Pumping on the Stereo: TTAC Rocks ... and Rolls

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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pumping on the stereo ttac rocks and rolls

A week or so ago, I was in Tennessee, testing the Volkswagen ID.4, blasting some country music on satellite radio simply because I was in Tennessee, and it hit me. You folks might be wondering what, if any, music TTAC staffers play while testing.

After all, automakers love to tout the premium audio systems available in their vehicles. This means that we, of course, rock out sometimes.

But only sometimes. When testing, I always turn the radio to mute for at least some of the time, so that I can hear wind/road/tire noise and get a sense of how quiet the cabin is. But the rest of the time, I am rocking out to various genres of music. And so is the rest of the staff.

Chris and I are the ones in test cars the most, so he and I agreed to share our tastes with you. I asked the others but they were mum. No way to tell if that means someone is secretly a Nickelback fan and just afraid to admit it.


I’ll go first. As I said, when testing I mute the radio for a least a little while. When it’s time for tunes, I am all over the place, and I don’t have a set playlist like Chris does (see below). I like most genres of rock, from alternative to classic to Southern to pop rock. In terms of satellite radio, I wander the dial from channel 24 (Margaritaville) to 34 (Lithium), occasionally going a bit further up or down.

I’m the only person I know who has seen both Jimmy Buffett and Metallica in concert multiple times. I’m also a bit of a Deadhead in addition to being a Parrothead. Speaking of heads, I also love the Talking Heads. Paul Simon, The Who, John Mellencamp, Lynyrd Skynyrd – all part of the mix. Lest you think all my musical tastes are Boomerific, I often listen to Arcade Fire radio on Pandora.

Of course, I am a child of the ‘90s, meaning alternative rock is big. From Foo Fighters to Everclear to Green Day to even the ska stuff that hit the airwaves back then (Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones), if it was on Chicago’s Q101 FM between 1994 and 2000, I was probably into it.

I also like country, both the ‘90s stuff (Garth Brooks, George Strait) I grew up with and the more recent “bro” stuff – think Luke Bryan or Eric Church. ‘80s music of all kinds, from hair metal to synth, is also often on the playlist.

Rap and hip-hop are part of the mix, too, from Common to De La Soul to Kanye to the classic Snoop and Dre stuff from the ‘90s.

Sometimes I switch off the music and listen to the local sports yakkers or the news, too. It’s not all musical fun and games.

Really, I will listen to anything except classical or jazz. Nothing against those genres, just not my cup of tea. I also ignore most bubble-gum/Top 40 pop (though some stuff is good). If it has a beat and makes me feel good, it’s on the list.

Take it away, Chris.

Chris Tonn

I’m not an audiophile. While, yes, I did go out recently and buy an older stereo so I could play my old records – and, in the process, found myself buying a new pressing of A Trick of The Tail by Genesis (see my 2018 review of the Genesis G80 for other thoughts on the band) I don’t have a tube amp or high-end speakers or anything like that. I just enjoy a variety of music both at home and in the car, and the sound of a good needle drop brings me back to the early Nineties when I couldn’t afford a CD player and had to make do with a variety of cheap used records from the local used bookstore.

Spotify has become my musical savior when I tire of SiriusXM. I have an hour-long playlist that spans a few genres of music so I can see how a car’s speaker setup manages. Beyond that, I simply keep all of my favorites in one cross-genre playlist sitting at around 2,000 songs so I get a wide variety throughout my drive.

A caveat: remember that playing anything via Bluetooth or satellite isn’t a perfect representation of the music – it’s a downscaled digital rendering of a higher-quality track. But realistically, how many people are carrying around full lossless audio files to get perfect sound reproduction in an automotive listening environment that will be otherwise marred by road and wind noise, let alone kids who want to play whatever crap music they’ve found on TikTok? I did attend an Acura event a few years ago where the admittedly excellent ELS audio was noticeably enhanced by a thumb drive of FLAC files playing from the center console, but I only listened in a parking lot. I can’t imagine the difference would be noticeable when driving.


Now you know what two of us listen to while testing. What do you all out there listen to when commuting?

[Images: Yevhenii Orlov/Shutterstock.com, © 2021 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 48 comments
  • Manu06 Manu06 on Sep 26, 2021

    I’ve downloaded an app called Radio Garden. It accesses thousands of radio stations around the world with a very cool interface. All free and the variety can’t be beat. Just connect the phone via Bluetooth or cord and you are set.

  • JD-Shifty JD-Shifty on Sep 26, 2021

    Pete Seeger, the Smithsonian Collection

  • Marty S Corey, thanks for your comment. Mercedes has many different models, and will survive. Jaguar is planning on only offering electric models and will be in trouble. They should continue their ICE models as long as possible, but have discontinued the F-Type already and will probably be discontinuing everything else. We purchased the current XF this year, which is a nice car, but would have been splendid if they had just continued the supercharged V-6 in it.By the way, I have really enjoyed your Continental and Eldorado series. Was just showing it to my barber, who owned several 1954-56 Eldorado convertibles.
  • Marques My father had one of these. A black 1984 Pulsar NX with a 5-speed stick and a grey interior. Dad always kept it in pristine shape-that black paint was shiny even in the middle of the night. I swear I could still smell the Rain Dance carnauba wax! The only issue that car ever had was that it was never driven enough-it would sit for 10 days at a time! The Hitachi carburetor on it(and other Nissans of the time) were known to be troublesome. It went to the boneyard at 72K miles when a hole got punched in the block. By that time the Pulsar had long ceased production.
  • VoGhost This is the only new vehicle I have the slightest interest in.
  • VoGhost I love it. Can't wait to get one. Finally, trucks are becoming actually capable, and it's great for America.
  • Peter Just waiting for Dr. Who to show up with his Tardis, and send these things back to the hellish dark dimension from which they came.