Thanks for the detailed and really helpful response!Adding a real subwoofer and better aftermarket speakers is really about all you can do. It is not a totally awful sounding system, but I certainly feel like I didn't get my money's worth for this multimedia package upgrade. The 600-watt 13 speaker Harmon Kardon audio system sounds impressive on paper, but in real life, the Air Woofer technology is pitiful. About the only musical genre where it sounds quite good is Bluegrass, Jazz, Opera and Classical music. It sounds like crap with Rap, EDM, House, Club, Rock, Pop, Grunge, Heavy Metal, Country, K-Pop, Lo-fi, Dancehall, Reggae, Dub, Ambient, R&B, Grime, New Wave, Ska, Classic Rock, Speed Metal, Trance and Folk.
I don't have an Inscription. I have a fully loaded 2020 Momentum XC40. However, I agree with you that the stereo is nothing to write home about. I have a 14 year old vehicle that has a sound system that utterly destroys this one. I prefer everything about my new Volvo, but the 14-year old SUV wins the competition with audio.
I may add some Polk Audio component speakers to my Volvo, a JL Audio subwoofer and see if there is a way to upgrade the amplifier. I think the XC40 audio system is a fiber optic system called MOST (Media Oriented System Transport) and all data is transmitted by light via fiber optics. This results in sound free from electrical interference. That is a good thing since you don't get the whine you sometimes get in other audio systems in cars that pick up interference from the alternator and other electrical components in the car. However, it is a bad thing, because a lot of stereo installation shops have no idea how to work with this set-up and will mess your car up pretty bad. You are better off with a true specialty shop in that case vice your local Best Buy store's car audio installation.
I take it you don't want to replace the head unit with an aftermarket unit which is a good thing because that would be really hard, and you may lose other things (functionality) you already paid for. Things like the factory navigation system, I hear, will cease to function since it is on the MOST system loop. All the multimedia units are in a series string on the fiber loop like those old style Christmas tree lights your parents and grandparents had where when one bulb burns out, it turns them all off and the head unit is the source unit for that control.
Thank you so much for your detailed response! It's good to know that your Inscription is quiet. The R-Design might be a bit louder, but probably not by much.DavidE,
The XC40 is actually a quiet car. I am impressed with the lack of road and wind noise I have compared to other cars I have driven or ridden in. Even with the full panaramic moonroof, I am not getting much noise at all. Now, I don't even yet have 2,000 miles on it. So, that might all change as time goes on, but it is a quiet vehicle. If what you are asking is should you buy something like Kilmat or Dynamite sound deadening material to insulate, then the answer is maybe. Depends on what kind of music you listen to. Th door speakers might rattle a bit at high volume and/or with a lot of bass in the music. I'd certainly consider adding something to the outer-skin, or the inner-sheet metal on the door and/or door panel. The $800 you quote sounds great since I paid for the Multimedia Package at a cost of $1,776.00.
That only included the Sensus Navigation Pro system and the 600-watt Harman Kardon Premium audio system with 13 speakers and the Air Woofer technology.
So, if I had it to do all over again, and was going to end up "upgrading" anyway, then I'd just save the money ($800 in your case) and buy an aftermarket upgrade and bypass paying for a premium sound system that doesn't really sound very premium. If all you are doing is listening to NPR, AM weather forecasts, sports talk radio, classical music, a cappella Baroque or Gregorian chants, then the Volvo XC40 sound is fine. Otherwise, definitely get better speakers. Alpines are good. Which 2-way model(s) are you looking at getting? The 10" subwoofer will definitely make a difference in the XC40 (as the Air Woofer is a cruel joke), the only question is where are you going to put it? The XC40 trunk is not mammoth.
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Throw in a 10" sub (don't even think about a 15" one back there) and you have even less space unless you are doing some sort of custom box that becomes the floor of the trunk (pricey but doable) or you are looking at something like a Bazooka tube mounted on the side. Bazooka build quality has gone downhill though. Better to build a custom box than to pay $300 or more for their 10" bass tube that is made poorly. Putting something like a permanent subwoofer back there means you may well lose the fold-up floor and wall divider and thing you can hand grocery bags on, etc. Also think about folding the rear seats down and what that might do to your sub idea for pass-through stuff. Maybe you can do something under the seats or on the rear passenger seat floor.
It will sound better. Can't really make it sound worse. The question then becomes return on your investment. Will it sound like the money you put into the aftermarket upgrades?