Thought I’d get some opinion out there for folks to discuss/ridicule/disagree with as they see fit around the audio system in the model 3. I’ll cover why I’ve put RHD/UK in the title shortly.
Quick bit of context - I spent 5 years getting quite involved in the car audio scene, focussing on sound quality instead of boom boom shake the room - and did pretty well as a competitor, winning UK championships with a couple of different cars and then moving onto judging sound quality in UK and German championships. Plus have a couple of 3rd place trophies at EuroFinals level which is basically top 2 cars from all Euro countries fighting it out once a year.
It’s an intense and very competitive scene, and was fortunate enough to have some really knowledgable and experienced people around me, including some serious build work and great pairs of ears on hand to tune the car systems plus help me learn, this meant I picked up a lot of knowledge and make me think very differently about audio in cars.
A taster of the sorts of installs (under the covers) that make up a highly competitive sound quality or SQ vehicle - we worked extensively without speaker boxes, mostly breathing to the outside of the vehicles using steel rings welded into the vehicle chassis and cutting lots of breathing holes.
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Model 3 Premium Audio
Onto the Model 3 audio system. It promised a lot having read various reviews and watched reviewer YouTube videos.
The basic layout of the car is pretty standard - with 3 exceptions.
Firstly the sub is in the rear corner of the car, firing backwards with a ported design. It’s interesting as it has clearly been designed to work with the environment not against it.
Next the higher frequency speakers at the front of the car have been covered with a treated cloth material which is very unusual in a mass-market car. Somebody somewhere decide traditional plastic and very restrictive (for higher frequency sound) grills were bad. I like that thinking.
Finally the front stage is significantly weighted towards midrange being pushed way forward and firing up into the windscreen. This is both good and bad but I competed with a setup like this for some time and the sound stage benefits are pretty strong.
Other equipment notes - I don’t know the actual manufacturer of the components/electronics behind the audio system and it doesn’t really matter, the rated power numbers aren’t all that impressive so they don’t seem to have chased mega numbers. For example I used to run more power on my tweeters than the midbass in the model 3 gets - but it doesn’t matter. What is very impressive is the way the system has clearly been designed by someone with good ears and they haven’t bowed to packaging/marketing folks when finalising the build design.
Onto the sound, I’ll get onto areas for improvement shortly but first the stuff that is good.
Higher frequencies - overall the highs are solid for any sort of factory install. There is detail and a decent balance.
Midrange - Some good feeling of there being a real “body” behind people, instruments and some decent attack in how stuff plays back to you. The front mids firing up are helping bring things to life due to the windscreen glass being in play.
Midbass - pretty decent punch and a really good effort, they match some of the attack of the mids and speed is pretty good - not as good as a true infinite baffle setup but very commendable
Sub-bass, pretty good integration into the mids (see below), it’s hard not to find fault as you know it’s a small speaker, overall I would say it sounds like a half-decent home cinema sub.
Areas for improvement :
Isolation - the sub and front midbass in particular are losing energy into the car as they flex the factory metal and plastics. More isolation from the mounting points and more treatment of immediate areas would work wonders here, I may have a go at some of that. Plastic chassis, box and mounting points are a disappointment but I appreciate mass-manufacture inevitably leads here. A shame though as with more solid mountings it would be a serious improvement.
The plastic sub box is a bit crap and needs to be much more solid. I’m going to remove mine, isolate into properly from mounting points and then sound-deaden it to see what a quick effort can achieve.
Sub position - this is a real bugger to get right. Every car has peaks and troughs in how we hear lower bass and how the sub integrates into the midbass. It gets a bit hit and miss here but they have at least tried to make it work. I would want to measure frequency response but there are 2 things that’s old work to improve the factory sub - firstly adding a thick plate of alloy or steel around 2 inches from the sub speaker face to “front load” the wave - however could be tricky with the ported design, secondly to change the orientation of the speaker/port to see if that altered the response to the driver position. It can be real trial and error just like with home listening room sub placement but it can be improved with some creativity and patience.
P.s. the reason I put RHD/UK in the title is that bass to LHD drivers will sound different to us in RHD. It matters where you are sitting as the peaks/troughs in sub response will differ for LHD vs RHD drivers with this sub position.
Midbass > sub overall sound - there is a muddiness/confusion where the 2 speaker types try and come together (see below).
Midbass peak 300-500 hz somewhere in that region - this is inevitable with the speaker position, angle and centre tunnel distance. To eliminate this you would either need a speaker that has a deliberate dip in response at that level (unlikely) or to change the angle of speaker mounting significantly. Or a dedicated EQ, but that brings more technical problems so just have to live with it. Not ideal. It’s simple physics that at this frequency range you will get either cancellation or amplification due to the wavelengths involved. Big peaks are not good anywhere but it is a very common car related issue.
Midrange could sound a bit more open and life-like if being really critical but I find bringing the upper mid response into play with the surround-setting helps a bit. Not purist but again a very good effort at increasing system enjoyment in a car.
Mid>High / High - there is a peak around 8khz that gives a slight unpleasant edge to the sound, and makes true highs feel like they are lacking a bit. It might also be that the very highest stuff above 12-14k is rolling off and the tweeters just aren’t that good. Again would need to measure this to understand more.
Minor adjustments to EQ. So far I’m happiest with a reduction on Sub -1.5, reduction on midbass -0.5 and a reduction on upper mid by -0.5. Doesn’t sound like much but so far it adds up to a more balanced sound and allows volume increase. For my personal preference I also shifted fader forward by 3/4 and to the left by a few notches to avoid the RH midbass taking over and dragging the sound down. I may revisit these settings after isolating the lower frequency speaker surrounding panels.
Hope this is a useful take on the system and a helpful perspective. Now for the honest bit - there is no right and wrong and my opinions may completely differ from yours - am completely good with that and appreciate every has a preference / hears differently / has their own take on what they want from audio.
What I will say as a summary is that overall it’s a really excellent and slightly disruptive effort by Tesla on this system, it has some real flair and is a bit embarrassing for all those B&O, Dynaudio etc type options that cost £5-6k on the more established brands.
With some more DSP capability, and better physical mounting construction it would be even better. Something like the DIRAC Live setup with user-configurable setup could really knock your socks off if combined with this overall design. Oh and ditch the plastic speaker mounts in favour of aluminium or good old fashioned steel