Sound studio

The Tesla Model 3 sound system is okay, but it’s by no means “audiophile”

I’ve heard a lot of claims made both online and offline that the “premium” (version) audio systems in Tesla vehicles are superb. In many cases, qualified as “audiophile” in quality. This sparked my interest since I had planned to pick one up myself and I am, by all means, an obsessed audiophile.

Looking back about 5 years, I tested the Model S P100D with one of their reps. During the ride, I mentioned that I wasn’t that impressed with the sound. This surprised them a bit as they thought the system looked fantastic.

However, I brought them in my car at the time (2008 Mercury Sable Premiere) and showed them what it was like in the car. This was an unmodified “premium” package system (apart from the EQ). I’m not a big Ford fan myself, but they got one thing right (the system). I played some Boz Scaggs and the rep agreed it sounded much better than the P100D.

When I asked about custom speaker/system upgrades and how it affected the warranty to the weirdly choppy sound, the topic was bounced until someone from service brings answer. She said it would be unwise to tamper with the system because tampering with anything would void the vehicle warranty. As you can probably guess, I left after that as it was way too heavy a penalty for something so common.

Years later, I’m back after everyone was bragging about Tesla’s upgrades to its audio system (that, and I was absolutely ready to buy a new car). It was here that even one of the reps at the showroom I was in used the term “audiophile” to describe the sound inside the car. However, stepping into one of the models on the floor (a Model Y with the premium system, which she said had the same system in the 3 LR), I couldn’t quite agree. Although it sounded much better than what I had heard 5 years ago, it was by no means “audiophile”.

Further discussions led to the discovery that you may feel a little more comfortable modifying the system now that the company has relaxed its expectations regarding the vehicle warranty. Now, it’s only what you change that may or may not void the warranty for the affected parts (and the parts/systems potentially affected by them). It seemed fair enough.

I ended up buying a 3 LR model with the “premium” system. I haven’t updated anything (yet), so I’ve spent a considerable amount of time listening to the stock system ever since. At this point, I still agree with my updated assessment. It’s certainly “better sounding” than many stock systems, but it’s not audiophile. It is a rich sounding system with a decent EQ that allows the user to dial it in to their own audible preferences.

It’s just when I think of “audiophile” I normally think of brands like Paradigm (Premier/Studio series) or B&W. I’m used to listening to a simple pair of stereo speakers that can melt me ​​where I’m sitting and pull me right into what’s playing. Something I don’t feel when I’m sitting in the Tesla. The car melts me in other ways, but not by the sound. The immersive settings are a little noticeable but not life-changing when it comes to stage presence. Overall range is decent, but it won’t make you want to close your eyes and slip away (when you’re parked and looking to do so, of course).

In some cases, I can sometimes find the system a bit exhausting. Which leads me to constantly want to tweak the EQ depending on what I’m listening to. I find the quality of the premium streaming service (provided by Slacker) disappointing. A good selection of music, but the overall quality is nothing to brag about. So I find myself using Bluetooth mostly because it sounds better since I mostly have FLAC albums on my phone.

I still haven’t tested FLAC files via USB but shouldn’t have to. A 2022 Tesla should support BT 5.2 with LDAC, AptX HD, etc. At least, those are my expectations based on the price. With this, Bluetooth should sound great through a high resolution system. I should be visibly happy before I even want to bother with FLAC via USB.

The more I keep playing with the system, the more I find myself wanting to upgrade it with something custom. I know Tesla used former B&O reps in their speaker designs, but that just doesn’t seem good enough for the price. Which makes the need to have to pay more to customize it later down the road all the more painful (a cold bite). Maybe Tesla should have partnered directly with a good German or Japanese company for their speakers. For now, we’re stuck with internal systems that need a lot more love than they’re getting.

In the meantime, I’ve tweaked the EQ enough to quell my cravings for a bit longer as I focus on bigger efforts. Audio in my vehicle is the least of my worries along with other challenges and goals surrounding me right now. So I, at least, decided to share what was on my mind to get it off my chest. That will have to do for now.

If you have a Tesla and want to share your own thoughts on the system, feel free to use the comment box below. We all hear everyone in our own way, after all.