Some ŠKODA audio systems have a feature called Focus. This can adjust the sound according to how full your car is. You can choose between sound for the whole interior, for the driver only, or for the front or rear seats.

The function works by delaying the channels and speaker levels so that, for example, the driver is in the middle of the sound stage. This will usually mean that the singer’s voice is directly in front of him and the instruments are symmetrically distributed around him. “The driver is much closer to the front left speakers, so they need to be delayed (delaying the front or rear speakers when selecting for the front or rear seats works in the same way). The subwoofer in the boot, which is quite far from the front seats, also needs to be timed differently to ensure that the bass reaches the ears in time,” explains Vlastimil Navrátil, reception and sound department coordinator at ŠKODA Technical Development.

Cable or wireless?

It goes without saying that the sound source plays a major role in audio reproduction. This is especially true for music, which nowadays most people play from their own media and devices. The better the source, the better the listening experience. Of course, a flash drive with songs stored in a lossless format such as FLAC or a compression-free format (WAV) is one option for a stable connection. In the case of a lossy codec (MP3, WMA, etc.), it’s advisable to use the highest possible quality (bitrate of at least 320 kbps). Next in order of quality is cable connection via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Both of these protocols now also offer wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi. “Bluetooth gives the worst sound. But the drop in quality isn’t dramatic and this method is sufficient for day-to-day listening. But if you’re a real connoisseur you won't enjoy this kind of reproduction,” says sound systems expert Tomas Bambásek.

Android Auto to play music

If you use Apple Car Play or Android Auto to play music, a cable connection ensures higher-quality sound.

Forget medium or short waves. Use DAB

If you don’t want to stream your own content from a phone or flash drive, the radio obviously has the best sound. These days, Europe’s FM signal coverage ensures robust reception with enough alternative frequencies for quality stereo listening while driving. “But the outlook for analogue broadcasting, at least in Europe, is bleak: you can no longer tune in to FM stations in Norway and soon you won’t be able to in Switzerland. It’s even worse with AM, which is on the way out throughout Europe,” Navrátil explains.

DAB/DAB + technology

In Europe especially, more and more drivers are using DAB/DAB + technology to tune into the radio.

By contrast, DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), which was made mandatory in new cars by the EU two years ago, is becoming the dominant player in electromagnetic radio transmission. It offers recipients a clean, noise-free listening experience in digital quality. And we shouldn’t forget the accompanying data, such as images for individual songs (known as slide shows) and up to 128 characters of text (DLS). This data is transmitted together with the audio. This function can be used to show a track’s title and author.

Needless to say, modern ŠKODA infotainment systems can receive both AM/FM and DAB/DAB+ with all of the aforesaid features. Another amazing function is seamless linking capability, whereby the unit is able to switch silently to the appropriate FM alternative if the DAB signal drops out, so the listener doesn’t even notice, and then switch back to DAB when the signal is restored.

Rock, pop or classical?

Like other music players, ŠKODA audio systems offer several sound equalisation modes for different types of content. For listening to the spoken word, the Speech function is suitable: it “boosts” the spoken word and suppresses the musical component of the recording. The speech needs to stand out, so when you’re listening to an audiobook with background music, for example, the speech is enhanced and the music is “suppressed”. In addition, the subwoofer output is suppressed.

The Rock preset speaks for itself, but of course any music can be listened to with this setting. “The thing is, it’s a more aggressive setting with the treble and bass boosted. Anyone wanting a punchier sound can use this option for pop or R&B,” says Tomas Bambásek.

harder-hitting sound

If it’s a harder-hitting sound you’re after, choose the Rock option.

The last equaliser setting is Classic (called Philharmonic in some models), which provides a more balanced output focused on clarity of sound and accuracy, especially for instruments used in classical music. But some people also use this option for listening to other genres, even rock – the less aggressive settings can contribute to less fatigue on long journeys. What’s more, the Philharmonic setting was fine-tuned in cooperation with experts from the actual Czech Philharmonic.

How loud?

Keep it reasonable. Volume is a purely personal matter: some people prefer to have the music in the background, others want it loud. But safety must be paramount. When you’re behind the wheel, you have to be able to hear what’s around you: other cars beeping to warn you of something, ambulance sirens and so on.

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