Tesla Model S Plaid audio review: The best sounding Tesla?

The Tesla Model S Plaid is a ludicrously fast electric vehicle that goes toe-to-toe with hypercars in straight-line performance. However, the saloon does have its quirks with the omission of stalks, sold only as a left-hand drive and has questionable brakes for a car with 1,020 hp of power.

In terms of its audio configuration, the Model S Plaid comes fitted as standard with 22 audio drivers that combine to output 960 Watts of power.

Click here to read the full Tesla Model S Plaid review

Tesla Model S Plaid audio setup

To tweak the audio settings, one has to navigate through the 17″ infotainment system to find the appropriate menu. Here are our optimal settings:

  • Sub: +1.5
  • Bass: -1
  • Lower-mids: +0.5
  • Mids: -0.5
  • Upper-mids: +0
  • Treble: +1
  • Immersive Sound: Standard
  • Balance & Fader: Centre
  • Active Road Noise Reduction: Enabled

To connect to the vehicle’s audio system using your smartphone, you’ll be limited to using Bluetooth only – the USB Type-C ports are for charging only. As Tesla’s infotainment system doesn’t support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, this is the only way to playback media files from a phone. Here, the AAC and SBC codecs are supported. It is, however, a real shame that the aptX and LDAC codecs aren’t, as it would have reduced the transmission loss, and thus improved the audio quality, over Bluetooth.

On the plus side, there is the option to plug a flash drive into the USB Type-A port found in the glove box. It must be formatted to FAT32 and should you wish to continue using the dashcam feature, you’ll need to partition the drive. Once utilised, you’ll be able to playback MP3 and higher-resolution files that have been recorded in the FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec File) and WAV formats – up to 24-bit 192 kHz is supported. This makes the Model 3 among a finite group of cars that can support higher-resolution playback, which is ideal for budding audiophiles.

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Aside from your traditional inputs, there is ‘Premium Connectivity’, which is a subscription that costs £10 a month. This gives you the ability to stream music at a higher quality by using Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal, with video streaming platforms Netflix, YouTube and Twitch also available as alternatives.

Read next: Tesla Model 3 audio review: Better than the Polestar 2?

Tesla Model S Plaid audio performance

For a demo of the Tesla Model S Plaid’s audio system, head on over to our YouTube channel.

In terms of its audio configuration, the manufacturer hasn’t shared any extra information other than 22 audio drivers, which combined output 960 Watts of power. However, upon digging around on the internet and inspecting the audio drivers through the grilles, it would seem the Model S Plaid has the following setup: in the dashboard, you’ll find three 3” mid-range drivers and at each extremity a singular 1” tweeter; within the A-pillars, you have a singular 1″ tweeter; the front doors each have a singular 8″ mid-woofer and a 2″ tweeter; the rear doors each have a singular 6″ mid-woofer and a 2″ tweeter; integrated within the headliner there are four 1″ tweeters; there are also two 3″ mid-range speakers within the rear parcel shelf, which is integrated with the tailgate itself; and to complete the system there’s a single 8″ subwoofer in the boot.

Much like the premium audio systems found in the Model Y and Model 3, the subwoofer in the Model S Plaid does a valiant job of reproducing those lower-end tones. There’s a good amount of extension and rumble, which can be both heard and felt. With that said, the 8″ speaker doesn’t quite compete with the subwoofers that are found in the BMW i7, Bentley Bentayga, BMW i4, Audi e-tron GT, Porsche Taycan, Kia Soul EV, and Polestar 2 – these vehicles have that extra little oomph in the lower echelons of the frequency range, which will entice those who love bass.

However, the mid-bass tones are done to perfection in the Tesla. The mid-woofers found within each of the four doors do a faultless job of reproducing a punchy sound in Wizkid’s single titled, ‘No Stress’. There’s excellent control, no rattle and plenty of quantity; we reduced a few notches to the ‘Bass’ EQ to help subdue the impact.

What stands out more than anything is its mid-range reproduction. In the past, we’ve been very impressed by what Tesla has been able to offer to its customers, but the Model S Plaid ups the ante ever so slightly. Vocals come to full fruition no matter where you’re sat in the cabin; they’re certainly not recessed, like the systems found in the Audi e-tron GT or Porsche Taycan. It’s very impressive, to say the least, competing with the very best in-car audio systems that we’ve reviewed to date.

Similarly, the top end has excellent extension. The tweeters found at the front and rear of the cabin, elevate the audio experience by providing an engaging sound; it’s a little better at the front, as you’ve got more tweeters. It’s also not sibilant or harsh at louder volumes, which means you can listen for hours on end without getting any ear fatigue. To help bring out that extra bit of zest, we added one notch to the ‘Treble’ EQ.

The Model S Plaid’s biggest weakness per se, is its soundstage reproduction. With the ‘Immersive Sound’ slider set to ‘Off’, there’s a uni-directional reference sound but with it cranked up to the maximum you’re left with an inaccurate reproduction and an odd reverb, which takes away from the overall accuracy of the system. Our suggestion is to set it to the ‘Standard’ setting that effectively leaves you with a happy medium – a more enveloping experience without compromising too much on accuracy.

Tesla Model S Plaid front seals

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In this respect, the Model S Plaid can’t quite compete with systems found in the BMW i7 or Bentley Bentayga, and to some extent, we expected better from the automaker that’s spoiled us in its cheaper offerings, the Model Y and Model 3. We should point out that we are being quite critical here, as in reality, the Model S Plaid far surpasses its main rivals, the Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan. For example, listening to Armin van Buuren’s album, ‘A State of Trance, Ibiza 2023’, more specifically the track titled ‘Motive (Jochem Hamerling Remix)’, the Model S Plaid’s system does a phenomenal job in separating the instruments and keeping you excited throughout the entirety of the song.

Aside from its stellar sound reproduction, the Model S Plaid has a very quiet cabin, competing with some of the most serene we’ve tested to date. This is partially thanks to the adaptive Active Road Noise Reduction technology, which can be enabled through the infotainment system. It helps reduce low-end hums that can be heard when traversing on the motorway at higher speeds. Using a sound meter, we recorded: 36 dBA at a standstill; 49-54 dBA, while driving at 20-30mph; 49-54 dBA, while driving at 40mph; and 63-67 dBA when at 70mph.

Tesla Model S Plaid audio award

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TotallyEV’s verdict on the Tesla Model S Plaid’s audio system

While we’ve been quite critical in certain areas, the Tesla Model S Plaid’s audio system is still an incredible-sounding configuration that competes with some of the very best in the market. As such, it receives TotallyEV’s Audio Excellence award.

Tesla set a very high benchmark with its cheaper offerings, the Model Y and Model 3, and to some extent, we expected a bit more from its flagship vehicle, the Model S Plaid; namely in the soundstage and sub-bass departments. Make no mistake, however, the hypercar-like EV is one of the most impressive audio systems that we’ve heard to date.

What do you make of the audio system? Let us know in the comments or via social media; we’re on: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Christopher Minasians
Christopher is an avid car enthusiast and techie. In his spare time, he reviews the latest consumer electronic products on his YouTube channel, TotallydubbedHD. Elsewhere, he practices Taekwondo, in which he has held a black belt for several years and coaches at a national level. He also speaks fluent English, French, Armenian, and loves to practice freestyle street dance.
tesla-model-s-plaid-audio-review-the-best-sounding-teslaThe Tesla Model S Plaid builds upon the cheaper Model 3 and Model Y by offering further refinement in the mid-range department, although does fall short in the soundstage department. Despite a few shortcomings, the Model S Plaid's audio system is still among one of the best we've heard to date and as such, receives TotallyEV's Audio Excellence award.


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