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A post on the “what dont you like about your HL” got me thinking. This was the post:

As somewhat of a long term audiophile that’s spent boatloads on stereo gear over the years I find the complaints about the audio system puzzling. It sounds much better than most non premium car stereos I’ve ever owned. And better than my Moms Bose system on a CTS. Far better than my 2014 Mustang with Fords allegedly premium sound system too. Far far better than most GM and Ford products I’ve owned in the past.
I have a 2018 XLE with the stock radio. I find the audio experience to be generally ok when I am playing my own music through bluetooth. The equalizer is a bit coarse, true, but the sound isn’t horrible. Usually between the eq presets on the iphone and the eq on the car, I can get reasonable response. At loud volumes, things can get messy, but I guess that doesn't surprise me for a stock system.

However, the sound quality through the radio is another thing altogether. This is the first car Ive had with such a glaring difference between radio sound quality vs. aux/cd input sound quality. Anything through FM tends to sound muddled and flat. Sometimes, Ill notice the sound brightens up a little if I turn the car 90 degrees, which leads me to think this is an antenna problem. It’s not static crackling or anything like that, it’s just muddy.

Are the sound system complaints people have related mostly to the radio signal quality?
 

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I saw the post you referenced (by AlanL2955), and agree with it somewhat.

From a sound quality prospective, it's defiantly not audiophile worthy (IMO), but it's also not horrible, especially when comparing to other factory sound systems. The reality is, most factory systems (despite their claims and the brand they partner with), are not audiophile worthy, with the exception of some higher end luxury brands.

That said, in the HL I think the sound quality depends a lot on the source. For example, SXM is not very good, but that's an issue with SXM, the compression they use, and the quality of their service. I also believe that much of the dissatisfaction with the sound quality has more to do with the lack of dampening throughout the cabin, and the amount of road/wind noise, which forces listening at higher volumes and results in more distortion and "ear fatigue".

In my daily driver (my wife drives the HL) I have a relatively expensive aftermarket sound system (Pioneer NEX HU, Zapco amps, JL Audio subs, and speakers), and it sounds a lot better than the HL XLE, but I still enjoy listing to music when I'm in the HL, and my wife has never mentioned that she's disappointed in the SQ.

I'd say, when considering the average buyer, most will be completely satisfied with the SQ of the HL XLE factory system.

Now... the Entune, Voice Commands, and Nav. are a different topic.
 

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Why not mount a top of the line home stereo system on a car chassis and complain that the driving experience of my sound system sux man...
 

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If you are comfortable with very primitive navigation, radio, mp3 usb stick playback, and bluetooth streaming it's just fine and functional.
Just 10 years too late.

When comparing with the same year competing new SUV offerings it's probably the most primitive system out of the bunch.

Ironically the highlander still sold ridiculously well last year without much effort in marketing so clearly a lot of people aren't too concerned about the navi systems in their cars. You just won't hear them voicing their approval on forums in masses, usually it's dis-satisfied people that go on forums looking to find other people with similar concerns.
 

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I haven't ever seen a car forum where at least someone didn't think the stock stereo was a piece of crap and rushed to replace it with aftermarket parts. So someone will always answer the question "does the stock radio suck" with a "YES!!"

Personally, I think the stock system is fine. It's not the greatest thing in the world and of course it has little nuances I find annoying. But that's true of a lot of things, including my smartphone. I don't believe that Android Auto/Apple CarPlay would take a nothing infotainment system and suddenly make it seem worthwhile. It would just have different things to complain about. So I would never spend the time to take apart the dash or put more money into the car just to replace the stock stereo. That's just my opinion.
 

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From a sound quality prospective, it's defiantly not audiophile worthy (IMO), but it's also not horrible,

There isn't a car audio system (OEM or aftermarket) that's audiophile worthy. Maybe if you're sitting in your garage and listening.


There's just way too much road noise. And making it LOUD does NOT mean BETTER.
 

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The JBL is not bad. I have not found out how to adjust EQ settings (I don't think it's available). Also agree with MikeInNH the HL has road and wind noise.

Anybody figure out how to keep the car from shutting off accessory power when in drive-in theatres yet?
 

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A post on the “what dont you like about your HL” got me thinking. This was the post:
However, the sound quality through the radio is another thing altogether. This is the first car Ive had with such a glaring difference between radio sound quality vs. aux/cd input sound quality. Anything through FM tends to sound muddled and flat. Sometimes, Ill notice the sound brightens up a little if I turn the car 90 degrees, which leads me to think this is an antenna problem. It’s not static crackling or anything like that, it’s just muddy.

Are the sound system complaints people have related mostly to the radio signal quality?
Perhaps the signal from the other sources are slightly better, but the fact that the stock stereo is output is just around 1volt, vs other headunits that put out double or 3 to some 4volts. Aftermarket units put out closer to 4volts.

The other main issue is, regardless of source, the radio frequencies are restricted to output those that the speakers will play for a long time without agitating them. Other makes like Chevy, GM, Tesla, Lincoln and some others the stereo is full frequency, or at least much more open. Compared to Honda, the HL it still worse. (The models I have experienced). The head unit is the worst part. Some people change the speakers with some improvment , yet still restricted signal with 1volt out. The JBL maybe stronger output as its amplified, but still very muddy and sounds mono flat.

For people who dont care how it sounds, I am sure it is perfectly fine and adequate.
For people who like decent or good sound, they would care and want a solution. But many are not willing to go through it and take away their OEM looking dash, or spend the money...or they just dont spend enough time driving.
For people who are going to want 100% audiophile sound as if they are in a listening room may as well stay home and listen to their system, as its a good excuse not to upgrade either.

But if you use the car often, and you enjoy music, and you are used to good sound, and you just cant accept such low sound quality in the HL, you will want to fix this. There are the standard 2din head units that take a dash kit, while decent, you still loose the OEM smooth uniform look, and then there are Android head units that are very OEM looking. So its what you find important, and how you want to go about it. Look around the forum, there are plenty pix.

There are many threads and different levels of upgrades to address this issue, as you, many have noticed this. My wife who is not a complainer even noticed it and mentioned it to me.

You can find them in the Advanced search options.
 

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Wife drive the 2019 XLE and while in no way is the speakers to be considered premium, she is perfectly happy with them.

The only change I made was installing new tweeters I got from Amazon. They're the premium tweeters from an OEM set up for Subaru's and it's a plug and play install. Made a difference for sure. Cheap and quick.

Genuine Subaru H631SFJ101 Tweeter Kit
 

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There isn't a car audio system (OEM or aftermarket) that's audiophile worthy. Maybe if you're sitting in your garage and listening.


There's just way too much road noise. And making it LOUD does NOT mean BETTER.
I agree, a vehicle isn't the best environment for "audiophile" sound, and maybe "audiophile" isn't the correct term when referring to car audio. That said, in the car audio world, high quality sound is about producing the entire spectrum of listening frequencies, the separation of those frequencies (highs, mids, lows), the imaging and/or "sound stage", and minimizing distortion. Each of these brings it's own set of challenge's in a vehicle.

There are some luxury brands that do a good job with this. For example, Audi offers the Bang & Olufsen 23-speaker/1,920-watt B&O 3D Advanced Sound System. I haven't heard it, but they say it's good, and I believe it.

I'll also add that high wattage sound systems don't always translate to LOUD. Distortion is LOUD! Here's a quote from my Zapco owners manual "NOTE: A clean undistorted system simply will not sound loud. Distortion is what makes a system "sound loud" not sound pressure."

I'd also argue, if noise pollution dictates audiophile worthiness, then most homes are not "audiophile worthy" either. As most have plenty of noise pollution from HVAC, appliances, plumbing, neighbors lawn mower, etc...
 

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For a factory system in a mass-market brand, the JBL in my 2016 is surprisingly good! Like all factory systems, the amp doesn't have a lot of power, so you can't play loud without distortion. But at reasonable "wife won't complain" levels it's clear and accurate.

It's far better than the Bose systems in my other two current cars. Before the HL I had two Lexuses with Mark Levinson systems. The one in the LS 460 was awesome, and very obviously better (in both quality and potential volume) than the Toyota-JBL system. The one in the LX 570 was meh, and I wouldn't say it was any better than the JBL, except it can play a bit louder. We also test drove a Volvo XC90 with the Bowers & Wilkins system; that one was clearly superior to the JBL, but also very expensive.

Once you get out of "branded" audio systems, all factory car audio systems have basically the same components: a receiver with an amp that will put out around 15w of clean power through 4 channels, and 4 to 6 bargain-basement speakers. Pretty much all of the difference in how they sound relates to speaker placement and the acoustic environment of the car. Placement of the speakers in the Highlander is pretty good, except for the tailgate-mounted sub in the JBL system, which was a concession to packaging. So the non-JBL system should sound decent compared with other similar systems.
 

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I'd also argue, if noise pollution dictates audiophile worthiness, then most homes are not "audiophile worthy" either. As most have plenty of noise pollution from HVAC, appliances, plumbing, neighbors lawn mower, etc...

My first job as a software engineer (1977) was working for a high-end professional sound company designing a sound analyzing system that can be used when designing systems from small (100 seat) to large (50,000 seat) arena's. The system was to be designed on a PDP-11/34 we installed in a rolling half size bud cabinet. Had up to 20 mics inputted at once.


The biggest difference between a home or auditorium and a vehicle audio systems is that home or auditorium can be controlled. A vehicle CAN'T. Even in an extremely quiet vehicle like a Rolls or Bentley - controlling road noise is damn near impossible. Sure some homes will be louder then others, but you can really control that. I've built a nice home theatre and audio listening room in my cellar. Sound proof walls. It's extremely quiet. With a vehicle - you're very limited. And can't even come close to what I did.


Besides road-noise, sound stage is extremely difficult in a car. And GOOD base response. I've yet to hear GOOD base response in any vehicle. Usually too thumpy, and not crisp and detailed. They almost all butcher the reproduction of a pipe organ.


The experience just isn't even close. And I'll bet I've paid LESS for my home audio system then many of these so-called high-end car systems.


I'll also add that high wattage sound systems don't always translate to LOUD

And low wattage systems don't translate to soft. My home system is a whopping 12 watts. It's as loud or louder then 99% of all vehicle systems due to the high efficiency of the speakers. Loud (distorted or not) has NOTHING (ok maybe a little) to do with sound quality. Frequency response, dynamic range, sound stage and distortion are the factors of good sound. I enjoy listening to good jazz or classical at not very loud listening levels....and it's beautiful.
 

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My first job as a software engineer (1977) was working for a high-end professional sound company designing a sound analyzing system that can be used when designing systems from small (100 seat) to large (50,000 seat) arena's. The system was to be designed on a PDP-11/34 we installed in a rolling half size bud cabinet. Had up to 20 mics inputted at once.


The biggest difference between a home or auditorium and a vehicle audio systems is that home or auditorium can be controlled. A vehicle CAN'T. Even in an extremely quiet vehicle like a Rolls or Bentley - controlling road noise is damn near impossible. Sure some homes will be louder then others, but you can really control that. I've built a nice home theatre and audio listening room in my cellar. Sound proof walls. It's extremely quiet. With a vehicle - you're very limited. And can't even come close to what I did.


Besides road-noise, sound stage is extremely difficult in a car. And GOOD base response. I've yet to hear GOOD base response in any vehicle. Usually too thumpy, and not crisp and detailed. They almost all butcher the reproduction of a pipe organ.


The experience just isn't even close. And I'll bet I've paid LESS for my home audio system then many of these so-called high-end car systems.





And low wattage systems don't translate to soft. My home system is a whopping 12 watts. It's as loud or louder then 99% of all vehicle systems due to the high efficiency of the speakers. Loud (distorted or not) has NOTHING (ok maybe a little) to do with sound quality. Frequency response, dynamic range, sound stage and distortion are the factors of good sound. I enjoy listening to good jazz or classical at not very loud listening levels....and it's beautiful.


Point taken... but you’re really talking apples & oranges.

My comment on sound pollution in a home was based on the assumption that “most” homes don’t have dedicated listening environments.

My second point was that not everyone investing in car audio is doing it to rattle the mirrors of the car next to them.

Lastly, while you may have spent less money on your home audio system than many “so-called high-end car systems”.
I’d argue that when you factor the expenses incurred when you “built a nice home theatre and audio listening room in my cellar.”, and the value of that square footage of your home; the cost was likely many times more than your average “so-called high-end car system”.

While the the sound quality of your dedicated listening environment may not be achievable in a vehicle, it can get pretty good.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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My comment on sound pollution in a home was based on the assumption that “most” homes don’t have dedicated listening environments.

I never said they did. I just pointed out you CAN CONTROL it. With a vehicle there is very little you can do. And you don't need a dedicated listening room either. A well insulated house will block 100 times more noise then any vehicle ever made could. And just living on a 3 acre lot will reduce neighbor noise.


I’d argue that when you factor the expenses incurred when you “built a nice home theatre and audio listening room in my cellar.”, and the value of that square footage of your home; the cost was likely many times more than your average “so-called high-end car system”.

Just 3 years ago my audio system was in the family room. Still sounded better then any vehicle car high-end system. So your argument is moot. You also didn't take into account the longevity of a home's good sound system. You've probably owned 2-5 cars since I've owned my system. I did build new speakers a few years ago, but the previous speakers (40 years old) are still far better sounding the most hi-end car systems..
 

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I never said they did. I just pointed out you CAN CONTROL it. With a vehicle there is very little you can do. And you don't need a dedicated listening room either. A well insulated house will block 100 times more noise then any vehicle ever made could. And just living on a 3 acre lot will reduce neighbor noise.





Just 3 years ago my audio system was in the family room. Still sounded better then any vehicle car high-end system. So your argument is moot. You also didn't take into account the longevity of a home's good sound system. You've probably owned 2-5 cars since I've owned my system. I did build new speakers a few years ago, but the previous speakers (40 years old) are still far better sounding the most hi-end car systems..
Again... apples and oranges.

I've already conceded that home audio sounds better than car audio, but you most certainly can't enjoy your home audio system sound from the drivers seat of your HL. So it really means nothing to those who want to have the best audio achievable in their vehicle.

And "best audio achievable" will be different for everyone, based on budget, DIY skill level, listening preference, etc... For many it may be the stock system.
 

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but you most certainly can't enjoy your home audio system sound from the drivers seat of your HL. So it really means nothing to those who want to have the best audio achievable in their vehicle.

The point I've been making is - you can't really get hi-end sound from a car (any car). I enjoy listening to music. I stopped trying to listen to hi-end audio in my vehicles when I realized it just isn't possible. I know - I've tried. And for me it makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars on a throw-away sound system that's not even close to what I can enjoy at home. I have far more useful things to spend my money on.
 

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The point I've been making is - you can't really get hi-end sound from a car (any car). I enjoy listening to music. I stopped trying to listen to hi-end audio in my vehicles when I realized it just isn't possible. I know - I've tried. And for me it makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars on a throw-away sound system that's not even close to what I can enjoy at home. I have far more useful things to spend my money on.
To each their own...

I personally have no plans to upgrade the stock system in my HL; my wife drives it and she's perfectly happy with it.

That said, I have spent thousands of dollars on car audio in other vehicles, and I personally enjoy listening to a good car audio systems. While it may not meet the sound quality of a good home system, it's undeniable that an improvement in sound quality can be achieved. Because you don't see value in it, doesn't mean there isn't any. People spend money on lots of things that others don't find value in.
 
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