High quality audio - where is it?

High quality audio - where is it?

I picked up my Model S last week at the factory and I've been enjoying the car immensely since then - it truly is a fantastic machine. I'd say my only disappointment so far has been the limited quality of the high end audio system in relation to phone integration. After paying extra money (lots) for the best audio system, I'd have hoped that the car would interface with mobile devices at the highest possible quality. Disappointingly, there is noticeable tinniness over Bluetooth and the Internet radio options suffer from the same "pretty good, but not great" audio quality. That wouldn't be so bad if the car supported iAP or Airplay - but it doesn't. So software team, if you're watching these forums, please implement one or all of these:

- AAC over Bluetooth (native iTunes format), and the highest quality SBC codec
- iAP support for perfect quality tethered audio
- Airplay if you're feeling ambitious
- Carplay

I'd settle for any one of the above. Right now, it's not possible to play high quality audio from a mobile device in my beautiful new Tesla. And who wants to dump all their music to a thumb drive when they have the best music player around in their pocket?

mjt.private | December 2, 2014

Amen to that. USB is the only high-quality option right now and that's a very clunky, frankly.

sldunn | December 2, 2014

Anyone have a list of the Bluetooth profiles supported by the MS infotainment system?

If the MS doesn't support the aptX codec, maybe look at adding in support with the Bluetooth A2DP used on the MS?

Testing AptX in the lab with some Audio Precision equipment, I seen an SNR under -90dB on a Windows 8.1 system with the Intel Audio Profile pack. In comparison, I see about -75dB SNR when using the Microsoft stock A2DP profile using SBC codec.

Also, Aptx is actually supported by lots of 3rd parties.

sldunn | December 2, 2014

Alternatively, can anyone comment if the Tesla infotainment system uses the BlueZ Bluetooth Profile stack? And if so, which version?

eye.surgeon | December 2, 2014

I ordered the upgraded sound system as I do on every vehicle. I would disagree that you paid lots of money for the upgrade. In comparison to similar priced vehicles it's the cheapest sound upgrade I've bought. The audi S6 upgrade is $6k, the Range Rover upgrade is pushing $10k.

Also satellite radio is highly compressed crap. You could play it on the best audio system in the world and it would sound like crap. I only use it for news and talk.

It is disappointing how reportedly poor iphone integration is. I agree with you there.

gwsteele | December 2, 2014

@eye.surgeon - someone else charging silly money for an audio upgrade doesn't make $2500 cheap. I will say, the Audi audio upgrade (I've only heard the one in the Q5) is pretty fantastic quality wise - the Model S's audio hasn't impressed me as much - but to be fair I've haven't been able to listen to truly high quality audio on it because of the issues I mentioned above.

Satellite is crap - no argument there.

bayrowet | December 2, 2014

The best upgraded stereos are Burmester audio for the $6-$10k upgrades and the tesla upgraded system isn't in the same league, nor is it as expensive either.

I really would like the highest quality data interface as well. | December 2, 2014

If you want great quality in sound, you'll need to use the USB with lossless encoding (FLAC, lossless WMA or uncompressed AIFF), and good source material. This is true for any sound system.

Bluetooth requires compression (and often far more than the original content). This has nothing to do with Tesla or it's audio system. I think you'll find the difference impressive.

mjt.private | December 2, 2014

@sldunn I believe there's no native AptX on iPhones currently, and it doesn't look likely to appear any time soon. It's h/w upgrade I'm told.

Many quality wireless speakers, such as the Cambridge Audio Minx Air range, go down the route of Airplay and Bluetooth / Aptx.

I can see TM's dilemma - there is no single technology that will give high quality wireless audio from the majority of phones today. They have gone with the only common denominator, which is sadly the lowest.

I can understand TM not wanting to do a tethered solution too. It's an old school connector / protocol nightmare.

In some ways this is a reflection of the state of the phone/wireless music industry rather than TM, but that's probably letting TM off too lightly. They could, and should, do better.

They should also make the sat radio a standard feature on all cars. Rolling it into the audio upgrade just makes the pain of the appalling 3G coverage in the UK all the greater. It makes it clear that some the Model S's ideas just aren't practical in the today's world - and nothing to do with EVs at all. Shame. And so unnecessary.

2050project | December 2, 2014

It looks like the future music player/format that will deliver super high-quality audio will be Pono - if this plugs into the usb seamlessly it would be fantastic:

And, in terms of a custom sub enclosure (aftermarket) for Model S, the best audio upgrade I've seen (which gives deeper bass) might be this one:

mjt.private | December 2, 2014

@TeslaTap You're right in what you say, but the point is there are better wireless technologies out there.

The AAC over Bluetooth and AptX are less lossy that standard Bluetooth.

Airplay is lossless, and can be used with ALAC and FLAC content, although it only supports up to CD-quality sound (16-bit, 44.1kHz)

For background see

I believe you should be able to play any passenger's music wirelessly in your Model S, to good quality. Copying to a USB stick is only good for you own stuff, and forces you to keep updating it with new content. It's OK, but it's not state of the art.

mjt.private | December 2, 2014

@2050project Pono uses FLAC and is about getting music back to 24-bit quality, compared to 16-bit CDs and compressed MP3-type formats.

The problem the Model S has is that the Bluetooth audio link will further downgrade the quality of your music, even if it is MP3.

tezzla.SoCal | December 2, 2014

Have you seen this post praising the sound system?

ElectricSteve | December 2, 2014

Are we talking audio playback over bluetooth? In that case we are talking about strongly compressed, lossy data-transport. So forget about high-end quality.
Go with USB and a proper fortmat.

Lycanthrope P85 | December 2, 2014

Tesla audio plays 24-bit FLAC and sounds pretty good with it.

I use the internet radio for BBC 4, otherwise it's lossless all the way...

mjt.private | December 2, 2014

@ElectricSteve @Lycanthrope Yes the issue here is wireless playing.

Once you get used to wireless playing from a phone, you appreciate the benefits it brings in terms of convenience and share-ability. This is why there is a massive industry now producing wireless speakers.

For me the Bluetooth is the only viable option right now, but if TM were state of the art, there would be a viable wireless solution too.

mjt.private | December 2, 2014

Oops, meant to say USB is the only viable option right now! Doh!

gwsteele | December 2, 2014

Saying "the only way to quality is uncompressed on USB - do that" is missing the point. In terms of quality, there is a continuum. Bluetooth A2DP supports the use of more than one audio codec. Supporting AAC would allow content to be played from an iPhone in the native format of the iTunes store and boost quality for other platforms too. To my ears the hop from 256K AAC to lossless is marginal at best, although of course I would welcome that ability. The point is that it seems as though Bluetooth support is limited to the baseline SBC - which is.... blegh.

In terms of convenience, placing content onto a USB drive and keeping it up to date is a hassle, and doesn't allow you to take advantage of Podcasts, iTunes Radio, Spotify, Pandora or others.

RobA | December 2, 2014

Are you sure that the Model S doesn't support AAC over Bluetooth? I would have sworn I saw that it did in previous discussions over the years.

If they did, and if the source device would feed the actual AAC data from AAC files on the device without transcoding, then that'd be as good as you could get from a device containing AAC (and AAC arguably can be about the best your going to get from compressed audio, with a good encoder, etc.). It should sound better than compressed audio (AAC, MP3, whatever) being recoded to AptX across the Bluetooth link. Unfortunately, it looks to me like no one (?) actually just dumps the AAC data but rather re-encodes it. I had thought I remembered reading that Apple actually did just send the exact AAC data from the file, but when I read their Bluetooth Accessory Design Guidelines doc, they expressively give the AAC format as 2 channel, 264,530bps bitrate. Though they say you must support variable bit rate because it'll change based on content, they say nothing about seamlessly transferring the AAC data from music files. If they don't do that then your back to recompressing compressed audio, which sucks regardless. Not sure how much the relative suckiness :) would change between AAC recompressed to aptX vs recompressed to AAC.

AptX is itself still a lossy compression. AptX lossless is something I keep looking for. I keep seeing mention of it, but when I go to find out if it really exists and if I can actually get it in something, it continues to elude me. When I dig down to every arm-wavy mention of how great AptX, often using the word lossless in the article, it turns out it's just talking about the non-lossless AptX levels, and usually just comparing it to the basic SBC audio required by the Bluetooth spec. Well of course it sounds better than that, but that's not saying much… at all.

Anyway, my current takeaway from it all is this:
I thought the S does support AAC over Bluetooth, and that does sound similar to non-lossless AptX. It would sound even better if the device manufacturers sent AAC without recoding, but that would mean you need to have your files as AAC, and probably at some max bitrate the transmission supports.

It would be great for it to also support AptX. It really should. Not everyone uses AAC for their compressed audio, and most of the decent Android phones support AptX already. It may not sound any (or much) better than AAC over Bluetooth, but it wouldn't sound any (much) worse, and would be orders of magnitude better than the default SBC that all Bluetooth audio devices are required to support.

No argument that lossless would be better (could argue about how much - I have all of my ripped music stored as lossless,but am not so horribly opposed to buying the occasional 320Kbps AAC single as I used to be). Bluetooth now has the bandwidth to support lossless audio, but unfortunately AptX Lossless, or other lossless Bluetooth codecs remain vaporware, so far as I can tell, from as far back as 2007. I keep hoping Qualcomm (who bought at least one of the lossless codecs) or someone will make an impact and get this going, but nothing is happening so far that I'm aware of :(

I was getting getting pretty worked up over the Pono, but was brought down to earth by some excellent (I thought) discussion over the usefulness of higher bit depth and sample rates when it comes to playback (as opposed to mixing and mastering, where there's no question about it). High end audio is a touchy subject, but I strongly recommend reading some of the discussion, for example

My own plan for audio in the S is to transcode all my Apple Lossless tracks into FLAC, and just copy the smattering of remaining AAC and MP3 files, putting all this on a palm sized 2 TB drive (I have more than will fit on a 128GB, or even 256GB USB stick) and use that for when I feel like I must have the top audio… however I'm pretty sure that I won't be able to tell the difference between *good* encoded AAC and lossless in the car, and may well just end up using the Bluetooth connection much of the time for convenience.
In my past experience with iPhone and Bluetooth in the Model S, my library sounded fine from my phone, where all the lossless stuff has been matched by iTunes Match and pulled down from the cloud as 256Kbps AAC. I'm looking forward to doing some comparisons between lossless from the hard drive, AAC from the hard drive, and AAC over bluetooth to see how much apparent audio quality changes. Never had the chance in the loaner cars I've had in the past when my roadster was at the service center, but hopefully in another week I'll have my S and be able to start experimenting.

gwsteele | December 2, 2014

Interesting. I would love to know if Tesla is doing AAC over Bluetooth. If anyone can give a definitive answer to that - it'd be greatly appreciated. Then I'll bark up Apple's tree to make sure that they're not transcoding it.

Captain_Zap | December 2, 2014

Do they make pocket sized Blu-Ray or DVDa players yet? My best music is stuck at home due to copy protection.

The Model S hasn't been able to play 5.1 discrete. Can the new cars play it?

sldunn | December 3, 2014

@mjt.private From what I understand, if Tesla is using the BlueZ Bluetooth stack (likely if they are using Linux) it would require a file from CSR ( compiled for their CPU), pay CSR some royalties for the Codec, and modify the blueZ configuration to use aptx.

I'm not sure what all would be required to support AAC on Linux. From what I understand, Bluez supports the MPEG24 codec since last year, but there may be some royalty issues from Apple. They would need avdec_aac.

I haven't personally tried out the AAC support on Linux.

In any case, no hardware changes should be required, only software updates.

Come February sometime after I get my 85D, I might decide to sniff Tesla's SDP during Bluetooth connection. | July 5, 2015

I know this is an old thread, but I did some diagnostics on my iPhone to Tesla Bluetooth connection and saw the following:

The connection settled on using AAC at 256 kbps as shown by following log entries.

A2DP Selecting remote AAC SEID 3
A2DP Setting stream configuration for local SEID 4 and remote SEID 3 on device 90:03:B7:50:36:3E "Tesla Model S"
A2DP AAC frame len: 743 bytes, num frames: 1, bitrate: 256 kb/s, rtp intr: 23219, rtpFrameLen 990

I alway thought the quality was pretty good.

sorka95032 | July 5, 2015, how did you determine this? I didn't realize A2DP could use ACC as a codec.

What happens if you play an MP3 from your iOS device? Does it still use AAC or does the source track have to be AAC?

Some of my music is purchased from iTunes and is in 256 kb/s AAC but the sound system will not read those files at all. Are you saying the MS sound system can read and decode AAC files?

Pluto is a Planet | July 5, 2015

Fyi here's a related thread and the linked document that describes the Model S' sound system (scroll down for english):

gwsteele | August 6, 2015

Yes - I think this has changed. I suspect this may have come about in a software update - perhaps the one where Elon announced that they were shipping a better audio codec, but there was never any mention of it in release notes.

I have no complaints about the quality of the audio streaming over A2DP from iPhone anymore - whether that's because a bug was fixed or they started supporting AAC is a bit of a mystery!

Captain_Zap | August 6, 2015

We have seen the options "Insane" and "Ludicrous" mode added for greater acceleration. Maximum Plaid is coming. It is time for the sound system to get a new feature.

I think we need to see an option for "More Cowbell" added to the sound system. (But, I would settle for 5.1 DTS in the meantime.)

Red Sage ca us | August 6, 2015

"I've got a fever... And the only cure... Is MORE COWBELL!" -- Christopher Walken, 'Saturday Night Live'

notblueclk | August 6, 2015

I have found that the only two options that sound good are USB, and playing Slacker at 320K

bfischer | January 3, 2016

Received my 70d with upgraded sound system about 3 weeks ago. Happy to see this thread as I am scratching my head, saying "this can't be he upgraded stereo??". I was about to double check with the tesla store that I had it. I leased the car for 3 years. I don't see me spending the 1k for the added bass, but that's a long 36 months listening to very weak stereo. I hope tesla updates include something better soon.

With all that said, why does the telephone sound have to be so god awful? Can't we get better quality sounding transmission via Bluetooth there as well?

Onward and upward. | January 3, 2016

@bfischer - Not much can be done in software. For best sound you need a very good source. What are you using for source music? The best audio system in the world cannot overcome highly compressed (i.e. poor source material) from any streaming or bluetooth source. Best is USB files with lossless compression like Flac. I've written quite a few articles on the Tesla audio system and how to get the best sound:

Phone quality is poor because it is highly compressed and limited to about 2 KHz by the phone. The phone is already going through bluetooth. Add in some background road noise and it further reduces your phone audio quality.