Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review

It seems like every other week at our shop, we have a Jeep in the garage getting a full stereo system upgrade. Recently, one of these upgrades involved the Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep stereo featuring a 10″ touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review

The stock stereos in these vehicles are really quite awful which thankfully provides us some job security. For stereo upgrades in the Jeep Wrangler JL or Gladiator we are typically usually using the PAC Audio AP4-CH41R2 and interfacing with the stock head unit. This adapter conveniently provides a flat and clean front, rear and subwoofer RCA pre-amp connection so we can easily upgrade speakers and install aftermarket amps. It’s great for upgrading the sound in a Jeep while retaining the stock look and features.

What if you have the base stock 5″ radio and you want better sound quality and better technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? Read on as I review the Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep Wrangler stereo UN1810 using the Wrangler JL/Gladiator install kit SRK-JW18EH.

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review

The Stinger HEIGH10 radio has a ton of attractive features going for it, especially for Wrangler and Gladiator owners:

  • Vibrant 10″ touch screen 1024 x 600 with anti-glare technology
  • Apple CarPlay (wired to front dash USB input)
  • Android Auto (wired to front dash USB input)
  • SiriusXM capable (SXV300 tuner required)
  • Two USB inputs (secondary for iPod or USB)
  • HDMI input
  • 4 Camera inputs
  • 4 Volt front, rear and subwoofer pre-out
  • 15 band EQ with time alignment
  • Toslink/Optical output

Floating screen – flush look

I was already familiar with the earlier iteration of this stereo, the Stinger ELEV8, and was aware of all its capabilities and features, but had always been hesitant to install one because truthfully – I’m just not a fan of the floating dash style radios. I do like the Alpine Halo series because of its more modest/minimalist appearance, but even then, I’ll only sell and install it in certain vehicles. There are some cars that these floating screens look great in and others where they just look really out of place and awkward.

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review – Climate Display

Thankfully Stinger came out with a Wrangler specific install kit (SRK-JW18EH) that finishes this floating screen stereo out nicely.

Upgrading your stock Jeep JL Gladiator stereo

When it comes to replacing the stereo in Wrangler JL and Gladiators, there are a lot of things to be aware of.

Number one – it’s super tight behind the dash so you are really limited in options for aftermarket head units. Nothing with a traditional single din or double din chassis is going to fit.

Number two – there are a ton of features and vehicle info going through your stock stereo and very few aftermarket radios are capable of retaining all that stock functionality.

In fact as of this writing, two of our industry’s most popular aftermarket stereo parts manufacturers, iDatalink and Metra, still offer no solution to simply retain the OEM reverse camera. Metra actually made an aftermarket camera to go in the OEM location (what a pain in the ass!) and iDatalink is still working on a full kit solution for Maestro compatible radios (mechless and shallow mount only).

Stinger HEIGH10 – Retains OEM Features and Functions

Unlike many other major car stereo brands on the market, the Stinger HEIGH10 with the SRK-JW18EH Jeep installation kit has everything you need to wire up the radio and flush mount it in the dash.

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review – Vehicle settings menu

In addition to the clean finished look, check out the long list of features retained with this aftermarket Wrangler JL/Gladiator head unit:

  • Factory reverse camera (I think Stinger does this better than Alpine’s X409-WRA-JL does, but it was hard to tell on this install because the client had a hard spare tire cover with hole notched out which really limited the camera view so I couldn’t confirm this for certain)
  • Front camera if equipped
  • Original USB ports
  • Warning chimes
  • Steering wheel controls
  • Volume knob (if equipped with 7″ stock stereo)
  • Climate display
  • Access to vehicle settings in the radio
  • Stock amplifier if equipped

Stinger HEIGH10 – Bonus Features

In addition to seamlessly retaining all these features, the Stinger HEIGH10 adds a ton of cool bonus vehicle information that would be helpful during off road excursions.

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review – Pitch and Roll display

All of this vehicle information is easily accessible through the Stinger HEIGH10 radio when installed in a Jeep Wrangler JL or Gladiator:

  • Tire angle
  • Transfer case info
  • Tire pressure monitoring
  • Door status
  • Pitch & roll
  • Compass
  • Battery voltage
  • Coolant temperature
  • Transmission temperature
  • Oil pressure
  • Oil temperature
  • Intake air temperature
  • Outside temperature
  • Barometric pressure
  • Altitude
  • Longitude & Latitude
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review – Door status and PSI display

Is all of this information necessary? No, but it certainly is cool and looks pretty on the screen. Overall, I think Stinger did a great job with graphics in general and as well as menu structure. It’s pretty intuitive to navigate the various options available and all of this info is very easy to find while traversing.

Disable Start/Stop Feature

One of my favorite minor features about this radio is the ability to disable the annoying Start/Stop technology. Check this box to enable memory of the automatic start/stop button on the dash.

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep JL Review – Disable Automatic Start/Stop Jeep JL and Gladiator

I am the first to admit I am a tree hugger – I grew up with the whole “plant a tree, save the planet” indoctrination. My childhood family home is lined with huge evergreens that I brought home as little seedlings when I was a kid (am I the only one that remembers these free trees giveaways at school in the late 80’s?). But WTF – how much gas/emissions are you actually saving with this annoying embedded “feature”. Check this box in the Stinger HEIGH10 radio and plant another tree if you agree with me.

Stinger HEIGH10 – Best bang for your buck

As a fellow Jeep Wrangler owner (both a 2-door 2014 JK and 2019 JL) I understand how easy and tempting it is spend thousands of dollars on upgrades for our vehicles. Wheels, tires, lift kit, off-road upgrades, stereo upgrades etc. There is always a LOT we want to do to our Jeeps and budgeting for all the things we want to do can be tough.

If you own a Wrangler or Gladiator with the 5″ screen, it can be hard to justify spending $3k on the Alpine X409-WRA-JL or $2k on the Infotainment stock 8.4″ upgrade with updated climate control panel just to get a nice big screen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. This is where the Stinger HEIGH10 really shines in my opinion. It hits all the marks in terms of features for a quality aftermarket head unit upgrade while retaining all OEM functionality at a fraction of the cost of competitors.

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep Review – Part of a full system upgrade

The Stinger HEIGH10 radio itself goes for $1099.95 and the Wrangler JL Gladiator install kit goes for $619.95 and it’s a great platform to work with. For someone on a budget looking for a full system upgrade, the money you save on this head unit can be put towards better quality speakers, amplifiers and subs which is exactly what this client did. We did a modest upgrade in this 2-door JL and it sounded great – WAY better than stock.

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep Review – 15 Band EQ, DTA and Crossovers

Not only did this client get the benefit of the larger touch screen – the 15 band EQ (that’s 6 more bands than Alpine) with digital time alignment and 4 volt pre-amp gave us the tools necessary to make sure we were getting the best sound quality possible out of the components installed.

Stinger HEIGH10 Review Conclusion

It’s hard to find any fault with this product, Stinger thought of nearly everything. And for anyone who has been following my blog, you know I can always find fault with something. When pressed, I would say there was really only one hiccup that came up during our install. We realized the USB input for Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is the center console USB only. You cannot make this connection using the dash mounted USB. And the connection is wired only (not wireless). Additionally, the optional iGo Primo navigation SD card? It does not include off road maps. Overall, these seem like pretty minor drawbacks when you look at the total package and total price tag.

Lastly, I have heard from one reader that he experienced a sound quality degradation when interfacing this head unit with his stock Alpine system. To be clear – he only upgraded the head unit and nothing else and I have not been able to verify this personally. I suspect it may be a level matching issue between the stock amp and the Stinger head unit amp (which can happen in any car audio system when upgrading an in dash unit in a vehicle with a stock premium amplified system because you’re technically amplifying an already amplified signal). Even then, that issue could potentially be mitigated using the built-in audio controls. Stinger does offer very specific instruction in the advanced menu for the stock amplified settings. Perhaps those were not followed? I’m not sure, I’m still waiting to hear back from that reader to confirm.

Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep Review
Stinger HEIGH10 Jeep Review – Great features, functionality and value

In conclusion, the Stinger HEIGH10 stereo with Wrangler JL Gladiator kit is a fantastic choice for Jeep clients looking for an upgraded head unit without the $3k Alpine price tag. Have you installed the HEIGH10 in your Jeep? Let me know what you think of it in the comments below.

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.

2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - 8.4" Uconnect with Premium Alpine System.

Ready to upgrade your 2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU Stereo?

Here at are our shop in Brookfield, CT, we upgrade Jeep Wranglers stereos all the time – older TJ’s, JK’s and even the new JL body style. Jeep Wranglers are a blast to drive in the warmer months – top down, sun shining, doors off and wind blowing between your toes (don’t tell me you haven’t driven your Wrangler barefoot like this). Add a kick ass stereo to the mix and it adds a whole ‘nother layer of enjoyment to the cruising experience.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - 8.4" Uconnect with Premium Alpine System.
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – 8.4″ Uconnect with Premium Alpine System.

I used to say, whenever possible, I prefer to plan out a Jeep Wrangler JL stereo upgrade BEFORE my client has even purchased the vehicle. That’s because when the Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU first came out, it was actually easier and cleaner to upgrade the sound in the premium amplified models, vs the non amplified models.

As technology has progressed in our industry, a new category has emerged which I refer to as “Pre-Amp Adapters”. For many newer vehicles on the market, there are these really cool pre-amp adapters available that allow us to simply pop out the stock premium amp and drop in an aftermarket amp (and aftermarket speakers) in its place. This enables us to fully upgrade the audio system without losing any functionality or control and while retaining the OEM head unit and user interface.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – which model radio is your JL equipped with?

Jeep offers several different radios and packages for the new Jeep Wrangler JL body style including:

  • 5″ touch screen
  • 7″ touch screen
  • 8.4″ touch screen

All of these models are offered with or without the factory premium sound option. Yet, what engineers have found, is the stock head unit electronics are the same between amplified and non amplified. So technically a pre-amp adapter can be used even in the non amplified models thanks to the clever techs at PAC Audio and iDatalink (article updated 8/6/2018). When used in a non amplified JL/JLU, they are essentially tricking the head unit into thinking it’s connected to the premium stock sound system.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – Using a pre-amp adapter

There are several pre-amp adapters available on the market at the moment, however, I’m a big fan of the PAC Audio AMP Pro 4 series which is also available for many GM, Toyota/Lexus and Ford models.

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

What is a pre-amp adapter exactly? Unlike a base model stereo, the audio signal coming from many premium stock head units is digital. It’s just one’s and zero’s, data streaming until it reaches the stock amp. Think of that digital signal as a pre-amp audio signal. Once the signal reaches the stock amp it is converted to analog which is then output to your speakers. The stock amp also has built in crossovers and 9 individual channels for each driver unlike a traditional aftermarket amp.

Ideally, to upgrade the speakers and amp in your Jeep Wrangler JL, you want to intercept that audio signal before it hits the stock amp. That is exactly what these pre-amp adapters do. They catch the signal before it has been processed, while it is still clean, unadulterated and digital and then provides you with a way to connect an aftermarket amp and/or DSP processor to your stock stereo. You can either catch it while it is still digital and then keep it digital by utilizing an amp or DSP processor with Toslink connectivity OR you can convert it straight to analog RCA. This photo from PAC Audio illustrates it pretty well. In our Jeep JLU we used a pre-amp adapter plus JL Audio’s TWK-88 for a DSP (update 8/6/19 – we have since upgraded to JL Audio’s VX1000/5i amp which is a combination amp and Twk-88) so that we have full equalization control and time alignment.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - Pre-amp adapter drawing
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – Pre-amp adapter drawing

There are a few different pre-amp adapters on the market compatible with the Wrangler JL and JLU:

In our own 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL MOAB edition (Mojito!), we used the PAC Audio AP4-CH41 and out of the 3 options listed, this is our preferred adapter. It’s a bit more flexible than the other two options. One cool thing about the PAC Audio piece is you don’t have to go the full DSP route. A lot of Jeepsters are do-it-your-selfers and may have skills for a head unit, speakers and amp install, but lack the knowledge and expertise to set up a 31 band EQ or the digital time alignment included with most DSP processors. You can use the AP4-CH41 just to get a nice clean 5 volt pre-amp signal so you can easily install a nice 5 channel amp, upgrade your speakers and add a sub. A DSP is optional with the PAC Audio adapter; it’s not required nor is it included.

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

Keep in mind, if you have the non amplified Jeep JL/JLU, and you want to use the PAC Audio module, you MUST purchase the R2 version. The regular AP4-CH41 will not work for non amplified models, only AP4-CH41R2.

Just pause for a second or two and look at that picture above and look at how easy that makes your install. Gold plated 5 volt RCA pre-amp output, color coded speaker wire pigtail so you can run lines directly to your aftermarket amp (for non premium models; premium models can catch speaker wires in driver side upper kick at stock amp), remote turn on lead and OEM style cloth tape wrapped locking T harness. Fan-f***ing-tastic, I cannot tell you all how excited I am about this part. This makes upgrading anyone’s Wrangler JL/JLU stereo super easy. Not only does it provide a clean, pre-amp signal, it also retains all warning chimes, bluetooth calls, etc.

Please note: if your non amplified Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU is equipped with active noise cancellation, you will need to buy an additional adapter to retain that feature (ANC-CH01) or just disconnect the noise cancellation mic’s which is what we’ve been doing for years with Honda’s and Acura’s (they started doing that back in 2008).

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – Why can’t you just use a basic line output converter?

Is the pre-amp adapter necessary? Can’t I just use a line output converter? For the premium sound models, no, you really need the pre-amp adapter to do it right. You can’t easily slap on a line output converter for a full system upgrade because you’d have to grab your audio signal AFTER the stock amp where it has already been converted and divided up into various frequency ranges for your stock sub, mid ranges and tweeters. This video from iDatalink actually explains really well why you don’t want to do it that way.

If you just wanted to add a sub to the stock system and you have the premium stock sound system, you can go the line output converter route and just grab your signal from the stock sub, but for a full system upgrade, you really want to go the pre-amp route.

For non amplified models, it’s even tricker to just tack on an aftermarket amp and speakers with a basic line output converter because the stock head unit wants to see a specific resistance value on the factory speaker lines. It’s much cleaner, easier and more cost effective to get yourself a pre-amp adapter.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – Speakers, amp, subwoofer and optional DSP processor

If you are familiar with my recommendations on the JK Jeep Wrangler Stereo Upgrade, then you’re already ahead of the game. Really the same rules still apply. In order to upgrade and really be able to enjoy the sound system in your Wrangler – top up or down – you need:

  • Good, clean audio signal (either aftermarket head unit with high voltage RCA pre-amp OR pre-amp adapter with or without DSP processor)
  • Quality speakers that can handle high power for the front and rear
  • Subwoofer – preferably side mounted or down-firing so bass isn’t lost when top down
  • High powered 5 channel amp to power new speakers and subwoofer OR use two separate amps – a high powered 4 channel and mono subwoofer amp

Jeep Wrangler JL Speakers – Sizes and location

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - front dash speakers 4 inch component
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – front dash speakers 4 inch component

Speaker placement in the Wrangler JL is the same as the previous JK models. You should have mid ranges against the dash pad, tweeters on the dash and component or coaxial in the sound bar.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - front dash speakers 2.5 inch tweeter location
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – front dash speakers 3.5 inch tweeter location

However, looks can be deceiving. Although the grille sizes appear pretty similar to the JK body style, the speaker size has changed in the new Jeep Wrangler JL. Oddly enough, they have gone down in size.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - sound bar speakers 4 inch component or coax
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – sound bar speakers 4 inch component or coax

The Jeep Wrangler JL is equipped with:

  • 4″ components in front with an oversized tweeter (3.5″)
  • 4″ components in the rear sound bar

Oh, and they are mounted in these cute little ported enclosures:

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - OEM speaker enclosure pic
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – OEM speaker enclosure pic

Only trouble with this size is you are kind of limited in options. There are not a lot of high power handling 4″ components on the market. Audison offers the Prima 4 series mid bass speakers and you can pair that with their AP1 tweeters and add a crossover for the fronts. Additionally German manufacturer Match offers a 4″ component set specific to BMW in the $250 range, but I have not had the pleasure of testing these speakers yet. Focal offers their ES 100K 4″ components from their K2 series around $750 a set.

I have both this Focal series and Morel Hybrid series on our sound board in our display room. The Focal’s are great, don’t get me wrong, but that Morel tweeter is just sublime. Upon listening, most of our customers prefer the Morel Hybrid series over the Focal K2 series at this particular price point.

Generally speaking, for best performance, I prefer Morel. For reference, I did put a set of the BMW Audison Prima speakers in my 2013 1 series and they’re not bad, but I will be swapping them out for Morel in the near future – they’re a little bright/harsh in comparison to Morel.

Morel has a couple options to choose from and they are both pretty freaking awesome. You really can’t go wrong with either model. The Morel Hybrid 402 Components and the Virtus 402 Components fit quite nicely. The first Wrangler JLU we worked on, we did actually install a set of 6.5″ components in the front and modified the housings. We had pulled these speakers out from his last Jeep not knowing what size would be in the JL. It was quite a tedious effort, but if there is a specific set of component speakers you want and they are not available in 4″, you really don’t have any other choice than to modify the housing.

Update 11-25-19 – Metra has announced new 6.5″ pods – the JP-1014 which will allow a 6.5″ component to be mounted in the front speaker location.

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

Additionally, SSV Works has announced a sound bar retrofit for 6.5″ rear components or coaxials.

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

Lastly, TLC Auto Truck is making some really nice upright tweeter pods which will really help the sound stage. I always preferred the upright tweeter location in my 2014 Wrangler over the flat dash design aimed up at the glass.

TLC Autotruck Wrangler JL/JLU/JT Tweeter Pods
TLC Autotruck Wrangler JL/JLU/JT Tweeter Pods available for pre-order.

These aftermarket 6.5″ speaker adapters greatly open up your speaker replacement options for your Wrangler JL/JLU and are highly recommended for the best sound.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - Morel Hybrid 2-way
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – Morel Hybrid 2-way

If you want to utilize factory locations and speaker sizes, you would basically order two sets of these component speakers – one for the fronts and one for the rear sound bar. Now, technically, you don’t have to go with a matching component set in the rear sound bar, you could get away with installing a coaxial such as the Hybrid Integra 402 point source or even one of Morel’s other 4″ coaxial speakers such as the Tempo Ultra 4″ or even Maximo Ultra 4″. In our own Wrangler we went with the Hybrid series front and rear and they are truly fantastic. Morel specializes in speakers and they really do a phenomenal job. They are made in Israel and they are known for their incredible tweeter. It is silky smooth, detailed, articulate and vibrant, but never harsh. It it impeccable.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – Amp placement and recommendation

With your pre-amp adapter, you can technically install whatever amp or combination of amps you desire, but I can tell you what has worked well for our shop in countless Wranglers. This amp is what my husband John and I each have in our own Wranglers – the Alpine PDX-V9. I highly recommend it. I’ve used this amp in many high fidelity system installs. It really is an excellent value. It is a compact, high powered and great sounding 5 channel amp. It pushes out 100 watts RMS per channel to the interior speakers and 500 watts RMS to the subwoofer.

This is plenty of power output if you like it loud and clear cruising with the top down. Even on the highway with the top down, you will still be able to hear and enjoy your sound system with this powerful amp. If you are installing this with only the PAC Audio AP4-CH41, and you are not using any separate DSP processor, we recommend you also include their RUXKNOB2 bass knob so you can adjust the sub bass on the fly from song to song.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - underseat amp bracket
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – under seat amp bracket

In most Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrades, we install the amp under the passenger seat. JL Audio has a couple install accessories that we used in our own Jeep Wrangler JL stereo upgrade that you may want to consider to make your install a little cleaner and easier. The part pictured above is an under seat amplifier mounting bracket for the passenger side and the part pictured below is a nice mounting bracket for your fuse holder.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - fancy fuse holder bracket
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – fancy fuse holder bracket

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade Subwoofer Options

What about the bass? Thankfully, JL Audio is on top of the ball and they have already designed two different stealth box enclosures for the 4 door Wrangler JL. This vehicle specific stealth box is available for either passenger or driver side (or both) and features JL Audio’s 10″ TW1 shallow mount subwoofer.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - JL Audio stealth box driver side 10TW1
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – JL Audio stealth box driver side 10TW1

I know not everyone has the $750 to shell out for a sub like this, but if you can swing it, go for it and while you’re at it, go for both of them. This is the best way to add bass that doesn’t take up any room, is clean, tight, punchy and loud enough to hear over wind and road noise. Bonus – if you do buy this subwoofer you are also supporting American jobs. it’s made in America, right in Miramar, Florida (woofer and enclosure).

Update 11-25-19: SSV Works has available a 10″ enclosure – available with or without a subwoofer at a more budget friendly price. This is a great alternative over the JL Audio Stealthbox.

SSV works Wrangler JLU subwoofer
SSV works Wrangler JLU subwoofer starting at $279.95 without enclosure plus shipping.

If you need a more budget friendly option and you’re working with the base 8 speaker system, you could consider using Alpine’s (made in China) PWE-S8 under seat amplified subwoofer. That is a great amplified subwoofer I have used in many Wrangler’s, but keep in mind it’s only 120 watts RMS so it’s pretty similar in output to what the stock premium subwoofer sounds like. It’s not nearly as powerful, deep or punchy as the JL Audio stealthbox, but it still makes for a nice improvement over the base sound system. If you’re going to build a basic enclosure for this vehicle, I highly recommend down firing it. The pressure waves will travel along the frame of the vehicle and are less likely to be lost in the open air compared to a traditional, rear facing, pre-fab subwoofer enclosure.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – DSP Processor – placement and recommendation

If you want fine tune control such as equalization controls, digital time alignment and easily adjustable crossover points, you’ll want to use a DSP processor with your installation. There are many DSP processors on the market. If you use the iDatalink AR you can use an Audison processor or you can use the DSR1 which has the Rockford processor built in. Our shop has tried many different brand processors on the market – Audison, Alpine, Rockford Fosgate, JBL, Audio Control, Helix, Metra, etc. Out of everything we’ve tried over the past 20 years, our favorite is still the JL Audio Twk-88. It just has the best sound quality and most versatility. Our only complaint is you do need a laptop to set it up. It would be nice if it could be adjusted through an app.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade - JL Audio Twk bass knob location
Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – JL Audio Twk bass knob location

The Twk-88 should be installed with a DRC-205. This control knob has bother an inner and outer ring which can be assigned various functions. For example – when using the optical out of the PAC Audio APA-TOS1, you lose fader control on the head unit. So in vehicles where we are going optical out, we set up one knob as a fader control and the other as sub level control. When you push the knob in and release, that acts as your your listening preset control. You can see in the pic above that we have ours mounted where an outlet used to be. When John and I are cruising together, he pushes the knob in and the color on the knob ring changes to indicate we’ve switched from listening preset number one (which he set up for him, the driver) to listening preset number two (which he set up for driver and passenger). I believe with the JL Twk-88 you can have up to 6 listening presets.

For a combined amplifier/processor – consider any one of the JL Audio VXI series amps. These smart amps have the Twk-88 processor built in and even enable you to tie in a secondary analog amp. Not only did we do this in the YouTube video above, we eventually installed the VX1000/5i in our own Wrangler JLU after running our Twk-88 and PDXV9 for awhile (we still have the PDXV9 in there mainly to run our rears and have the JL VX1000/5i bridged to our fronts and running our two Stealthboxes). The small footprint and DSP control is impressive. They also added an optional Bluetooth adapter interface (VXI-BTC) which enables you to set up/tune your DSP via wireless connection to an iPad or laptop.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – Aftermarket Head Unit Options

If you have the base model, non amplified 5″ screen, you would probably prefer to replace the radio so that you can get better features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In all likelihood, such a head unit would also have a nice clean pre-amp output. However, as of this writing, Metra has not yet made a stereo installation dash kit for this vehicle, but I am sure they are working on it. Technically some of the wiring parts are available, so if you wanted to make a custom dash kit to install an aftermarket head unit, you could, but there are some limitations to be aware of.

Mounting depth is going to be an issue for any traditional aftermarket double din head unit. It’s probably only about 5″. The stock head unit is extremely shallow and there are vents behind it. I think one of the best options for head units currently on the market would be the Kenwood DMX7706s which utilizes a very shallow chassis and is iDatalink Maestro compatible. To learn more about the DMX7706s and iDatalink Maestro, check out the video below.

Alternatively, something like the Pioneer DMH-C2550NEX or DMH-C5500NEX could possibly work. Both of these models utilize a modular system. The screen is a thin and shallow component and then there is a separate sub brain for the radio guts and pre-amp. Both of these models are also iDatalink Maestro compatible. Using the iDatalink Maestro RR and CH3 harness, you can retain functions like steering wheel controls, access to and ability to modify vehicle settings and on screen vehicle info like tire pressure monitoring, battery voltage and read/reset check engine codes. However, at the moment, it doesn’t look like there are any parts to retain the OEM reverse camera (which is most likely CAN bus activated like most Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep OEM cameras so may not be possible to try and cut and splice and trigger on your own). I’m sure a solution will be available soon for both the dash kit and reverse camera and once it’s available, I will update this post with new details.

Update 11-25-19 – It has come to my attention that Scosche has made a dash installation kit for this vehicle which also replaces the climate control panel and hazard button.

Scosche ITCCR05B JL Wrangler Dash kit
Scosche ITCCR05B JL Wrangler Dash kit

The new HVAC controls on this dash kit are all touch screen controlled. This is a $650 dash kit according to Quadratec. It also looks an awful lot like the Scosche Lexus LS2151B dash kit we installed for a customer a few years ago which came with the same style touch sensitive hazard button that goes off at all times of the day by itself. Due to the horrible experience I had with that dash kit (and Scosche’s response which was basically to throw their hands up and say sorry, nothing we can do) I cannot recommend this dash kit. It’s too bad they don’t sell the bezel by itself.

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

Lastly, if you have the dough to drop, check out Alpine’s X409-WRA-JL which is currently available for pre-order and provides a 9″ weather resistant touch screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, built in GPS (with off road mode) – this stereo retains the HVAC display, factory reverse camera and steering wheel controls.

Jeep Wrangler JL Stereo Upgrade – Limited options, but only for a limited time

The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most highly accessorized and popular vehicles on the road. It’s only going to be a matter of time until more products hit the market and more options become available. The Jeep Wrangler JL body style is still relatively new, so we are still somewhat limited in accessories and upgrades currently available. However, if you’re looking to upgrade the sound system in your Wrangler JL now, you still have some solid methods and solutions available and I hope you found this blog post helpful in exploring those options. I’m sure there will be many more product solutions in the near future. Until then, I hope this post has been informative to my fellow Wrangler JL owners out there. Please let me know what you think in the comment section below.