Day in and day out, more people get more hours of enjoyment more times out of their audio system than any other thing you can touch in your car and yet so many of us don't really know what all the controls and features do.
Here's a quick how to understand your car's audio system.
I breakdown car audio systems into two major chapters, Sources and Sound.
Let's start with sources.
First you have your built-in sources.
That includes satellite radio.
FM and AM, those are built-in tuners in the car.
It's called Music Collection here on the BMW, but typically can refer to a hard drive in the car that you can copy music to.
It's not super popular to be honest, but car makers are kind of in love with it.
And another built-in source, sort of, is a CD or DVD player.
This is also becoming kind of long in the tooth, and the more modern cars are starting to get rid of the disc player.
Now we have the brought-in sources like Bluetooth streaming.
Here's where you'd hook up your phone, of course, and any audio from the phone should go over Bluetooth.
That will mean calls Navigation prompts and the music you're streaming all from your phone and it's up to your phone to traffic car ball of those in terms of what steps on what when they are playing at the same time, the car doesn't do that.
And of course USB is another brilliant source.
You bring a thumb drive to your car, you stick it in there, it's full of the MP3s and you got a tone of music.
And right in the middle, between built in and brought in, are streaming apps like Pandora for example.
A lot of cars have Pandora in them.
A lot of phones have Pandora cuz you put it there.
So that kinda sits on the fence between being a built-in or a brought in source.
You can do it either way.
All right, now that we got our sources figured out, let's talk about how we make them sound good.
On this vehicle, I got a high-end audio system but They all have something in common.
First of all, treble and bass.
Those are your main tone controls.
Treble is the high frequency stuff, bass is the low frequency, obviously.
Balance, that's left and right.
When you move the sound stage, the center of the audio From one side of the cabin to the other.
Fader goes the other direction, from front to rear, and you can see it well indicated here.
It's kind of where you're placing the center of the sound stage.
Now another related sound control is your volume.
That's obviously a knob in every car, but volume can also be adjusted according to the speed of your car.
There's usually a setting.
It'll say you want speed adjusted volume, and that is to compensate for the increasing road noise at higher speeds.
Beyond your simple tone controls, you've got often way more complicated ones that come in the form of an equalizer.
Here's a graphical equalizer on this car, where I can take a slice of the sound wave From very low on the left to very high on the right and decide I either want to emphasize that up or tailor it down.
Now a lot of cars will also have preset baskets of those settings.
They'll call them jazz, rock, pop, whatever you want.
And those are already figured out for you by supposedly expert ears.
You can try those as a shortcut.
Then you've got what's typically called the DSP or the Digital Signal Processing settings.
What these do is usually take a combination of tone controls as well as some echo and reverb and some other digital tricks to make the car sound like it's a building or a studio or a club.
You will find those labelled accordingly.
They usually don't make any sense to me, they're just different kinds of screwing with the sound.
Just pick one you like.
But movie theater and concert aren't really going to sound like a movie theater or a concert, they're just going to sound kind of cool and big and augmented, and if you like it, you like.
Okay, last tip on using your car's audio system, when you've got a Bluetooth signal coming off your phone, you're wirelessly sending audio I would recommend you adjust your phone's audio to three quarters, because when you change the volume here, that changes the loudness of the Bluetooth signal being sent to your car.
Three quarters here is a great baseline.
You don't want to send too loud a signal, it'll distort, or too low a signal, it'll have a lot of background noise.
And then finish adjusting your volume with the car's volume control.