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Car Tech Spotlight: 2014 Volkswagen Passat's Fender/Panasonic sound system

No matter the name on the system or the guitar, it all comes down to how it’s tuned. And this one is good.

By Douglas Newcomb Mar 31, 2014 8:35AM

VW Passat Fender audio systemA former public relations employee at Ford recently told me that when the automaker was considering adding Sony as a premium-brand sound system, it found out that 80 percent of people it surveyed said they owned a Sony product. I doubt that many people own a Fender guitar, but the brand has obvious appeal -- a key reason why Volkswagen has included it on cars such as the 2014 Passat SEL Premium I recently tested.

But like other name-brand OEM sound systems, the Passat’s Fender premium audio system is just that -- a brand. The actual components are from Panasonic. According to a Panasonic Automotive Systems representative, Fender was involved with tuning the system.

Regardless of the name, it sounds great and is standard on the Passat SEL Premium. And Panasonic -- not Fender -- has a secret weapon in its tuning arsenal by the name of Natan Budiono.

As lead tuner for the Fender systems, Budiono is not only a staff engineer at Panasonic Automotive Systems and a car electronics veteran, he's also a longtime “sound-off” competition champion based on his own hand-built audio systems. (Another great sounding Panasonic OEM audio product, ELS in Acura vehicles, was tuned by Grammy award-winning producer Elliot Scheiner.)

What’s also impressive about the Fender system is that it consists of only nine speakers powered by 400 watts. Unlike a lot of systems of lesser quality that have double-digit speaker counts and 1,000-watts-plus of amplification, the Passat’s Fender system shows that sometimes less is more. Whether it’s a Fender audio system or guitar, it’s all a matter of proper tuning.

Doug Newcomb has been writing about automotive-related topics since 1988. His work has appeared in Consumers Digest, Road & Track, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal and many other publications. His book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publishing.

Apr 1, 2014 6:38AM

I can just hear the dealer service dept.:

So what is wrong with your vehicle?

-The Fender.

OK, what did you hit?

-The volume button.


-I hit the volume button.

Let us take a look....

(35 min. later):

OK, the fenders look just fine, here is your bill for $79.95 diagnostic fee.

Customer swipes card......

Apr 2, 2014 3:32AM
The sound is clear, I'm happy with my system.  All the mirrors have to be adjusted after a long road trip.
Apr 10, 2014 8:40AM
 It's not so much less amps as enough.
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