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Options for modifying digital audio playback in vehicle
Old 08-03-2019, 12:12 AM   #1
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Options for modifying digital audio playback in vehicle

We own a 2015 Buick Enclave which has an audio system capable of playing Bluetooth sources and USB thumb drives. The audio software, by Infotainment, leaves something to be desired. The biggest issue is the volume levels for these two input types is *a lot* lower than with the radio or CD sources. I have maxed out the volume levels within the MP3 files, and volume output adjustment on Bluetooth devices can only go so far before sound quality lags or distortion sets in.

The Infotainment software does not allow for volume offsets by source (like with the after-market Kenwood and Pioneer units). There are several other issues with the playback of Bluetooth and USB sources.

Has anyone swapped out the stock head unit on their Enclave (or the GMC Acadia or Chevy Traverse) for this model year or one close to it (say 2013-2017)? I don't intend to do this myself, although I am probably capable, but I was wondering if any of the vehicle's stock features like with chime warnings and the rear camera are still retained

Most seem to indicate having to purchase a separate Sirius-XM tuner if one wants to retain that feature, but if I can play Bluetooth and USB sourced audio with more flexibility, I could live without Sirius-XM radio. It was great to have when we moved from California to Texas and for the first few months we lived here in Texas. But now it's becoming less of an attraction. We have enough music CDs for the 50s through 90s to last us a lifetime.

I should note we do not have a head unit capable of navigation, and our audio system is not Bose.

Any similar experiences or suggestions?
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Old 08-03-2019, 06:25 AM   #2
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What if you went wired to an AUX input? You'd need to control playback from the external player, but maybe the volume would be better?

Seems odd there is such a difference. Any chance an equalizer/tone setting is boosting/cutting one source vs another?

-ERD50
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Old 08-03-2019, 07:23 AM   #3
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What if you went wired to an AUX input? You'd need to control playback from the external player, but maybe the volume would be better?
I've thought about that as an option. Not exactly an ideal solution, as we would lose control of the playback on the main unit.

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Seems odd there is such a difference. Any chance an equalizer/tone setting is boosting/cutting one source vs another?
Welcome to the world of Infotainment software, particularly with GM vehicles. I've read the owners manual for the Infotainment system inside and out, and I've entered each menu and sub-menu looking for a setting that would cause this difference. I'm not seeing it.

This is just a portion of the issues with the software. If you start the vehicle with the last played item being the USB thumb drive, the system will, from time to time, lock up into whatever radio station was last selected until the drive has been re-scanned. Not sure why the drive has to be re-scanned, but this can result in locking up the audio system anywhere from 15 seconds to two minutes. Can't switch sources, nor change the radio station the system powers up to.

BTW, when the system does come back to the USB source, whether automatically or by manual selection, the system usually doesn't remember the last song it was playing. In those cases, it defaults back to the first song in the first folder in alphabetical order. Always. Whatever playlist I might have selected previously has been lost and needs to be re-selected.

The system does have a shuffle (random) playback feature, which is fine as long as you don't want to skip a song. As soon as you do that, the system finds the next song alphabetically in the entire catalog on the USB drive. Once again, if you were in a playlist and were in shuffle mode for that playlist, that too has been lost.

The display on the head unit shows three lines of meta information for music files: song title, song artist, and album title. Pretty standard, except the first line of the display has much larger text than the other two lines. For any radio source, this is the channel, which will display completely. But for Bluetooth and USB sources, this is the song title, and truncation occurs a lot. Unlike some systems, like my DW's much older 2007 Infiniti FX35, the song title doesn't scroll across the display. One more annoyance to add to the list.
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Old 08-03-2019, 08:06 AM   #4
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I read through the list of quirks your Buick "features" when in USB playback mode and you have my sympathies.

I've got a couple of 32GB USB sticks filled with over 2,500 songs ripped from CDs and meticulously equalized, sound output levels maximized, meta-tagged with album info and artwork, etc. so I can listen to the music in my 2018 Ram 1500 with the UConnect system. I love giving audible commands and having the system carry out my request, ex. "play song 'Burning Down the House'", "play artist 'Dire Straits'", "play genre 'Cool Jazz'".

I listen almost exclusively to USB content, except for the occasional ballgame. The problems you're having with USB playback would drive me nuts!

You sound like you know what you are doing and have tried just about everything, but have you checked for software updates for your system? You may have to go to the dealer and have them scan your system to be sure you are on the latest software version.

I'd also do a Google search and find any online forums that discuss your particular GM infotainment system. You might learn how to access the service menu on your system to learn what software version you actually have and which one you need to have. Or maybe the forums will tell you which software versions are buggy and which one is the desired software version. You might even find factory techs on these forums that post downloadable versions of the software that you put on a USB stick and update your system with.

Good luck.
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Old 08-03-2019, 08:36 AM   #5
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For under $20 you could buy one of those devices that takes USB or Bluetooth input and broadcasts a low power FM signal you'd receive on your radio. They plug into the cigarette lighter 12vdc port. I'm 99% sure this isn't the answer you are looking for (kludgy, not attractive, "another thing", etc), but it is cheap and, since you are happy with your present sound quality through the FM radio, it would probably work.
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Old 08-03-2019, 03:32 PM   #6
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I read through the list of quirks your Buick "features" when in USB playback mode and you have my sympathies.
My sympathies too!!

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Originally Posted by Qs Laptop View Post
]I've got a couple of 32GB USB sticks filled with over 2,500 songs ripped from CDs and meticulously equalized, sound output levels maximized, meta-tagged with album info and artwork, etc. so I can listen to the music in my 2018 Ram 1500 with the UConnect system. I love giving audible commands and having the system carry out my request, ex. "play song 'Burning Down the House'", "play artist 'Dire Straits'", "play genre 'Cool Jazz'".
I have a 32G USB stick and it works great in my car (Acura). I don't use voice commands but have made 27 folders (A - Z + numbers) for the bands so it's easy to find what I'm looking for. I've also leveled the output volumes so every song is the same volume.

I can't remember the last time I listened to the radio.
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Old 08-03-2019, 09:06 PM   #7
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I've also leveled the output volumes so every song is the same volume.

What software? Do you just Select All, Equalize?


We want a CD player, just learning many cars don't have them anymore. Looking at a USB capable external player.
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Old 08-03-2019, 09:36 PM   #8
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I had similar issues though probably not as bad with my Tacoma double cab pickup truck. I ended up keeping the head unit and replacing all the speakers, the OEM stock speakers in most vehicles are typically very cheap (they are junk in Toyotas), and added an amplifier to boost the levels to the speakers. Check sites like Crutchfield, they often sell upgrade kits for specific vehicles that include speakers, amplifiers, and any special adapter cables you would need. It wasn't cheap, I went with high quality equipment, but the improvement in sound for all input types was amazing. If you're not the DIY type there are car audio stores that will do the work for you and could probably recommend a good upgrade.
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Old 08-03-2019, 09:51 PM   #9
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I agree with Qs Laptop. Find a forum. Here’s the Enclave forum:

Buick Enclave Forum - EnclaveForum.com

I visit the one for my truck and find it very helpful.
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Old 08-03-2019, 10:17 PM   #10
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I had similar issues though probably not as bad with my Tacoma double cab pickup truck. I ended up keeping the head unit and replacing all the speakers, the OEM stock speakers in most vehicles are typically very cheap (they are junk in Toyotas), and added an amplifier to boost the levels to the speakers. Check sites like Crutchfield, they often sell upgrade kits for specific vehicles that include speakers, amplifiers, and any special adapter cables you would need. It wasn't cheap, I went with high quality equipment, but the improvement in sound for all input types was amazing. If you're not the DIY type there are car audio stores that will do the work for you and could probably recommend a good upgrade.
Our issues aren't related to audio sound quality. Beyond the lockup and continuation issues with USB sources, the volume differences are huge between USB/Bluetooth and other sources. Something on the radio at volume 15 will be close to 30 with a USB source (with the MP3s adjusted to close to maximum volume before distortion). It's the difference between decent volume and damage to one's ear and speakers, particularly when the audio system has a mind of its own as to whether it will switch into or out of the USB source.. No amount of amp and/or speaker upgrades are going to correct this.

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I agree with Qs Laptop. Find a forum. Here’s the Enclave forum:

Buick Enclave Forum - EnclaveForum.com

I visit the one for my truck and find it very helpful.
I posted these problems a couple of years ago on a similar Enclave forum. No responses. Seems no one who owns the Enclave had any feedback. The forum you linked has had 9 topics in the audio sub-forum, the last one in 2013.

This one is a lot more active, but was pretty much unhelpful for our situation when I posted there a few times.

https://www.enclaveforum.net/5-techn...scussions.html
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Old 08-03-2019, 10:28 PM   #11
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Look also at the other models, Traverse and Arcadia. They probably have the same issues. More people drive the Traverse.

I think the next best thing is to go to a audio shop. They may have better and cheaper options than swapping out the infotainment center. So much runs through there that I would imagine it would be very difficult and expensive if it is even possible.

Buick’s have a 4 year 50K mike warranty. Is it still under warranty?
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Old 08-03-2019, 10:40 PM   #12
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Look also at the other models, Traverse and Arcadia. They probably have the same issues. More people drive the Traverse.

I think the next best thing is to go to a audio shop. They may have better and cheaper options than swapping out the infotainment center. So much runs through there that I would imagine it would be very difficult and expensive if it is even possible.

Buick’s have a 4 year 50K mike warranty. Is it still under warranty?
We just passed the 4 year mark, but we have an extended GM warranty for an additional 4yr/48K. The only issue here is Buick does not believe these are defects in the system. In addition, Buick directs me to contact Infotainment for support, and Infotainment says to push it back to Buick, claiming Buick "designed" the software. What a mess, and I wasted a lot of time with emails and phones trying to get the software updated or for workarounds.

I think an audio shop for vehicles is the next stop. I was hoping to get some feedback or suggestions before doing so to better prepare myself for what may *need* to be done to accommodate an after-market head unit. I don't want to see a $5K quote when something in the $2-3K range is more appropriate.
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Old 08-03-2019, 11:12 PM   #13
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Wow. When I drove Buick’s, I had a problem with my phone and they worked hard to fix my problem. Ultimately, they had to work with Apple and coordinate a fix. It took time, but they did it.

Have you asked the dealer to speak to the regional GM rep? I know they’re a pain, but I’d push back very hard before I’d consider paying a couple grand to get what I wanted/expected. Especially from a Buick. After that, I would write a letter to Ms. Barra. Every major company has an executive services office that responds to letters to the CEO. If they are written respectfully and with appropriate detail, they will find a resolution to your issue.

Here are the contacts and the order in which to write them.

https://www.elliott.org/company-cont...eneral-motors/
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Old 08-04-2019, 05:49 AM   #14
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What software? Do you just Select All, Equalize?
I use Media Monkey on my home PC which is a free music player that can be downloaded. It has an option to normalize, or equal the volume of mp3 files.
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Old 08-04-2019, 08:21 AM   #15
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We just passed the 4 year mark, but we have an extended GM warranty for an additional 4yr/48K. The only issue here is Buick does not believe these are defects in the system. In addition, Buick directs me to contact Infotainment for support, and Infotainment says to push it back to Buick, claiming Buick "designed" the software. What a mess, and I wasted a lot of time with emails and phones trying to get the software updated or for workarounds.
Somehow you need to figure out what version of the software is running on your system. Then you need to find out if this is the latest version available for this system.

I'd also keep Googling this problem, especially after you find out the software version because you can use that information in your search terms.

Quote:
I think an audio shop for vehicles is the next stop. I was hoping to get some feedback or suggestions before doing so to better prepare myself for what may *need* to be done to accommodate an after-market head unit. I don't want to see a $5K quote when something in the $2-3K range is more appropriate.
The thing about aftermarket head units is you may lose many built-in factory functions that operate via the touchscreen. I'd fully investigate this when you do your research on aftermarket products.
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Old 08-09-2019, 12:42 AM   #16
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Wow. When I drove Buick’s, I had a problem with my phone and they worked hard to fix my problem. Ultimately, they had to work with Apple and coordinate a fix. It took time, but they did it.

Have you asked the dealer to speak to the regional GM rep? I know they’re a pain, but I’d push back very hard before I’d consider paying a couple grand to get what I wanted/expected. Especially from a Buick. After that, I would write a letter to Ms. Barra. Every major company has an executive services office that responds to letters to the CEO. If they are written respectfully and with appropriate detail, they will find a resolution to your issue.

Here are the contacts and the order in which to write them.

https://www.elliott.org/company-cont...eneral-motors/
I am pretty much at the end of the line. Ms. Barra has my last correspondence to GM right now. I am going to give it a few weeks because it is summer and she might be on vacation during this time.

I don't have any confidence this is going to get changed. I am not sure why this doesn't bother other 2013-2017 Enclave owners with similar audio systems. Maybe they are the typical Buick stereotype of being older folks who may not care about using USB or Bluetooth for the music in their vehicles.

That may also explain why I haven't found anyone else who upgraded their Enclave audio systems to after-market products. There just may not be that many who see what we're experiencing as issues, which is likely why Buick and Infotainment have pretty much given me the middle finger up to this point.

I will wait until the end of August 2019 to hear back from GM/Buick, then I will replace the head unit with an after-market unit. This gives GM/Buick three weeks to respond and me three weeks to research other products.
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