How to Add an iPod Sound System to Your Harley Davidson Road King

Adding an iPod to your Harley Davidson road king is a simple and very effective way to obtain a great sound system.

There are a few things to know about adding a sound system to a bike that did not come with a sound system from the factory, and I am going to show you what they are; and just how simple they are to deal with.

What you will need:

  1. An iPod
  2. A volume knob
  3. An amplifier
  4. Some speakers
  5. A way to mount your parts (speakers, iPod, amp)

Things you need to know before you start

  1. Where to get power
  2. How to select your equipment to suit your expectations.
  3. What not to do. Things to stay away from.

iPod Selection: Pick Your Poison

Purchase an iPod that will suit your needs. An iPod touch is a good choice because you can skip song tracks as you ride, but an iPod classic or nano can be downright uncontrollable while on the road. iPhones are a great bargain. You can obtain an outdated iPhone and repurpose it as an iPod touch. Many people actually have these things laying round the house, with no life purpose. Anyways, like I said "pick your poison."

Get a Volume Knob

The next component that you will need is a volume control. JL Audio makes the perfect device. It's called the CL-RLC. The CL-RLC is not only a volume knob; it is also a high quality signal line driver that will substantially increase the performance and output of your sound system. To my knowledge this is a unique product. No one else seems to make anything like it. They retail for $59.95. You can find them here

The volume knob on this devise can be mounted in a number of different locations. I prefer to mount them in or next to the factory switch locations on the fork cover. 

Get an Amplifier

There are a wide range of amplifiers available but only a few that make sense on a bike. Two great amplifiers really stand out from the crowd.

  1. The Arc audio KS125.2. This is the best amplifier ever put on a bike. The amplifier is physically small, light weight, powerful, efficient, feature rich, works well in high tempratures, works well with a Harley alternator/battery, and the price is appropriate. This amplifier is well suited for both high frequency speakers as well as large subwoofers. This is the best amplifier to get if your goal is high levels of output for long periods of time.
  2. The Alpine KTP-445U is an amplifier that will out perform (triple!) the on-board power of a traditional CD player. It's more power than Harley amplifier kits, and more power than all of the cheap bike specific amplifiers on the market. Now this amplifier will not achieve the same level of output as an Arc KS125.2, but it is half the price, half the size, and much easier to install. And it's an alpine to boot! ALPINE, not flea-market garbage. The amplifier has a surprising level of sophistication and features. It has on board electronic crossovers, speaker level or RCA inputs, front and rear gains, Sum-able inputs, and can run it in four channel, or bridged two channel mode. Wow! This amplifier is a great choice if you are not prepared to commit to the more extensive installation and price of a larger amplifier like the Arc, but don't want to be disappointed. Also this amplifier is not designed to run large subwoofers like Our Aggressor kit. That kind of job is best left to a larger amplifier like the Arc.

Get Some Speakers

Your choice in speakers will be dictated by where you plan to put them on the bike. On a road King you have three great options, and a few bad ones. The good options are:

  1. In the bag lids (facing up)
  2. In the bag facing the wheel (6x9" or Subs)
  3. Or In lower fairings located on crash bars. 

If you like the look of lower fairings, then this is going to be your best option for getting good sound that you can hear as you ride. Because the speakers are in front of you, they will inherently do a better job. The lower fairing speakers in the pictures above are mounted in factory Harley speaker buckets, on factory Harley fairings, with factory Harley grills. I have found that using a high quality Alpine, or Focal speaker in the factory Harley bucket is a great combination. The Boom Audio Harley speakers however leave a lot to be desired. A lot! On the other hand, speakers mounted in the bag lids can be much larger in size and the bag makes for a great enclosure. You can find lid speakers here. Bag arrangements will typically have considerably more bass response. If you want more volume, then you will want to do both. And if you want a real kick in the ass you will want to do our hard bag subwoofers as well. You can find them here.

The bad options are:

  1. On the handlebars. Handle bar options are typically tiny 4" or smaller. These speaker arrangements are a joke. No speaker that small will be able to overcome the traffic and engine noise that you will encounter even on a quiet street. Forget about it.
  2. Don't waste your time with mounting speakers that face forward in your bags. This is a great idea that does not pan out in the real world. The wind pushes the speakers back as you ride, keeping them from producing decent volume, and they project sound into the ground, due to the angle of the bag.

Choose the right speakers for your arrangement.

Once you have settled on a location for your speakers you will need to find the best speaker for the job. The ideal speaker will fit the location, endure the abusive environment, and put a respectable amount of sound in the air for the amount of power that you supply it with.

It's that last part that seems to throw people for a loop. Forget about finding some monster speakers with a thousand pound magnet on them. That's not what you want. What you do want, is a speaker that puts maximum power to the ground. A speaker that turns the amplifier power that you have into the best, and most sound. The best speaker is one that can handle large amounts of power for extended amounts of time, yet puts out the most sound for the power that it is supplied with. Judging a speaker by it's power consumption (Rated watts) is a lot like judging a vehicle by it's fuel consumption. Don't fall into that trap! Some of the best 6.5", 6x8" and 6x9" speakers available are the Alpine Type R speakers. These speakers have a very unique motor structure (magnet). They use a neodymium type magnet instead of the more popular ferrite magnet. Neodymium magnets are both much stronger and much smaller in size. So don't be discouraged by the small magnet that you find on these speakers. 

Mount your amplifier(s)

  On a road king you only have one choice; the bags. You can bolt your amps to a plastic or aluminum plate and then bond the mounting plate to the inside of the bag with an epoxy. Doing it this way is simple. You can make your mounting plate basic, or you can get real fancy with it. Recently we have begun prototyping several different mounts for the Arc amplifier. One of these mounts will allow two amplifiers to be stacked onto each other inside the bag to conserve on space. In any case, what ever you do, don't use wood of any kind. 

Mount your iPod. Or don't.

iPod mounting options basically break down into two categories. Hard wired & Wireless. If you go the hardwired route, you will need a combination charge/audio cable with RCA type outputs. If you go the wireless route you will need to get your hands on a Bluetooth receiver/controller.