Alpine’s Ultimate Jeep JK Sound System Upgrade
Photography: Craig Perronne
There is a lot to love about the Jeep Wrangler JK. Sure, the new JL is fresher, but there are still way more JKs running around with plenty of happy owners behind the wheel. And, those owners are smiling for good reasons. The JK is rugged, capable, it’s a proven platform, and it has an absolutely massive aftermarket following. Currently, that aftermarket support is much larger than the JL. You can turn a JK into basically whatever you want and make it go almost anywhere. It is little wonder that Jeep sold more than 2,000,000 of them.
One area of the Jeep JK that doesn’t spark joy amongst its owner is the audio system. We won’t sugarcoat anything here as it flat out sucks. The base JK’s speakers have the sound quality of old-school Sony Walkman with blown $5 headphones. And, the stock Uconnect 130 radio looks like it was designed by someone that got fired from Atari for incompetence. While a baby step up, the ColecoVision-esque 430 unit really isn’t that much better.
There are lots of options out there to upgrade the Jeep JK’s factory system. At the very top of them are the offerings from Alpine. There is nothing that can touch the Alpine Restyle systems for the Jeep JK. The systems replace the clunky factory head unit with absolutely gorgeous feature-packed 9-inch displays. Alpine also offers various levels of audio upgrades for the Jeep JK too. Everything from a complete system that replaces every speaker in the JK and adds a subwoofer to individual components are available.
For a serious audio upgrade, we went with Alpine’s PSS-22WRA sound system. This weather-resistant nine-speaker system replaces every speaker in the Jeep with much higher-quality Alpine units. It also adds a powerful 10-inch weather resistant SBV-10-WRA subwoofer for a big improvement in bass. Two weather-resistant amplifiers also are included making this a big step up from the weak factory system.
There are different Alpine Restyle systems available for the Jeep JK, and we went with the i209-WRA. A massive upgrade over the feeble Uconnect 130, the i209-WRA features a beautiful 9-inch touchscreen display. A unique feature of the i209-WRA is it is weather-resistant, so you don’t have to worry if you encounter a surprise storm with the top off. It is fully compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, Pandora, SiriusXM, Bluetooth and a host of other features. It comes with a bezel that nicely matches the stock interior lighting. The bezel also features buttons, so you don’t have to be fully touchscreen dependent.
Every vehicle should come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It just makes life so much easier once you get the hang of either of them. Of course, the Uconnect 130 didn’t have either. Its biggest claim was that it could connect to your phone through the magic of Bluetooth. Being able to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto makes the Alpine i209-WRA a huge upgrade. Visually the Alpine 9-inch display is a giant leap forward. It is absolutely gorgeous and transforms the whole feel of the interior. The interior of the JK went from feeling like it was designed in the 1990s to something from this century.
The Alpine’s PSS-22WRA sound system blows away the factory setup. Every aspect of its sound is better. Bass before was non-existent, but now there is plenty thanks to the subwoofer (the subwoofer level is adjustable to dial in how much bass you want). Both the mids and highs are much punchier and crisper. It now sounds like an actual legit sound system rather than a hot mess. The owner of the JK was blown away by both the i209-WRA and the PSS-22WRA. We think you will be too. If you are looking for the ultimate audio upgrade for the Jeep JK, this is it. Let’s dive into some of the details.
We started from the bottom with our Jeep JK sound system. Our factory Uconnect 130 looks like it might have been cutting edge in 1996. Our Jeep JK is a 2016 model though meaning that the 130 is seriously outdated. We yanked out the 130 and put it in the trash where it belongs.
Is that a table coaster? No, it’s the factory tweeter. However, the sound quality it produces is similar to that of a table coaster. The rest of the factory speakers sound about the same. In fact, the lack of audio quality was the owner’s number one complaint about his JK.
The stock speakers are of pretty poor quality, so there really isn’t much point in keeping them. We went with Alpine’s PSS-22WRA package that replaces every speaker in the Jeep with much higher-quality Alpine ones. It also adds a very-nice 10-inch subwoofer unit. The system produces 1200 watts with nine speakers and is weather resistant.
A lot of people will probably wonder if they can do the installation themselves. Well, if you are comfortable getting your dash to this point you probably can. The installation isn’t necessarily complicated, but it is time-consuming. You also need to take care during disassembly that you don’t break or crack anything. We were happy to let the professionals at Alpine handle it.
At the heart of the Alpine PSS-22WRA are these Alpine 6.5-inch SPV-65X-WRA speakers. They are designed for the Jeep JK and are weather resistant. They produce a much better sound when compared to the rather lame factory speakers (on the right).
In the rear, the Alpine 6.5-inch speakers fit in the factory soundbar found on the sport cage of the Jeep JK. Alpine also supplies 1-inch dome tweeters to help with the high notes that pop right into place as well.
Jeeps are a bit different since their doors can easily come off. The front speakers are actually behind the dash in an enclosure. Getting it out can be a bit of a pain, but the new Alpine speakers drop into the factory enclosures once they are out.
The PSS-22WRA system also includes the SBV-10-WRA subwoofer. The subwoofer isn’t like those cheap subwoofer boxes that you made as a teenager. It is a heavy-duty sealed enclosure with some serious heft to it. Housed inside of the SBV-10-WRA is a 10-inch subwoofer with a 300W RMS/900W max power rating. The whole setup is weather-resistant and rated to IP66 against water and dust ingress. Another well-thought-out feature is that it bolts into place using no extra hardware under the front passenger seat. This keeps the subwoofer out of the way and maximizes interior space.
Also included as part of the Alpine speaker system are two separate amps. One supplies extra power from the speakers, while the other boosts the subwoofer. The amps mount in the factory location under the dash. They are also weatherproof like the rest of the system. A lot of people think just upgrading speakers will improve their sound system. It can up to a point, but additional power matched to better speakers also makes a big difference in sound quality.
Both the Alpine speaker system and the i209-WRA are designed to be a plug-and-play installation. Alpine provides this rather elaborate wiring harness to connect the i209-WRA. We would have hated to be the guy who first had to figure out the harness. Thankfully, with the supplied harness installation is a much easier affair.
We also decided to add the Alpine Rear View Camera with Spare Tire Mount at the same time. It is a slick setup that mounts directly to the spare tire and is IP66 rated against water and dust intrusion. Three different length mounting posts are included allowing it to attach to lots of different wheels. Integration with the i209-WRA is seamless, and we can finally see where we are going when backing up.
Check out Alpine’s video that goes over all the Restyle Systems available for the Jeep Wrangler JK including the i209-WRA.