What's Wrong with My Lexus Car Audio?
January 29, 2014 4:33 PM   Subscribe

What's Wrong with My Lexus Car Audio? Help me solve this audio mystery and improve the sound quality in my my car I bought a 2013 Lexus E300h in September 2013. It came with the "upgraded" Mark Levinson audio system. I was expecting an aural paradise. Imagine my surprise when i realized the sound was worse than my 10 year old trade in with a stock audio system from 2003.

I've played with all the equalizer settings. That's not the problem. In descending order ofd sound quality are: Bluetooth streamed Spotify (sounds OK), iPod (OK, but slightly less OK), CD's, FM radio, and completely unacceptable: XM Radio and HD Radio. I brought the car back to the dealer twice. They claimed not to hear any problems. I finally had all the speakers replaced, added an amp and an equalizer. Now everything sounds good, EXCEPT: HD FM and XM Satellite still sound like crap.

The HD FM music stations have a fingernails-on-blackboard scratchiness in the high-end. There is a constant subtle buzz that distorts cymbals, high notes, voices in the upper registers. It sounds like a radio that is not quite tuned in to the center of the station's signal. It's really noxious; bad enough that i cant listen to it for more than a couple minutes in a row. I assume the poor music quality on satellite radio has to do with compression of the signal, but I don't know. DO you think it could be a problem with the tuner in the dead end? Could it be an antenna connection problem? All suggestions welcome. In the mean time -- don't buy a Lexus with the Levinson audio
posted by Carsey to Technology (3 answers total)
HD FM & XM satellite are digitally compressed (think low bitrate mp3) which the other sources are not (Ipod should be much higher bitrate). Some channels get more bandwidth than others on XM. The brief time i had Sirius in my car there were several channels that just sounded awful audio quality wise, while some others had a higher bitrate and were ok.

The antenna connection for HDFM & XM won't affect the sound quality, being digital, you either receive it, or you don't, its not like analog FM.

CD's should sound the best, since they are the only source without lossy compression. I would test with them. Compare them in other people's cars, etc.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:43 PM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you get the dealer to let you play a CD in another car on their lot? That should tell you if something is wrong with your car or if the sound system just isn't very good.
posted by Betelgeuse at 4:56 PM on January 29, 2014

I would be suspicious of a bad tweeter, or an amplifier issue. An ex of mine had a slightly older hybrid lexus(rx400h) with the upgraded stereo and it sounded amazing. The high end was particularly crisp and awesome without being "harsh".

My dad also has a subaru with HD radio, and it sounds great. It's significantly better than normal broadcast radio and sounds about as good as a decent online stream. A direct-connected ipod should sound amazing as well.

I would imagine bluetooth spotify sounds better because it's getting compressed twice(as in, by spotify, and then by the bluetooth A2DP codec which i doubt is one of the better ones like APT-X if you notice a difference). Why would that matter? Because the compression is smushing down the high end, which is where you're noticing the harshness. It's essentially EQing out the frequency range that sounds bad on this system.

I don't think this is the tuner or the antenna, i think this is an amplification or driver issue. Definitely do the test mentioned above of playing a CD that sounds bad in your car on another of the same model at the lot.
posted by emptythought at 7:06 PM on January 29, 2014

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