It is very possible to get great sound out of your ‘14 & up factory Harley radio. In fact, there are several sound performance advantages to keeping the factory radio that you could never get with an aftermarket radio. However there are a few things to know before you get started. This article is intended to be an aid to anyone looking to upgrade their Harley audio system with the new generation of radio (2014 and up).

This article will give you a good grasp on how to properly perform a quality upgrade and how to avoid some of the bad information and practices that we see out there. The information in this article applies to all '14 & up Harley radios regardless of which model radio you have (touch screen, no touch screen, GTS, nav, no nav etc.)

In This Article We Will Cover

  • Factory vs aftermarket radios
  • How to properly integrate with your factory radio (connections)
  • Clarify what radio flash you need
  • Explain how to tune aftermarket equipment to perform with your factory radio

Performance Advantages of the Factory Radio

  1. Volume Dependent Loudness Curve. Makes the system sound much better while riding than any aftermarket radio can.
  2. Modern Features. CarPlay, Bluetooth, and USB make factory radios very functional in today's world.
  3. Made for Riding. A display that you can see in the sun, native hand controls, and high weather resistance makes the factory radio a practical choice.

Performance Advantages of an Aftermarket Radio

  1. More, yet very limited audio adjustments built into the radio.
  2. Faster boot time compared to the old Harley GT radios but not compared to the GTS radio (2019 and later).
  3. Nicer display than the old GT radios (not in the sun!), but not nicer than the newer GTS radios.
  4. RCA outputs make connecting to aftermarket gear simpler but you lose the factory radio’s balanced audio signal and volume dependent loudness curve (huge deal!).

Connections

To properly integrate an aftermarket sound system with a factory Harley radio you need the right wire harnesses to make your connections. It is important to understand that the best integration wire harnesses for your factory radio do not change the radios output voltage or frequency response. Those two changes are made with a radio flash and should never be done with any passive device (a dummy part that does not require battery power). American Hard Bag makes two types of integration wire harnesses

Radio T Harness

This harness is the best option for most systems. It connects to your Harley audio system by intercepting all of the audio circuits directly at the radio. This way you not only get signal from the factory radio from all four channels but you also get access to the bikes factory speaker circuits. And that can eliminate the need to run new aftermarket wires through the bike. The radio T harness also gives you access to the bikes 12 volt accessory circuit that you can use to automatically turn your amplifiers on and off through the bikes ignition switch.

Front signal Only Harness

This harness is perfect for any system that does not need to use factory rear speaker circuits because you are either not using rear speakers or you are adding rear speakers that were not factory so there are no factory wire runs available.

Digital Sound Processor (equalizer)

Do you need a DSP in your system? The simple answer is yes, but that depends on what your expectations are and what speakers you plan to use. If you are building a system that is anything but mild then you need a DSP. Also if your system uses horn loaded tweeters you need a DSP. Pro audio type speakers that use horn tweeters are designed to be used along with quite a bit of equalization in order to obtain very high volume levels and still be able to maintain control over sound quality. If on the other hand your system is basic and you are willing to be limited to just the bass and treble controls of your radio, then you might not need a DSP.


What Radio Flash Do You Need?

It is possible to install a system without performing a radio flash, but only when using a sound processor and when skipping the flash the tuning process becomes much more complicated. So we always recommend to do a radio flash. And the flash that you want is always the Rockford Fosgate flash. No Matter what speakers and amplifiers you are using.

Warning!

  • Don’t Get Your Bike Flashed With the Factory Harley Flash Tool at the dealership!
  • Always Get Your Bike Flashed With a TecnoResearch Flash Tool

 

TechnoResearch is a third party flash tool that most all non Harley shops have. Even most Harley dealerships these days now also have TechnoResearch flash tools as well. When using the TechnoResearch brand tool be sure to select the Rockford Fosgate flash profile. This flash has all of the best options and the best frequency response as well. The flash will enable rear speakers on your radio if your bike was a two channel system. If your bike has factory amplifiers the flash will enable analog fader and tone controls.

Factory Harley systems with amplifiers perform their tone and fader operations from within the amplifier instead of the radio. So when you remove the radio you also remove your fade and tone controls unless you flash your radio. As an extra bonus, you can enable Apple CarPlay while you are at it without needing to buy or install any extra Harley hardware. It’s as simple as a click of a button in the software.


How to Tune an Aftermarket System With a Factory Harley Radio

It is very important to understand that even after a radio flash, frequency response (equalization) of the radio is not flat and that you don’t want it to be. If you are having your system installed by a professional, make sure that he knows about this and completely understands it. Otherwise you are not going to like the result you end up with. We have documented how this is done in detail. You can find that article here.


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