This week we pitched the idea that built-in stereo systems as standard equipment may no longer make sense in a truck camper.
The response to this idea was loud and clear. While there are still a good number of folks who want and use their built-in stereo, many would prefer that stereos be completely eliminated from the standard list. Others would prefer to choose their own stereo and speakers, and just have the stereo speaker pre-wire.
Attention Truck Camper Manufacturers
It’s time to consider making built-in stereo systems optional. It’s also time to consider how to integrate portable battery powered speaker systems into your campers with charging points and mounts. You still need to offer built-in stereo option, but the days when everyone wants a built-in stereo system as standard has past.
This week’s Question of the Week was, “Should stereo systems be built-in?”
“I personally would rather have a portable system because it gives the option to leave it at home. I rarely listen to music when in nature. Silence is a rare occurrence nowadays. Of course driving music can complement the vacationing mood.” – Mario P., 2006 Tacoma, Homemade camper
“Funny that this subject should come up now. Just two days ago I pulled the fuse from the main fuse panel that fed our never used stereo system. Now the stereo’s constantly-on blue lights won’t disturb our sleep.” – Bruce Allison, 2017 Ram 3500, 2012 Adventurer 910 FBS
“I have never used the stereo. We started camping back in dad’s 1966 Beeline. He had a portable radio that he would put up in the cabover with us kids at night. Dad and mom slept in a tent that connected to the back of the camper so the door could stay open.
That memory has stuck with me. I have a small boom box up in the cabover at my fingertips. There is no remote. I have it connected to Bluetooth and the camper’s antenna. I like it this way. Easy peasy!” – Joe Gosselin, 1996 Chevrolet 3500, 2007 Lance 1181
“I prefer my Bluetooth speakers; portable and better sound.” – Salver Verduzco
“Continue with factory installed stereo systems.” – Howard Bisco, 2015 Ford F250, 2014 Palomino HS-6601
“I think you may have hit a live wire on this question. There are both technical and social aspects go with this subject. At the heart of both are choices and preferences.
The short answer is that stereo systems should be an option and not standard equipment. Now for the long answer.
Electronic technology evolves so quickly that no matter what you install, it will soon be obsolete. I know of only one person who still prefers vacuum tubes and 8-tracks over LPs in their truck camper.
While I am fond of my music, I find other’s to be noise. Everyone thinks the same on this subject. Any public use of sound should be used with great discretion, if used at all. All campers should come with Bluetooth headphones rather than speakers. After all, silence is golden. Right Gordon?” – Tom Strock, 2017 Chevy 3500, 2000 Bigfoot 9.6
Editor’s Note: Agreed. However, just because I travel with a vacuum tube stereo and collect LP records on the road doesn’t mean I like 8-track tapes. That would be weird.
“Skip the poorly-placed cheap stereo systems in truck campers. I have a Bose SoundLink II as pictured and it is better quality than the Jensen built-in system.” – Roy Garland, 2011 Ford F350, 2018 Northern Lite 10.2EX CDSE
“I think the interior system is fine since it is integrated into the TV/entertainment system. We ordinary use a portable system in the camper anyway.
I’m glad I don’t have exterior speakers. Any additional holes in the Northern Lite’s fiberglass shell is a detriment to its water-resistance and structural integrity. Additionally, I would not be using it anyway as it would be too loud and annoying to other campers.
I had a few irritating experiences in the Lower 48 with people and their outdoor entertainment system with big screen televisions. Some folks can be really discourteous to other campers.” – Bill McKeon, 2007 Dodge 2500, 2010 Northern Lite 10-2 CDSE
“I can probably count on one hand the times I have used the stereo. I don’t think I would miss it. I definitely wouldn’t miss the outside speakers. They are a bad idea.
I don’t want to hear my neighbor’s stereo blasting away from outside speakers nor do I want to treat my neighbors that way. It took me a while to figure out how to turn the speakers off because it is done by fiddling with the radio knobs. Too bad they don’t just put in an off/on switch for the outside speakers.” – John L Bull, 2004 Dodge 3500, 2015 Arctic Fox 990
“Camper manufacturers should continue to install stereo systems, but make more effort to utilize modern offerings. I realize they can’t offer high-end due to managing costs but it at least force their suppliers to keep up with current technology (USB, Bluetooth, SiriusXM) connections.
This allows the purchasers a system and power connections to replace if they so wish. It’s much easier than having to start with determining placement, cutting in faceplates, feeding power, etc.
I upgraded mine to a new Kenwood double din and much better two-way (tweeter/woofer) speakers. Streaming Radio Paradise from my phone brought excellent audio quality into the traveling palace. Using hands-free phone is an added bonus.” – Jim Anderson, 1999 Ford 350, 2006 Okanagan 117DBL
“My initial response – you are correct. If the stereo system is standard, it is always there. If one wants or needs a Bluetooth speaker, bring it along. Taste in Bluetooth speakers is personal taste. I personally don’t need a Bose system option when I am probably able to buy a less expensive option.
Call me old fashion, but a basic radio is good enough. If I want more, I’ll go buy it.” – Woody Flickinger, 2003 Dodge 3500, 2012 Arctic Fox 1140
“I don’t care what they do as far as factory install or not. If they do install them at the factory, there should be much more concern for sound quality. Jensen sucks. And they can skip the television/video completely.” – Dennis Carey, 2015 Ford F350, 2019 Cirrus 820
“I think the built-in is perfect. I would really like to have Bluetooth.” – Ross Vlieger, 2015 GMC 3500, 2015 Lance 992
“Stay the course. I don’t want to mess with digging out speakers (from what storage location) and setting them up so I can hear some tunes. I am too busy (lazy) to be messing with that on a regular basis. And is a truck camper really the environment for an audiophile to seek the optimal listening experience?
Yeah, I’ve got a Posturepedic mattress, but I don’t have a Lazy Boy or a Barista cappuccino maker on board. My point is that a majority of people don’t want/need that one specific highlight.
I’ve got my mattress. Should it be standard on all truck campers? Not! Keep the standard/optional offerings for the most of us, and those that want to designate storage assets to the stereo cause, let them enhance to their personal satisfaction – a Mod-ster opportunity!” – Lou Pomerville, 2008 Silverado 3500, 2008 Snowriver 102RK
“I’m planning on having truck camper, but it is going to be a customized build due to the fact that I’m deaf and will not need stereo system. What I need is visual communication system. Yes, WIFI is a must!” – Jeremy Carroll, 2010 Ford F150, None as of now
“Yes, continue to install stereo systems. Better yet, install stereo systems with NOAH weather alerts.” – Gary Sibert, 2018 Ford F350, 2019 Northern Lite 10-2 SE
“No. I think it is an extra expense that many people may not want. Our camper came with speakers but we chose not to have a stereo system installed. Perhaps standard speakers make sense as retrofitting speakers may be difficult. We try to unplug when we go camping and don’t usually listen to music.” – Stephen Paushter, 2016 Ram, Northstar Arrow 8.5U
“If you are talking about a radio sound system with four speakers that does not weigh anything much, then it should obviously be included since we use it occasionally. I suggest also a mini plug into the speaker system for any of the available devices that we all use and maybe a power connection – probably in more than one location.” – Fred Patterson, 2013 Ford F350, 2002 Lance 1161
“Yes, but I still use a Bluetooth speaker when sitting outdoors since the camper’s speakers are at the back and the volume controller won’t work outside because of line-of-sight. So I just use a wx-proof speaker and clip it to the chair with a music service, like Pandora, running off a tablet or phone. I use it also when buggy riding.
The one I use is the UE Boom. It works well and has great sound. I do use the camper system as well. My only complaint is that the remote for it is small, which is okay, but it has to be line of sight and even then it doesn’t work well.
Having an optional Bluetooth speaker with a docking station in the camper would be ideal.” – Frank Poole, Ram 5500, Arctic Fox 990
“I have long considered portable speakers like the Bose to be superior to built-in stereos. The fidelity provided by today’s mobile speakers is superior to virtually all but the highest-end installed systems. The advantages and fidelity of mobile speaker(s) over the built-ins far outweigh them in almost every detail.
Manufacturers should not install stereo systems but should prewire and push it down to the dealer as an option for system installation or mobile option. In my opinion, the dealer option will give the more customer options.” – Bud Betz, 2011 Ram 3500, 2017 Lance 1172
“I think the stereos in campers are sub-par and camper manufacturers need to step-up their game and go beyond just a stereo and a couple of small speakers. They could improve sound quality and functionality by making the stereo the media center.
They could have multiple plug-in ports to move the television around inside and outside. Bluetooth output that could transmit to a portable Bluetooth speaker could be added. The upgrade pattern should follow car manufacturers and not go backwards or reduce functionality.” – Kevin Garrett, 2004 Ford F350, 2009 Lance 915
“No! Stereo systems take up room that could be used for storage and we would never use it. Let the customer choose what they want, and if they want the expense. They should not be standard.” – Doug Baker, 2006 Toyota Tundra, 2006 Six Pac D650
“We rarely use the radio. My wife listens to her iPod using earbuds. I listen to the birds and the wind. Now and again I put a CD in the built-in unit but, if it broke it wouldn’t get fixed.” – Tom Scholtens, 2010 Chevy 2500, 2013 Bigfoot 25c10.4
“The camper has built-in Jensen stereo mounted high above the dinette table and speakers inside and outside. It is awkward to reach up to the controls. It is integrated with the cabover’s television. After the novelty of the first year, the stereo is hardly used, and it’s mostly for the television.
The outside speakers will never be turned on. Any type of music device that booms through a campground should be banned. I never want to hear any music anytime from other inconsiderate campers. Stereo systems should no longer be built-in. A smartphone music playlist and headphones are the perfect solution.” – Vic Smith, 2015 Ford F350, 2013 Adventurer 89RB
“I could write more, but the blunt answer is definitely no. I have never used the radio installed in any RV. I understand that it’s a selling feature but, in my opinion, it’s way overrated. I just do not like them and they are always installed in the strangest places and they take power from the batteries. It may not be much, but it just causes me to find the fuse and pull it.
In general, we do not listen to music. We we listen to nature. However, there are times we want to enjoy some music while sitting by a campfire relaxing. In the early days we carried a small portable radio and then after 2007 we carried our Bose speaker with our iPhone. Now we travel with a smaller Bluetooth speaker and our phone.” – Rollie Thurston, 2004 Ford F350, 2005 Alpenlite 1100
“I’m a stereo nut to the upmost degree! I enjoy both setups. I have upgraded the camper’s stereo and speakers with a sub woofer. The sound is incredible. I also have a plugin setup for two exterior speakers (made the boxes myself) that are placed up on the camper’s roof along with the subwoofer. I only use this setup when I’m camping by myself or with good friends so I do not annoy anyone who wants to enjoy nature’s peace and quiet.” – Charlie Jones, 1991 Ford F350, 1998 Lance Legend 980
“I prefer having the built-in systems because I won’t forget and leave it at home or forget to charge it. My 2003 Eagle Cap didn’t have a built-in stereo. About half the time I didn’t have music because I forgot to grab the portable Bluetooth speaker.
With that said, it would be nice if the manufacturers used better speakers. Maybe they could even add a subwoofer in the mix.” – Leonard Pennock, 2018 Ram 3500, 2019 Northern Lite 10-2SE
“The stereo receivers should be optional with a DIN chassis in the coach to allow for upgrades. HDMI switching would be nice as well. I generally bring an Apple TV box on long trips and stream content. And, please put better speakers in the camper to start with. The ones I’ve experienced are absolute crap, and it shouldn’t kill the profit in a $50,000 camper to use a $40 speaker instead of a $10 one.
Outdoor speakers should go the way of the Dodo. I want fewer holes in the camper’s shell, and the speakers are usually low quality anyway. A Bluetooth speaker is better for use outside.” – John Terescik, 2018 Ram 3500, 2015 Arctic Fox 1140
“The quality and selection of portable Bluetooth speakers outweighs the single choice options most camper manufacturers offer. Also, we don’t get to choose the location of speakers and head units in an installed system. If something goes wrong or you want to upgrade, it’s another system in the rig to figure out.
I can understand a built-in system in a large, multi-slide rig that has theater seating and surround sound, but not for the majority of rigs in production today.” – Tom Davidson, 1998 Dodge 2500, Still dreaming
“No. We opted out. Technology changes. We are using phones for music. A great speaker can be small enough to take on the adventures outside of the camper.” – Jill Kulina, 2018 Ram 3500, Northern Lite 8-11
“Absolutely not. It’s a waste of space and an added expense. So many better, smaller, and less expensive options exist. Many of those consumers already own and use in their homes. It’s like installing a cathode-ray tube (CRT) television instead of a flat screen panel.” – John Ruzzo, 2008 Chevy Silverado 3500, 2009 Host Rainier SS
“Stereo systems should not be standard on a truck camper at all. People with truck campers usually park out in the wilderness where they want quiet or in a parking lot where playing music could get you in trouble.
If you want to install a portable stereo system, make it and add on option. It would save the consumer money instead of paying for something they may not want.” – Coly Hope, 2015 Ford F-250, 2019 Capri Maverick
“I think the speakers in most built-in stereos are cheesy at best. A good portable system can be used in the camper, boat, or cabin. Portable is the way to go. Now I just need to put one together!” – Dave Miller, 2015 Ford F350, 2003 Bigfoot 10.6E
“Our Arctic Fox 811 has a built-in stereo and it’s not the best sound quality. The head unit is Kenwood and it is difficult to use. We have a Bose Bluetooth speaker that has much better sound. We use it as much as the built-in.” – Bob Klope, 2019 GMC 2500HD, 2018 Arctic Fox 811
“We have one Bose Mini Sound Link 11 and two Bose Color Sound Links. The color looks like that which is pictured in the QOTW except that one is white and the other is blue. We keep the Sound Link 11 in our home and the others are in our camper. They are great.” – David Pracht, 2015 GMC Sierra K3500, 1987 Lance LC900
“Our 2012 Arctic Fox 1150 came with a sound system that was awful. We never listened to it. We elected to go with the portable Bose Soundlink ll (older model then the one pictured). For a portable speaker, the sound quality is amazing and it totally fills the camper. Another nice advantage is that we can take it outside the camper to listen to when we’re sitting outside.
I’m curious what the camping community would feel about dealers ordering their new truck campers without the manufacturer’s sound system, and offering a free Bose Soundlink ll speaker with the sale of the camper?” – Ken Pastorius, 2015, GMC Denali 3500, 2012 Arctic Fox 1150
“I think stereo systems should become optional equipment rather than standard. Personally I almost exclusively dry camp and look to save every bit of electricity I can. By bringing along a quality Bluetooth speaker (which has its own battery that lasts days), I can play any of the music from my phone or iPad and not worry about the draw on my camper’s battery.
That said, I am certain there is still a segment of the truck camper market that wants the option of a factory-installed entertainment system. It makes sense for manufacturers to offer it as an option.” – Keith Schofield, 2002 Dodge Ram 2500, 1994 Shadow Cruiser
“We used the exact Bose speaker you showed in your question and it sounded fine, but it was inconvenient. Also, the radio needs an external antenna. We use our built-in far more than we ever used the portable.
I have a Tecsun 880 short wave radio for outside use. It’s very capable and sounds good.” – Kurpan Vince, 2016 Ram, Custom
“Yes, manufacturers should install stereo systems, but instead of the cheap, no frills brands, use better quality ones. We have had to change out every one we’ve ever had.” – Pat Jones, 2007 GMC 3500, 2017 Host Mammoth
“I’m okay with a stereo/sound system inside the camper. I am not in favor of stereo/sound systems being built on the outside of RV units (including televisions).
I enjoy my peace and quiet when I am camping and I do not want to be forced to put up with some idiot who has to bring it all with him to get away from it all! My advice to those who insist on that crap is – please stay home. Why the hell are you camping?” – Lyle Tremblay, 2004 GMC 2500HD, 2006 Bigfoot 25C9.4
“I like the flexibility of a portable system. The issue to me would be when kids want to watch a DVD on the television. Most built-in stereos have the DVD player built in.” – Philip Bolding, 2012 Ford F350, 2016 Northern Lite 8’11” QSE
“No. Definitely not. Manufacturers should not build-in their speaker systems at this point at this point as Bluetooth speaker systems are now entirely prevalent.
Furthermore, for those of us who enjoy camping in cold weather built-in speaker systems (internal and external) do nothing but compromise and diminish the integrity of the camper’s insulation value.
I think manufacturer’s should still offer built-in Bluetooth stereo systems as a part of their offerings, but I thoroughly prefer a separate non-mounted Bluetooth speaker to go along with the built-in stereo and utilization of my streaming devices.” – Jay T., 2015 GMC 3500HD, 2017 Adventurer 89RB
“We never use our stereo system and have often wondered why they are included as standard in campers (particularly the outside speakers). We could use the space for the stereo as additional storage.” – Pat Eastes, 2019 Chevy 2500HD, 2015 Lance 865
“I like installed stereo/DVD. The improvement that’s needed is speakers for the television. We have powerful speakers for our stereo and DVD, but the television doesn’t play through them. That doesn’t make sense.
We had to add an external speaker to hear the television over the air conditioner! A weatherproof JBL speaker was purchased so that we could also use it for other purposes. Anytime I don’t have to carry something extra, it’s a big plus. I wish the television played through the stereo’s speakers.” – Nancy Meiners, 2015 Ford F350, 2017 Adventurer 116DS
“Our camper came with a very complicated Jensen stereo system and built-in speakers. We rarely use the thing. Everything is from the phone or the laptop. On rare occasions we listen to Pandora via the Bluetooth capability, but that often requires cell reception and we are usually too remote for that.” – Matt and Pamela Foster, 2017 Ford F350, 2017 Arctic Fox 1150
“I’m still a little old school and appreciate having something built-in. What I would like to see is an option to swap out or upscale to a much nicer sounding system. The factory installed components are usually on the lower quality side. It would be nice to be able to outfit my camper with something that sounds like my home system. I generally swap out the stereo that comes in a camper and put in my own stuff, but it’s an added hassle and cost. Just like the stereo in your truck, wouldn’t it be nice to have a 10 speaker stereo in your camper? Now we’re getting warmed up!” – Kevin Mooney, 2014 From F350, 2006 Okanagan
“Stereo systems and speakers are a waste of space. I have never used it in the past three years. If I’m camping I don’t need the noise from my stereo or anyone else.” – Joseph Tamulevicius, 2017 Chevy Silverado 2500HD, 2016 Palomino SS-1240
“Without a doubt, in my humble opinion, a portable system is the way to go. With the advancements in audio technology, a built-in system will become obsolete far earlier than a portable system. You are also stuck with a built-in system that can’t be brought outside.” – Stephen Zuccaro, 2018 Ford F-250, 2012 Palomino Bronco
“No installed stereo systems. The sound quality of the portable speakers is much better than any installed system I have heard and, it’s portable! The one downside of the portable speakers is that the radio option is rare and the reception is usually worse than an installed system. I generally listen to Bluetooth music, so I vote portable hands down.” – Ken Cox, 2018 Chevy 3500 HD, 2010 Arctic Fox 811
“Yes, but they should make it so you could plugin your television to the stereo system. When we have our air conditioning and television on at the same time we can’t hear the television without turning it up as loud as it goes.” – Juanita Robinson, 2008 Dodge 3500, 2012 Lance 950
“Truck camper manufacturers don’t care about sound quality. If they did, they would never put in the junk that they do. The installed systems provide no clarity. Go to a sound shop for automotive systems. No one is carrying the same systems that are being put into campers. And there is a reason for that. Its purpose is to check a box; “Hey, we put in speakers”.
The music system should reflect the price you’re being asked to pay. I am paying $40,000 for a camper so I should get a premium system. Bluetooth doesn’t help if the source is junk. Better to just offer a pre-wired camper and let someone who cares put in a system.” – Rip Gough, 2016 Ford F350, none at the moment
“I vote the convenience and price of the portable speaker system. No brainer.” – Wandering Werners, 2012 Dodge 3500, 2005 Lance 981
“Definitely install stereo systems.” – Jerry Dinnocenzo, 2017 Ford F-250, 2017 Lance 850
“We would have been better off with a portable system of our own. The one installed is of poor quality. We would have had more cabinet space if it was not there.” – Ian Honey, 2016 Ram 3500, 2014 Adventurer 116DS
“No. They should stop. I am going to use my own system anyway. With the speed that electronics changes they will always be behind the times. Plus most of them seem to be 20-years behind on everything.
I will be buying a truck camper when I retire in five years and the first thing I am going to have to do is gut it. Lithium batteries, Honda generators, better insulation, and back-up cameras should all be basic standard.
Options should be how much electrical storage I want, heavy duty wiring to my second alternator, as well as power saving devices like refrigerators, air conditioning and heating systems.” – Mike Yost
“I think installed stereos should be an option. I removed the existing system and now have an XM radio boom box.” – Steve Cordis, 2000 Ford F250, 1996 Skyline Weekender
“I like the built-in system. However, the choice of the factory installed brand was not a good choice. The current one installed in new 990s is much better. For those who want something new or different, they can buy the latest newfangled ever changing gadget on their own. Just my opinion.” – Bill Mayer, 2005 Ford F350, 2007 Arctic Fox 990
“Come into the 21st century. My sound system is archaic. I only use the radio occasionally. I have a portable bluetooth and a smart phone.” – Chuck Kight, 2014 Ford F350, 2014 Adventurer
“Save the space and go with portable. Portable systems these days are of quality and offer options. You aren’t missing out on anything. You can even get an app that will play the radio.” – Jordan Pawley, 2004 Chevy 2500, 2007 Outfitter Apex 8
“We’ve had several used RVs through the years and the stereos never worked. You might as well leave them out.” – Connie Westbrook, 2008 Chevy 3500, 1997 Lance Squire 5000
“I think pre-wire for a system should be standard, but systems should be optional. The sound quality of most OEM systems is abysmal. A pre-wire would allow someone with a real ear for quality sound to purchase components that please individual taste.
If two secure wall pockets were included with quick-release retainers, a pair of Bluetooth speakers could be primary indoor sound, and could be detached via a velcro strap, and moved outside for great picnic sound if desired.
Sources for the speakers could include television sound as well as broadcast and audio stored on phones or music players. And for those with a less demanding ear, an OEM installed system would still be available.” – John Wells Jr., 2011 Chevy 3500HD 2012 Chalet Ascent S100F
“I think they should be left off. We don’t have one built into our camper and have never missed it. We carry a Boom Bluetooth speaker. We have a friend with a newer camper that came with a built-in unit but he had trouble using the outside speakers without the inside speakers during his kids’ nap times. He carries a Boom as well. For us, the Bluetooth is a much better solution.” – Adam Hurley, 2015 GMC 2500, 2002 Lance 835
“Yes, we listen to the news every morning on the radio. Our first truck camper didn’t have one built in and we had to take the space for a portable radio. If it wasn’t built in, we would have the same issue.
I don’t think I would gain any space with a radio delete because it is worked into the cabinetry in our unit. I have a Bluetooth speaker that I use at home, but it must be charged. In addition, I don’t have a radio feature on my phone (and if I had one, it would likely use data.) I think that the radios that are installed in campers should also include the weather frequencies because we still carry a weather radio for the forecasts.” – Steve Merrill, 2009 Chevrolet 3500, 2007 Lance 992
“We have no radio in the camper, but we do have a good Bluetooth speaker and our cell phone. So the sound is better and with mobile we can put the speaker where we want.” – Real Charbonneau, 2008 Silverado, 2017 Travel Lite 800x
“I’m not a fan of built in entertainment systems. We’ve used a Bose SoundLink speaker for several years and really like the flexibility to move it to where we want when we want to listen to music, such as at the table or outside while relaxing in chairs or while in a hammock. It has great sound, is extremely flexible, and simple. Since we boondock camp most of the time, we rarely listen to music because we want to hear the sounds of nature, but when we do listen to music, the Bose is great.” – David Ruble, 2017 Ford F350, 2017 Phoenix custom
“In 2009 Alpenlite was using a single din car stereo unit with small ceiling mounted speakers in the cabover bedroom and over the dinette. I upgraded the head unit to a bluetooth capable CD media receiver and added a small (under seat type) powered subwoofer. That has made the system much more enjoyable to listen to.
I wish that they had included external speakers, but without the sub, they wouldn’t sound as good as the inside system. Doing the upgrade modification is a little daunting.
I also added an inexpensive sound bar (Insignia) to a 24″ Samsung television (Costco open box) that we have thoroughly enjoyed. I believe that the whole entertainment system aspect of all types of RVs need to be reexamined. Sound Bars and the latest wireless systems could provide some interesting solutions.” – Avery Burdette, 2008 Ford F-350, 2009 Alpenlite Cheyenne 950