New Car Sound

I had a request that I’ll honor.  I talked last week about my new car and was asked how the sound in the car was. I have mentioned that one of the ways I listen to music is during the long drives  I have to exotic places, like the trip to Bangor, Maine I made on Thursday. That was the perfect time to try out the stereo in my new car and report back.

The first thing I noticed when I got into the car is how quiet it is. As well as the 2019 Corolla we have, it can be difficult to know if the car is on or off (if we don’t have the heat or air conditioning on high). The engine is whisper quiet or better. The whole car is pretty sound-proof – there’s not a lot of road noise that penetrates, either, so overall the car is a good place to listen to music.

My Camry has a JBL audio system installed in the car. There are 8 speakers installed front and rear, with tweeters in the front and woofers in the back (I’ll keep it basic). I just did a quick search and found bascially favorable reviews for the JBL system. For installed systems it rates excellently. When I owned my Altima I bough an after-market system that was also highly-rated, and while it was good, there wasn’t the separation I found at home.

In my Camry (and indeed, in all the Toyotas I’ve driven) there seems to be a bias toward the front speakers. If I change the the fade settings to rear speakers only, the sound is far less than if I have all the music coming to the front. I know that’s in part to the fact that I am sitting in front, and therefore placement favors the front speakers. I found a sweet spot between the front and rear that was noticeable depending on which songs I was listening to.

So, the sound test. I had my iPhone (forgot to grab a couple of CD’s) for my 3-hour trip to Bangor, Maine. Overall the sound is very good, and you do get decent separation among the instruments. Better engineered tracks sounded better than some of the muddy tracks. The sound wasn’t up to the level of my home system, which is very good, but it wasn’t bad overall.

The one song I played that is a great test of a system (reminder to add it the next time I test any component) is the Columbia version of Satin Doll by Duke Ellington. There’s a great bass part that is not mixed highly, but is just an incredible piece of playing that really makes this version sing to me. Unfortunately, the bass drops out quite a bit in the car. I tried adjusting the bass level (and treble – the bass plays some beautiful higher notes as well), but to no avail. After I stopped the car I listened to the same song on headphones (form the iPhone), and I could hear the bass, so it wasn’t just the transfer of the tune to iPhone. So the Camry loses on that point.

Overall, the system is good. For most car listening it works very well, especially because of how quiet the car itself is as a base for listening to music. I am beyond looking at aftermarket systems for a car, so the system I have has to be pretty good, and this JBL in th Camry is sufficient for my needs. 3 stars (out of 5). I’ll continue to mess with the system and report later if I see any improvements. 

Today’s playlist is good for a trip, so let’s hop in my car and listen to Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Five Royales, Bob Mould, the Motels, Robyn Hitchcock, the Mosquitos, Mouth Music, Moreno +2, Mabulu, Talking Heads, Chris Isaak, and John Hiatt. 

This podcast is, as always, available to stream or download at There should be more content there, and I will try to put more things up this year. The podcast is also available to download as a podcast at your favorite podcast streamer – iTunes, Stitcher, etc. The podcast is called Check that out sometime. I welcome suggestions and comments, too – leave them as you will. Thanks for everything you do to encourage me.

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