There are two basic factory stereo configurations. The basic unit is an AM/FM/Cassette head unit with 4 speakers. The Quick Order Package and L Package upgrade to an AM/FM/Cassette/CD head unit with 6 speakers. Details follow.
Both head units have similar controls with the exception of the added CD controls on the upgrade version. Controls are well laid out and the head unit placement at the top of the dash makes it easy to operate without taking your eyes off the road. In my opinion general performance is reasonable for a factory stereo (although not all owners feel this way). There is adequate power to drive the factory speakers and any reasonably efficient aftermarket speakers. The upgraded 6 speaker unit reportedly has an external amp and crossover unit (although I haven't confirmed this). The overall sound from the factory head unit and speaker combination is very bass heavy. I've found that for my listening taste I need to set the treble to +2 and vary the bass between -1 and -3 depending on the source material. Both controls have a +5 to -5 range so there's more room to fiddle. Replacing the head unit should be relatively simple since it's a standard double DIN configuration. Crutchfield sells several head units in this configuration if you are looking to do it yourself.
I'm in the process of looking for specs (power, etc) on the two head units. If anyone has this information please send it to me so that I can include it here.
The factory speakers in the base configuration are four full range 6-1/2" paper cone versions in the front and rear doors. Typical cheap factory stuff. The upgrade 6 speaker system has the same full range 6-1/2" speakers in the rear doors, 6-1/2" midrange speakers in the front doors and 1-1/2" tweeters in the front door pillars.
Front Speakers Rear speakers Tweeter (outside) Tweeter (internal)
The extra pair of speakers in the door pillars make a BIG difference. The speakers in the doors are for low and midrange which is generally non-directional. The tweeters are placed in the door pillars where they are at ear level an pointed at the driver/passenger since high range sound is highly directional. This is the same type setup that is used in many high-end auto sound systems. Most of the best speaker systems that you can buy are component systems with separate woofer/midrange and tweeters. This isn't saying that the factory speakers in the RAV are great - they aren't (but they are relatively good for factory speakers). If you are still unhappy with the sound simply replace the speakers in the doors ($50 to $100 a pair for good replacements) and/or add a subwoofer. If you really want to trade up you can buy component speakers with separate 6-1/2 woofers for the doors and replacement tweeters for the door pillars.
You can get component sets that have tweeter with internal mounting so that they can replace the factory tweeters. The advantage to doing this over just replacing the door speakers is that you get a set that are properly acoustically matched between the mid/woofers in the door and the separate tweeters. Most companies that sell component sets also sell the mid/woofers and tweeters separately so you can just get an extra set of mids for the rear doors. All that said - there's nothing wrong with just getting a good set of 6-1/2 full range speakers for the doors rather than components. The tweeters in the factory setup are OK and having additional tweeters in the doors isn't going to hurt. One additional issue with the component systems is that all of them come with external crossovers. Since there is already a crossover for the separate speakers in the factory system this isn't going to be simple to install (having to hook into the factory harness). Without using the crossover that comes with the speakers the matching of mid to tweeter may be less than optimal.
Crutchfield has many options for 6-1/2" full range speakers as well as component sets. The mounting depth on both front and rear is 3" so all of the speakers they sell fit. Note that the door speakers all mount with mounting rings. These can be salvaged from the factory speakers and used on the replacements, but the factory speakers wont be able to be used again (if you care). Crutchfield can probably also supply mounting rings as well as wiring harnesses to plug into the factory harness so nothing has to be cut. If you're going to do any more than replace the door speakers it's probably a better idea to go to a local stereo store and have them do it.
I'm in the process of replacing my door speakers and will post pictures of the whole operation once it's done.
There are four styles of factory antennas depending where in the world you buy your RAV. The US antenna is mounted on the passenger side front fender and is generally considered to be a poor design. It gets in the way when trying to clean the windshield in the winter and has to be removed when going through the car wash (by unscrewing the mast from the base). The international versions are much more acceptable, however there's no way to apply them on the US version. There are two possible solutions for the US antenna. First is to replace the mast with a shorter version (see below). This will still have to be removed in the carwash and is still somewhat in the way, but it at least looks better. It can also be installed by simply screwing in the new mast. The second option is to replace the fixed antenna with a power antenna. This is probably the best option, but also the more difficult since it requires running antenna and power cables. If anyone has replaced their RAV4 antenna with a power antenna or other option please send me info so that I can include the details here.
North American Antenna European Antenna
Japanese Antenna Australia/New Zealand and South African Antenna
courtesy of Scott Cummings, RAV4 ZONE
This is my replacement antenna. It's an all rubber mast so should hold up fine in the carwash. Reception is about the same as with the factory antenna even though this one is only 14" long. This may not be as good as a motorized antenna but it's a lot cheaper and easier to install.
Note that these are replacement masts only and not the complete antenna. Just unscrew the old mast and screw in the new one - a one minute job!
Radio Shack 12-2267 ($4.99 US)
Motomaster multi-fit replacement mast (part #35-0588-0)
Available in Canada. Haven't found in US
Photo courtesy Jun Ignacio
Remove 4 shiny screws holding the plastic grille surrounding the radio, then pull this grille out. Remove screws on the left and right sides of the radio that secure the radio to the vertical steel plates. There are small bumps on the steel plates that fit into the holes on the sides of the radio, so you have to press the vertical steel plates outward a little, jiggle the radio and pull it out. For each radio wire connector, press down on the tab on top of it then pull it out. For the antenna connector, just pull straight out. (Instructions courtesy JSmith from RAV4World.com 4.2 forum)