Factory Harley Radio Integration Secrets for ‘14 & Up
It is very possible to get great sound out of your ‘14 & up factory Harley radio, but 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. 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.
There are three primary issues with the factory Harley radio. All of which are simple to overcome if you know what you are doing and have the right equipment.
Issues that need to be addressed
- Frequency response
- Resistive load
- Signal voltage
Frequency response is a concern, but not the only thing that needs to be addressed.
Thinking that the radios frequency response (EQ curve) is the only issue is a common mistake. This is not the case. Flashing your bike can make it better, but will not resolve all issues.
Harley radios have an EQ curve programmed into them. This curve can be real problematic for an aftermarket system because aftermarket speakers and amplifiers are engineered to be used with a radio that has a relatively flat frequency response. The graph above shows the frequency response of a Harley that originally shipped with two fairing speakers and no factory amplifier (red). The blue line shows the response after the same bike has been flashed for 2 amplifiers and 8 speakers. This flash was performed even though the bike does not have two external Harley amplifiers or 8 speakers.
There are a few ways of dealing with the EQ issue.
- Have the radio flashed. The easiest flash is to flash for “4 Speakers-Upper Fairing/Rear Pods/No Amp”. This will give you a high level (high signal voltage) with a four speaker output (the fader will be enabled in the radio for 4 speaker output). Rockford Fosgate recommends that you flash for “8 Speakers-Upper/Lower/Saddle Bags/Rear Pods/2 Amps”. You can find the Rockford article here. This flash will give you the flattest frequency response with a low(er) voltage signal and no fader option. There is no fader option at the radio because the fader function is done within the Harley amplifiers that are not actually present on the bike. However, we have found that ‘15 & up bikes that do not have the Harley amplifiers present in the bike a lot of the time will not accept a flash for two amplifiers. So the two amplifier flash is not always an option. If this is the case with your bike, your best option is to flash for 4 speakers and no amp as described above.
- Use a plug and play device that will flatten the frequency response and lower the signal voltage. It is our experience that these type of devices can be hit and miss. They do not seem to work well with radios that are flashed for factory Harley amplifiers and they seem to work with some amplifiers but not others.
- Best option. Use a stand alone DSP (digital sound processor). This is a digital device (EQ) that can undo the EQ that is programed into your radio and also allow you to EQ your sound to your taste. This is really the ultimate solution. There are several manufactures out there that make these devices.
More information about flashing your radio
I talked with Chris Lowe from Garage Bagger Stereo and he told me that Harley has gotten rid of the two amplifier/8 speaker flash that Rockford recommends. Chris recommends to instead use the 4 speakers-Upper Fairing/Rear Pods/No Amp flash as pictured below.
Chris offers a radio flashing service so that you can avoid the trip to your dealership.
Recommended processor options
Arc Audio PSM (our favorite)
The Arc Audio PSM processor is the first of it’s kind. Specifically designed for use with ‘14 & up Harley Davidson motorcycles. This processor ships from the factory with a tune already programed into it that will make 90% of Harley audio upgrades a plug and play event. This device gives you a user interface via USB (WIndows PC). All of the tools that an audio installer needs to make a good sound system great are built into this beauty. With a PC plugged in, you can make sound adjustments and hear them in real time.
- Smallest Processor on the market. Fits in the fairing along with an amplifier, with room to spare!
- Made for Harleys and not for cars.
- 2, 4, or 6 channels of speaker level or RCA type inputs. This means that you have a lot of great options for feeding this bad boy signal. You can keep it simple and just plug it into your front fairing radio harness, or you can get your hands on the rear speaker output Harley speaker harness and feed four channels of input to the PSM. Plug & play Harley adapters are available. Inputs are as simple as unplugging the speaker enclosures and plugging your factory radio directly into the PSM.
- Up to 6 channels of RCA output with a separate EQ for each channel. This means that you can set one EQ curve for your fairing speakers, another curve for your lid speakers, and another for your bag woofers!
- Digital time delay. You can add delay to your fairing speakers and make it sound like all of the sound is coming from your fairing speakers. This makes for a much more bold and natural sound while you ride.
- Digital crossover filters. Filter out the bass from your fairing speakers, lid speakers, lowers, and filter the highs out of your bag woofers.
- Adjustable delay for remote turn on output. This feature is great for getting rid turn on and off pops from your amplifiers.
Audison Bit Ten
The Audison Bit Ten processor is designed for car Audio but works very well with Harley applications. The big advantage of this processor is that it actually reads the frequency response of your factory radio (and whatever flash your radio has). The autotune feature of this processor will undo whatever flash Harley has programed into your radio, making great sound foolproof! We have experienced that this works magically well. The disadvantage of this processor is that it is large enough that it either needs to be mounted in the fairing with no room left for an amplifier or it needs to be mounted in a saddlebag. We make plug and play wire harnesses for Harley installations in either location. We also make mounting racks for locating this processor in a saddlebag.
- Pretty much identical EQ, crossover, and digital time delay as the Arc Audio PSM but only has 4 channels of speaker level in and 5 channels of RCA out.
- Auto de-equalization feature makes setup especially foolproof.
- Not ultra small in size like the PSM
Resistive Load. This is where many go wrong.
Smoothing out the frequency response of the radio will do you no good if the factory radio distorts when you turn the volume up. What happens is that the radio clips (distorts) at a low volume when the factory speaker has been removed from the bike. This is because the amplifier built into the factory Harley radios is designed to drive a speaker and not designed to drive the inputs of an amplifier or processor. The resistive load needs to be lowered. Arc Audio has a great article explaining this problem that you can read here.
The American Hard Bag Solution
We have come up with a plug & play solution that remedies this problem by combining 3 parts.
- Load resistors
- Rockford Fosgate RCA to speaker wire adapters
- Plug & play Harley radio connectors
We build a single part that converts the factory Harley plugs to RCA and adds the required resistance for a clean distortion free signal. These parts can all be purchased separately, but we offer a single part already put together.
Additionally we include the opposite side of the Harley plug that allows you to make your amplifier speaker outputs plug & play with your fairing speaker pods.
We make these in three varieties
- Front speaker (shown above).
- Rear speaker. You can use this version to add rear speaker outputs to a bike that only came with two front speakers (must be flashed for 4 speakers).
- Tour pack. Use this version on bikes that came with factory tour pack speakers. The rear speaker output from the factory radio on these bikes is only available under the seat back near the tour pack. This adapter is a T harness that goes between the tour pack and the bike harnesses and runs the signal back up to the front of the bike in the fairing where it terminates as RCA connectors.
If your radio is flashed for 4 speaker output, you must use load resistors or the above mentioned plug and play adapters on both front and rear outputs of the radio. Even if you don't use the rear outputs. If your radio is only flashed for two speakers you will not need load resistors on the rear outputs because they are defeated in the radio.
It’s worth mentioning that even though this adapter converts the speaker lines to RCAs, the signal is still a balanced high level, and not a low level RCA type signal. The load resistors simply add a load to the radio but do not decrease the signal voltage. Also, unlike a traditional RCA signal, the shield (outer ring) of the RCA is hot (speaker level). If used with an amplifier that does not have differential inputs, a high to low level converter with isolation transformers is required. Damage to the radio could occur if used with an amplifier that has traditional RCA (single ended, common shield) inputs. We sell a very specialized high to low level adapter with isolation transformers that has RCA connectors on both the input as well as the outputs. This makes it a simple plug & play installation with our Harley to RCA adapters.
High Signal Voltage Problem
Last but not least there is the potential that the signal voltage is too high for your amplifier. The signal voltage can be high enough from a factory Harley radio that it will overdrive even an amplifier that is designed for speaker level inputs. To deal with this it is recommended that you add an RCA voltage reducer like the one pictured above. This device simply plugs inline with the RCAs and allows you to dial in the signal voltage to whatever works best.
We sell this module in two versions.
RCA level attenuation only
Use with amplifiers that are designed for speaker level inputs (differential inputs).
RCA attenuation plus isolation
Use this version with amplifiers that have standard single ended RCA type inputs (outside shield is common on all inputs of the amplifier). This unit isolates the negative side of the the speaker level signal so that when plugged into your amplifier the radio will not see a dead short.
Speed Controlled Volume
The speed controlled volume feature increases volume of the radio as your speed increases. This is a cool feature, but is not a good thing if you have an aftermarket amplifier. We recommend that you turn this feature off. Simply go through your audio settings and turn it off.
For assistance with installation and system setup
Phone: 1(916) 823-5256