Subaru Solterra audio review: Harman Kardon & LDAC

The Subaru Solterra is the manufacturer’s first all-electric vehicle. Keeping with tradition, the SUV has excellent off-roading capabilities and is arguably one of the best in its class. However, it fails to impress with its lacklustre electric range, design and performance.

In terms of its audio configuration, a six-speaker configuration comes fitted as standard in the ‘Limited’ spec, while a nine-speaker Harman Kardon setup is present in the ‘Touring’ trim. Note, in certain markets such as in Japan, the latter system features 11 audio drivers instead.

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Subaru Solterra audio setup

To tweak the audio drivers, you’ll have to navigate through the 12.3″ infotainment system to find the appropriate EQ controls – more specifically, you’ll have to go to the ‘Source’ tab and tap on the three little dots found at the top right-hand side. Oddly, the manufacturer doesn’t provide the ability to adjust the EQ through the main settings. Nonetheless, here’s our optimal configuration:

  • Treble: +2
  • Midrange: +1
  • Bass: +1
  • Balance & Fader: Centre

In terms of connectivity, both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported over a wired connection, while the latter is also supported over a wireless connection. One can also connect via Bluetooth with the SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs available. To attain the utmost audio fidelity, we’d always suggest plugging in your smartphone, however, it’s very impressive to see the highest-quality LDAC codec supported; Android users will have minimal transmission loss over Bluetooth – a rarity in even the most modern vehicles.

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Subaru Solterra audio performance

For a demo of the Subaru Solterra’s audio system, head on over to our YouTube channel.

Regarding its audio configuration, the stock six-speaker system has audio drivers found within each of the four doors and tweeters within the dashboard. No further information on the driver sizes or wattage has been provided by the manufacturer. However, we do have some insight about the upgraded nine-speaker Harman Kardon system that we have on review on the ‘Touring’ spec.

At the front, there is an 80mm midrange driver found within each extremity, 8×9” bass speakers within the front doors, 170mm speakers that combine with 25mm tweeters within each of the rear doors, a 224mm subwoofer in the boot, and finally there’s an 800-Watt 8-channel amplifier that helps power the system. In the 11-speaker HK setup, you’ll find an additional 16mm tweeter within the dashboard grilles.

The inclusion of a subwoofer can be heard and felt. Those sub-bass tones are present across the frequency band and provide that low-end rumble in bass-orientated tracks; a notable upgrade over the stock six-speaker setup that omits the speaker altogether. However, the subwoofer’s extension is slightly cut short, which means it cannot compete with more premium systems out there on the market.

That’s not to be confused, however, with the system’s ability to deliver a hearty mid-bass slam. Both at the front and rear of the cabin, the speakers housed within each of the four doors do an excellent job; with one notch added to the bass EQ both the quantity and quality are near-faultless in Chris Brown’s track titled, ‘Sensational’.

Unsurprisingly, this does affect the mid-range tones, namely the lower mids, which sound quite pushed back and recessed. A temptation is to add a few notches to the ‘Midrange’ EQ, however, doing so will result in lowered vocal accuracy and an odd reverb – as such, adding only one click is advised.

This leads us to the treble extension, which is pretty zesty at the top end. Due to the inclusion of the dedicated tweeters, music comes to life both at the front and rear of the cabin. Often, manufacturers omit said speakers at the rear of the cabin, so it’s great to see that Subaru and Harman Kardon have integrated them within the doors to give everyone that toe-tapping feeling.

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Unfortunately, the same praise can’t be said about its soundstage reproduction. The system has a very uni-directional sound, with the majority of the sound coming from the front of the cabin. Quite surprising, given that there are also four additional speakers at the rear. One could adjust the fader by a few notches, by shifting the focus backwards, however, this does hinder its mid-range presence pushing it back even further. As such, we left it at its centre position and accepted its front-heavy reproduction.

Finally, onto cabin noise, the Solterra provides an impressive level of noise isolation for a vehicle of its class; granted there’s a bit of wind and tyre noise that creeps in at higher speeds, but it’s minimal for an SUV and to some degree, it’s class-leading. Using a sound meter, we recorded 34-35 dBA at a standstill; driving at 20mph, 52-54 dBA; driving at 30-40mph, 57-61 dBA; and at 70mph, 65-68 dBA.

Subaru Solterra award

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TotallyEV’s verdict on the Subaru Solterra’s audio system

On the whole, the nine-speaker Harman Kardon system found in the Subaru Solterra is engaging and provides a worthwhile upgrade over the stock six-speaker system. As such, it receives TotallyEV’s Approved Audio award.

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Still, it’s worth considering that it doesn’t quite excel across the sound frequency range and has a uni-directional sound. If you’re a serious audiophile, you might want to look into an aftermarket solution or potentially another vehicle altogether.

What do you make of the audio system? Let us know in the comments or via social media; we’re on: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Christopher Minasians
Christopher is an avid car enthusiast and techie. In his spare time, he reviews the latest consumer electronic products on his YouTube channel, TotallydubbedHD. Elsewhere, he practices Taekwondo, in which he has held a black belt for several years and coaches at a national level. He also speaks fluent English, French, Armenian, and loves to practice freestyle street dance.
subaru-solterra-audio-review-harman-kardon-ldacThe Subaru Solterra houses six-speakers in the ‘Limited’ trim but comes fitted as standard with a nine-speaker Harman Kardon system in the ‘Touring’ spec. The latter provides a worthwhile upgrade over the former by integrating a subwoofer in the boot and tweeters at the rear. As such, it receives TotallyEV’s Approved Audio award.


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