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Sound System Upgrade

Discussion in 'Model S: User Interface' started by AriSchwartz, Jan 2, 2020.

  1. AriSchwartz

    AriSchwartz Member

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    Hi Model S Community!

    I recently purchased a used 2016 85D Model S directly from Tesla and the first thing I noticed was the poor audio quality (bass especially) in comparison to my 2009 BMW 650i. I was wondering if anyone has ever upgraded the sound system directly through Tesla or if they offer this service? I'm concerned to have after-market sound system changes external from Tesla since I can foresee that this will be a complicated process for EVs due to power management limitations.

    Any tips would be much appreciated.

    Thank you so much!
     
  2. Ostrichsak

    Ostrichsak Active Member

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    Did you get a car with the UHFS (Ultra High Fidelity Sound) option or no?
     
  3. AriSchwartz

    AriSchwartz Member

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    Yes, this was included with my package.
     
  4. jeffb

    jeffb Member

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    The car has a regular 12V system so power connections for aftermarket audio is not a problem. If you are just adding a sub/amp its standard car audio stuff. Things only get a little tricky if you go full replacement.....its necessary to get a full range signal from the factory head unit that includes all the chimes, turn signal, and other noises the factory stereo creates. Its not that difficult for a decent shop but requires someone who knows what they are doing and knows their way around a Tesla to design and install.
     
  5. glide

    glide Active Member

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    Tesla does not offer an upgrade path. You either buy with or without UHFS.

    Either way, both options are sub-par in my opinion. Your only option to improve is go aftermarket.
     
  6. AriSchwartz

    AriSchwartz Member

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    Thank you for the guidance. I completely agree that it is sub-par. Have you already modified your sound system? I've never done this before and so I was wondering what the first step would be? Given that the most significant drawback I notice now is the bass, I'm thinking of adding a sub but I'm unsure of the best location for the sub to both allow easy installation and sound quality. Is this something I should just discuss with a local shop?
     
  7. glide

    glide Active Member

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    I gave up on this car a long time ago. Aftermarket solutions specifically for the Model S do exist.

    Check out Reus audio or Light Harmonic
     
  8. siriuszero

    siriuszero Member

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    I have the Light Harmonic upgraded speakers (non-UHFS Model S) and noticed a big upgrade in terms of sound. The speakers are pretty plug and play and with trim tools, took me about 30 mins to swap. They used to make a kit for the UHFS system too that added a better amp and subwoofer that I can't see on their webpage anymore, though they still have the speakers and standalone woofer.
     
  9. tcoombes

    tcoombes Supporting Member

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    Light Harmonic's solution is to reuse the existing stock wiring, harnesses, connectors, etc. and provide an upgraded premium amp and upgraded speakers. Other aftermarket solutions typically replace many more components, including wiring, and then integrate with vehicle user interface and other audio features - these can be as customized as you want and are willing to pay for. Reus fits in this category and has had excellent reviews on this forum.

    I decided to go with Light Harmonic's approach as it was less invasive (I installed it myself) and did not require rewiring, but I eventually ended up replacing all of my speakers with a combination of LIght Harmonic in the doors, SoundQubed as a drop in sub in the stock sub enclosure, Morel tweeters, and Hertz mids (these are all top notch drivers). This combination has produced an excellent and balanced system with a decent front stage and plenty of bass and clarity at all volumes (at least according to my listening preferences). It was incrementally very nice and good enough with just the LH amp, door speakers, and SoundQubed sub, but I wanted to go the extra mile since I had a level of expectation I wanted to achieve. I am pleased with the results.
     
    • Informative x 2
  10. AriSchwartz

    AriSchwartz Member

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    Thank you so much for this information. Did you have the high fidelity sound package with your Model S? I'm just wondering if the upgrade you did was from the stock system or from the premium system as this may make a difference. I've never altered my car stereos before (never felt the need until this car) so I'm a little concerned about screwing things up but I'm sure I could take it some where after purchasing the parts you mentioned. Do you have any issues with rattling in the doors or elsewhere?
     
  11. tcoombes

    tcoombes Supporting Member

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    Yes, I have the UHFS. The differences between the UHFS and base system in Model S are the addition of the second premium amplifier, the subwoofer, additional speakers, and the front door speakers are powered by the premium amp instead of the base system amp. The UHFS system still uses the base amp for powering the tweeters, 3 front dash mids, and rear door speakers. The premium amp powers the front door speakers, subwoofer, and two rear lift gate mids.

    I don’t have any door rattling, but some people add sound deadening material to their doors if they have the panels removed anyway. There are a lot of decent products available on the market.
     
  12. AuPanda

    AuPanda Member

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  13. AriSchwartz

    AriSchwartz Member

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  14. beatle

    beatle Member

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    No need to apologize. Times change along with product availability and opinion.

    I think the best bang for the buck is a pair of 2 ohm 6.5" speakers to replace the fronts. I've heard you can hack up the original speakers to mount the replacements, or you can buy adapters made for them. 2 ohm is key to get the most out of the factory amp. The rear speakers do so little for the sound that the money is mostly wasted upgrading them.

    A subwoofer and a device to re-EQ the signal to it would be the next step. The factory signal falls off like a cliff around 40hz. Beyond that, an aftermarket amp with a DSP to correct the factory signal on the front speakers will help, along with new tweeters.

    Adding sound damping material to the doors will help improve the sound and quieting the ride.
     
    • Like x 1
  15. AriSchwartz

    AriSchwartz Member

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    I've done a little research (via Tesla threads) and refinement of what I think is the most effective and cost-efficient upgrade.

    Best Upgrade: New Sub and Amp
    From both a personal perspective and the most common opinion I've seen on here, the most significant upgrade that can be made is the addition of an amp and a sub-woofer. I've heard numerous times that having just the sub, will have a negligible effect since the amp is really the limited factor.

    Which Sub?
    This is a very difficult question and depends on budget and personal preference.
    Under the Seat Sub
    Personally, putting a sub 7-9 feet behind me down in the trunk, doesn't appear to be the most effective way to resolve the bass deficiency. I may be biased since my previous car (2009 BMW 650i) had two 8" subs under the front two seats making the bass something you feel rather than just something you hear. With that said, the only option I have found so far for under the seat subs is the Rainbow Intelli Sub 8" AFE, however, I've only heard of this being installed in a Model X and not an S so I am still not sure if this is compatible. ​
    Sub Replacement
    Another option I am looking at is simply replacing my current stock UHF sub with a new one while using the same / existing housing. Having a new sub in the trunk while pulling-the-plug on the stock sub and just leaving it dead in its housing seems like a waste. Two options I've seen are the Sound Qubed HDS2.1 Series Sub and the Light Harmonics Model S sub. I've heard mixed reviews on Light Harmonics and so it is hard to tell if this company is reliable. They also seem to have stopped selling their paired amp. When I took my car to a local shop, they told me that it wouldn't make sense to install a sub in the existing housing because they would still need to run new wires due to the small diameter of the stock wires. ​
    Trunk Sub
    As a last resort, and also the most popular option, there are many subs that can be placed in the trunk. The NVX BOOST for Tesla is probably one of the most popular options I've seen and it also comes with an amp and custom housing to fit snug in the side of the trunk. The sub/amp will run about $800 and the install takes quite a bit of time (~4-5 hours I am told) and was estimated to cost me $600. Another popular sub with an amp combo I found was the JL Audio ACP208LG-W3v3.​

    Which Amp?
    A lot of the subs listed above include amps but for stand-alone amps, I've seen a lot of support for the Rockford Fosgate R500X1D.

    Questions for you:
    1. Has anyone installed under-seat subs in a Model S?
    2. Is the trunk truly the best location to place a sub in the Model S? What about the fronk?
    3. Has anyone replaced the existing amp and sub but used the existing wiring? I was told the existing wire gauge is not large enough for higher power subs - even for the UHF upgrade.
    4. Can installing new wiring damage anything? I heard something about drilling holes in parts of the car is required.
    5. Are there any watch-outs that could result in damage to my car?
     
  16. beatle

    beatle Member

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    1. There really isn't much room under the seats to place a sub. You're talking maybe a couple inches, tops.
    2. The frunk is effectively outside the car. Though low frequencies travel through objects better than high frequencies, your output would be limited. It's an interesting idea though.
    3. I think this is what the LH setup did.
    4. You'll need to drill holes in the firewall to get power for a dedicated amp, or to pass signal/speaker wire if you put the amp in the frunk.
    5. Have some clips ready when you pull the trim apart. You will inevitably break some of them. You can buy replacements on Amazon though: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0040CTTH4

    The NVX sub/amp combo will give most people more bass than they know what to do with, and it looks nice. This is what I did for a sub and I'm happy with it. I really liked the idea of the LH setup, but read too many reviews about the amp failing and service not being very good. I don't think they even sell their amp anymore.

    If you already have the UHFS, you might experiment with the SoundQubed 8" sub. It's only $76. I would not think the gains would be tremendous, however, so it depends on how much you think the bass is lacking. You can always pull the factory sub enclosure out of the car if you go with the NVX.
     
  17. AriSchwartz

    AriSchwartz Member

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    The 8" Rainbow Sub is only 2.9" thick but I agree that even this might not be enough room. I haven't measured under the seats.

    Drilling a hole in the firewall sounds intense. What does that mean? Will this void any Tesla warranties or compromise the car in anyway? I looked at the NVX video and it looks pretty complicated. How easy is it for a shop to ruin your car trying to install this? Could existing wiring accidentally get disconnected? Could weather trim come loose allowing water into the car? Does the installation result in cosmetic scratches on the interior lining, door seals, etc.?

    Did you add any sound dampening / deadening? Do you have any issues with rattling? I noticed that the driver side door rattles a bit when the base is punchy - seems like it might be the buttons for the windows, etc. I imagine that there will be more rattling when I have the sub put in. I just don't want to be that one guy driving a sup'ed-up Honda Civic with a rattling license plate.
     
  18. tcoombes

    tcoombes Supporting Member

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    When replacing speakers I looked at 4 specifications: impedance, power, frequency range, and sensitivity.

    Impedance is electrical resistance measured in ohms. I think it is best to match the impedance rating of the speaker with the rated capability of the amp. Stock speakers in my UHFS system are subwoofer - 1 ohm, front door - 1 ohm, rear door - 2 ohms, mids - 2 ohm, tweeters - 4 ohms. If speaker ohms are numerically more than amp channel rated ohms then the volume will be less by a few decibels than if the speaker impedance more closely matches the amp channel rating.

    Power ratings for speakers are measured in watts and there are typically two specs - RMS max which is for continuous, use and peak max which is measured at a point in time. I think speakers should be rated to handle the rated power output of the amp channel that powers them.

    Frequency range is the measurement of the low and high frequency rating of the speaker measured in hertz. Depending on the type of speaker and intended use, the ranges vary. Most humans hear somewhere between 20hz and 20,000hz, but this varies by individual. Subs, for example, sometimes range from 40-400hz, but different brands and models vary. Tweeters, at the other end of the spectrum, sometimes start around 3,000 or 4,000hz and go to 20,000 or 25,000, but again, this varies. The stock Model S tweeters have a capacitor attached that low filters frequencies lower than 4,000hz (to protect the speaker and help prevent distortion).

    Sensitivity is measured in decibels and indicates the volume level the speaker should be able to handle with reasonable clarity. I think 90db and above is a good sensitivity level for a speaker, but many speakers are rated a few decibels below that and are decent, in my opinion.

    When selecting a speaker, I take all of these into consideration, in addition to price, and I look at manufacturer frequency distribution charts to see drop-offs and impedance ratings at various frequencies.

    It all boils down to a few real-world factors for me - what are the best overall rated speakers that best match the amp and amp channel that will power them? what can I afford? what are my music and sound preferences? what am I comfortable installing myself or having someone else install? and perhaps most important - what do others with real and relevant experience (not just speculation) say about it.
     
  19. AriSchwartz

    AriSchwartz Member

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    Thank you so much for this thorough background. This is super helpful for newbies like myself. What would you recommend given the following preferences:
    1) Only feel a need to boost low frequency by a bit. I mainly listen to rap. I want to actually feel the deep bass but don’t want the cheap rattling.
    2) My budget is around $1K.
    3) I want to reduce the level of modifications to my car so as to avoid damage during installation.
     
  20. tcoombes

    tcoombes Supporting Member

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    You have already done two excellent things - reach out to others to benefit from diverse knowledge and experience, and identify what you want to accomplish. Congrats on that! I hesitate to make recommendations, but based my observation of what others with experience and similar goals as you have said, many have gone with NVX. It comes with a fitted enclosure for the left rear trunk space below the charge port, has a line converter to pick up the sub output, a control knob for on the fly adjustments, an amp, a decent sub, and necessary wiring. There is more to the installation than a SQ drop-in sub, but without more power you won’t feel the thump. SQ sub without an amp upgrade or separate amp will provide tighter and more separated low end bass, but won’t be much louder. There are other options besides NVX that some have mentioned, but they are not in a complete kit designed for Model S, they are more component and custom based.
     

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