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did a back-to-back listening comparison '17 LT stock vs. '17 Bose vs. '13 Bose

5851 Views 43 Replies 22 Participants Last post by  onevoice
I've been kicking some gen 2 tires and wanted to see whether the Bose is a must have.

The dealership had an LT and a Premier right next to each other. I took my iphone (with connecting USB) and a well-known song that had some dynamic range, some bass heavy sections, some singing, some higher treble notes.

The salesperson was busy, so he gave me the keys and told me to have fun comparing the sound systems. Even better! No pressure.

Let me share my impressions:

The stock (non-bose) was "better than expected" -- mainly because it had more low end than I thought it would without a subwoofer. Let me be clear that this does not mean "good"--it got muddy and distorted quickly.

The Bose, however, was "worse than expected"--I had read that many issues with the Gen 1 Bose were fixed in the Gen 2, but I think the Bose in my '13 is overall better, with some caveats.

The Gen 2 subwoofers are better placed and offer more "punch" than the '13 (and much more than the stock LT). The Bose would vibrate my seat--and offer "louder" sound at lower "volume" than required in the LT. In fact, the Bose system was absolutely "louder" overall.

My disappointment was the muddy sound. It was just not clear and wide, despite the lower end. I didn't have time to start investigating the system in depth to figure out why, I just used some fading and adjusting with the EQ to get a sense of its range. The '13 seems clearer to me.

Both the Bose and the stock suffered from "narrowing" of the sound--neither offered a wide, crisp sound--although the Bose was marginally better.

Bottom line -- the Bose did not reach "must have" territory for me and I would settle with a stock system and look at upgrades later if worth it. I just didn't think it was "good enough" to warrant the extra cost over the stock system--I would rather pay more aftermarket for a system I would really enjoy than "more" for a "less bad" system.

Funny thing is, getting back into my '13, I played the same song for comparison and found that it was crisper and clearer overall, but it didn't have as much low end punch (but I also have a heavy Volt mat in the back).

I know this is an issue that many people question and I just wanted to share my $0.02--it's obviously an issue of personal taste for everyone.
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It's nice to know I have one more reason to keep my gen1 volt. If only you could also cmpare the gen1 volt to an ELR and CT6 plugin....:).
Until such time as "audiophiles" including their blogs, forums, magazines etc., start providing proper scientifically-based, double-blind studies using a number of listeners I just ignore them.
My ears tell me that my Volt sound system is better than the sound system in my CTS (speakers are probably worn) and my Suburban (22 years old). Maybe it's as simple as getting new speakers all around on the older cars. Alas, I agree the Volt speakers don't wow me. But I certainly am no audiophile. While others are sporting Bose or Beats headphones, I quite like the Apple wired earbuds that came with my phone. BTW any audiophiles out there with a drawer full of the Apple newer earbuds with that interesting shape, I'd be happy to help you clear your junk drawer.
I was initially unimpressed with the Bose system in my '13. But after playing with the tone controls I was able to get acceptable sound out of it. I too am not a Bose fan. My old McIntosh system is still pretty darn impressive, and it's circa 1975. I should note that you have to adjust the tone controls for EACH source in the '13. Else you will probably be getting "flat" sound from any source you haven't adjusted. Very important. As a comparison, the stock stereo in my Leaf was awful. Muddy, indistinct, no sound stage. The Volt actually presents a sound stage that isn't too bad, considering it's a car. I like the subwoofer too. We had some friends that had a Lexus 450 (sedan) for awhile with a 12-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. Now that was impressive. ML has always made very high-end audio, with accompanying price tag.
I learned long ago, setting everything to flat is the only way to avoid blowing your speakers. Any additional bass or treble and a little high volume adds distortion which is killer on speakers. I set all of my systems to completely flat equalization and the only possible change I make is to fade to the front so people in the back seats can sleep on long road trips. I great sound system should sound awesome flat.
After reading this thread, I hopped into the gen1 volt with bose, queued up Linkin Park and Fort Minor via pandora via Bluetooth, turned up the volume a little, completely flat equalization, and listened carefully. I think the bose sound system is awesome.
When I bought my 2017, I wanted the least options I could get, but I did opt for the Bose system. I was satisfied with it for over a year as it was nearly as good as the premium Harman-Kardon system in my German car. However, a couple of weeks ago I bought a car with a 770 watt, 12 speaker and two subs Meridian system, and now I hate the other two.
Now you are doomed to a life of expensive car stereo systems. Had you not bought this car with the Meridians, you would have never known what you were missing. It would be cheaper to buy a used VW bug with a crappy AM radio. Ride in that for an hour, and you'll love the bose system in comparison.
I tend to agree with most comments about Bose. One of my home systems is a 5.1 Bose Acoustimass with the little cubes. Great for surround effects and bass, but sucks on music. I replaced the front channel cubes with Sony 8" 3-way systems to get back the midrange for decent music.

The Volvo I traded in on the Volt had their premium sound package - 5.1 surround, Dolby, reverb, 6 CD changer - and it would produce some really good sound from the CDs, so I was a bit unsure about what the Volt Bose could do. I did use Bluetooth occasionally from my phone, but I always thought that was a clunky compromise.

I have been somewhat surprised withe the Volt Bose - I can't say that it is exceptional, but it is acceptable. Again, it takes a little tweaking and getting used to the idiosyncrasies of that weird audio system. I'm not a hard rock or hip-hop type, so I'm probably not pushing the system hard, but it sounds pretty good on light classics and easy listening. I have loaded a library of music to a USB stick and use it primarily, but I do think the CD produces a bit better sound.

As far as a good side-by-side comparison is concerned, why use a phone unless you are using one of the low-loss conversion formats for your music? MP3, AAC, and WMA files all discard some content in the conversion. You would be better off using a CD as your test source.
I guess I'm sort of a Bose fan as I have 161's in my 7.2 surround system. But I'm not an audiophile. I just like the small size and having them on speaker stands that I put in place when we are watching a movie, and hide in the back of the room when we want it to look like a regular living room. I didn't even comparison shop, just wanted them because of their interesting cool shape. My son got them for me as a gift, though I should have specified white instead of black.
Aye. This post makes me sick. BT has so little data in it. Pandora isn't a whole lot better. Even an amazing system isn't going to sound good using this setup.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
I know an audiophile would insist this couldn't have sounded good, but the audio sounded great. I've taken uncompressed files on my 5th gen iPod plugged into the aux port, and even though that packs a little more punch and clarity, the compression over a cell phone via pandora then pushed through Bluetooth was surprisingly nice. Or maybe I'm just old and am losing my hearing.
Aye. This post makes me sick. BT has so little data in it. Pandora isn't a whole lot better. Even an amazing system isn't going to sound good using this setup.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Ok, so on a 3 hour drive to Chicagoland and back where I was all by myself, I decided to compare the sound between using the Aux cable and using Bluetooth. Audio through Bluetooth sounds good, but now I get what you are saying. Through copper wiring, the bass was a bit deeper, the overall sound was richer, the separation was more noticeable. Damn you, now you've made me into an audio snob where I now have to plug in two cables (power and aux) instead of just one.

Ignorance was bliss. Please Mr. smith, put me back into the matrix before I even knew about a blue or a red pill...
Mostly recovered audiophile here. Trust me, it is a slippery slope...

True old school audiophiles often diss Bose. It dates back to the early 1970s, when some audio mag gave the the 901s a bad review. Dr Amar Bose took the magazine to court over it. Ever since then they have been on the audiophile s--- list. Their systems have generally required a lot of equalization and various enclosure tricks to get reasonable sound. Car audio no exception. That said, their systems do sound pleasant to many ears.
For 3 decades now, I have avoided the audiophile slope buying run-of-the-mill like a Sony receiver and cheap bookshelf speakers. Then two christmas's ago, my family bought me a 7.1 surround system with Bose 161 speakers and Polk Audio subwoofer and center channel. Going to resistdoing anything with my volt since it sounds nice enough, but I might mess with some new cheap speaker replacements for my CTS and Suburban since those speakers are really old and don't sound very good.
My '96 Suburban pretty much still has its stock system. I retrofitted the factory CD player to it early on. One door speaker had a rattle that you could only hear with certain bass lines. I used a test CD (frequency sweeps, etc) to demo it to the service tech, and he found a mis-routed wire behind the door panel. Then, some years ago, I replaced the 4x10s in the back-back ceiling. They get really hot up there, and one of the speakers warped enough that it caused the voice coil to start rubbing. Used some jobber level 4x10s which have been fine.

Any speaker driver that is more than 10-20 years old and has a foam surround should be checked, as the foam surrounds can deteriorate with age. Once the foam deteriorates, they sound like angry moths flapping around. For decent home speakers, one can buy kits to replace the surrounds. In theory one could do it with car speakers too (4x10s excepted.) But the drivers that most car manufacturers use are not that great. So most folks just replace them with aftermarket.
96 Suburban huh? I have a 95....a 3/4 ton, the last with the throttle body injection (which old fogeys tell me was the best).

BTW my factory CD player as a CD stuck in it that won't eject
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