radio with a shallow mount aftermarket 7″ touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility such as a Kenwood DMX7706s or Pioneer DMH-C2550NEX.

When coupled with a compatible shallow mount iDatalink Maestro compatible radio, the iDatalink Maestro RR and HRN-RR-CH3, will retain a long list of factory features such as:

  • Access to modify vehicle settings
  • Climate display and control on radio
  • Selectable performance gauges and”Track Pack” gauges
  • Read/reset check engine codes
  • Retain parking assist chimes and distance on screen
  • Tire pressure, battery voltage and door status display

Key new parts available for upgrading the stereo in your Wrangler JL

There are a handful of key accessories now available to make it easier to upgrade the sound in your Wrangler JL. For Wrangler JL owners that want to keep their factory head unit, we have the versatile AP4-CH41R2 as discussed in my lengthy Wrangler JL stereo upgrade guide.

Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU Stereo Upgrade - PAC Audio AP4-CH41 R2
Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU Stereo Upgrade – PAC Audio AP4-CH41 R2

Add to that Metra’s new JP-1014 speaker adapters:

2018 up Jeep Wrangler JL JLU 6.5 Speaker Pods by Metra JP-1014
2018 up Jeep Wrangler JL JLU 6.5″ Speaker Pods by Metra JP-1014

And SSV works sound bar adapters:

SSC Works Wrangler JL, JLU ,JT rear 6.5
SSV Works Wrangler JL, JLU ,JT rear 6.5″ speaker adapters

And now we can fit proper sized 6.5″ speakers in our Wrangler JL’s.

However – we are still waiting on one key feature retention accessory.

As of this writing, we still do not have a solution to retain the stock Jeep Wrangler JL LVDS (Low Voltage Differential Signaling) reverse camera. What I do find interesting is the Alpine X409-WRA-JL does retain the OEM reverse camera. It also includes an Alpine specific Maestro module.

Alpine X409-WRA-JL
Alpine X409-WRA-JL

Part of me wonders if this is by design in order to try and give Alpine an edge on the market for a specific time frame. I recall a few years ago when Alpine first started shipping GM specific Restyle models, they had an exclusive contract with iDatalink for a set period of time. So for example, if you had a 2008 GMC Yukon Denali and you wanted to upgrade your radio and use the iDatalink Maestro RR to retain your OEM reverse camera, park sensors, Satellite radio, rear seat entertainment system, etc….then you needed to install an Alpine Restyle model because those were the only ones with Maestro software available.

Once that contract expired, they opened it up to Pioneer and Kenwood. So maybe Alpine negotiated another deal giving them exclusivity on the market for a period of time making them the only option that keeps the reverse camera feature? That is just an educated guess really.

I have an X409-WRA-JL on order, but we haven’t had a chance to install one yet and see exactly how it’s retaining the factory camera. If it’s through the included Alpine specific Maestro module, then that will confirm my suspicions. But hey, who knows? CES 2020 is this week, so let’s wait and see. Maybe Metra or another innovative company will reveal a reverse camera retention interface (fingers crossed) that will seal the deal and give Wrangler JL and Gladiator owners everything they need to completely upgrade their stock sound system.

I won’t be attending this year, but be sure to follow Amy Gilroy at CE Outlook for all the latest car audio release at CES 2020. No word at the moment on estimated ship date on the Metra 107-CH3B Wrangler JL dash kit. Check back for more details.

2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU Speaker Upgrade Pods coming soon

2018 up Jeep Wrangler JL JLU 6.5 Speaker Pods by Metra JP-1014

SEMA 2019 – Metra Electronics will be announcing the release of their new 2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU 6.5″ speaker upgrade pods.

2018 up Jeep Wrangler JL JLU 6.5 Speaker Pods by Metra JP-1014
2018 up Jeep Wrangler JL JLU 6.5 Speaker Pods by Metra JP-1014

I am super excited to share this. Metra just announced a new Wrangler JL/JLU speaker upgrade accessory for 2018-up Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU and 2020 – up Gladiator. These 6.5″ 2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU speaker Upgrade pods will allow you to take out that weak excuse of a 4″ dash component and install a proper 6.5″ component speaker.

2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU Speaker Upgrade Pods open up your speaker upgrade options

Although I have found a few great options for high powered 4″ components to work in the factory locations, those options were not exactly budget friendly. Likewise, paying a technician to modify your factory pods to accommodate 6.5″ added a good chunk of change to your total audio upgrade cost.

These speaker pods will greatly open up speaker replacement options for Wrangler JL/JLU and Gladiator owners. Thanks to their injection mold design, they should be at a more budget friendly price.

From a sound quality perspective – with the top down, this will make a world of a difference for your sound stage. I know this because we did the same thing in our 2019 Wrangler MOAB.

Metra’s 2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU Speaker Upgrade Pods were obviously designed by installers

From a design perspective, Metra did a fantastic job. They built these exactly the way we were going to produce ours. Featuring various common aftermarket speaker mounting points and a speaker adapter harness allowing to you to easily re-use factory grommet and wiring in your install.

I will give you a little background info. Over the summer, driving around with our top down, we were missing have the full 6.5″ on the dash like we had in our JK. So my husband actually made a set of these for our own 2019 Wrangler MOAB. I was so impressed with the difference in sound it made with our top down and doors off that I wanted to make them, mass produce them and sell them. So I ordered an extra set of pods from our local dealer and John made a prototype and we set up a consultation with a designer. We were in the process of getting quotes from the designer to put it into the format necessary for production and getting quotes for injection mold manufacturing. Let me tell you – the cost to design something like this are far higher than you’d probably ever expect.

As consumers and installers of aftermarket accessories, we often don’t realize what goes into the design and production of the parts we love to slap into our Wranglers. These 2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU speaker upgrade pods probably cost Metra around $30,000 just to make one pair. And that doesn’t include patent application and lawyer fees which can easily add another $10,000 and they may find the patent rejected due to the obviousness of the design (according to Wikipedia this refers to ” if an idea is so obvious that people in the field would develop it without much effort”). As a small business owner, that’s a massive investment and big risk to take on so I was secretly hoping they’d come out with these and we wouldn’t have to.

So thank you to the team at Metra for making this happen. We understand what it takes and appreciate everything your crew does. No ship date or pricing is available yet, but Metra will announce all the details at SEMA 2019.