While Teslas are filled with a plethora of industry-leading features, new owners are often surprised by the incredible quality of the Tesla audio system and its audio features.
In fact, it is believed that Tesla’s sound systems are on-par with premium Bang and Olufsen systems ($12,000 optional sound system in vehicles like the Audi A8). Elon Musk even admitted in a tweet that they used former Bang and Olufsen engineers to design the audio systems found in the Model 3 and Model Y.
Tesla continues to refine the audio experience for Tesla owners, as indicated by the release of the new subwoofer equalizer settings as of update 2021.44.25.
With this incredible audio experience standard across all models, it should come as no surprise that music streaming is a priority for Tesla.
Part of the selling points of Tesla’s Premium Connectivity is the seamless music streaming abilities offered by Tesla.
With a Premium Connectivity plan, drivers can easily stream audio without the use of cellphone pairing solutions or Bluetooth streaming.
If a Tesla driver chooses not to purchase the Tesla Premium Connectivity Plan, they can stream audio via Bluetooth from their cellphone.
Audiophiles would point out that the act of streaming via Bluetooth degrades the quality of the music to compress the data stream for wireless transmission. A physical connection with a USB cable connected to a cellphone is not currently supported by Tesla.
In addition, drivers can use their cellphone as a hotspot, allowing the vehicle to stream audio such as Spotify using their device's data connection.
When using your device as a hotspot, you'll have access to almost all of Tesla's features included in Premium Connectivity. These include audio and video streaming services like Spotify and Netflix (accounts with these services are still required), Caraoke and more.
The only options it doesn't include are live traffic visualizations and satellite-view maps.
Available Tesla Music Streaming Services
Like many modern vehicle manufacturers, Tesla has focused on developing an infotainment ecosystem that relies on streaming services to deliver music and podcast streams to the driver via Wi-Fi and cellular connections.
Many of these services are premium services not routinely found in standard car software. Currently, Tesla offers a direct stream from Slacker, Spotify, TIDAL, and TuneIn. This is in addition to FM radio and SiriusXM for the Model S and Model X.
Tesla Streaming (Slacker Radio)
While branded as a Tesla streaming service, Tesla has partnered with Slacker Radio to provide a free Slacker Plus account (ad-free) to Tesla Premium Connectivity customers. In the US, this music service shows up in the vehicle simply as "Streaming."
This account mirrors the features of a Slacker Premium account, enabling drivers to search for songs using voice commands, create and stream playlists, and enjoy curated streaming stations for their enjoyment.
Arguably the most well-known of the streaming options, Spotify has built a reputation for exclusive high-quality podcasts and playlist management that makes them one of the most popular streaming services in the world (current market share of 31% of the global streaming market). While not known for its audio playback quality, Spotify’s streaming service offers an industry-leading catalog of material that is popular with Tesla drivers.
Although Spotify offers the ability to stream songs with a higher bit rate (HQ), it is currently not available in Teslas.
Tidal’s ad-free music streaming service is billed as a premium lossless music stream (indicating a higher quality audio experience when compared to other Tesla streaming partners).
Tesla users with a TIDAL HiFi subscription can stream audio files at 1411 Kbps using a lossless codec that doesn’t sacrifice quality for streaming bandwidth speeds.
However, users have noted that streaming these lossless files over an LTE connection can cause frequent buffering issues due to the large file sizes.
TIDAL does offer the ability to download songs via Wi-Fi to prevent buffering issues.
A lesser-known subscription-based streaming product, TuneIn offers Tesla drivers ad-free streaming of music, news networks (CNBC, CNN, FOX News Radio, and MSNBC), and live play-by-play sports with no blackouts from the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL.
There is a free tier for TuneIn users interested in listening to their curated playlists and sports radio products.
You can simply navigate to TuneIn and start listening; no need to create an account.
Popular for its large selection of curated music stations, talk radio catalog, and sports streaming, SiriusXM is a leading subscription and semi-ad-supported streaming solution for the U.S. and Canadian markets.
SiriusXM is only available in the Model S and Model X using a satellite receiver which is not available in the Model 3 or Model Y.
While there have been rumors of an internet-based SiriusXM streaming solution for other models, that solution has yet to appear in the Model 3 and Model Y.
Tesla Caraoke is Tesla’s version of the popular karaoke format. The free service (requires Premium Connectivity or Wi-Fi) allows drivers to play and sing popular karaoke songs directly from their car's infotainment system.
USB Drive (Downloaded MP3s)
For owners who prefer to play their own downloaded music collection, Tesla also allows you to plug in a USB drive and play MP3s directly from your device.
This feature can be useful if you don't subscribe to Tesla's Premium Connectivity or sometimes drive in areas with poor reception.
Your USB drive will need to be formatted using exFAT for this to work. Once the drive is plugged in you'll be able to access your music via a new USB icon available in the launcher.
Tesla will then let you view your music by artist, album, song title, or even search for your favorite songs.
Missing Streaming Services
Apple Music, the second most popular music streaming service in the US, remains absent from Tesla's streaming lineup.
Amazon Music, a close third-place finisher, also remains absent from Tesla’s audio streaming options. Pandora is also not yet available from Tesla’s infotainment system.
While a YouTube video app is available in the Theater section of the Tesla infotainment system (while parked), YouTube’s music streaming service, YouTube Music, is currently not supported.
It should be noted that workarounds exist for playing content from excluded streaming services like Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Youtube Music, etc. through the use of Bluetooth streaming.
FM & AM Radio
Tesla's also offer traditional FM radio. The Tesla interface will automatically show you all the available stations around you so that you quickly start listening to a station without having to use a dial.
Although older Model S and Model X vehicles had the ability to listen to AM radio, that capability is no longer available in newer cars. However, TuneIn has many stations available for streaming, so your favorite AM station may also be available to stream for free on TuneIn.
Apple AirPlay & CarPlay Rumors
Recently, Elon Musk indicated in a tweet that Tesla was considering the addition of AirPlay connectivity. While short of an Apple CarPlay integration, Apple Airplay would allow for improved audio streaming from iPhones when compared to current Bluetooth solutions.