Tips for getting the best sound

Tips for getting the best sound

ŠKODA WORLD

Is there any point in adjusting the radio settings according to the number of people in the car? Is it better to hook up your phone using a cable or via Bluetooth? How should you set up the equaliser? ŠKODA’s audio experts are happy to share their top tips so you get the best out of your car’s sound system.

27. 10. 2022

Some ŠKODA audio systems have a feature called Focus. This can adjust the sound according to how full your car is. You can choose between sound for the whole interior, for the driver only, or for the front or rear seats.

The function works by delaying the channels and speaker levels so that, for example, the driver is in the middle of the sound stage. This will usually mean that the singer’s voice is directly in front of him and the instruments are symmetrically distributed around him. “The driver is much closer to the front left speakers, so they need to be delayed (delaying the front or rear speakers when selecting for the front or rear seats works in the same way). The subwoofer in the boot, which is quite far from the front seats, also needs to be timed differently to ensure that the bass reaches the ears in time,” explains Vlastimil Navrátil, reception and sound department coordinator at ŠKODA Technical Development. 

I’m not listening to that, Dad!

The Focus function is not the same as tuning the balance-fader pair, which only adjusts the level of signal reproduction left, right, forward and back. For example, Focus completely mutes the playback for the rear seats – typically used when driving with grown-up children in the back who listen to their own music on headphones and are driven to despair by their parents’ embarrassing music choices.

Teenagers in the backseats will be only too happy to listen to their own music.

Cable or wireless? 

It goes without saying that the sound source plays a major role in audio reproduction. This is especially true for music, which nowadays most people play from their own media and devices. The better the source, the better the listening experience. Of course, a flash drive with songs stored in a lossless format such as FLAC or a compression-free format (WAV) is one option for a stable connection. In the case of a lossy codec (MP3, WMA, etc.), it’s advisable to use the highest possible quality (bitrate of at least 320 kbps). Next in order of quality is cable connection via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Both of these protocols now also offer wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi. “Bluetooth gives the worst sound. But the drop in quality isn’t dramatic and this method is sufficient for day-to-day listening. But if you’re a real connoisseur you won't enjoy this kind of reproduction,” says sound systems expert Tomas Bambásek. 

If you use Apple Car Play or Android Auto to play music, a cable connection ensures higher-quality sound.

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TIP: If the driver has activated Focus for himself (i.e. to focus the sound on his seat) and is then joined in the car by a passenger, it’s a good idea to remember to switch to the Front setting, or to All. Otherwise the passenger will hear the sound “out of focus” – it will sound strange and wrong.

Forget medium or short waves. Use DAB

If you don’t want to stream your own content from a phone or flash drive, the radio obviously has the best sound. These days, Europe’s FM signal coverage ensures robust reception with enough alternative frequencies for quality stereo listening while driving. “But the outlook for analogue broadcasting, at least in Europe, is bleak: you can no longer tune in to FM stations in Norway and soon you won’t be able to in Switzerland. It’s even worse with AM, which is on the way out throughout Europe,” Navrátil explains.

In Europe especially, more and more drivers are using DAB/DAB + technology to tune into the radio.

By contrast, DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), which was made mandatory in new cars by the EU two years ago, is becoming the dominant player in electromagnetic radio transmission. It offers recipients a clean, noise-free listening experience in digital quality. And we shouldn’t forget the accompanying data, such as images for individual songs (known as slide shows) and up to 128 characters of text (DLS). This data is transmitted together with the audio. This function can be used to show a track’s title and author.

Needless to say, modern ŠKODA infotainment systems can receive both AM/FM and DAB/DAB+ with all of the aforesaid features. Another amazing function is seamless linking capability, whereby the unit is able to switch silently to the appropriate FM alternative if the DAB signal drops out, so the listener doesn’t even notice, and then switch back to DAB when the signal is restored.

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TIP: Can you turn up the volume in the car so far it damages the system? No. Every amplifier has a safeguard that monitors the reproduction volume. If playing music at loud volume for a long time causes the amp to heat up, the system automatically turns down the volume before any damage can occur. Every speaker also has a protective mechanism to prevent the membrane from being damaged by very dynamic music or a sudden volume boost. This is called a limiter, which suppresses high peaks. The limiter is constantly on in the background and can’t be switched off.

Rock, pop or classical?

Like other music players, ŠKODA audio systems offer several sound equalisation modes for different types of content. For listening to the spoken word, the Speech function is suitable: it “boosts” the spoken word and suppresses the musical component of the recording. The speech needs to stand out, so when you’re listening to an audiobook with background music, for example, the speech is enhanced and the music is “suppressed”. In addition, the subwoofer output is suppressed.

The Rock preset speaks for itself, but of course any music can be listened to with this setting. “The thing is, it’s a more aggressive setting with the treble and bass boosted. Anyone wanting a punchier sound can use this option for pop or R&B,” says Tomas Bambásek.

If it’s a harder-hitting sound you’re after, choose the Rock option.

The last equaliser setting is Classic (called Philharmonic in some models), which provides a more balanced output focused on clarity of sound and accuracy, especially for instruments used in classical music. But some people also use this option for listening to other genres, even rock – the less aggressive settings can contribute to less fatigue on long journeys. What’s more, the Philharmonic setting was fine-tuned in cooperation with experts from the actual Czech Philharmonic.

How loud?

Keep it reasonable. Volume is a purely personal matter: some people prefer to have the music in the background, others want it loud. But safety must be paramount. When you’re behind the wheel, you have to be able to hear what’s around you: other cars beeping to warn you of something, ambulance sirens and so on.

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TIP: Naturally, all ŠKODA audio systems let you dial in your own equaliser settings. The basic version has three bands (bass, mid and high); sound systems have five bands and a subwoofer level setting. You can tweak the sound setup in your car to your heart’s content. But it’s good to keep in mind that the ideal setting is “everything zeroed” – this makes the music play back just as it was recorded and mixed in the studio. The more you add to or take away from the various bands, the further you get from that state.