listening to music in the car


i have noticed many times that listening to music in the car, especially, jazz and classical, is usually more enjoyable than listening to most audio systems in the home.

i hear more accurate instrumental timbre in the car than in most home audio systems.

the car affords near field listening and surround sound and since most of my listening is on the radio (fm), the bandwidth is probably restricted.

any comments ?
mrtennis
I used to enjoy music in my car until I traded for a new model with factory installed "high end" Bose radio. I had no option, it was standard equipment on the vehicle.

I much preferred the stock factory radio in my older vehicle (same make and model, different year).

Perhaps the car maker watches too much TV, and thought they were doing their customers a favor.
Maybe it is time to upgrade your home audio systems, Mr. Tennis
I rarely listen to music in my car. I prefer talk radio when driving, and no, I'm not a supporter of Lush Limbaugh. I prefer listening music from my home system over my car.
Psycho-acoustical effect of sensory combinations; you're stimulating the visual by essentially listening to music while driving through a "continuous and variable motion video". Driving may also relax your metabolism, if you enjoy driving.

If you do not enjoy driving, especially during heavy traffic, or other emotional "downers", then you are concentrating on other matters, which is a distraction for any kind of serious listening. It becomes secondary background music.

Or it could be that most of the home systems that you've heard sound like s**t!

Check, and checkmate :-)
Car stereo could be very very good in terms of dynamic and emotional impact, if set up correctlty. My current car stereo in 2002 Boxster S is very effective in generating emotions even with stock radio, speakers. But I have added DSP system and 'bose' subwoofer. The combination while far from my home rig, still very satisfactory overall. And I agree with Mr T that Jazz FM sound does have pretty good reception and tonal quality to be content while driving. Classical on the other hand I find rather thin in all of my four cars except 97 LX450 with Nakamichi premium sound system where everything sounds great from 30 hz and above. Better than the 2005 G500 's Herman kardan system. Overall though 2002 Boxster is more satisfying mainly due to its speakers positions (all of the mid and high upfront in dash.)
There is nothing wrong with Rush...sure beats Air America with all those idiot Demoncrats. Try Glen Beck or Sean Hanity for a change of pace.....unless you drank the liberal Kool-Aid......then its pointless :)
i would say your home stereo is not up to snuff ive got five grand of equip in my car and it dosnt come close to my home.if you are using a reciever for your home then you are not getting anything near hi end sound.it would be impossible for a car stereo to do the things a home system could do especially a stock car system
I vote for MIKE SAVAGE and his SAVAGE NATION. No boring liberal or phony Republican Kool-aide here just good common sense.
OMG Its no wonder our country is in trouble. Rich people have no connection with the rest of the country. Pretty soon there will be poor and wealthy. Just think Mexico City. Where the rich run scared and the wannabe rich kill everyone to get it.

Oh sorry where did the political rhetoric come from????

Hey if you enjoy your car stereo then fantastic. Personally if you’re in Minnesota, please come over and we can sit down, relax and listen to some jazz on my home system. But caution is advised, as perhaps your satisfaction with your car stereo may wane.
i have listened to thousands of stereo systems, having gone to CES since 1992. i have also attended every major show in NYC. i also have been a member of sveral audio clubs for many years.

i had a subaru and now i have a toyota camry. there is something about near field listening and the restricted frequency response from fm. it reminds me of the vintage tube sound.

an instrument sounds more real in the car than when listening to most stereo systems, with todays modern components.

there is one speaker which i prefer to my car stereo system and that is stacked original quad esl, with tyhe original quad amps.
My car audio system consists of a McIntosh head unit, Focal Utopia speakers (the car audio equivalent to JM Labs Utopia line), and an ARC Audio amp (which I chose for its relatively warm and full bodied sound). While I enjoy it, it does not sound as nice as any of my home systems. For one, you have to crank up the volume in the car to come reasonably close to the audio quality of a good home system. In addition, timbre/pitch definition is superior with a good home audio system. Car audio sounds like reproduced music, whereas home audio sounds more organic and natural, like you are there with the musicians.
After installing a tubi muffler in my Maserati Spyder, all call I can hear is the sweet sound of my engine. i have been told it is aka the 8 cylinder italian opera.
With The factory stereo in my Lexus (made by Pioneer) I am able to hear instruments and voices and often understand lyrics I have never been able to hear on my home stereo (which is not bad, tubes in the preamp and amp). I have suspected that the lack of full-range sound allows sounds in the midrange to emerge more clearly.
I hear a depth of soundstage in my car that extends from the windshield forward to the stoplight up ahead. I have never experienced anythng like this at home. I have 20K in the home system and 30K in the car system. Plus, on something like 'An American in Paris' the surround, even on two channel recordings, is sometimes awesome.
So Tarsando, when can we go cruisin'! I know some AWESOME desert roads! You pick the tunes, and I'll pick the "refreshments".
i say, car audio is a different beast, but just as fun !!
MrTennis,

I drive a new car every one to three months as I work for a manufacturer and I can clearly say I have never heard ANY of our audio systems including those that are very expensive upgrades that were even close to as enjoyable as my home system. You say you have listened to thousands of systems, I have listened to hundreds of vehicles, so I think I can be called a reliable source.

Road noise alone basically means you are missing half the music, average decibel levels are around 60-75db at cruising speeds in most vehicles. You also need to factor in terrible phase errors due to placement of speakers, reflections from windows, etc. Cars also get a huge boost in the bass frequencies from the cabin gain, somewhat like having 4 subs in a small listening room really.

I have noticed in all your posts you seem to dislike any extended frequency response as you seem to equate this with brightness...all joking aside maybe you need to get your hearing checked, one possible sign of damage is sensitivity and you seem to be hyper sensitive. You also make reference to systems from the past a lot, and if this is the case you had less exposure to noise years ago as well...
hi sbrtoy. my distaste for extended high frequency has no relationship to my hearing. iwas tested about 6 months ago.

i have a preference for attenuated high frequency. i like a slope in the treble, starting at 1khz, down 1db, then 2k at 2db, then 4k at 4db, etc. it is purely personal preference, just as someone may prefer to drink cofee with 3 tea spoons of sugar, or dousing a steak with ketchup.

i realize my taste is unusual and inexplicable, but it is just idiosyncratic taste, nothing more.

when i go to a concert, i try to sit in the last row of the orchestra. highs are attenuated and sound is somewhat homogenized. i like that presentation.
Sbrtoy - You say that you have listened to hundreds of car systems - Are these stock and factory "upgrade" systems? Or are these real, custom audio installations?

No matter what the stock system (Lexus ML, VW Dynaudio, ...) or factory upgrade is, it is not evey going to be able to touch what can be done with aftermarket parts and expertise.

You call out a number of audio problems in the car, and yes these are real problems, though some have workarounds. There are fancy "time alignment" devices you can get that will help with the phasing problems, and EQ of course can be used to deal with uneven freq. responses due to cabin gain.

With that being said, of course it is an unfair comparison to compare car audio to home audio. A car will never touch a well setup home system, the laws of physics prevent it.

However, a well implemented aftermarket audio system for your car CAN be highly musical and fun to listen to, if you are able to "turn off" your audiophile tendencies for car listening. Imaging will be off, the 70db road noise kills the noise floor for Bruckner's quiet moments... but you CAN get dynamics to be pretty intense, the midrange to be rich and musical, and of course FULL RANGE ( :

Well worth it if you spend a decent amount of time in the car, but finding a professional who actually knows his stuff is very hard to do. I would wager 1 in 50 even knows what the word "tone" means, as most only know "loud" and "bass"
I agree with Goatwuss. In early thru late 90's I hade a really great sounding system in my Prelude with Pioneer Premier (Thier high end, I don't even know they still have that line) head unit with DSP /EQ and time alignment capabilities. The speakers were up front JL AUDIO 3 way ( tweeter, 5.5 inch mid, 8" mid bass)custom made enclosures including 8" woofers in the door!! Door was treated with dynamate all over. Two 10 inch Cerwin Vega accurate image Subs in sealed enclosure. Rear channels were also JL audio. Optima battery run thru two big caps ensured steady current/power to three beautiful Art series Precision Power Amplifiers. PPI A600 dedicated to subs, A400 to front two channels and A200 to rear channels. Equalization was perfect, well almost with few minor peaks and dips at driver position. I also had MB quart tweeter installed in rear view mirror to solidify highs at high speeds.
While the sound was not as good as my Home system, but you bet I wanted to go back again and again to car system. Sometimes I used to have listening sessions (battery connected to external power source) in my car in my garage.
Best part of my car system was dynamics, tonal balance and understated but solid bass UPFRONT. Imaging reached maximum possible but still not close to home system. Overall, you could say that that system rivaled my home system in many respect. Of course the whole system was built gradually as I learned more thru my home system over the years.
Goat and Nil,

I understand there are better systems than stock, however many of these create their own issues due to the inherent disadvantages of a cars interior. I have listened to some aftermarket car audio that sounded pretty good, though it is often very expensive and not a great investment as you will likely replace your vehicle every 3-4 years and it is tough to avoid modifying it in installing a nice system with the speakers in correct locations.

My mention of this is not to say you can't enjoy high quality audio in a car, I often love driving with some great music on, the windows down etc., but this is far from a audiophile experience, I just love music and sometime singing along in the car. I do not feel a car system can ever come close to the purity and beauty of a well set up home system however, and when I really want to involve myself in the music it is the only way to go for me.

Frankly with as engrossed as I can become in a piece of music at home, I would be scared to drive under the same influence. You mentioned lots of EQ's, time alignment, etc. these are all things I avoid like the plague in a home system as all but the most expensive processing available degrades the sound noticeably in my experience.

MrTennis, glad to hear your ears are in working order, and as far as your preference for a softer sound, to each their own. You are not alone in your preference as many non-audio-enthusiasts really like Bose products and they to me have absolutely no air or top end life IMHO. I have found systems with less top end also tend to lose some space and placement of sounds in the soundstage, which I value highly, so I guess my preference differs.
Sbrtoy, agree on all counts. My system exists no more (Tired of repeated radiator leaks and donated the car) but the amps and sub woofer box practically rotting in my garage. I let the expesive head unit and dsp processor and component speakers go with the car. Eq and time alignment is only for car!! That is the only way I can be on sweet spot in driver seat with close to flat sound!. I, too, would never think of using for my home system. But overall the $10-15 K spent over dvelopment cycle sure was fun. Cool factor was a bonus as friend brought friends to audition my system! My prelude was botched all over for the stereo, what with 14 + speakers, all thoes wires and dynamat. I would care for the stereo but not the engine maintanence of the car!! I would never do that to my Boxster S. Well I did install the stock DSP and Bose Subwoofer but it is all STOCK!!
Acura ELS sound system is VERY good. Especially with Apple Carplay using Plex app and highest quality source files synced to plex on the Iphone 6.  I would definitely recommend. 
Interesting post. Opinions all over the board, so here's mine:
No car stereo can compete on sound quality with a home system in a dedicated room, with room treatment, using a dedicated AC line. The noise floor in my room is around 35 dB. The average noise floor in a car (any car) being driven is up around 70 dB. You lose all dynamic range in a car, you lose any sense of a soundstage in a car, you are hearing all sorts of delayed reflections from all those hard, vertical surfaces causing temporal smearing in a car.
I'm a car enthusiast, and an audiophile. IMO the two don't mix well. When I'm driving I'm focused, usually well above the posted speed limit, and I'm having fun. I never even turn on any music on when I'm driving because some cars have such wonderful engine sounds (inline-6 BMWs, flat-plane crank Mustang Shelbys, Corvettes, exotics) that I much prefer listening to them.
My dedicated listening room is for just that. Listening. No TV, no games, just listening, and it sounds wonderful.
I guess my response would be that the OP is listening for certain aspects that his car system is able to provide.
They sure don't do it for me. 
Happy listening, to each his own.

Tom
I have a high end Burmeister sound system in my car for which I paid lots of extra money.   The truth is that I can only appreciate it when stopped for a light...otherwise, the tire, wind, and motor noise swamp any advantage.
I agree Stringreen  

Assuming one could listen for extended period of time at 90 DB, average background noise in a car is probably 40 to 75 DB.

So we arrive at a stunning dynamic range of 15 DB :-) and intelligibility masked by the combined noise of tires, engine and other vehicles in the traffic.



My current car had an option for Burmeister as well.  I went with stock Bose + Car Play and spent the money on other options.
I have so much music that I have to listen at any opportunity, otherwise I simply would never hear it in one lifetime. For me, listening in the car provides just another of many opportunities. I’m not very much concerned with sound "quality" though when listening in the car.
gdhal,

I agree with that for sure.   In spite of the  terrible quality provided by Sirius radio I listen every time I'm in the car.   Every week a tune turns up that I make note of and audition at Amazon (or wherever I can) and consider for purchase.

This primarily happens with Real Jazz channel but has happened on other programs as well.   It's important to be able to listen in the car, but long ago realized the frustration of trying to make it great in that environment.   It's hard enough at home where things are more under control.
I’m like gdhal. Always looking for time to listen to music. A good car audio system helps. A quiet ride also helps. I think I read the Acura ELS system uses active noise cancellation. In any case the overall result is very good and I hear more in the recordings without having to up the volume. Bass is very controlled and does not obscure the midrange as often happens in cars. Very happy! Silly to compare to home. Totally different. I had a Nakamichi unit in a fairly noisy SUV years ago. Good sound but lots of background noise.

In any case I’d be interested in others opinions of the Acura system. If they have heard it. Again using good quality streamer on smart phone like Plex helps greatly. Sirius is still pretty unlistenable though. I will let the free trial expire.
Mapman,

A quite ride would indeed help.   A random Acura I looked up at Motor Trend shows 68 DB.   That may not include the ELS system?

Background noise would indeed be a big deal.


I am glad I found this thread because I do not feel fully an oddball anymore. I accepted that car environment and, probably, lesser quality electronics will degrade sound from what I am used at home. Still, when looking for a new car, I went around checking sound systems specifically. Huh, that was an experience. I brought an iPod Touch and one USB jump drive with different types of files (DSD, FLAC multiple resolutions, WAV, AIFF, nothing under 16/44.1) and puzzled each and every car salesman along the way. All the listening was done in stationary, non-running cars and some also during driving.

After all, I was disappointed with some that I had expected to be top-notch. Burmester in S coupe, for example. Not bad compared to others, but not as stunning as pedigree would make me think. For some reason, Jaguar XJ with Meridian system was the most pleasing to me. Another revelation was inconsistency of what a certain system could play. Pretty much nothing I tried could play AIFF, unless played from iPod, and pretty much everything could play FLAC, but resolutions varied. Tesla would play from iPod (or your iPhone) only via Bluetooth despite having an USB port which serves for...charging. Nothing I tried played DSD at that time. BMW was charging $1200 for Harman/Kardon upgrade, but deep at the end of instructions that most would never read, says that it would not play anything over, I believe, 320 Kbps. I had no mp3s, but it had no problem with AIFFs, for whatever it is worth. Volkswagen with Fender system was the most convenient by far with SD card slot (works even with 512 GB card) and USB port that actually connects. Unfortunately, Fender made sure that your opera will sound like a garage band. Everything else, too. It was basically unlistenable on most of the material/genres. So, these days we got to the point that sound is just a half of the problem.
glupson,

Your experience is much like my own.   I had a BMW X5 that had iPod connection in glove box.  It played all the files I had on the iPod but I admit most were ripped from CD rather than high res downloads.

Then I lost my mind and bought a C7 Stingray.  Terrible car but I'll skip that conversation and just say that listening at almost any speed was impossible due to noise and quality of the factory Bose system.

That car lasted about year, it was driving me crazy for many reasons but now addicted to performance and handling but needed a SUV I had a time finding something that would do both.

A friend suggested Porsche Macan, I drove one and it was instant love affair.  Ordered the Turbo (highest performance version) but skipped the Burmester in favor of other options.

Noise level is about 66 DB for my model with special glass.  Making it  quieter than Cadillac, Jag and Mercedes. 

Even with nice quiet levels the Bose is not great,  and like you I find it hard to play AIFF other than iPod.   Mine has option for SD cards and it recognizes the card but won't play unless it's FLAC or MP4.   I find that strange since Car Play is supposedly backed by Apple and AIFF is an Apple format.

I need more space in my iPod but currently the new iPod touch is available with maximum 128GB.   These days with memory so cheap I don't understand why Apple does not offer a premium model with 512 or even higher memory.  

Sync music to iPod is simple and reliable and plugged into the USB on car with Car Play it displays everything about what's being played and can be controlled a number of ways including voice command.

I've looked at other high end portable players but none seem to be compatible with USB much less Car Play.   I guess could buy a used iPhone and turn off the SIM which essentially converts it to an iPod but what a hassle and waste of money just to get some additional music space. 

My home system has a server with 12TB of music.   512 GB does not seem to me an unreasonable requirement for a portable player. 
My Sienna van has a pretty crappy system with it's ear piercing  pillar mounted tweeters and door speakers that rattle.    It makes coming home and turning on my system much more enjoyable. 
albertporter,

with my experience, if I were you, I would do what I already did. I waved the white flag, bought 512 GB SD card (that is how I know it works despite instructions saying it is only up to, if I remember correctly, 64GB), and bought dBpoweramp program to transfer whatever to whatever. Basically, I converted all the AIFFs to FLACs and put it on that SD card. Then the card went to the slot, conveniently out of sight and out of way, and it is all there. There is still some space left on the card, but not much. As AIFF it was not even close to 12 TB so you may not be too happy, but it fits some thousand or more albums. Granted, those are albums and not 80-minute CDs so some are barely 30 minutes, but most are 1960s-1970s-1980s so think more like 45 minutes. The downside of dBpoweramp is that, for all I know, it does not convert DSD, if that is what you need, but I have heard that it is the best one to transfer album art without glitches. I would have to agree, although I was surprised that some things I did have to smoothen out to make it all really perfect. That is another topic and feel free to ask if you ever go down that route. I, eventually, settled for Volkswagen and this sound system convenience was one of the three or four important factors. It is just that I am now looking for a new car because I cannot stand the sound. I mean, I am not trying to be snobbish or pretend that my ears are descedants from some royal dynasty, but it hurts. I was hoping that new (2018) batch of VWs along with the new screen accidentaly got something in amplifier changed. I went to the dealership last weekend and I believe it might have happened, but will check a few more times before I give money away. I feel your pain with having to juggle needs/wants of the car as a vehicle and some decent sound system that would play what you would expect it to play in 2017-2018. I end up with VW because I do fit in it comfortably (6'3"), they do come with manual transmissions, if you pick carefully, and they still have some sort of spare tire or at least space to put a temporary one without taking away the whole trunk.

I think that sound system quality is sort of an afterthought in most cars. They simply do not expect a driver with an iPhone to connect any other way but Bluetooth or care about files it can play. In fact, the young man who was showing me Tesla (Model S, I went just for curiosity and completness sake) was surprised with my discovery of "only Bluetooth from your phone". It turns out that he, the person representing allegedly very technologically advanced company, had never thought of any other way but Bluetooth, nor had anyone who ever walked in that store in over a year that he had been there. However, in his sales pitch he did talk about wonderful sound system with so many speakers and Watts, and what not. Accept it, we are a minority that is easier to ignore than to do small tweaks for.
Oddiofyl,

I feel for you.  I've not owned a Sienna but there is no shortage of bad car audio and tweeters do seem to bring out the worst. 

glupson,

VW is a great car, but I have not heard their sound system.   I believe you when you say it hurts.   That's the same problem had with the C7 Stingray but a great deal of that problem was ambient noise and listening too loud to overcome same.

I will look into your suggestion on  dbpoweramp.   I don't think I've used their software but memory cards are cheap so it's worth a shot. I currently have two SD cards and no where near full. In fact just a few dozen albums on each since I kept hoping for a higher capacity iPod.

My experiments with SD card was frustrating and how I learned about FLAC, MP4 and AIFF and compatibility (or lack there of)  with Car Play.  

My iPod music is on my personal computer so it would be easy to sync up all the existing music to larger iPod in a matter of minutes.   I have more music on my computer than current iPod will hold.   To me it's easier than loading SD cards.

I enjoyed your story about the Tesla salesman, it's true most people don't care that much about sound, in the car or at home. We are the minority and as you implied, we have to live with it.

albertporter,

I am by no means adept at computers beyond turning on/off and a few more very-low-user actions. I learn the dumbest way, from own experience, so I deducted a few things from your story and my experience. CarPlay has to be used via iPhone. SD card probably goes some other way and the fact that car has Carplay does not mean SD card will behave in any similar way. My iPod was bought in May 2015 and I believe it is 5th generation. My car was bought in December 2015 and, surprise, iPod cannot connect via Carplay at all. I am not sure about now, but iPod simply did not come with Carplay. That is just so you do not buy an iPod and find out it is not Carplay compatible. On the other hand, just being an USB device works great. As far as USB devices go, I did connect Solid State Drive and it worked well. I also have a SONY NW-35 (small $200ish Walkman) and it connects and plays via USB without a problem. It becomes just another SSD connected via USB. Android phones have something parallel to Carplay (Android Auto, I think) and they frequently have expansion slots for more memory. However, I got an impression that you have an iPhone and, if you ever connect it to the car for phone purposes, I wonder if you would be able to connect another Carplay/Android Auto device at the same time. I would not be surprised if the car thought you were connecting two phones as it might see them that way.

As far as functionality goes, I hope your Bose is as accomodating as VW Fender system. Whatever I connect (SD, iPod, Solid State Drive) it shows album covers and songs and all that it is supposed to. It does not matter what media it is coming from. There are some minor issues (albums with same name, at least first 20 letters or so of it become clumped as one album so you have to change metadata a little bit, think "Greatest Hits", "The Best Of", etc.), but in the end it works out like an unbelievably convenient system. The only unexpected detail that does not work with my SD card is voice control for songs. If I try voice control to pick the song from the whole SD card, it says there are too many songs. I believe I have 12000-15000 and that is what confuses it. It has no problem picking albums or artists via voice control and then picking the song from that album.

These are just a few of my observations. I would still try with SD card and FLACs. I think that dBpoweramp even has some free trial version, but do not hold me to it. You need it for the simplest operation it can do, anyway.
I have an iPod now and it works great, it's just insufficient size.

I borrowed one of those Classic iPods like you see at Ebay, some of them  have huge storage space.   Of course the old iPod like those do not use the Lightning connector so it is not recognized by my Car Play.

Plug in the newer iPod like I have and works great.  Also better sound than Sirius or FM.   Seems similar to what I get from my SD card.   I too get album art and correct song ID with all those formats, just wishing for simple way to sync my library without having to do without some of my favorites.


It is easy to forget that stock car audio systems can receive enhanced tweaking by upgrading the wire harness, fuses and sound-proofing the doors.

Happy Listening!

I drive a low mileage (69,000) 2005  Lexus LS 430 sedan. It’s equipped with a Mark Levinson sound system that has, in addition to CD capability, a nice cassette tape player. I like to record really good LP’s on my Nakamitchi tape recorder and play them in the car. The home system is all ARC tube gear and I use a great cartridge.
As good as the car sounds, the home system still kills it. Good sound and music in the car is a must for me. Oh, and in an effort to get the noise down, in an already quiet car, I recently installed a new set of Michelin Premiere tires. It’s like driving on velvet, and the tires really lowered the "noise floor."

Frank
Jafant,

Do not doubt you are correct on wire harness and other tweaks.   It's sure a big deal in home system and probably the car has the minimum that will work.


Oprgonpapa,

Yep, tires are a big deal.  

I have factory tires which are Pirelli PZero, unfortunately not up to me when car was built.   I requested Michelin but was told the factory uses whatever is in stock at the moment.  

I could have gotten Michelin Latitude, Pirelli P-Zero or Continental Contact (21" Summer tires).

When the Pirelli wear out I am going to Michelin.  They are supposed to ride and perform better and are quieter.
albertporter ...

When I bought my Lexus, the seller had a set of Goodyear Eagles on the vehicle. The Michelin Premiers made a world of difference in both ride, handling and noise. Expensive tires for sure ... but for us audio-crazies a must. :>)

Frank