Professional Review of the Sound System

Professional Review of the Sound System

Now many of the Big questions have been answered:

It would be nice of there was a professional review of the sound system.

The reps over the weekend drive told me that the stereo was designed and built by Tesla. This is a first that have heard of an auto manufacturer building their own radio and amp. They told me is was part of the info console I assume this outsource and is not built at the CA Factory or am I wrong? I would love to be wrong.

The reps were unable to tell me the brand of speaker that was used.

I would also love to see a professional review comparing the Standard vs Premium system.

When I was listening to the system I found the default setting to have no bottom end. It sounded like there is no Sub-woofer. After a quick adjustment to the base, things sounded much better. The auto adjustment on the touch screen are really nice and easy to use.

jbunn | July 25, 2012

No one in their right mind would build an entire automotive sound system from scratch. Dev costs are too high, profit no where to be seen for a few thousand units. Most likley when the reps say "built" they mean "selected" from off the shelf components. And what's there is possibly rebranded. For example, my Risa strings on my instrument are really made by Worth. For that matter, Worth might not even make them, but might have them made under contract by a plastics firm that makes miles of the stuff.

I can say that I was in the back when my wife drove, and it sounded great.

Volker.Berlin | July 25, 2012
stevenmaifert | July 25, 2012

I tend to agree with Individual components came from outside suppliers and the Tesla folks did the system integration.

My personal experience:
1) October 1, 2011 factory test ride. The driver was playing Phantom of the Opera. The tonal quality was robust and it sounded great.
2) June 29, 2012 LA Test Drive. Kid Co-Pilot was playing music from a flash drive he brought in. It sounded like crap. I asked him what bitrate the music was encoded at? He had no idea what I was talking about and wouldn't let me make any sound adjustments. After the test drive I sat in one of the beta static display cars, tuned the FM radio to KLOS and it sounded just fine. I was told it was the standard system.

Recommendation: If you have the opportunity, bring an audio file of known quality to one of the TM stores and ask the rep to play it for you or ask the rep to play the FM radio. They like to demo the music streaming capability, but that is not full fidelity music. If that's the best they can do, see how it sounds to you properly adjusted. If it sounds good, then your own files will sound better as will the FM radio.

Sudre_ | July 25, 2012

I've been reading the audio reports coming in from the test drives and have taken them with a grain of salt. That will have to be something I hear for myself unless someone can give more details before they start describing how horrible it sounds.

If someone gets the chance to really listen to the sound system and wishes to give us some feed back please do, similar to what stevenmaifert has done.

I don't want to only hear it sounded like crap, more info is needed; bit-rate sample of the music, possibly what you ripped it from and what software you used (because many don't rip it correctly)... is it from the radio? thru Bluetooth? I don't even know what the frequency range of Bluetooth is but it might be clipping the sound too.

The other problem is how many other people have come before you and adjusted the speakers/EQ playing around and never put the setting back to something worth listening to. Like murraypetera noticed things started improving once he started adjusting.

It's a lot like trying to describe the color of the car. :-)

stephen.kamichik | July 25, 2012

I think the speakers are Alpine units. TM has repeatedly declined my requests for specs of the sound systems.

It is best to listen to FM to ascertain the audio quality of the sound systems.

When I receive my model S, I intend to connect a CDROM reader to the USB port and listen to my CDs.

Vall | July 25, 2012

Any idea if FLAC or ogg vorbis files can be played from USB flash drive?

Neige | July 25, 2012

I was at the Model S test drive in New Jersey on July 21. Both the model that I drove as well as the "static" model they were letting people sit in and play with had great sounding systems. I'm not an audiophile but I have been recording music as an amateur for over 20 years and I thought the system had a great sound through all volumes (yes, 1 to 11!). The low end had excellent tone without the terrible thud that speakers have introduced lately in cheaper systems to make people think their system has bass. The tonal controls on the screen were bass, mid and treble and felt quite musical and not too harsh (although I would hope they would allow one to select a different equalizer since it would be fairly easy to add through a software update).

The roller button on the left was set by default to sound volume although this can be changed.

I plugged in my iPhone with the cord I had with me and they system would not recognize my phone. During my test drive, I asked if I could put on my own music and was told it wasn't allowed. I get the feeling the software on these test drive model S's isn't completely done.

I had an extended conversation with one Tesla employee who seemed much more knowledgeable than most and he claimed the stereo will allow playing of lossless formats like FLAC although I didn't ask him about ogg vorbis.

h8young | July 25, 2012

Jason, was the sound system that you listen to the Standard system or the Upgraded Sound Studio system?

I'm also trying to determine how much better the Upgraded Sound Studio system is compared to the Standard version.

Sudre_ | July 26, 2012

They may not allow you to put any of your music in/on the car because of copyright. Some music empires would sue Tesla if they discovered a song in the cars memory that did not belong to the owner (Tesla) of the car. I know most of the music empires have gotten over this and how in the world would they make the discovery but it's not worth the risk..... just a theory.

RobertMontreal | July 26, 2012

Just my two cents... when the Tesla Beta was in my town (Montreal), the technician that was there told me the sound system was a Rockford Fosgate... He didn't elaborate beyond that.

murraypetera | July 26, 2012

I was told the NJ red car which was not being driven when I was there was the upgraded audio.

I took the volume up to 11 for a short period of time. The result was that I was suddenly sitting all alone in the car :)

I detected no distortion at any volume including 11 ( I like the humor here ). I put on the loudest music I saw quickly on the list, Marilyn Manson... I don't remember the song.

It was an uncomfortable sound level at 11. I would very much like to hear what the base system sound like with my own music. I will plan on putting a some Flac on a memory stick for the test when Tesla has such a car in one of the local stores near me.

stevenmaifert | July 26, 2012

Vall - Right now the specs pages says the audio system "Supports MP3, AAC, and MP4 music formats" only. Codecs for the other music file formats are readily available through public sources, and as long as there are no licensing issues for TM, I can't see why TM would not make them available to us.

Even though a properly adjusted standard sound system sounded just fine to me I am still going to get the Sound Studio Package. Unlike the pricing of some of the other options (the Parcel Shelf), $950 for the upgraded OEM audio system is pretty reasonable.

brianman | July 26, 2012

During the Seattle Amped drive, I brought a couple USB keys and the co-pilot tested them out for me during the drive. I posted about it in the TMC forum. I don't have the link handy at the moment.

GoTeslaChicago | September 2, 2012

As reservation holder #5520, coming after 1200 sigs, I assumed that there would be a couple thousand Model Ss on the road and plenty of reviews to help me decide how to configure my car when my time came.

Since getting my ready to build notification the last week of August I can see it's not working out how I imagined. Most of the decisions I've already made, but in regards to the sound system I have very little to go on. Hoping for some side by side comparisons of the standard vs the upgraded sound system. My time to decide is running out....

Any new info out there?

Lenn | September 2, 2012

I'm disappointed to learn that, according to the Santa Monica store, I have to buy the upgraded sound system in order to get an XM Satellite radio receiver. I love my XM, but I'm not sure it's worth almost a grand plus annual subscription costs. Most new cars today have XM receivers as a standard feature, especially when purchasing a nav package.

jbunn | September 2, 2012

I would double check that.most heads are xm ready. You might have to go to car toys, but it can be done, I expect.

Michael23 | September 2, 2012

If you are worried about audio quality I would Definitly upgrade. Better safe than sorry and it's pretty minimal cost for what you get compared to other car companies.

Superliner | September 2, 2012

I decided to upgrade on my Tesla design page. Not having heard either of the systems. Several conversations with Arielle Bosch convinced me, because she could not tell me if the standard system included a "sub-woofer". She kept referring to a "center channel" speaker which in my experience is not the same thing. Center channel is usually "voice" range. but agreed. not much is being said about audio system performance among those Model S's in the wild.

I'm hoping that the internet ready 17" interface will allow me to stream the entire music library on my home PC to the car via USB and my Android Device. If so XM / Sirrius etc. may not be needed. Additionally if the car is internet connected "on the fly" then one should be able to stream XM over internet if they have a subscription. I can stream XM currently on any Internet connected PC etc. Having a "Hot" internet connection on board enables me to consider possibilities never before available.

WolfenHawke | September 2, 2012

I listened to an upgraded sound system Tesla S. Unfortunately, there wasn't a standard system to compare to. The upgraded has a sub, and sounded very good -- it wasn't glass jarring -- my source was not that type of music -- so I don't know where it is. I used an MP3 from my phone so had a reference. The Dolby does seem to have a little latency when turned on/off (2s) -- DSP engine I guess -- not a concern for me.

I am keeping my order with the upgraded system. Just that many speakers unobtrusively installed, and driven well is worth it. The whole system is integrated with the center console allowing you to "position" center with a visual icon -- no need for balance and fader -- sweet.

On the question above (@Superliner) on moving your music library - yes you can move it from your phone, or USB stick. In fact, if you have different sources, i was told you can have the library rotate between your favorites once loaded. | September 3, 2012

I use the itunes cloud (match). Can I make my S an authorized device? That would eliminate the need to load & transfer music files.

stephen.pace | September 4, 2012

@KJR4235: No, but put in an enhancement request for a future firmware upgrade since that would be nice. At this time, when Apple says iCloud is "Available on all your devices.", they mean Apple devices/systems or Windows machines. No Linux based systems and no Model S.

But you can do iCloud from your phone to the Model S via Bluetooth. No need to transfer music files to the Model S first. | September 4, 2012

Thanks Stephen, I'll request when I take delivery (which I hope is sooner than I think).

Robert22 | September 5, 2012

A cross-marketing arrangement with Apple would definitely have its advantages, the first being an app that supported a direct iTunes interface. Tethering will work for awhile, but I'd prefer it to be built-in.

Rod and Barbara | September 6, 2012

Back on Sept 1 we posted the following on another thread: “We probably aren’t the best people to answer your question (about Model S Sound Studio Package compared to other luxury car sound systems). We have no experience with luxury car sound systems (own a Roadster, Honda Civic, Toyota Sienna). My wife thinks the Model S sounds fine, I don’t think it sounds as full and enveloping as sitting in the living room of one of my audiophile friends listening to a high quality sound system. I will say that the difference between regular radio and HD radio is pretty substantial with the HD radio changing the sound from merely in front of you to a much richer, enveloping sound.”

Since then, someone posted a comment about selecting and deselecting the Dolby Pro Logic II Surround system in the Model S while sitting in a demo car. Since this is not addressed in the Guide of Owners, I played with the 17 inch touch screen and found that the Dolby System can be turned on and off on the Audio Control screen. The Dolby System was turned off in our car. The Dolby System improved the sound from all sources we are using (FM HD, FM, Slacker (internet), iPod Bluetooth, and USB flash drive with WAV encoded songs). The improvement varied from format to format. For FM HD the improvement was modest because the FM HD already sounded pretty good. The improvement for the USB WAV songs was absolutely stunning. Some of my favorite songs went from hollow and tinny to robust, rich and enveloping! They sounded certainly rivaled my memory of the high quality sound system in the living room of one of my audiophile friends.

If Dolby System on and off is any indication of the difference between the Standard sound system and the Sound Studio Package, the upgraded system is worth every penny of the $950 price in my opinion. My disclaimer still applies – I like to listen to music but do not consider myself an audiophile.

murraypetera | September 7, 2012

Well thank you all for the input...
We let my daughter make the sound system decision. She picked the upgrade :)

At the test drive I very much enjoyed driving my two kids out of the car by testing the sound systems ability to go to 11 with some heavy metal.

Embarrassing your teenage kids can be fun.

That said the system did not distort at 11 but was rather painful after a short period of time. :)

I would still like to have some audiofile mag do a full review for fun.

Michael23 | September 8, 2012

Funny I thought my music sounded better with Dolby off. I guess I'll need more time with the system to decide.

docdac | September 12, 2012

I was told by one of the reps at the Chicago Get Amped test drive tour that Tesla is building their own speakers! On the one hand, a company that winds electric motors ought to be able to wind a speaker coil. However, there is alot more to a good speaker than the windings, and I am concerned that they are underestimating the value of high quality speakers. I am expecting that what they deliver on the upgraded sound system will be very good, but I can't help but think that it could be better. (I suppose I will have to wait to hear it for myself - P3030, delivery date Dec/Jan)

Captain_Zap | September 12, 2012

@Michael S

If the music sounded better with Dolby off it could be due to your source. If you have an superior recording, Dolby can throw it off.

Dolby can make some excellent 5.1 high resolution discreet recordings sound inferior. From what I understand the Model S does not yet have the ability to play discreet channels. I'm hoping its coming and we'll be upgraded.

Michael23 | September 12, 2012

Interesting, I just played a bunch of iTunes music files that were m4a. Not sure if discreet or not..

Volker.Berlin | September 13, 2012

docdac, not sure if there wasn't some misunderstanding somewhere in the chain... They are doing their own sound system setup, speaker layout, wiring, etc. for sure, but I think it's unlikely that they build their own speakers (or amplifiers, or other components). It's too far from their core business. Rumor has it that the speakers are Alpine (as mentioned above in this thread), but they don't talk about it and maybe they are not allowed to.

Some considerations have been given in this thread:

One interesting aspect is that using a big name sound system is an expensive affair for the car manufacturer. It's much cheaper and not necessarily worse to hire some sound experts and do it in-house, but obviously they would source the components.

BYT | September 13, 2012

I just realized and forgot to ask, is there an aux port?

Rod and Barbara | September 14, 2012

We made a post on Sep 6 that said the sound with Dolby on was far superior to the sound with Dolby off. Michael23 noted that he thought the music sounded better with Dolby off. Since that time our car has been in the LA Service Center to have an amplifier replacement update and the software updated from version 1.5.21 to 1.7.36. After this update, the sound system behaves significantly different. The overall sound quality without Dolby is vastly improved. The delta in sound quality for Slacker (internet), iPod Bluetooth, and USB flash drive with WAV encoded songs between Dolby on an off is a toss up. The new audio display notes that Dolby is not available for AM, FM and XM (and in fact there is no difference for these sources between Dolby on or off). So I would guess that Michael23 was listening to an updated version of the sound system and our previous strong preference for Dolby no longer applies (because the non-Dolby sound quality is now vastly improved).

Michael23 | September 15, 2012

Interesting thanks for the update!

GeekEV | August 8, 2013

(cross-posted to reach a wider audience and dispel some myths)

Alright everyone, I've asked some very clear specific questions about the Dolby Surround features to ownership and here's the definitive answers from Tesla. Specifically, see the last question and answer. Perhaps that accounts for much of the confusion here.

Q: Both the car and website simply reference "Dolby Surround". Specifically, what Dolby mode(s) are implemented? Dolby Digital? Dolby TruHD? Dolby ProLogic? Dolby ProLogic II? Dolby ProLogic IIx?

A: Model S with the Ultra High Fidelity Sound package features Dolby ProLogic IIx.

Q: If one of the Dolby ProLogic II types, do you implement the Movie or Music mode?

A: Model S uses Music mode as a bases, but [our] ProLogic IIx is specifically tuned to Model S. In fact, we have different tuning with or without the panoramic roof.

Q: Some people are asserting that they've been told by service that they need specifically encoded multi-channel audio sources in Dolby Digital 7.1 and that the Dolby Surround ON setting is only useful in those scenarios. Is that true?

A: This is not true. The purpose of ProLogic IIx is to convert 2 channel sources into multichannel sources. There is no need for the customer to provide multichannel media. That said, Dolby is not available with AM, FM, or XM sources, which is displayed in the vehicle.