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Haxster

Member
Apr 4, 2016
859
1,397
Silicon Valley
One of the few benefits of crossing the half century mark on your biodometer is that you can save money on high-end sound systems. Elderly ears just can't get those high frequencies anymore, and your bio-signal processing just doesn't seem to work as well as when you were in your 20s.

(For disclosure, I'm not an avid audiophile. But my younger ears were well trained at Gold Star Recording Studios, where I worked as a technician when I was in college).

Thanks to the accommodating staff at the Santana Row Tesla store in San Jose, I was able to do some critical listening to some familiar 320 bps reference music that I brought with me. I compared both the standard and the Ultra High Fidelity Sound systems in two Model Ss.

I was hard pressed to find a difference. Even the low-end wasn't that much weaker without the sub-woofer. I was really surprised. Both systems sounded surprisingly good. My only (minor) complaint was that the sound stage seemed a little weak on both systems. And if you're a fan of high-energy, seat-shaking bass, you'll be disappointed with either system.

My advice to prospective buyers is to listen to both audio systems before forking over another $2,500 to Tesla...especially if you're past the half century mark.
 
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K_style

Member
Apr 7, 2016
205
87
San Jose
I regret not testing both before I placed the order. Ended up purchasing the option but hopefully there is $2500 sound different when I hear it.. haha
 

msnow

Active Member
Jul 14, 2015
4,951
2,394
SoCal
One of the few benefits of crossing the half century mark on your biodometer is that you can save money on high-end sound systems. Elderly ears just can't get those high frequencies anymore, and your bio-signal processing just doesn't seem to work as well as when you were in your 20s.

(For disclosure, I'm not an avid audiophile. But my younger ears were well trained at Gold Star Recording Studios, where I worked as a technician when I was in college).

Thanks to the accommodating staff at the Santana Row Tesla store in San Jose, I was able to do some critical listening to some familiar 320 bps reference music that I brought with me. I compared both the standard and the Ultra High Fidelity Sound systems in two Model Ss.

I was hard pressed to find a difference. Even the low-end wasn't that much weaker without the sub-woofer. I was really surprised. Both systems sounded surprisingly good. My only (minor) complaint was that the sound stage seemed a little weak on both systems. And if you're a fan of high-energy, seat-shaking bass, you'll be disappointed with either system.

My advice to prospective buyers is to listen to both audio systems before forking over another $2,500 to Tesla...especially if you're past the half century mark.

I totally disagree. I know this is very subjective and I would agree it's probably not worth $2500 BUT, it's much, much better than the standard sound system and it integrates with the Tesla 17" and other function buttons. There's many posts on this topic here on TMC.
 
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Galve2000

Active Member
May 20, 2013
1,037
370
NYC
I had a Reus 2.5 system installed in my Model S a few months ago and it is worth every penny I paid. But Cliff, the guy who flies around doing these installations did tell me, that it is better to start with the Sound Studio/UHFS package Tesla sells and then add to it. I will say I agree with the OP that $2500 is a lot of money to spend on a system with such a partly sound stage and no "umph"... and i am thrilled with my Reus upgrade even tho I opted to forego the Sound Studio/UHFS package.

Then again I still have a decent number of years before I cross the 50 year mark... tho my ears have kind of gone thru it with all the dancing in front of massive speakers I did in my late teens and twenties...
 

bart513

Active Member
Feb 27, 2013
1,349
94
East Hampton
How much did the Reus 2.5 system cost? Have your ears listened to the system (can't remember the name) where the person has a speaker housed in a box that perfectly fits in the back drivers side of the MS?
 

thegruf

Active Member
Mar 24, 2015
2,290
2,070
indeterminate
I think the UHFS is best viewed as being worth about $1000.
$2500 is silly money even at the expected prices that auto manufacturers levy.

Tesla need to either up the quality of the UHFS offer for the money, or back down on the sell price perhaps rolling into the premium pack instead.

It is one of the most significant disapointments (actually I dont have any others so make that the only one) I have with the car, I do spend a lot of time in it and do like decent audio.

I'm not a bass freak particularly, although you would barely notice it has a subwoofer, but it is the bland flat and uninvolving soundstage just ruins a lot of music. Strangely though it can sound quite good on certain music though!
 

Haxster

Member
Apr 4, 2016
859
1,397
Silicon Valley
Well, after reading msnow's post, I'm wondering if:
1. The standard sound system car that they put me in was actually a UHFS car that, for some reason, didn't have the sub-woofer (not likely) or
2. Tesla has upgraded/tweaked the standard sound system or
3. There's a big difference when listening to source material that doesn't come from 320 bps recordings on a USB stick or
4. My once golden ears have tarnished way more than I thought (yikes!).

I can confirm that I set the equalizer to flat and the speaker fader to center on both systems. And the UI on both systems looked the same, except for a Dolby option on the UHFS that I didn't see (or at least notice) on the standard sound system.

Has anyone else made a similar comparison on current Model Ss?
 

Tanquen

Member
Feb 17, 2016
304
131
United States
The main thing is that unless the system is really really bad you'll get used to it in no time. My S2000 had 2 paper one ways and when I replaced them with nice poly two way speaker's the highs and everything sounded way better but then I just got used to it and then just listened to the music and drove the car like I always had before.
 

msnow

Active Member
Jul 14, 2015
4,951
2,394
SoCal
@Haxster - I do have the EQ bumped up a bit (+4 bass, +2 mid and +1 treble) Dolby on mostly for Slacker but off for FLAC. BTW, most of mine are variable encoding @ 280-320 BPS so my quality is good also.
 

Mike K

Member
May 15, 2013
849
849
Los Angeles
There is nothing wrong with the UHFS and anyone that has compared it to the standard system and walked away thinking the two are even remotely similar in performance probably went into the comparison with a little confirmation bias or doesn't listen to their music very loud. And that's fine. For those people the standard system might suffice however, objectively it is one of the worst systems I've heard in any car, let alone a luxury car. It has no discernible bass, it distorts at moderate volume levels and just generally sounds bad. It's good for talk radio.

I can appreciate a good system. I love music and I love listening to it at a higher volume. Few things beat a system that can deliver hard, clear bass and good clarity at higher volumes. I have car ADD and swap vehicles a lot. Because of that, I've had a bunch of the higher end systems in the past 3 - 4 years. Here's what I've had in order of how good it's been.

5. Audi A8/ Infiniti Q45 Bose Systems - Good clarity, good bass but muddy, suffered in the highs. Overall good entry level systems for luxury cars. I should add that Bose makes systems of all varying qualities. I assume the manufacturer gives them a budget and they build a system around that budget. So Bose might be utter crap on one car and very good on another. They don't seem to be like the true premium brands that will only license their name to quality systems. Bose will happily slap their name on garbage. Don't believe me? Go find a 2000 Grand Prix with a Bose system... :-D

4. BMW E60 M5/ 550/ 535 Harmon Kardon Logic 7 - Amazing clarity, very clear bass, very strong mid-range. This system's shortcoming was that it did a poor job of modulating bass. At low volumes you were constantly forced to lower the bass because the subwoofers would over-power everything. For the $850 BMW charged for this system is was a bargain.

3. Audi A8 Bang & Olufsen - This was a 2007 A8. This system was incredibly clear but lacked bass. I believe Audi used rear shelf mounted subwoofers which is no bueno. It's frustrating listening to a system like this because it's so incredibly clear at high volumes but you feel like someone dialed down the bass knob by half. Still, clarity was stunning and who doesn't like a motorized tweeter shooting out of their dash?

2. Tesla UHFS - Yes, that's right, this is number 2 on my list. The system is solidly good. Bass is strong, highs aren't tinny and the system is clear right up until max volume. If I have to nitpick, I'd say the mid-range bass doesn't hit as hard as the BMW system but that's a product of what appears to be a bandpass subwoofer box the Tesla system uses versus BMW's dual in floor sealed drivers.

1. BMW 535D Bang & Olufsen - Basically everything awesome about the A8's system but they finally fixed the missing bass. I know people like to say B&O is gimmicky but that system was amazing. I haven't heard anything close to it.

So in my opinion the UHFS is not only in good company but near the top of the heap in good company. I'd pay $2500 for this system all day every day. If it's not for some people, I get that. Not everyone cares about sound but if you do care and you walk out not being able to hear a difference between the two systems do yourself a favor and go back and try again because while some of this admittedly comes down to preference and opinion, distortion and lack of bass are not objective and they are very much present on the standard system at even moderate volume levels.

Lastly, two things of note when testing these systems:

1. High end systems generally sound worse with standard audio sources. XM radio on the B&O systems was embarrassingly bad to the point where I wondered why BMW/ Audi offered it as an option. The reason for this is that higher end systems more accurately represent any given frequency range and thus expose compression artifacts that a lesser system might hide. People assume satellite radio is high quality. It's actually highly compressed trash.

2. Most people don't crank the volume in the showroom or with a salesman. Likewise, in a quite showroom or in a parked car your threshold for what you consider loud is much lower than when you're driving and there is noise outside the vehicle, road noise, wind noise, etc. Half the time I get back in my Model S I'm reminded of this as my ears are acclimated to silence but my volume in the car is set at where it was when I left it. That initially seems very loud.
 
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CuriousG

Active Member
Dec 1, 2015
1,532
1,561
Elk Grove, CA
5. Audi A8/ Infiniti Q45 Bose Systems - Good clarity, good bass but muddy, suffered in the highs. Overall good entry level systems for luxury cars. I should add that Bose makes systems of all varying qualities. I assume the manufacturer gives them a budget and they build a system around that budget. So Bose might be utter crap on one car and very good on another. They don't seem to be like the true premium brands that will only license their name to quality systems. Bose will happily slap their name on garbage. Don't believe me? Go find a 2000 Grand Prix with a Bose system... :-D
I only have the standard for comparative purposes. I was satisfied with the Bose that came with my Infiniti. And when my second head unit failed and no longer covered under warranty I opted for aftermarket and it was even better while retaining the same speakers. In comparison to the stock setup of the Model S, it's pretty meh. Not a lot of highs and certainly not much low even when you raise the 3-band EQ.

4. BMW E60 M5/ 550/ 535 Harmon Kardon Logic 7 - Amazing clarity, very clear bass, very strong mid-range. This system's shortcoming was that it did a poor job of modulating bass. At low volumes you were constantly forced to lower the bass because the subwoofers would over-power everything. For the $850 BMW charged for this system is was a bargain.
My MINI Cooper with the Harmon Kardon upgrade was not worth the money. Maybe because it's the convertible ragtop or the fact you can hear everything outside the car, but it's even worse now because of the clipping. I suspect the amplifier is going out which is common in this particular model. I have resorted to fading the speakers towards the front as it seems to make it somewhat passable. I was ready to upgrade the whole system and even bought a JL Audio amp which has been sitting in the garage for about 10mos now. With the intermittent electrical problems I've been having, this isn't going to happen anymore.

Might be a good time to think about using that JL Audio amp in the Tesla.
 

chriSharek

Member
Feb 19, 2015
873
70
Sarasota, FL
The Bose system in my 2011 Volt is better in every way (highs, mids and lows) than the UHFS in my 2016 Model S. I've tweaked and tweaked the EQ and the volume. Sorry. This is just one area where I don't think Tesla has put enough research and development - which is fine, because I'd rather have 288 miles of charge than 40. :)
 
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K_style

Member
Apr 7, 2016
205
87
San Jose
Just because I read this thread yesterday, I went ahead to the showroom and compared both standard and UHFS.
Sales person let me stream music which I think it was a bad idea and a mistake but I was able to tell quite a difference. (obviously)

I still didn't feel the difference I felt in M&B Bang & Olufsen..
 

CHG-ON

Still in love after all these miles
Jun 24, 2014
3,079
648
Santa Cruz Mountains, USA
I am pretty much OK with the tonal quality of the UHFS system, understanding that it is a stock system and therefore is never going to be great. I have always done my own custom installs. But after plunking down so much for this girl, I just can't do it right now. I will when I can. It's killing me!

What really bothers me is the complete lack of space to the sound. When I have it centered, it is essentially blasting me in face. No space, or air, at all. I have learned, through lots of work, to push the sound around enough to at least get some semblance of air to it. But the rear speakers are so weak, that I give up most of the volume, and body, of the sound, and end up losing my favorite part of music: the emotion of it. The system is pretty much flat and lifeless.

I have thought about the Reus system. The reviews are very good. However, I think their system deals with the lows (very well) primarily, and a bit of the highs, with the replacement of the A-pillar tweets. What we really need is better processing from the CPU to give a more honest and realistic sound. We also need significantly better drivers all around. The sub is mud. I do think that the basic acoustics of the car are good.

I have had high hopes for the Light Harmonic upgrade. They have had many stumbles and I have not seen any reviews of an install. Time will tell there. I am trying to be optimistic.

What I need is to find a good 10K to do it just right! Then she will both lovely to look at and to listen to! Since there ain't no exhaust to get my Jones on.
 

Haxster

Member
Apr 4, 2016
859
1,397
Silicon Valley
And when I bought a used Yugo last year, I was planning to upgrade the sound system. But after pushing the "simulated stereo" button on the radio, I couldn't imagine any upgrade sounding better than that.

Seriously, after reading the comments on this thread, I think that I need to go back to the Tesla store and make sure that they put me in a car with a standard sound system...or maybe have my ears cleaned.

BTW, if anyone does this comparison, make sure the car isn't set in the "demo" mode (which limits the sound levels). Two more tips: go when they're not busy and try to evaluate recent production cars that are not in the showroom (so that you can crank up the volume).
 

jak

Member
Apr 20, 2013
51
27
California
I have thought about the Reus system. The reviews are very good. However, I think their system deals with the lows (very well) primarily, and a bit of the highs, with the replacement of the A-pillar tweets. What we really need is better processing from the CPU to give a more honest and realistic sound. We also need significantly better drivers all around. The sub is mud. I do think that the basic acoustics of the car are good.

I have had high hopes for the Light Harmonic upgrade. They have had many stumbles and I have not seen any reviews of an install. Time will tell there. I am trying to be optimistic.

Even though the volume has an "11", it doesn't feel like an "11" with its disappointing lows. I went ahead and ordered the Light Harmonic system last year. Unfortunately, only the redesigned amp and a 35A replacement fuse has been delivered. However, it does sounds like two folks have already installed the Light Harmonic amp and upgraded fuse using impedance-mismatched stock drivers and the results sound positive. LH has said Mr. Reus gave the system a thumbs-up. However, we won't know until we have the completed system installed with more independent reviews.

Can't wait to install it, but I refuse to start installation with only half of the system. LH is already behind schedule with the early-adopter's 3/18 date.

</sigh> It's always a waiting game with anything concerning Tesla.
 

Haxster

Member
Apr 4, 2016
859
1,397
Silicon Valley
@jak
I agree about the "11" volume setting. My first thought was that "11" would be in the "red-line" past the "10". That it would be really loud with maybe some peak level compression to control distortion and protect the speakers. Not so.

With the sub, I guess there's only so much SLP you can get out of an 8" driver in a fairly small enclosure before distortion creeps up. It should be interesting to see what LH is able to do to get around this.

A saving grace is that the Tesla is so quiet that one can enjoy music at lower levels than in cars with noisier interiors.
 

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