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Poor radio reception

Poor radio reception

Within a day of getting my Model S, I noticed that FM radio reception is significantly worse than my previous car and my wife's car. There is usually noticeable static and sometimes a lot of it. It fluctuates between one and two bars (out of three). Only occasionally is the signal good enough to play HD radio. When this happens, I hear the sound fade in and out and sometimes an echo or "dual voice" that lasts a few seconds as the transition from regular to HD occurs (or vice versa). I usually listen to one station (KPCC 89.3) but I've noticed these problems on other FM stations. I haven't tried AM yet.

I was sufficiently annoyed with this today that I tried listening to my station on "Tune In" Internet radio. For a couple minutes I was happy with the static-free sound quality, but then it started cutting out for a second or more. It seems the 3G reception is also spotty, which may explain why map tiles load slowly, and sometimes not all (nav system was nonresponsive earlier tonight). Web browser is sluggish too. This has all been while driving in West LA. I have a 3G phone and it's not nearly so slow. I also noticed a slight buzzing sound when I had the radio off, not sure if that's related.

Have others had similar problems with radio reception? Is this likely are problem with the physical antenna, or software? And where is the antenna on this car?

But I love the car and Tesla is wonderful blah blah blah :)

BYT | 05. desember 2012

For the buzzing, try turning off ambient lights inside the car, it's a known issue and Tesla will be working on it.

I also notice the issues with poor reception on the radio, but for me these are also spots that have terrible phone reception as well through hill's so I would expect that. I play most of my tunes from a 32GB USB thumb drive that stays in the car at all times.

MandL | 06. desember 2012

Yes, the radio reception sucks.

Joyrider | 06. desember 2012

I had a test drive today and one of the things I did was tune in an FM station to compare it with the audio and the reception in my current car. To my great surprise and disappointment, a station that was crystal clear in my car wouldn't even come in in the Model S! I was 20 miles out on Long Island and purposely picked a CT station that in my car comes in reasonably well all the way into New York City.
To be fair I suppose the Model S could have been in a dead spot just as we tuned in...but I have no reason other than the lack of reception to believe so. Driving home in my car the reception was fine.
(Oh, for those wondering in every other respect the test drive was completely wonderful.)

Klaus | 06. desember 2012

Wow, I have 4 different FM stations pre-programmed and have great reception on all of them. On the other hand, Slacker Radio drops out on the same stretch of road for about half a mile, but nowhere else up til now. (after 2900 miles of driving)

William13 | 07. desember 2012

My reception is similar though not quite as good as prior car. Slacker seldom cuts out except in poor reception areas or near the mall. (heavy data use there is causing intermittent reception.)

Overall happy with the sound.

stevenmaifert | 07. desember 2012

After reading all the comments in this thread and others, I'm thinking either the antenna is poorly designed, or because of the location of its internal placement, just doesn't capture signals very well. Something we may just have to live with.

dorseka | 07. desember 2012

Anybody have any problems with AM radio? I think it might be a problem.

Mark2131@CA-US | 07. desember 2012

Radio Reception comparison:

Other cars: Lexus ES300 = excellent radio reception, pulls in stations from "south of the border"
Prius Ver 4.0 = Less than the Lexus. Significant drop off in sensitivity, but still good.
Model S = On par or WORSE than the Prius. Marginal stations just don't "catch". In other words, using "auto tune" and skipping from station to station only stops at the strongest of signals. My other cars catch nearly twice as many signals. The Model S is just "deaf" to them.

Conclusion, Strong signals sound fine, but the "S" definitely has sensitivity issues!

stevenmaifert | 07. desember 2012
Pasadena-S | 07. desember 2012

Yes, I have noticed that FM reception is significantly worse than my Prius.

I attribute this to the unreasonable priority given to styling over functionality. By not having a shark fin radio antenna or some other form of visible antenna, the designers got a slicker looking vehicle. However, for the first time since the 1980s, I have had trouble listening to local radio stations in my car.

This is similar to my complaint about the "console": in order to further the design goals of "open space and no tunnel", the designers neglected to provide cup holders as good as those in my $18,000 Honda Civic. Designers should not be given power to impede the owner's experience, IMHO. But, hey - I'm just a customer, so I why should my opinion count?

Sigh.

bp | 08. desember 2012

I believe the shark antenna in my LS is only for XM - not for terrestrial radio.

Has anyone been able to get acknowledgement from Tesla that this is a problem they plan to correct?

Brian H | 08. desember 2012

If all else fails, I'm sure there is an aftermarket fix for poor reception ...

RZitrin1 | 08. desember 2012

I agree that the reception is not great, but for the stations I listen to - those tend to have weak signals - jazz, classical, public - I do a lot better with TuneIn anyway.

I'd rather have poor FM reception plus TuneIn than great FM.

Theresa | 10. desember 2012

Joyrider, I have had a similar issue with a car I used to own that had the antenna embedded in the windshield. Driving one direction I could barely pick up certain stations after 10 miles or so but driving back I could pick them up from my starting point over 60 miles away. So it is possible the location of the antenna in the S is what the issue is.

BYT | 10. desember 2012

I also wonder if there is a difference for those that have a solid roof vs. the pano and reception quality?

olanmills | 12. desember 2012

Yeah, if you are experiencing poor radio reception, can you tell us whether or not you have the pano roof?

Jon Wray | 12. desember 2012

I have pano roof and poor FM reception.

By the way, if you are prompted to enter a username and password for Slacker, ask Tesla for this info. They have created premium accounts for us (not sure if this applies only to Signature owners).

jat | 12. desember 2012

I think I have used the radio once in a year in my LEAF :). I just stream Google Music over Bluetooth from my phone, and I listen to exactly what I want when I want it.

Unfortunately, I have heard that Bluetooth has frequent dropouts when streaming audio, but maybe it will be fixed by the time I get my car in a few weeks.

steve | 12. desember 2012

I have had my car for about 5 days and my first complaint was the very poor radio signal...it is terrible. I submitted my complaint to Tesla comparing my Leaf which has a superior radio signal. A bit disconcerting. Blue Performance with pano roof and all options except kiddy seats.

Tâm | 12. desember 2012

Is this similar to Iphone's poor reception problem that required a revision of its antenna?

I notice that both Prius and Leaf have external antennae. Could that be an option?

David den Boer | 13. desember 2012

AM radio reception is poor at best, and FM is so-so. My previous car (Honda Civic Hybrid) had great AM reception (except when driving by light rail or overhead phone lines).

Brian H | 13. desember 2012

Elon has decreed: no antenna shall mar the beautiful exterior lines and slippery surfaces of the Model S! So most of the radio signal just slides on by ...

>;)

bp | 13. desember 2012

I've had other cars without an external antenna - with reasonable radio reception.

I primarily listen to AM for local sports broadcasts (NBA, NFL, MLB, ...) - live broadcasts may not be available on XM or the Internet (which might require a plug-in, that may not work with Tesla's browser).

Theresa | 13. desember 2012

bp, That is the same reason that I wanted AM to work well for me. A workaround is that a fair number of stations are using I-heart or TuneIn which works well for me.

lajollan | 13. desember 2012

This is not good. Is poor reception a universal problem? I intentionally left the FM and/or internet radio on the entire time I last test drove for about 35 minutes earlier this month. Did not notice problem, but was distracted by enjoying the drive and talking. Can other people who have the car comment if this is inherent in the car design?

BYT | 13. desember 2012

In regards to the Bluetooth connectivity, I have had my iPhone connect seamlessly every time for both call's and to stream music. I couldn't be happier with how well that aspect works (at least for me) on my Model S. I think when I initially paired it, it disconnected once about a month ago, never have since.

kgmd | 14. desember 2012

I have a Signature S delivered in Early November. I've had problems with FM reception as well in the NY Metro area, where reception is never really an issue in the past with any of my other vehicles.
I've also had two recent issues where I have NO FM reception at all unless I turn off the car, power down and restart. Again, NO FM RECEPTION on any stations. Very disconcerting, considering the amount of tech stuff in the car. When these issues occurred, I was still able to connect my phone through bluetooth and play music that way, so it was a radio module issue.
As for the Bluetooth connectivity, I've lost my Bluetooth connection to my I-phone 5 at least 5 or 6 times in the past two weeks, with no phone contacts or recent calls displayed either on the phone App. Confirmed with Tesla Service that this is a software issue with the new iPhone 5.

lajollan | 14. desember 2012

@kgmd

What did Tesla Service say about lousy FM reception? Can that be a software fix? Are you taking the car in for service on this? I cannot believe Tesla delivered all these cars with poor radio reception! Makes me wonder what else may be wrong that is not apparent yet.... I am to sign my MVPA by next week and I do not think I would want to deal with all these issues. I am going to ask many questions before I sign.

kgmd | 14. desember 2012

Interestingly, our service advisor asked me if I was having problems with AM reception, which is not something I listen too frequently. As for the FM reception, the standard answer is that the new 4.0 software upgrade, which we're all waiting for again, may address these issues.

stevenmaifert | 14. desember 2012

It's one of two things. Either poor receiver sensitivity, or poor antenna design and placement within the vehicle. I vote for the latter. If either of those can be fixed with a software update, I will be pleasantly surprised, but not counting on it. I may have my S by the end of the month. If the receiver module is user accessable, I will plug in an external antenna and see if it makes a difference.

jat | 14. desember 2012

@lajollan - if you don't want to deal with birthing problems, you shouldn't be on the bleeding edge and you should wait a while. The sig owners are alpha testing, but the rest of us getting the car shortly will still be beta testers. Judging from Roadster owners, you might want to wait a year if you want all the glitches ironed out first.

@stevenmalfert - if they are using software defined radio (basically DSP on the digitized output of an RF->IF stage), then it could conceivably be improved in software. If the problem is in the antenna, there isn't a lot that can be done short of replacing/moving the antenna.

Jon Wray | 15. desember 2012

I got the software upgrade a wee ago. It did not improve radio reception. My car is at the body shop to fix problems present on delivery. I also mention the radio reception. At first they gave a generic response that some stations have weaker signals. I live in Santa Monica and prefer to listen to the Pasadena-based NPR station: KPCC. There is another NPR station based in Santa Monica, and the reception for that is better, but I've never had problems getting KPCC in other cars. And besides 3G seems to be affected as well, it is very slow. They said they would investigate but I don't expect they can do anything about it. I have told them my expectation is that they will fix it.

AFAIK Tesla has not yet admitted this is a problem.

Andrew9 | 21. desember 2012

I have also noticed the poor radio reception. I had a visit from a Tesla technician today who suggested that I turn off the HD on the radio, which I did, but it made no difference. Could it be the strong magnetic field from the motor's magnets?

timingbeltkiller | 22. desember 2012

Read the above comments as proof the radio is a "lemon part". You might expect some of them in alpha and beta products.
Hence it does not scare me off. But it does scare me off that TM seems to handle the problem by not accepting its existence.

If that's their policy of handling complaints, their warranty is of the poor quality kind.

DickB | 22. desember 2012

I also have poor FM and AM on my MS. Had the car for a week. Live about 20 miles north of Boston. The car does have a solid roof.

Brian H | 22. desember 2012

The Alpine in the Roadster was famously crummy, too.

TeslaOwnerBlog | 23. desember 2012

I think the radio reception was my number one issue with the Roadster. The first antenna was very badly shielded, and the carbon fiber in the car created extra interference. Even small things like turning on the A/C made it worse.

I wrote four posts on my blog about the Roadster about poor radio reception.

http://teslaowner.wordpress.com/category/radio/

I hope the Model S radio reception is better, as I am a fan of talk radio, both AM and NPR, although quality talk radio is getting harder to find. There are now wifi based simulcasts, but that will depend upon internet availability. Maybe will not be any worse since most remote places I travel the radio signals also start fading away.

Sander | 03. januar 2013

FM reception in my "S" in South Jersey stinks. Awaiting response from Tesla. I don't buy that we need to live with it on a cutting edge car...They could have used off the shelf components from Mercedes like the gear shift and window controls.

sergiyz | 03. januar 2013

I didn't have a huge problem with the FM reception up until the upgrade to 4.1 that seems to make things much worse.
I did submit a bug report to Tesla, will see what comes out of it.

Tâm | 03. januar 2013

My general production Model S AM/FM reception has been fine with no problem since the delivery 2 weeks ago in Orange County (Los Angeles Metropolitan area), CA.

The sound needs a better equalizer (such as 12 bands, not current 3) to enhance treble and bass while reducing the mid range to my taste.

Oliver in Seattle | 03. januar 2013

Mine pulls in pretty weak FM stations much better than previous cars as well.

toby.ford | 30. januar 2013

I live in the DC/Baltimore area and we have lots of solid FM channels.

There is no doubt, the Model S has horrible reception. Every single channel fades in and out from sometimes receiving HD to not receiving anything.. and quickly.
Have the same issue with 3G.. very mixed results.

I'm right now copy music files to a USB drive to not have to deal with it.

Also, what's up with the non-existant iPod integration.

That said.. just turning off the Media .. and listening to the car and it's unique quietness on the road is pretty darn cool.

PMJ99 | 26. desember 2013

Picked up my S last friday and radio am/fm is the worst I have ever experienced in a car. If anybody in the NYC metro area knows of a place to get this fixed please let me know. Thanks.

I now know why in my test drive and the walk through the tesla employees went to fm and then flipped to slacker radio immediately and that is all I got to hear. On my ride home I listened to WFAN and was dissappointed in both the AM and FM broadcast.

Pete

Kleist | 26. desember 2013

@PMJ99 - get with service to have it fixed. This seems something TM hasn't figured out yet to make consistent... my car has good reception, but I got a loaner that was build 4-5 months later with very poor reception.

cloudoc | 16. juni 2014

I have a new Tesla S. The FM radio reception is poor for the local NPR station, WGCU 90.1 FM. I keep getting echoes & repeated words frequently. Unable to enjoy the one station I listen to.