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Sound system

Any Model S owners tried listening to just the rear speakers? I think either something must be wrong with my rear speakers or they are just quite poor. The sound coming from my iPhone is about the same quality.

GAmped - we should get this to R&B.

Are there Balance and Fade controls on the sound system? I know I haven't seen fade and i'm not sure about balance.


My bad: There is a fade, and I also have virtually no sound in the rear. I'll call tomorrow.

I coulda sworn I played flac
What's the point of the Dolby mode then if all we need is stereo?

Good question Michael23. I would think most people would want to hear music in the standard stereo format as it was recorded (with left to right balance and front to back fader adjustments).

The only sources suitable for listening to in Dolby 5.1 would be those encoded in that format which typically are movie soundtracks, not music.

If the system truely has multi-channel amplifiers (6 for 5.1 or 8 for 7.1), then a discrete mode should be provided to play multi-channel digital files properly.

I would like to see a graphic or parametric equalizer control and separate subwoofer/bass level. Most high-end vehicle audio systems have controls beyond balance and fader.


The need for modes other than stereo would depend on the source of the music.

CDs and MP3s are almost all stereo-encoded (although there are a few surround-encoded CDs in existence)

What you would really use a surround mode for is high definition audio formats such as concert DVDs, Super Audio CDs, and DVD-Audio. Although I doubt the system in the S even supports these formats.

What sources does the Tesla's audio system accept anyway?

I asked service and they talked to the tech guys and said turn the Dolby Surround off. That in fact fixed the back speaker problem.

Of course, it means you can't use Dolby Surround, but i'll assume they are working on a software fix for that.


K well my music is just itunes regular format so not sure why the better audio system would encourage me to use Dolby then. I could have sworn it sounded better with it off but the reps were telling me to turn it on. Thx

I think this is a case where the surround mode isn't working correctly, or just isn't that great. I like using the surround mode on my current car, but the volume output of the rear speakers is about the same as the front speakers, but probably delayed just a bit to simulate the echo of a concert hall. There's a subtle, but discernible difference with and without surround on, and all the music being played is plain-jane stereo from either a stored audio file or HD radio.

It's nice to know that turning the surround off fixes the rear speaker output problem, especially if rear passengers are present. It will be interesting to see if TM really changes anything for the surround mode however, as to me the sound is a bit "richer" on my current car when using it.

I noticed the same problem on Saturday. My brother, a commercial pilot flew in from NYC to see the car. He indicated that the sound was very low in the back as he was only able to hear sound from the front speakers. I checked the balance/fade and they both were 0/0. I adjusted the fade to the back, and it now sounds excellent in the back with both surround and with dolby off (0/4). The volume is down slightly but equally with dolby on/off. The sound in the back is now clear and dynamic. You can move the fader backwards until nothing is heard from the front speaker.

I would suggest you pull the fader towards the back, and listen to what level is acceptable for you. My fader is 4 towards the back and balance is perfect for me.

@cosmomusic - do you have a recently-delivered car? Others have tried adjusting the fader to 100% rear with no luck, so it looks like something has been fixed by TM. It sounds like it behaves as most would expect it to now.

I received my car a week and a half ago (on 10/27) and it had the latest firmware already loaded.

I noticed today that when playing music from the Slacker app with Dolby on, the far rear speakers (located in the trunk lid) played loudly, but there was little or no sound from the rear seat side speakers. I then turned Dolby off and the speakers beside the rear seats became loud as expected. I had the fader set to only back speakers during this test.

I didn't test any other source though.

@ Getting Amped Soon - I received my car 10/22, 2 1/2 weeks ago. My system sounds great as I described above. I am not certain what could be the cause of the problems others have described above. I just went to recheck my fader just now, and it works beautifully. I have no problem achieving the balance I want.

I just got my car a few days ago and I am experiencing the low volume for rear channels issue. I have tried radio, internet, xm and digital music. All the music sounds odd and it since it sounds as if there is only music coming from the front speakers this results in the music sounding incomplete.

I fiddled with the settings and found that there is very low power and barely audible sound to the rear speakers compared to the front with normal balance/fade settings. It sounds as if half the music is missing. If I move the settings to isolate the rear speakers then I can get some volume out of them but you'll get blasted by the front speakers if you change back to normal balance/fade adjustments.

Is this an issue specific to my car? I assume that most delivered cars do not have this problem, otherwise we would have heard more about it. I see others had this problem. How did Tesla resolve it? Is it a WIP? I thought that is problem was going to be isolated to 5.1 music but I was wrong.

I found that the music I did play through the system did sound much better with dolby off.


I noticed the same thing after playing with the faders. The front speakers are far louder than the rear. I do think the system sounds great up front, as long as everything is set at 0 balance and 0 fade, however, the rear passengers will lose volume.

Which makes me curious if this has anything to do with being failsafe for young ears? I know Elon wanted the Model S to be a 'family friendly' vehicle, and being it is the first car of it's style and design to have a third row child-seat option, and an open center-console (which is most practical for mothers), I tend to get the feeling this might be more of a deliberate thing, than a bug (again, this is just speculation).

I played with it today. It seems that the volume control is not synching up with the fade. Every time I turn the volume up or down I have to adjust the fade to make it sound right. I'll let Tesla know and maybe it is just a software fix that can come along with an update. I'll advise if I learn something different.

What? Speak up. I can't hear you back here! (The radio's too loud.)


Just bumping this up to see if people are still experiencing this issue, and there have been no changes in any of the recent software updates? (I'm still on 1.15.14). My rear speakers are very faint and tinny when fader is adjusted to 100% rear. Yes, turning off Dolby makes a difference, but they still sound MUCH fainter than the other speakers.

mkh1437 -

Our Sig is running V4.1 (.29) and our rear speakers still sound like a 1950's AM "transistor radio" (if anyone remembers those!). Very faint, tinny with abysmal frequency range.

1950's am, I would get Tesla service to take a listen.

Great car in almost every respect... reinvents the driving experience... BUT, you are correct with this criticism. The stereo is TERRIBLE. I've managed to get acceptable sound by playing with front-rear balance, but even between different songs and sources the audio changes dramatically. If Tesla did something goofy (like make 5:1 the native approach without a simulator to translate stereo to 5:1), then they need to fix it or explain to us all how to adjust properly. Every other top end car I've owned over the last 30 years has driven off the floor with superb sounding stereo and minimal need for tweaking.

@Thomas25 - have you tried turning Dolby off? There have been many posts about this and that seems to have helped others.

There's no solid proof, but some people (like myself and I think you) believe that the Studio Sound system is trying to play every source in Dolby 5.1 format, which as you know, requires the source to be encoded for that (normally only movie soundtracks). What they really need is "Surround", not Dolby 5.1. Generic "Surround" just takes a stereo source and splits it up for 5.1 speaker setups, and tweaks the rear speaker delay to create a concert hall effect (I'm no expert).

I've emailed TM about this and many people have complained, but AFAIK turning the Dolby off is the only solution for now, which is a bit lame.

@Steve_P445 - I actually listen to most stereo music at home in a synthesized 7.1 format -- my Yamaha receiver processes the sound with DSP to recreate various sound stages, and I find I prefer it that way, particularly for live recordings which makes it feel like you are there. A car should be even better for that sort of thing, since you know exactly where the listeners are.

I really noticed this issue when service came out to evaluate crackling in the speakers. Anyone have a fix yet besides turning off Dolby?

side note, the speakers crackling with Slacker and Tune in is apparently known to Tesla & should be fixed in 4.3 per my service team. Annoying for now.

Dolby is designed for movie scores, not music. Rarely suitable.

(cross-posted to reach a wider audience and dispel some myths)

Alright everyone, I've asked some very clear specific questions about the Dolby Surround features to ownership and here's the definitive answers from Tesla. Specifically, see the last question and answer. Perhaps that accounts for much of the confusion here.

Q: Both the car and website simply reference "Dolby Surround". Specifically, what Dolby mode(s) are implemented? Dolby Digital? Dolby TruHD? Dolby ProLogic? Dolby ProLogic II? Dolby ProLogic IIx?

A: Model S with the Ultra High Fidelity Sound package features Dolby ProLogic IIx.

Q: If one of the Dolby ProLogic II types, do you implement the Movie or Music mode?

A: Model S uses Music mode as a bases, but [our] ProLogic IIx is specifically tuned to Model S. In fact, we have different tuning with or without the panoramic roof.

Q: Some people are asserting that they've been told by service that they need specifically encoded multi-channel audio sources in Dolby Digital 7.1 and that the Dolby Surround ON setting is only useful in those scenarios. Is that true?

A: This is not true. The purpose of ProLogic IIx is to convert 2 channel sources into multichannel sources. There is no need for the customer to provide multichannel media. That said, Dolby is not available with AM, FM, or XM sources, which is displayed in the vehicle.


Thanks for posting this important information about the Dolby processing in the Tesla.

First, stating the obvious, the point of the Dolby Prologic Iix Music processing is to extract ambience information from 2 channel sources and use that information to create a realistic sound field for listeners in the primary listening area - which I strongly suspect is the front seats. This means that the rear speakers are only putting out ambience information and may therefore sound weak to those in the back seats.

Second, while the PL Iix Movie mode has no user adjustable parameters, the Music mode typically does. Perhaps future software releases will allow users to adjust parameters such as the width and depth of the sound field.

@shs - That would be a nice idea...

The purpose of the rear speakers is commonly referred to as "rear fill". Most rear speakers may sound dull and less crisp when compared to the front ones (commonly referred to as "stage"). The last thing any sound engineer would want is to take focus away from the stage of a stereo mix, which is meant to be perceived as being in front of the listener. So the rear speakers are not meant to be listened to separately, although it does come in handy when you prefer to hold a conversation with a front seat passenger and still want to have ambient music present.

One more Q&A:

Q: Aside from a name (and price!) change, is there any difference between the old Sound Studio package and the new Ultra High Fidelity Sound package?

A: There is no functional difference. We’ve modified the price to reflect current costs of manufacturing and cost of goods. Also we’ve re-designed the package description to better reflect value. Prior to the new options, the sound system was underpriced.

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