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Chevy Volt Bose Sound System/Speakers Review – Chevy Volt Owner’s Review Series (Part 2)

Chevy Volt Bose Speakers and Sound System

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt comes standard with a premium Bose low energy sound system.  This review will give you some perspective on what you really get with the premium speaker system – as well as the built in audio infotainment system, which includes a 30 gigabyte internal hard drive to record live radio and to store music on.  This perspective will be helpful both to 2011 Volt buyers and future Volt buyers as there are plans by GM to “de-content” the base model Volt in the future.  For example, the premium audio system will become an optional feature instead of a standard feature, which should hopefully open up the affordability of the Volt the greater masses in the near future (the base model currently has an MSRP of $41,000 before tax credits).

While most “audiophiles” out there will discount Bose as an overly marketed, overly hyped speaker line – from the perspective of a regular car buyer the Speaker System in the Volt is certainly a level above  what you might normally expect from a standard car speaker system.  While you won’t really be pumping out the bass in the Volt’s Audio System, the bass is more than adequate and also typically not heavily distorted.  The mid to high range of audio reproduction stands out as particularly crisp and clear.

The best way of course to understand the difference is to hear it yourself, but lacking that exact experience – here’s one way to think about it.  If you are interested enough at all the read this article, you might be familiar with the concept of “lossy” audio compressions (e.g. Mp3, M4a, M4p etc) vs Lossless or raw audio (FLAC and WAV).  For the test at hand, I played the audio tracks of “Butterfly Lovers” (a very vibrant and complex contemporary violin concerto) in the original CD format vs Mp3 format 128 kbit/s sampling.  In a cheap stereo system, you would not really be able to discern the difference between the two formats because although the Mp3 format is lower quality, the speakers themselves could not produce a high fidelity enough of a sound for you to tell the difference.  However in the Volt’s Bose System, the difference was immediate and obvious.

So much detail was lost in the conversion from WAV to Mp3 and it was obvious in the Volt’s Bose Speaker System.  If you play the same thing on computer speakers or a set of cheap headphones, you would not know the difference.

Another way to look at it is that in most standard car audio systems, you can tell the difference in audio quality between AM and FM radio, but not between FM and XM.  In the Volt, you can tell the difference between XM and CD Quality.  (AM/FM/XM/CD) is ordered by sound Quality is in that order

This is a good segue into another aspect of the audio system, which is the built in hard drive / audio recording – infotainment system.  It is pretty evident that the infotainment system (primarily with regards to the software as user interface) is a version 1 and much more development can be done on it to make it a better experience.  In the example above, when you record a CD onto the hard drive of the Volt, it actually compresses the Audio Stream into Mp3, and thus the quality is lost (and is evident because of the high end speakers in the Volt).  So playing audio directly from a CD is not the same as recording the CD onto the hard drive of the Volt.  Additionally, though the Volt supports CD playback, it does not support WAV playback if for example you tried to play music from a USB stick in WAV format.  Forget lossless compression playback as well.

Additionally the functionality to pause and record live radio is fairly limited because of the fact that you can’t record XM (due to licensing restrictions)  so you’re stuck with recording AM / FM shows.  If you’re like me, I’d rather just download a podcast and listen to it on my own terms.

You of course, always have the option to use your own PMP (portable media player) and plug it into the aux jack of the Volt, which is a decent workaround, but obviously less convenient because there would be no integration with the infotainment console to control tracks etc.

As a buyer of a 2011 Chevy Volt are getting a great speaker system with the Volt today, but the accessibility to it still leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Have thoughts or experiences with the Audio System?  Let me know!

2 Responses to “Chevy Volt Bose Sound System/Speakers Review – Chevy Volt Owner’s Review Series (Part 2)”

  1. Regent says:

    A little question, do you feel ears fatigue after listening for a while because of the energy saving feature? I heard that sound is cut off completely (is it perceptible?) during moments with no or little sound levels (like old days long distance phone calls). Regent.

    • PatrickZWang says:

      I don’t notice any detrimental aspects to the listening experience. It sounds pretty good and you can listen to it easily for long periods of time.

      Patrick

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