Audio Quality

Audio Quality

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the audio quality of the basic vs the ungraded option. I would hope in a car of this quality that the audio would be comperable. I spend a fair amount of time driving and the audio quality is very important to me. I had a Hyundai Genesis with the Lexicon 17 speaker system that was phenomenal. Any audiophiles out there who can evaluate the quality of the 7.1 sound in the S compared to other high end systems found in Jags (B&W), Acuras (ELS) or Lexus (Mark Levinson)?

Pungoteague_Dave | 21 January 2013

This is covered ad nauseous in existing threads...

sergiyz | 21 January 2013

Mark Levinson wins hands down.
Tesla premium sound doesn't even come close, unfortunately.

kickgas | 21 January 2013

Thanks for being the "Forum Police" but I only found topics discussing the perceived problems with the sound system such as "too quiet in the rear". No discussion on the quality of the sound compared to "gas" vehicles. Anyone know who makes the components for their system?

olanmills | 21 January 2013

I have the Premium Sound Package, and I think it's alright, not amazing. It would be nice if the bass was stronger.

Brian H | 21 January 2013

There have been claims Tesla makes them itself, even the speakers.

TheAustin | 21 January 2013

I have the premium audio, it's just OK. The overall sound is OK, it's the front/rear balance that I have issues with. I like the sound to feel like it's balanced around me, and in the Model S, it feel very front-centered, like it's only coming from the windshield. Even when I've got the fader cranked to 8 in the back, it's still a very forward-directional sound. Don't love it, so I can't even imagine how sub-par the basic audio package is.

Robert22 | 21 January 2013

Not bad at all actually, but with the same forward bias. There's just not enough oomph in the back to give one that immersive experience. That said, the sound bounces strangely in the car. If I set the crosshairs in the center just behind the front seats I can improve the surround in the driver's seat considerably.

Ask Slacker for Learning to Fly by Tom Petty and shift the crosshairs from the driver center mass to the position above and see what you think.

tsx_5 | 22 January 2013


Waiting to hear my Model S, but just wanted to comment that most audiophiles suggest that proper should be

"We leaned on Jeff’s ear to evaluate the soundstaging — he has 20 years of experience building car audio systems, and even trained as an opera singer. He listened to a music track after every test to determine where it seemed like the sound was coming from.

Ideally, it should sound like the band is on stage in front of you on the dash, just beyond the windshield. It creates the sensation that the music starts just outside the car. Look for the diagram below after each test to see how our soundstage is shaping up." (from )

So what you describe is right in line with that...

GeirT | 22 January 2013

Pungoteague_Dave, no need to comment like you did... let is pass if it irtritates. The issue has merit to others. | 22 January 2013

I got the base audio, and to me seems somewhat average as car audio goes. I now wish I sprung for Sound Studio. When I ordered it there was no information other than going from 7 to 12 speakers and doubled the wattage (which is really a very small audible difference). The 12 speakers are larger, and it includes a sub-woofer in the rear. I'm now looking on how to retrofit a sub-woofer in to get a bit more bass and improve the sound of the base audio.

olanmills | 22 January 2013

I'm not an expert, so I'm not criticizing Crutchfield Jeff's analysis, but instead, I'm asking an honest question.

Why is it ideal for the music to "sound like the band is on stage in front of you on the dash, just beyond the windshield"?

Is it because based on our audio technology and the biology of our ears and psychology of our audio perception that that produces the best quality sound? Or is it because it is considered good to make it sound like you're experiencing a live band in front of you on a stage?

Because I don't care about it sounding like a band is in front of me, if the only reasoning to do that is to recreate the experience of being at a concert. If there is some audio quality/preception reason, then I would be interested to read an explanation of it.

Also, there is this caption for an image in the article, "This represent's Jeff's ideal sound curve, one that helps overcome some of the limitations that appear when you listen to music in a moving vehicle."

Why the heck does it matter that the vehicle is moving, other than the fact that there might be external noise?

Superliner | 22 January 2013

Some here have indicated a "weak" bass response. Such was my experience (it should be noted that I was in a showroom) since in AZ we cannot actually drive the cars. Nonetheless as I posted elsewhere I felt the studio sound was sub par "to my ear" when compared to the 300w 9 spkr. THX audio in my Town Car.

Voice and treble was too strong, bass was too weak, also front bias was observed which seemingly could not be overcome with a satisfactory result "sound reproduction wise" the equalizer. By that I mean though I was able to center myself in the sound it's quality diminished by doing so.

My final option was to go with it anyway and look elsewhere for a subwoofer add on.

silbenny | 22 January 2013

I can understand some of you wanting another subwoofer- however I truly believe you'll encounter similar issues. This is because the system is simply not powerful enough- it is in desperate need of more power- hence the reason why I think much of the music sounds 'hollow'. You will require a separate amp. I had discussed my concerns in prior threads before I received my car- and it seems my concerns were realized. I guess I'm going to have to wait until someone more knowledgeable and daring than myself tackles the audio system- something I can't wait for it to occur- it would complete this car.

silbenny | 22 January 2013

Found my previous comments in a prior thread:

After hearing the final sound system in my Tesla- I think the bass is now weak throughout. Also, the mids and highs aren't that great. Again, as noted before, if you've never heard an aftermarket system- you won't mind. But I have, and it's bothersome that the Tesla doesn't measure up. Much like many here note that they've been spoiled by the Tesla ride, and an ICE is clunky- the same holds true for me regarding the audio- I've been spoiled by a real audio system and the Tesla audio is clunky. Apart from the audio, the rest of the car is spectacular though.

cmlaff | 22 January 2013

After 7 weeks in my Sig with the Premium Sound Package I agree that it's just okay and I also wish it was more meaty. Be sure to turn off the Dolby Surround. That helps a lot. Didn't make sense to me that it was better in the off position, but it was. Agree with Robert22 as to where to set the crosshairs; that's where mine were when I checked with his recommended Petty tune.

Anthony H | 22 January 2013

Ugh. Ok, two perspectives.

1) On a personal factory tour last August 23 (2012), we were told the (then) audio system didn't meet Elon's expectations. So, (Paraphrasing now) Tesla engineers designed the audio system... and the sub-contractor (Bose, Alpine, ?) built what was required to spec.

2) This topic is highly subjective. Your age; your ambient sounds; your degree-of-audiophileness; your audio package; your neighbor's leaf blower, etc.)

Bottom line, do you like the sound system -- yes or no?

(It's all subjective.)

cmlaff | 22 January 2013

Yes, but I wish it was as good as the Bose System in my Infiniti '04 G35.

Anthony H | 22 January 2013

I agree! I drive an Infinity '06 G35 Sport Coup. I love the aspirated sound of the engine rev more than the interior acoustics... well, ok, they are both really good.

I'm not a real audiophile, so I'll just shut-up now.

Malnodnarb | 22 January 2013

Is there an EQ setting? It sounds like a lot of complaints could be remedied by adjusting the levels to the most popular setting (high level low frequencies, then troughing at mid frequencies, and going back up for higher frequencies). If the sound stage is indeed in front, then it was definitely tuned for the most technical audiophile as front stage in cars is also ideal in aftermarket stereos. I think what may be lacking is the rear fill that most people expect. Not all the sounds should be front stage, just mainly vocals and some instruments.

I think I'm going to get the premium sound and hope they improve the flexibility with software instead of risking adding an aftermarket system. Since aftermarket amps are generally triggered by a 12v signal I would be worried that improper signal tapping could drain the 12V battery in the car.

Robert22 | 22 January 2013

I think Tesla asked its engineers to design the most cost effective sound system that would result in the discussion we're having now.

Malnodnarb | 22 January 2013

@Robert22 *like*

sergiyz | 23 January 2013

It also depends on the source a lot.
Discussing the quality of sound while streaming over BT is kinda pointless.
Tesla doesn't have a built-in CD drive and doesn't play lossless compressed files like .flac (very surprising for a linux-based system).
You're limited to MP3s on USB and Internet streaming, both are lower quality sources.
And don't get me started on FM reception...

Malnodnarb | 23 January 2013

Does it play mp4 Apple Lossless (ALAC) on a USB drive?

Malnodnarb | 23 January 2013

Sorry, .m4a

tsx_5 | 23 January 2013


As a reminder... I haven't heard the sound in a tesla yet (it's being made right now :} ) - so this is just some general notes on what they may have been trying to accomplish. That said, see the following site:

To your questions:

Since it's percieved that music should sound like it was recorded and generally that is the intended goal of the recording artist (or so I am told).

Mostly live band in front of you

I'll leave this the the referenced article...

I only referenced the Crutchfield article as I remembered where it was -- don't take it as the soul authority on the subject. So as far as the car moving bit goes, I don't have a clue :}


I wouldn't worry about the 12V turn-on line draining your battery - it sooooo small as to be unnoticable.

carl.leermakers | 23 January 2013

@sergiyz - My Lexus Mark Levinson system sounds slightly less good than my former BMW premium system, or than my wife's current premium system in her Mini, for that matter (despite Mark Levinson of course being a brand with half-godly status), so if Tesla's premium system doesn't even meet that standard, then that is not good news.

On the other hand, I very well remember that my BMW premium system sounded much better with all equalization/special effects OFF (by-passing all those sound filters). @cmlaff - less is often more in my opinion as well...

@all: which brings us back to the initial question: who A/B'd basic sound system vs. premium sound system before (or after) buying as is willing to comment on his or her findings?

Nelson T. | 23 January 2013

I am not an audiophile but I find the upgraded sound system in my Model S to be on par with my home theater system playing classical music. My home theater receiver is a Yamaha RX-A3000 with M&K speakers. To play the CDs, I copied the wave files from the CDs on to a USB flash drive and so there is no loss of quality due to compression. Or it could be that my home theater system is not that good for music.

Nelson | 23 January 2013

sergiyz - I agree the sound source is really important, which is true of any sound system. The model S DOES support lossless .flac, likely the best source you can get short of actual CDs.

You really can't validate how good or poor the system is using compressed sound files (mp3, etc.) and worse - running it through bluetooth, which only has lossy compression (and it may re-compress it to a different compression rate further muddling the audio).

I've converted most of my library directly from CDs to lossless .flac, and then stuck them on a 64 GB flash drive. This works great.

Of course we also need to keep in mind that a car is not an ideal acoustical environment, with wind and road noise have a larger effect when there is no engine noise.

As I stated earlier, for me the base sound system is average, but really needs a sub-woofer. I can't say how the sound studio improves on the base, but I've found most cars that do have a sub-woofer are underated and designed for low-cost and low-weight. I'm not looking for pounding sound, and I usually listen at moderate to lower levels, but this is where the bass often drops out without a bit more punch.

olanmills | 23 January 2013

@tsx_5, thanks for the additional info. I made a note to read that article you linked later.

Malnodnarb | 23 January 2013

@tsx_5, My main concern isn't the remote signal draining the battery. But wether or not that signal turns off when the car locks, and if not the amp will remain on. That might drain the battery.

blurry_eyed | 23 January 2013

For those of you who are concerned with the bass response, in my non-scientific testing, the bass response is very dependent in the Model S on where your head position is. This is probably true for all cars as well, but I have't really critically listened to other car audio systems as much as I have my Model S. Try this experiment in your car:

Play a very bass heavy track through the audio system that you are familiar with. Adjust the bass EQ through the equalizer on the touchscreen to +12.0 dB. Set the master audio volume level in the car in the range of 5 to 7. Then slowly move your head towards the front of the car and towards the rear. See what happens to the apparent bass level when you do that. I find that the bass response just a few inches from the instrument cluster is quite good. Not teeth rattling, but much stronger than my normal seat position.

The sub-woofer may be placed in such a way in the car that the bass wave propagating from it creates a node (weak bass level) in the front drivers seat that just happens to be where a vast majority of people place their head (I'm 5' 10", average build, so I suspect my seat position is probably fairly typical). I haven't tried sitting in the front passenger seat or the rear seats to see how the bass response is yet. May try that at a future point.

I'm actually fine with the Sound Studio audio, as I get enjoyment out of listening to music through the system. I do hope there are tweaks to it in the future to improve it. I think some of the issues with it can get better through software, but the bass node issue will be challenging to overcome without re-positioning the sub-woofer and/or providing a beefier sub-woofer/amp if the sub-can't be re-positioned.

Would love to hear feedback from other owners if they experience this same effect in their cars.

DonS | 23 January 2013

When people say they perceive the music as weak or hollow, that means they are missing the low base that you get out of a big subwoofer. High and mid frequencies are easy to reproduce. It is the low base that has trouble because: big speakers are needed to move a lot of air (i.e. volume) at low frequencies, it draws a lot of power, and the wavelengths are long enough that your position can cause noticeable differences. It is a challenge.

No car has an ideal sound stage for all 4 seating positions. Sound volume decreases by inverse cube of the distance, so the one or two speakers really close to you are always noticeably louder. Adjust fade to improve the driver's perception and all the other positions get a lot worse.

I am not sure who sits in their parked car just to pretend they are in a concert hall, but that is the only time the audiophile details matter. A moving car has significant ambient noise, so the S/N is dominated by that. Lossless vs lossy compression in a car? Who cares, no one can tell the difference. Audio defects have to get pretty bad to be noticeable in a noisy environment.

lph | 23 January 2013

I am not in a position to evaluate the Tesla system yet. Hope to soon. However, being an audiofpile I can attest to the fact that most people like too much mid bass. This often causes speech to sound bloated and many instruments to not sound real.
A truly good subwoofer that integrates well to the rest of the system is VERY hard to do. To me it is better to have a bit less bass than have it muddy up the mid range.
Additionally, don't expect truly highend sound in a car because our ears percieve sounds differently depending on how loud it is and the level and spectrum of backgroumd noise.

Brian H | 23 January 2013

Also because a car cabin is an echo chamber from hell. It produces nodes and dead spots that change when a passenger moves a few inches.

Mark2131@CA-US | 24 January 2013

My gripe isn't about the quality of the sound but the sensitivity of the radio reception. Both am and fm have significant signal weakness compared to my other cars. What's worse, as the signal ebbs and flows, there's and odd eq shift going on. On fm, as the signal weakens, you lose much of the "definition" of the sound... Kinda like listening to a telephone vs a live conversation. As you regain signal strength, the sound returns to normal. This is very annoying! Occasionally, I also hear an echo of the signal as well. Unless you have a full strength signal, it's an unpleasant listening experience.

Ps... I still love this car! Just have to get USB sound source files.

fluxemag | 24 January 2013

I need to finalize soon and the audio upgrade is my only question mark. I can put a pretty sweet aftermarket system in for $1k (already have the sub for the frunk). SiriusXM adapter, 600W 4 channel amp, front and rear door speakers, 600W mono amp, 1F capacitor and the sub.

My concerns are about how the higher powered system will impact my range and the 12V battery. Also, it would drive me nuts if the SiriusXM adapter couldn't be integrated into the factory display. The biggest problem I have is the thought of an installer disassembling my car, one that he has surely never seen before and probably with very little literature online to help.

I think I just talked myself into the sound studio option. Maybe add the extra sub later with its own amp.

My home stereo is 1200W Pioneer Elite amp and Klipsch Reference Series speakers, which are the best thing I've ever heard. My wife's Lexus is terrible, but mostly on XM, it's much better on bluetooth. My G37 also is quieter and not as good of quality on XM compared to all other sources (ok, maybe better than AM).

Alex K | 24 January 2013

@fluxemag | JANUARY 24, 2013: Also, it would drive me nuts if the SiriusXM adapter couldn't be integrated into the factory display.

You're not missing much from the XM integration in the car as it currently stands. You have your basic channel selection like an AM/FM radio by scrolling through channel numbers (not channel names) You can browse by categories. You are limited to 6 favorites (which you can't select from the steering wheel). There are no station logos displayed and no automatic cover art (like they do for Slacker).

They may be adding additional features in the future, however. Still it's nice, I guess, to have it integrated with one less external device to deal with.

NumberOne | 24 January 2013

Perhaps Tesla should partner with someone like Jawbone to develop an unparalled audio system. One does not want something that draws too much power. I heard one of Jawbone's products recently and could not believe the sound quality. I have never heard anything like the big JAMBOX, and it runs wirelessly for about 8hrs. I do not own it, but it is on my shortlist of useful gadgets to consider.

Captain_Zap | 24 January 2013


You might do a search of these forums regarding after-market audio. I know that the idea was being entertained a few months ago by some early owners but there were concerns about integration with Tesla's electrical system. I am not sure how that all played out.

You can search these forums for those discussions by going to

I may have seen these discussions at instead, so try there too.

Amped | 24 January 2013

How could they not get the sound package right!
Creating a system, for any vehicle is a possible task.
From most of the posts it seems like TM needs to get on this.

sergiyz | 24 January 2013


I tried playing .flac and it wouldn't...
What software version are you on ?
I tried it before the upgrade to 4.1, haven't tried it since.
My whole collection is in both .flac and apple lossless (so I could use iTunes playlists on ipad/iphone).
If Tesla can play it now, that's awesome news. | 25 January 2013

I only had v4.1 (and as of last night 4.2), and lossless .flac has worked great. I have 2000+ .flac songs on my 64GB USB stick and so far it's been working fine. Perhaps 4.0 didn't support .flac? I used MediaMonkey to rip CDs into .flac to try and get the cleanest sound. The Tesla examines and sorts through all the files and gives you lists by album, by genre, and a few others? No option to read playlists yet and no random play, but I'm sure it will come.

Mark2131 - I haven't used FM much, but it seemed to work ok for me. The weird sound changes you hear are likely switching from stereo to mono when the signal is weak - something most radios do. It may add some filters too when going to mono, as weak signals can be noisy too (but better than no signal).

lph | 25 January 2013

Anyone know if jpeg4 and flac formats are supported at higher sample rates than 44.1 and 16 bit red book standard? Hope so.

Captain_Zap | 25 January 2013

@ Frank2

Have you tried lossless FLAC music with DTS 5.1 discrete channels? | 26 January 2013

Captain_Zap - for DTS 5.1, I've not tried it. I have basic audio, so I believe it is not supported on my car (and I don't have anything in 5.1). Not sure about Sound Studio.

EcLectric | 26 January 2013


If your ultimate source is a CD, it won't help to have better than 44.1 and 16 bits because that's all CD's have AFAIK. I tried a FLAC file ripped from a CD today and copied to a flash drive - and it sounded great!

Amped | 26 January 2013

I asked TM a few quick questions, they emailed back very quick.
I got your question about the Sound Studio Package and wanted to get back to you. It does include a subwoofer that would not be there otherwise that helps round out the sound system. The subwoofer is located on the passenger side in the back of the car. I do not have access to whether it is on a dedicated amp or not though.

sergiyz | 27 January 2013

Perfect, tried it with .flacs, works like a charm with 4.1.
Disabled Dolby, sounds better w/o it.