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?
That makes a lot of sense. So I guess I'll get the HK system, and see if I still wanna change some of the speakers. The 200mm subwoofer with the HK system is over rear wheel arch.DavidE,
Yes, in your case a subwoofer is VERY important. I don't know what is there (speaker-wise) on the XC40s that don't have the upgraded system. So, I would almost say you are forced to pay the $800 upgrade if for no other reason than to have the speaker placement already in place. No matter how you look at it, you are going to spend a pretty penny to make the system sound awesome. So, you can trust that your local car audio shop (again a true car audio custom specialist and not the guys at Best Buy) can modify your Volvo without destroying it. None of this stuff will be covered under warranty. Trashing your interior with sloppily cut holes to put in speakers, will really bum you out. So, if you pay the $800 for the thirteen speakers, and then replace some or all of them and add a second subwoofer in the back (either under the trunk or with a false floor bottom in the back seats), it might be good enough. It really depends on the 600-watt sub and what it can drive. It was paired with what came with the car but it may not be able to drive better speakers. It definitely won't blow better speakers, but may leave you underwhelmed.
My vote would be for you to get the $800 upgraded HK system. Then tweak the **** out of it to see if you can get it to sound acceptable. If you can accept it. You are done. If it really does still suck, then make small incremental adjustments. First replace the front door speakers and the ones in the dash. See how that sounds. If it is good then stop. If it still sucks, then move onto better speakers in the rear. Still sucks, then add a subwoofer. Still sucks, then you will still be able to keep the upgraded aftermarket speakers you installed, but now will need a better amp. Make sure everything you are looking at is continuous and not just peak. Don't just use the maximum (pr peak) power rating when matching your amp and your speakers. Knowing the impedance that you amp can push is a good thing to know when you look to buy your speakers and subwoofers. Choosing the wrong impedance can lead to your overworking your amp and lead to your amp burning out. And everyone knows about blown speakers. Pay attention to how many ohms too. You won't want 2ohm speakers if the Volvo amp is 4ohms. I don't know what the Volvo amp is unfortunately. Just make sure that they both match.
I have the Harmon Kardon system and wasn't thrilled with it. I listen to a lot of jazz and don't play it loud, and stream most of the music from from Pandora using android auto. The fidelity streamed music is much better then broadcast radio or Sirius.
Initially I found the highs to be soft and muted(I like crisp well defined highs), and the bass to loose and occasionally distorted(I like tight well balanced base). My XC40 is a few months old with 4k miles on the odo, when I'm in the car the music is playing.... always. A 2-3 weeks ago I notice the sound quality had improved and it continues to do so. I know all new speaker need a break in period for the speaker cones to loosen up and become properly positioned in the frames. I did not expect the break in period to be this long or the improvement to be as dramatic. I had been speaker shopping at two local top notch audio shop earlier this week. After listening to streaming music both told me new speaker would not make much of a difference and to save my money.... or go with a very expensive revamp of the entire system. Even though I was spoiled by the Bowers Wilkens system in my former Volvo, I'll live with the Harmon Kardon system, it's not that bad now.
I suggest new owners with the H-K system spend a few thousand miles listening before they spend their $$$.
Are you streaming music? Do you have the H-K system? In my CX40, with the H-K system, the difference between broad cast sound fidelity and streaming sound fidelity' is huge, very noticeable even to my old ears...Paul,
You raise a very good point. I will keep my ears tuned to this possibility. My XC40 is approaching 2K miles. Like you, I am playing music every single time I am in the vehicle. I really need to see the speakers. If they are cheap paper and cardboard speakers then I do not expect them to improve but to degrade. Each week that goes by, I feel I am just subtly convincing myself that it sounds okay, or even better, but I don't believe it really is. I know that it isn't when I get in why other vehicle that is 14+ years old and still floors me when I turn that stereo system on. My wife also says the same thing. Sitting in the other car is like being in a nightclub or at a concert. Sitting in the Volvo is nice, but not as nice. I can certainly live with it. It is not a dealbreaker and I am not ready to trade it in already for another car. It just seems like it could be better but isn't so bad as to have me contemplating suicide. For those disappointed in the bass, be sure to check that the subwoofer is turned on. In one case with my XC40, the subwoofer which had been on, was actually off and it made the sound obviously lack any punch. With both back on there was more thump to be felt. It isn't good for my ears, but some might enjoy the surround sound effect too. Give that a try and see how you feel about that.
Are you streaming music? Do you have the H-K system? In my CX40, with the H-K system, the difference between broad cast sound fidelity and streaming sound fidelity' is huge, very noticeable even to my old ears...
How do we check to see if the sub wolfer is turned on?
The H-K system has an equalizer. My ears like the sound best with a minor boost at the highs end and flat through the other frequencies.