Apple Music vs Pandora Premium (just what is the limiting factor on sound quality?)

Apple Music vs Pandora Premium (just what is the limiting factor on sound quality?)

2 weeks with my Tesla and I'll say it again, I love this car. Never been a car enthusiast but this car makes me look forward to driving like never before. Anyways, my big complaint so far is the music options on the car. I've seen countless threads on this already with Streaming vs USB vs FM radio.

**My question to anyone who knows is is it the streaming bitrate or an outdated bluetooth codec built into the Model S that is limiting the sound quality??**

Even though I don't consider myself even close to being an audiophile it's striking how rich and deep the sounds of HD radio on the car sound compared to Bluetooth over my iPhone X. The difference almost sounds like Stereo versus mono, FM sounds like it's using all the car's speakers and Bluetooth doesn't. Pandora Premium streams at 192 kbps and Apple Music streams at 256kbps but more importantly Apple uses AAC which from what I understand makes it's streaming music sound on par if not better than Spotify's 320 kbps. I'm not sure I can hear the difference between Pandora and Apple streaming, what I do know is both sound worse than FM. I've tried downloading the music to my phone for both Pandora and Apple to take the bitrate/stream out of the sound quality equation and I'm not sure if it sounds better than streaming (I can't tell) but again even downloaded it certainly doesn't sound nearly as good as HD FM. So my question is, is it the Bluetooth codec that's limiting the sound quality? If so why is it when I stream music from Pandora or Apple to my Bluetooth headphones I don't hear any degradation in sound quality? It makes me wonder if the Bluetooth compression used on the Tesla is dated compared to the newer headphones?

Can anyone verify any of this? | 6 June, 2019

Ok, Tesla is using 128 kbps for streaming, and maybe 160 kbps for those with UHFS (but unclear if 160 kbps is still the case). Bluetooth, by design recompresses audio (remember it was originally designed for 0-2 kHz phones), and while better than phone quality now with SBC codec, it is still not great. In rough order of quality from low to hight in our cars, my assessment is:

AM - XM - Bluetooth - FM - Slacker - USB MP3s - USB Flac

There are some variables in here. For example, XM can go from a really crappy 8 kbps to 64 kbps depending on the channel. At 8 kbps, AM radio is likely better. XM at 64 kbps is still worse that all the others.

Bluetooth could be worse depending on the source material, but even if your source is pristine, it compresses it using it's own codec down to a fairly low quality. There are better codec options for Bluetooth in some of the more recent standards like aptX, but Tesla does not use them (and many devices/phones do not support it either).

USB with Flac is a lossless format and can replicate CD quality without loss and is the best choice if you're an audiofile that wants the best audio quality.

gladd06 | 7 June, 2019

This makes sense for the most part, except for the fact that bluetooth sounded way better in my 12yr old Infiniti than it does in my 2yr old Model S. | 7 June, 2019

@gladd06 - One factor is an ICE car is typically noisier than a Tesla, so you crank the stereo up louder to compensate to cover up engine, transmission and road noises. We get used to the poor quality in an ICE car so that when you get in the Tesla, you start to hear details in the music (and compression artifacts) that you can't hear in ICE cars due to other noises. This may not be the case for a specific car like your Infiniti, but it may be.