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.
A 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.
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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.
I can just hear the dealer service dept.:
So what is wrong with your vehicle?
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......
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