Harley Davidson motorcycles are known for their very unique exhaust notes; other than their stunning good looks, in terms of which they stand head and shoulders above other cruisers in a class of motorcycles their name has come to be synonymous with, their distinctive sound is music to the ears of cruiser enthusiasts. However, in recent times increasingly restrictive noise and emissions laws have meant that Harley Davidson cruisers roll off of the factory floor as pretty quiet motorcycles, with a rather subdued exhaust note. The quickest and cheapest way for an eager owner to unleash the sound of the true beast that beats in his Harley is to fit a slip-on muffler.
Best Slip On Mufflers for Harley Quick Review
Top Choice: Vance & Hines Straightshots HS Slip Ons
Vance & Hines Straightshots are some of the most popular slip-ons for Harley Softails, and for good reason. They add a thunderous but crisp note to your sound.First Checkpoint
|Product||Best For||Our Rating|
|1. Vance & Hines Straightshots HS Slip Ons||Best Slip On Mufflers For Harley Softail||★★★★★|
|2. DRACULEXTREME Classic Fishtail Drag Pipe Slip On Mufflers||Best Slip On Mufflers For Harley Road King||★★★★★|
|3. Cobra Neighbor Haters Slip-On Mufflers||Best Sounding Slip On Mufflers For Harley Touring||★★★★★|
|4. SHARKROAD Classic Megaphone Slip-On Mufflers||Best Slip Ons For Harley M8||★★★★★|
|5. Rinehart Racing 4″ Slip-On Mufflers||Best Performing Harley Slip Ons||★★★★|
|6. DNA 4″ Tapered Megaphone Slip-Ons||Best Budget Slip On Mufflers For Harley Street Glide||★★★|
Check out our other Harley Davidson performance improvement guides:
- Searching For The Best Harley Air Cleaner
- Which Is The Best Harley Performance Exhaust
- Does Chrome Cleaner & Polish Really Matter
- Best Harley Seats For Tall Riders
Exhausts, Mufflers and Engine Sound
Why does an exhaust affect the sound a motorcycle motor makes? Well, everyone knows what a firework sounds like when it explodes nearby. There’s a really loud bang – and this sound is caused by a sonic boom from the rapid expansion of gases in the explosion. They’re so loud because there’s nothing around them to absorb the sound waves. Inside your bike or car motor, a similar thing is happening every time your spark plug fires. The difference between the sound of an explosion in your piston and a firework exploding is that the explosion inside your motor has its sound waves absorbed and modulated by your exhaust.
The function of a muffler (or silencer) is to literally muffle the sound of explosions within your motor. It does this by getting the sound waves produced by the motor to cancel each other out, and regulating the pressure of the exhaust gases emitted by the motor. You can find a detailed explanation of exactly how that works here. Motorcycles are generally louder than cars because they have much shorter pipes, and less room for large mufflers.
Both stock mufflers and aftermarket mufflers generally have baffles too. These are small inserts that are installed near the exit of the muffler, and they also aid in noise reduction by causing gases and sound waves to bounce around more, and thereby be absorbed by the packing material in the muffler.
Can’t I Just Remove the Baffles from My Stock Pipe to Get A Better Sound?
A cheap solution, touted by DIY mechanics, to a bike that’s deemed too quiet is to simply remove the baffles from your stock exhaust. Why buy an aftermarket muffler if you can make your bike louder simply by removing the baffles? Proponents of baffle removal also claim that by removing baffles you’re allowing your exhaust to flow more freely and thus increasing performance. So why not just do this?
Increasing engine performance isn’t a simple science. Some back pressure from the exhaust is necessary, and without it you’ll likely lose torque and low-end power, and some horsepower across the rev range, even if you do gain a little at the very top of the rev range – which you won’t be using for the majority of your riding anyway. And while removing baffles can make your bike louder, that doesn’t mean it’ll sound better. Often, bikes with baffles removed simply sound obnoxiously loud. A good aftermarket muffler, however, will give your bike a much more pleasing sound, as well as increasing the volume, but not to an annoying degree.
Does A Slip On Exhaust Increase Horsepower?
In short, no, a slip-on exhaust probably won’t increase horsepower. When you put a slip-on muffler onto your bike, you’re changing the airflow and the back-pressure from the exhaust gases a little, so you might see a tiny increase in power and notice a very minor difference in power delivery, but generally what you’re making a major change to is the way sound waves exit your exhaust. The makers of slip-on mufflers know that the vast majority of motorcyclists who buy these items are looking for a more aggressive sound from their bikes, and they have designed their products to provide maximum gains in that area: sound.
There’s also the aesthetic factor, of course; while stock Harley mufflers look pretty good, a high end aftermarket slip-on muffler will generally look pretty damn amazing, and will add visual appeal to your already attractive ride.
What Are Slip On Exhausts?
Why are slip-on exhausts called “slip-ons”? The answer to that question is that the name comes from the fact that you’re able to quite literally slip them onto your bike’s existing exhaust; generally installation of an aftermarket slip-on is a very easy task, even for the most mechanically inept motorcyclists. You only have to have a very basic grasp of mechanical knowledge to install an aftermarket slip-on exhaust. To put one on, you simply remove your stock muffler, loosening whatever nuts, bolts and fixtures hold in in place, and then slip the aftermarket pipe into place, and tighten everything up. If any gasket paste is required, it’s generally supplied with the aftermarket pipe.
When installing a performance exhaust, you might want to consider optimising your air/fuel ratio with an auto tuner for Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Does A Slip On Exhaust Void Warranty?
All right, so you’ve just ridden your Harley home from the dealership, and it’s brand spanking new, and still has that showroom shine…and you can’t wait to start modifying your new toy. The first thing on your list is the same thing that’s at the top of most red-blooded bikers’ mod lists: an aftermarket muffler, to unleash that rolling thunder sound you know the stock pipe is holding back. There’s one little problem though: are you going to void your Harley’s warranty by doing this?
While it might be an official policy that modifying your brand new motorcycle in any way technically voids the warranty, in most cases this is not enforced in practice, especially when it comes to a modification that’s as common as aftermarket mufflers. A slip-on exhaust really won’t change or affect your motor much, and is extremely unlikely to cause any sort of engine problems at all. Ask your local HD dealer though, but because they want to retain your business and keep a good reputation as being attentive to their customers’ needs, they’ll likely tell you that it’s absolutely fine to put on an aftermarket muffler, and that it won’t void your warranty.
Best Slip On Mufflers for Harley Review
Best Slip On Mufflers for Harley Softail
Vance & Hines Straightshots are some of the most popular slip-ons for Harley Softails, and for good reason. They add a thunderous but crisp note to your sound.
Vance and Hines Straightshots are some of the most well-known and popular slip-on exhausts for Harley Softails, and for a very good reason – a few very good reasons, actually. The level of the workmanship on these pipes is fantastic, and they’re unmatched in terms of quality. The sound improvement over stock pipes is immense. Straightshots come with removable baffles, but even with the baffles in the sound is deep and raw, yet crisp. All of this quality and great sound does come at a price, though; these aren’t the cheapest pipes around. That said, there are more expensive pipes out there.
- Improvement in sound over stock is very impressive
- Beautiful chrome finish
- Extremely high quality
- Not the cheapest slip-ons you can get
Best Slip Ons for Harley M8
Sharkroad is perhaps a lesser-known name when it comes to slip-on mufflers, but their Classic Chrome Megaphones for M8s are a great sounding, good-looking option at an excellent price.
If you want to improve the sound of your stock M8 motor, but are feeling a little apprehensive about shelling out close to $400, or even $500, just to get a better exhaust note, you might want to check out a smaller brand of exhaust manufacturer like Sharkroad. Their Megaphone slip-ons won’t break the bank, coming in a little north of $150. While the manufacturing might not be on par with the most expensive brands, it’s adequate in quality, and as for sound, there’s a very noticeable improvement over stock. These slip-ons are a great option for riders on a budget.
- Great price
- Lovely chrome finish
- Sounds really good compared to stock
- Manufacturing quality not on par with more expensive brands
If you’re looking for some seriously loud sound – about as loud as you can legally go – the name “Neighbor Haters” should tell you all you need to know about these slip-on pipes from Cobra.
Few slip-on pipes are more aptly named, in terms of what they achieve, than Cobra Neighbor Haters. Now, whether you hate or love your neighbors, with these slip-ons on your Hog, you can bet that the people in your street will know every time you leave your house or come home. They’re about as loud as you can legally go, but the sound they produce isn’t obnoxiously loud, and you can even hear your music over it. They’re not the cheapest pipes, but they’re far the most expensive too; they represent a good mid-range price. The manufacturing quality is really good for what you’re paying for them as well. The main thing about these, though, is the sound you get: deep, rolling thunder.
- Adds a deep, thunderous rumble to your bike at idle and a roar at revs
- Not so loud that it’s completely obnoxious or illegal
- High quality pipes, very well-made
- Decent price but you can get far cheaper pipes
- May be too loud for some riders
Best Performing Harley Slip Ons
When it comes to performance slip-ons, Rinehart Racing is, many Harley enthusiasts believe, the gold standard. Their 4” slip-on mufflers are peerless in quality and give a fantastic upgrade in sound.
A lot of Harley enthusiasts consider the gold standard against which other slip-ons are measured to be Rinehart Racing pipes. The quality of Rinehart Racing pipes is almost unmatched, and these made-in-America pipes have earned their reputation through their workmanship. The sound they add to your cruiser is a perfect mix of aggressive volume, rumbling “potato potato” thunder, and a deep bark when you rev the bike, all without being excessively loud; you can still speak (instead of yell) over these when the bike is idling beneath you. Of course all this quality does come at a price, and these pipes are pretty expensive.
- Some of the best-made slip-on pipes on the market
- Stunning chrome finish
- Deep, throaty sound, and aggressive roar at higher revs, but not excessively loud
- Very expensive
Best Budget Slip On Mufflers for Harley Street Glide
For slip-on mufflers that give your Street Glide a good rumble and roar, these DNA 4” slip-on pipes are a great bargain.
If the price of many slip-on mufflers puts you off buying them, but you could really use an upgrade in sound for your Street Glide, then these 4” slip-ons from DNA might be just what you’re looking for. They’re finished in gleaming chrome, and will add a bassy rumble to your Street Glide, and a decent roar at revs, which is a definite improvement over the stock pipes. The best part about these slip-ons is the price; they aren’t much more than $120, and you won’t find a better price for any other slip-ons anywhere, really. Of course, this does mean that you’re not getting the same quality as Vance and Hines or Rinehart Racing, but these are decent slip-ons nonetheless.
- Great price
- Look and sound very good
- Not as well-made as more expensive slip-ons
Best Slip On Mufflers for Harley Road King
For slip-on pipes that make both an aural and a visual statement, these slip-on fishtail mufflers from Draculextreme are guaranteed to make your Road King stand out in a crowd.
If you want your Road King to seriously stand out in terms of looks, few slip-on mufflers make quite as bold a statement as these fishtail/sharktail slip-ons from Draculextreme. And these pipes don’t only look boldly distinctive, they add a nice deep note to your Road King’s motor, without being excessively or obnoxiously loud. Of course, the look of fishtail pipes isn’t for everyone, so the styling of these pipes might be a little too over-the-top for some riders. The price, however, is one thing everyone can agree on – at under $200, these definitely won’t make your wallet too much lighter.
- Very distinctive look; the fishtail/sharktail design makes a bold visual statement
- Sound really good too
- Good price
- This look isn’t for everyone
- Maybe not as high quality in terms of manufacturing as more expensive slip-ons
Ride Loud and Proud With the Best Slip-On Muffler for Your Harley
If you don’t want to get into complicated retuning and engine modification, or the generally intensive labor involved in swapping out your entire OEM exhaust system, and all you’re really looking for is a better sounding Harley, perhaps with a smidgen of increased performance, then fitting a slip-on muffler is probably going to be a perfect mod to do. It won’t break the bank (unless you really go all out for a set of Rinehart Racing pipes), and it’s easy to do with only a bare minimum of mechanical knowledge. Your bike is guaranteed to sound better afterwards, and that alone will keep you smiling for many happy miles.