Why Does Apple Music Sound Bad in My Car?

Short Answer: Apple Music can sound bad in cars due to connectivity issues or incompatible audio settings between the iPhone and car stereo. Fixes include updating software, using wired connections, adjusting audio levels, and upgrading car stereo equipment.

Are you frustrated because Apple Music sounds bad in your car? Do you wish you could fix it and make your music sound amazing?

Imagine driving and trying to sing along to your favourite song. But instead of sounding good, the music is fuzzy and muffled. Now your road trip feels ruined because the songs you love sound so bad.

Did you know that over 50% of people think Apple Music sounds worse in their car compared to their headphones? You’re not alone!

We all know the pain of Apple Music sounding bad in the car. The bass is weak, the vocals get lost, and it lacks the energy you expect.

This article will teach you how to make Apple Music sound crisp and clear in your car. You’ll learn easy tips to get great audio so you can finally enjoy the ride. Let’s begin our musical journey.

Compatibility Issues Between Phone and Car Stereo

a man trying to plug iPhone in car front desk

One of the most common reasons for poor Apple Music audio quality in cars is compatibility issues between your iPhone and your car stereo system. Here are some tips for troubleshooting compatibility problems:

  • Make sure your car stereo supports your iPhone model – Car stereos, especially older ones, may not fully support newer iPhone models which can lead to connectivity issues. Check your car stereo manual and specifications to confirm it is compatible with your iPhone’s iOS version. Getting a firmware update for your car stereo can sometimes add support for newer phones.
  • Update iOS and car stereo software – Outdated software on your iPhone or car stereo head unit can also cause compatibility issues. Make sure both your iPhone’s iOS and your car stereo software are updated to the latest versions. Software updates often include bug fixes and improvements for connectivity and audio quality.
  • Reset the connection – If your iPhone is connected to the car through Bluetooth, CarPlay, or USB, try disconnecting and reconnecting the phone. This resets the connection which could resolve any software glitches that are degrading the audio.
  • Try different cables – Faulty Lightning or USB cables can impact connectivity and lead to audio issues. Swap out your current iPhone charging cable with a high quality MFi certified one to rule out the cable as the problem.
  • Disable audio codecs – The AAC audio codec used by Apple Music may not be supported on older car stereos. Try disabling advanced codecs like AAC, ALAC, Dolby Atmos in your iPhone Music settings to improve compatibility.

If you’ve ruled out software, hardware, and connectivity issues, the problem may simply be that your car stereo is lower quality and unable to accurately reproduce Apple Music’s audio quality. Upgrading your car stereo may be the ultimate solution for improving audio playback.

Poor Quality Audio Encoding

Another potential culprit for subpar sound is the audio encoding used by Apple Music. To deliver music over the internet, Apple Music uses AAC encoding at 256 kbps. Here are some tips related to audio encoding:

  • Use a higher quality streaming bitrate – In your iPhone Music settings, enable the “High Quality Streaming” option which uses a higher 256 kbps AAC bitrate. The improved bitrate will deliver better audio quality.
  • Compare to other streaming services – Try comparing Apple Music to Spotify, Amazon Music, or Pandora. Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis encoding which some claim sounds better than AAC in cars. See if you notice a difference.
  • Download songs for offline playback – Downloaded Apple Music songs stored locally on your iPhone use a higher quality 256 kbps AAC encoding. Streaming songs use a lower 96 kbps bitrate. Downloading your library may improve quality.
  • Use wired connections – Wireless Bluetooth connections can further degrade audio quality compared to wired options like CarPlay or USB. Try switching to a wired connection and see if it improves the sound.

While AAC is highly optimized for efficiency on Apple devices, it is possible the encoding doesn’t translate perfectly to inferior car stereo systems. Using a wired higher bitrate stream or downloading songs can help minimize encoding-related issues.

Interference and Connectivity Problems

mobile showing weak bluetooth connection

In some cases, poor audio quality may be the result of interference or unreliable connectivity between your iPhone and car stereo. Here are some tips for troubleshooting wireless and wired connections:

  • Eliminate Bluetooth issues – Bluetooth can introduce pops, clicks, artifacts, and connectivity drops that degrade audio. Use a wired CarPlay or USB connection instead of Bluetooth for reliable high-quality audio.
  • Inspect Lightning and USB ports – The build-up of waste material in charging ports can block connections or cause interference. Carefully clean out the Lightning port on your iPhone and USB ports on your car stereo using compressed air.
  • Replace worn cables – Cables that connect your iPhone to your car stereo via USB or auxiliary input can wear out over time leading to connectivity problems. Swap cables for new high-quality ones.
  • Toggle Airplane mode – If you are using wireless Bluetooth, toggle Airplane mode on and off on your iPhone to force it to re-establish the Bluetooth connection which could fix issues.
  • Adjust phone position – Try moving your phone to different cup holders or positions in your car to get the strongest Bluetooth signal. Weak signal strength can manifest as pops and clicks in the audio.

Reliable wired connections like CarPlay or USB are generally preferable over Bluetooth for the best Apple Music quality. Rule out any connectivity issues first before investigating other root causes.

Mismatched Audio Levels

Another common problem that can make Apple Music sound bad in cars is mismatched volume and audio levels between your iPhone and car stereo. Here are some tips to troubleshoot audio levels:

  • Adjust relative volume levels – Make sure the volume on your iPhone and car stereo are properly balanced. If one device is significantly louder, it can lead to distortion.
  • Use your car’s EQ settings – Most modern car stereos have equalizers to adjust bass, midrange, and treble. Boost low and high frequencies to compensate for acoustic differences in your car’s interior.
  • Check for loudness normalization – The “Sound Check” feature in iOS applies loudness normalization which can impact perceived volume. Try toggling this setting off to prevent unwanted audio adjustments.
  • Turn off audio enhancements – Surround sound and spatial audio effects can degrade Apple Music quality in cars. Turn off settings like Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio on your iPhone.
  • Avoid maxing out volume – Distortion is more likely at maximum volume levels. Keep volume at 80% or lower on both iPhone and car stereo for clean amplification.

Taking the time to balance levels, adjust equalization, and disable unnecessary audio effects can go a long way towards getting Apple Music sounding perfect through your car stereo.

Incompatible Audio Codecs

Apple Music utilizes advanced audio codecs like AAC and ALAC to deliver high quality music. However, these codecs may not be supported on older car stereo systems.

  • Check your car stereo specifications – Consult the technical specifications for your car stereo to verify which audio codecs are supported. Lack of support for AAC or ALAC could be the issue.
  • Disable unsupported codecs – Go to Settings > Music on your iPhone and disable any codecs that your car stereo doesn’t support such as Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio, or Lossless.
  • Use MP3 or AAC – If your car only supports baseline codecs, switch Apple Music to use MP3 or AAC under Music settings. These are universally compatible.
  • Update car stereo firmware – Check if there is a firmware update available for your car stereo that adds support for more codecs like AAC or ALAC.
  • Get a new car stereo – If your current car stereo is too outdated, replacing it with a newer model may be the only way to get full Apple Music compatibility.

Support for lossless and surround sound music codecs has improved in newer car stereos. If your car only supports older codecs, adjust your iPhone settings accordingly to maintain the best possible audio quality.


Listening to Apple Music in the car should be an amazing experience, but subpar audio can ruin your road trips. By methodically troubleshooting compatibility issues, audio encoding, connections, levels, codecs, and acoustics, you can dramatically improve sound quality.

Apple Music should sound significantly better through your car stereo. Just be patient, do your testing, and take a systematic approach to maximizing audio quality. Before you know it, you’ll be rocking out to pristine-sounding tunes in your car!

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