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Chevrolet Impala Audio

duraflexduraflex Posts: 358
There are several of us from the Impala III
conference who are notably unhappy with our top-
end, factory-installed Impala RDS radios. This
quirk mars an otherwise very nice automobile.

RECEPTION is less than optimal and SOUND QUALITY
is just plain lacking.

These radios are the units with the amplifier
mounted in the trunk up under the rear shelf, below
the back window, between the two rear speakers.

IF you have one of these radios in your new Impala
and you are dissatisfied, this is the forum where
we can discuss it and hopefully arrive at a cure.

My complaints are the sound quality - it's just
not "sweet". Singing voices are often harsh -
particularly in multiples. Violins are screechy.
Rich Bass is lacking. I am not looking for the
sound of an Alpine or Bose system, but this is

My standard 89 Olds Royale sounded way better.
My wife's standard Camry radio sounds better.
My friends' Hondas, Contours and Regals sound
better! Even my 1972 Dodge Challenger sounded

Reception is no prize winner either - those
antennas in the window have got to be designed just
right. Toyota Camry's is far less susceptible to
interference and direction - particularly when
picking up distant AM stations or riding along back
roads with power lines alongside.

At least two of us have called GM and filed formal
complaints registering our dissatisfaction.

In the other forum, early mentions of replacing
speakers have been made but no one has yet reported
doing it. After all, who wants to start replacing
expensive components in a brand new car?

If you have this radio in your 2000 Impala, please
post your observations, comments or solutions

After all, for $25,000 we should be getting a
really good radio in our cars.


  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    I agree with you in most claims about the sound quality of the Upgrade RDS stereo system. I too, have an LS with the Tape/CD combo. Car has a built date of 1/00...just got it exactly one month ago. The car is excellent and I think the only issue that needs some sort of remedy is the Sound Quality from the Radio. Some posts blamed the rear shelf speakers, but now the attention is being focused on the rear shelf mounted amplifier. What I am not to clear is how the amplifier can be responsible for the apparent lack of bass response? Some people claimed that the standard radio units without the amplifiers sound much better?? Quite frankly I don't remember the sound quality during a couple of test drives I had the Radio turned on (Base Impala and LS with basic AM/FM-Tape Deck unit).

    My previous cars (Hondas and Acuras) had terrible sound systems (Yes Honda has the WORST Factory radios) except my last '97 Acura TL that had a decent Alpine unit with Tape/CD and 8-speakers. The Honda radios had the opposite problem of the Impala RDS units....Too much their radio sound reproduction was dull to say the least. One thing I can give credit to the Honda radios is that they have steady good reception no matter if the system is hooked to a metal antenna or the "Window Diversity Antenna" that my TL came with. The bass issue on the RDS radios can be bothersome but I personally can live with it more comfortably. But the reception issue needs to be addressed by GM...too much interference many times.

    I really like your forum as we can get "our heads" together and try to find a workable solution to the Bass/reception issues of the RDS radios, even if the solution takes involving GM to provide a "free" upgrade or fix to the problem. May be a recall is what we need to accomplish.

    Last, have you attempted to disconnect the amplifier? Will the system work without it? I haven't even try to mess around with the car as the RDS radio acts as the "Central nervous system" of the Impala. I am a Computer Engineer but I am not very knowledgable of car stereos to start tinkering with them.

    I am positive the solution is not to start buying expensive replacement speakers for a brand new car like you said. May be the amplifier is causing the grief, and if so, Chevy should look into the issue and revaluate the performance of the component. Probably you have a better insight at the problem.

    Don't hesitate in contact me if you have any comments/suggestions/ideas,etc.

    Good luck.
  • I too am dissappointed in the sound of my
    radio system in my loaded Impala LS w/cd& cassette
    - I love the car but sure wish there is a simple
    solution from GM or others here on how to improve
    the sound - can we do something about amplifiers
    on the rear shelf if that truly is the problem -
    my car was built in june of 99 if that means any-
    thing. Wouuld like to hear from others on this.
    Thanks, Lincoln
  • mattlcmattlc Posts: 13
    Thanks for starting this site (duraflex). I have an LS that I bought last fall (with amplifier). I was very unsatisfied with the performance, so about 2.5 months ago I installed THE top of the line Boston Acoustic 6x9 speakers in the rear of the car (approx. $300 for the speakers..I did the installation).

    So... how does it sound? A lot better, but still lacking in the base area. It also seems (and I don't know if it is just due to the clarity difference) that the rear speakers are much louder than the front ones now.

    Making this sytems actually sound great is going to take the same kind of speakers in the front (approx. $250) and replace the amplifier. I don't know if I am willing to spend it.

    I hope you don't take offense to me saying that I don't think GM gives a damn about your complaints. They are not going to recall all of these cars and replace the amplifiers. They can't even honestly describe their speaker system as a FOUR-speaker system. They discribe it as an EIGHT-speaker system by counting the tweeters and woffers as separate speakers. This is incredibly insulting and misleading.

    So, can the amplifier be exchanged with another? I don't see why not (but I'm not an expert). The gagitry is within the radio itself. The amplifier is just a power supply with inputs (from the radio and power sources) and outputs (to the speakers). I can't imagine that this cheap amp is anything more.

    Sorry for the long-winded reply. Please let me know what you think.
  • duraflexduraflex Posts: 358
    Glad to hear you're happy with your new rear shelf 6x9 BAs. $300 is a lot of cash for 2 speakers!

    Did you check if installing replacement speakers invalidates your warranty in any way? Hope Not.

    You may already know this but if your new BAs are louder than your Chevy originals, it simply means they're more efficient - they deliver more volume from the same amp by processing the power more effectively. (This of course assumes that the fader position is still at center.)

    IF you do replace the front speakers, you might want to make sure that they are equally efficient. ____________________

    It's the FRONT SPEAKERS that really bother me. They are so shrill - like fingernails on a chalk board. Group voices, horns, violins - OUCH!!!
    I know what my tapes and CDs sound like - on everything from a portable tape player to the big stereo at home and the new car is the worst.

    Although I dread the prospect, replacing them as a last resort has crossed my mind. Do you know what size speakers are in the front door panels?
    5-1/4, 6-1/2?
  • luckyjdrluckyjdr Posts: 10
  • jreimannjreimann Posts: 11
    The only thing that really bothers me aabout the stereo system is its extreme lack of bass. Even with the bass maxed out the treble down 2 notches from center and the fade set so the rear speakers are getting more signal, You still have to turn in up over 3/4 of the way to get any bass response. I went out on Sunday and bought a Kenwood ported subwoofer box with 2x10's in it and a JBL subwoofer amp. I will be getting it installed tomorow so I'll report back on how it sounds with a subwoofer. Oh by the way the Sub and Amp cost $560 together and installation and cables will be another $100. Also becuase I don't want them messing with the factory system, they will be running the subwoofer off of the rear speaker wire input signals rather than trying to interface with the stereo itself.
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    It appears to be that the solutions posted here involve shelling out large amounts of cash on new equipment to improve the bass issues of the RDS Impala radio. Personally, I just spent $22,500 for a new car and I can't justify an extra $500 to $700 to correct a radio sound performance problem. My main area of concern is tinkering with the radio installation of this car (Amplifier). The Impala has a lot of gadgets installed and most depend on the stereo system to work, so one has to be careful when changing things around.

    Some people claim that the Standard Impala Radio (Tape deck only/no amplifier) sounds much better than the CD/Tape/Amplifier upgrade system. So the problem might not be entirely the speakers or the radio unit itself. I wonder if the trunk mounted amplifier is really working?? Has anyone tested the amplifier unit to see if the thing is alive or not? Is the amplifier properly connected from the factory? or properly installed? In my limited knowledge of car audio systems, the amplifier main purpose is to enhance the sound output from the speakers, thus improving the bass, midrange response and the overall stereo sound imaging. If we all are having bass response problems, may be the amplifier just quit working (Who knows..a defective batch?)and we are banging our heads against the wall when the answer to the problem might be in the amplifier itself.

    My suggestion to this dillemma would be to somehow have the amplifier tested and truly make sure that the device is doing what it is supposed to. Has anyone attempted to disconnect it and see what happens??

    Then again, I find it very hard to believe that the basic radio system sounds better than the Upgrade system with the amplifier. If so, then let's all take the time to look into the amplifier and see if this is the source of all grief.

    I will get in touch with my nearest Chevy Dealer and inquiry about this. Later I will contact GM to have them open a file.

    Impala owners should not be spending extra $$$ to get satisfaction from the stereo system. GM has to pick up the tab and rectify the issue if's and's and but's.

    Aside from the lack of bass issue, I find the Impala RDS radio one of the most interesting units I have ever owned on a car. The RDS technology, the speed conpensated volume, the pre-set EQ settings, the ability to control most other functions on the car (Key fobs, etc) make it a truly remarkable unit from Delco. All this great radio unit needs is a good working amplifier unit.

    What do you guys think?
  • jojo28jojo28 Posts: 11
    Everyone is correct in their complaint. I have compared the quality of sound in both radios both with and without the amplifier. If you check you will find that with the amplifier option you also get "preminum" speakers (8). Two at each location. I have been advised by the service dept. that the amplifier is supposed to suppress the bass. They ckecked out my radio system and advised me that it met all their specs. and nothing could be done. BULL!! If all concerned would call the Chevrolet Customer Assistance and make a formal complaint and have them issue a "File Ref. NO." --- maybe we can get Delco Electronics attention to do something to correct the poor quality of sound. Yes, I also feel like there may be a wiring error or maybe the Amplifier watts per channel (4) is lacking wattage! Together maybe we can get results!!
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    In your last post you said that you had the chance to compare both the standard and upgraded Impala radios. We just wanted to know if you noticed any significant differences in the sound quality. We must establish a "pattern" here to help us troubleshoot the actual source of the problem. If the sound was way better on the standard radio, then we can deduct that the problem centers around the amplifier (provided that the standard radio uses the same exact speakers and that the Radio unit is not dramatically different in circuitry, etc). The more knowledge we can share on this forum, the better case we can present to GM to find a resolution to the problem.
  • jreimannjreimann Posts: 11
    Just to let you know, I'm pretty sure that the stereo system on the Upgraded Impalas isn't made by Delco Electronics. I had my roomates dad who works for Delco Electronics look at the system a while back and he said it wasn't one of theirs. He said GM had been outsourceing alot of the car electronics in the last few years...

  • duraflexduraflex Posts: 358
    For those whose most serious quality complaint is the lack of bass - the cheapest POSSIBLE cure (not definitive)MIGHT BE to install WATERPROOF SPEAKER BAFFLES from Crutchfield. For 6x9 they are only $8 a pair. IF the FRONT speakers are 6-1/2", those baffles are $8 a pair.

    In Crutchfield's "Car Stereo Installation" booklet, they allege that these baffles installed around the back of each speaker "can even improve bass performance". Maybe.

    Another possibility are speaker enclosures around the 6x9s in the rear. My previous car (Olds Royale 88) had such enclosures (std. factory issue) built around each of its rear speakers on the underside of the rear deck. Similar enclosures are shown in the Radio Shack catalog. I know they would help but installation would require some creativity and time.
  • duraflexduraflex Posts: 358
    If post #8 is right - 4 watts per channel sounds kind of light.

    At quick glance in the Crutchfield catalog, the cheapest and smallest external amplifiers from Kenwood and Pioneer have 35 watts per channel. Those amps each cost $100. IF and how they would work with our radios, I don't have a clue. I also do not know how they would mate with our wires plugs and so forth.

    Regardless, it does go to show that a replacement amp from GM would not cost them a fortune - if indeed that is the cure to the problem.
  • duraflexduraflex Posts: 358
    It's been said that the "lesser" radios without the external amp sound just fine. I have not heard one myself.

    Anyway, if jojo28 is right that the top radio has different speakers than the radios WITHOUT the external amp, I'd opt for the lower end speakers.
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    Thanks for the info...I can tell you have been "Deep Diving" into the research for a solution. I think the key here is to determine which component is causing the stereo system to go "Flat" on the bass. I think the radio itself, for now, is out of the loop. The radio seems to be a good quality component and it is probably suffering at the hands of:

    * The amplifier? (Is this device working as it should?)

    * The upgraded speakers? (We need to find out the main differences between the standard and upgraded speakers)

    * some other issue we are not yet aware of?

    I am still very suspect of the amplifier.
  • luckyjdrluckyjdr Posts: 10
  • cookie00cookie00 Posts: 29
    I've noticed the almost non-exsistant base in the radio no matter what station or adjustment I make.

    However, I feel like the CD sounds okay. I never use tapes, so I can't judge there.
    I do feel, however, like many of you do that for the money we should have better "all around" sound.
  • I also think the sound system is crappy. I use my CD player more than anything else and I think GM should have given us a better sound system. You would think that they would have put the best stereo system available into a flagship car. Apparently, they didn't test the system, otherwise, they would have known how crappy it sounds. Must have got a real discount on the systems they used in the car. I really can't believe the base model sound is that much better. I have to turn my base all the way up and treble all the way down to get a decent sound for music and just the opposite for news and talk shows. But, I don't mind too much. I'm not in the car that long. And, I don't plan to invest additional money for a better system (don't want to attract the criminal element and don't want to take a chance on running into warranty problems).
  • jojo28jojo28 Posts: 11
    If this info can help, I have more info on the amplifier---Make-Matsushita (parent co. of Panasonic)--Model No.- 10432572
    Ref. No. - CY-BG-2911 ZC
    My serial No.-428261

    My description of a good sounding stero system is when you can set the volumn at a medium to low level and still get a rich tone which has a definite background of bass. I am almost certain that the problem is in the amplifier. I have listened to many base model impalas with the up-graded ULO package ( this is the AM/FM cassette without any CD player, but it does have the preminum 8-speaker system) and they sound great!!! I get no assistance from the dealer service dept. We need technical assistance!! I have found out that Delco Electronics is the supplier of the radio but they don't have any specs. or info on the amplifier.
  • duraflexduraflex Posts: 358
    jojo28 Just to clarify - didn't you write in your post #8 that only the radios with the external amps have the "premium speakers"?

    Did you subsequently learn that all the radios have the same speakers. If so, that would definitely point to our problem being the external amplifier mounted in the trunk.

    I have got to get to a dealer and hear one of these lesser radios WITHOUT an external amp.

    Incidentally, does anyone know someone with an Olds Intrigue with an AM/FM/CD/cassette? If so, is the amp in the trunk or is that radio completely self contained? How does it sound?
  • duraflexduraflex Posts: 358
    Has anyone out there bought the IMPALA service manual? Has anyone replaced the FRONT SPEAKERS?

    If so, please tell us - what is the size of the front speakers in the door panels?

    At the very least, I am seriously considering adding the waterproof SOUND BAFFLES I mentioned in my post #11.

    I also started to LISTEN to some rather basic replacement speakers at WalMart - yes WalMart! They have a car sound wall. I used a $150 basic radio that I could easily figure out how to work. I just kept switching speakers by pushing the buttons. Listened for a half hour to Sinatra, CW, Oldies, Soft Rock and Classical (Philly has a lot of radio stations)

    Really liked some nice 6-1/2" Jensen and 6-1/2" Pioneer - very sweet sound particularly on vocals. Jensens were more mellow than the Pioneers but both were nirvana compared to what we have in our IMPALAS. Price- under $70 per pair.
    NOTE: 6-1/2" is a GUESS.
  • With all of us complaining about this problem
    cant we as group take some kind of class action
    against GM and demand them to rectify this matter
    or at least split the cost of correcting it and the first thing is to have their engineers tell
    us what actuall y is the problem to begin with.
    If the base model radio sound is OK then they
    certainly find out why the upscale units on the
    LS sound so crappy. Let me hear other views on
    this - thanks, Lincoln
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    I still hold strong suspicion on the amplifier. I don't think the thing is even working at all. I will do some research on the "Panasonic" amplifier to shed some light into the problem. It could well be the thing is not compatible with the radio unit or viceversa. Let's try to close the gap here. Once we do that we can demand GM to look into the problem and request a warranty replacement of the amplifier. I hope the thing is not messing up the radio overtime.
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    Received call back from Matsushita OEM car audio dept and they state that the Chevy dealership must take a look at the audio system/amplifier combo. Then they should contact Panasonic directly for warranty repair/replacement if the amplifier turns out to be at fault.

    The Panasonic rep did agree with the fact that the amplifier should enhance the bass response not diminish it as it appears to be happening.

    Well, at this point I am open to more suggestions..
  • jojo28jojo28 Posts: 11
    What type of radio do you have in the car and is it equipped with a factory amplifier???
    You should not have to set the BASS to MAX and the volumn up to 3/4, especially if you have a working properly amplifier!! This is more proof of a problem with the system.
    Oh, as a suggestion, you had better check with the Chevrolet Service dept. before you add a sub-woofer to the system - they may cancel your factory warranty on the whole radio system.
  • jojo28jojo28 Posts: 11
    One more question for thought-- When playing on the FM mode - How do you know or verify that you are receiving the station in "STEREO", there is no indicator red light or a ST indicator light on my radio - How about YOURS?????????
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
  • jojo28jojo28 Posts: 11
    TEO=== I agree 100%
  • jreimannjreimann Posts: 11
    Got my subwoofer installed yesterday... It sounds great! It complements the rear speakers pretty well even though they suck. The only thing now is that they front speakers are more noticeablly underpowered on certain cd's. I think I might install new speakers there now to round out the whole system nicely. However I am also thinking about replacing the amplifier after reading the above posts. Hey if anyone has a spare amplifier that they can replace the current one with to verify that it is the amp thats the problem, do it and report back...

    Jojo I have the Impala ls with all options including the "upgraded" stereo w/ amplifier.
    and as far as the warrenty on the stereo system...
    screw it, It already looks like I am going to replace most of it anyway eventually except the cd/tape/radio stereo unit.
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    Since our Impalas were actually built at the Oshawa, Ontario plant...I have contacted via E-mail the people at GM of Canada. On their web site ( they have a link to a customer feedback section were you can post comments, questions or concerns about your GM vehicle. They even allow you to type in the car's V.I.N# and provide personal basic contact information. I have posted my "complaint" regarding the lack of good bass response and the radio reception quality of the upgrade RDS Impala stereo systems. I have also requested information on the Delco (Yes the radios are made by Delphi Delco Electronics)radio unit, the speakers size and manufacturer as well as more info on the vaunted trunk mounted amplifier.

    I haven't yet received their response, but I know that they take anywhere between 24 and 48 hours to respond to E-mail communication.

    At least I have made aware our Canadian friends about the issues with these radios.

    If we are to grab GM's attention on this issue, I can suggest to:

    1) Contact GM here at home, make them aware of the radio situation and open a customer file. The more complaints filed the better will be for all owners. Remember the customer satisfaction surveys? Chevy claims they want us to be let's get on it!.

    2)Go to the GM of Canada web site and submit the customer feedback form, along with your Impala's V.I.N#. This will be very helpful to determine if in fact there is a batch of defective amplifiers, speakers, etc that apply to certain build dates, if that's the case.

    3)People, don't be afraid to complain to GM. That will not void your warranty! On the contrary, we are helping GM to provide a better sounding stereo system in future vehicles and for us to obtain the satisfaction we all are entitled to from our current Impala RDS radios.

    4) Good luck to all!

    See ya!
  • drobb1drobb1 Posts: 2
    I have been following this thread since the beginning in both conferences. I have a base model with upgraded radio system with 8 (?) speakers/CD/Cassette. The sound of my system is very good which leads me to believe that the amplifiers used in the LS are suspect.

    The problem I have is that I listen mostly to talk radio and the AM reception sucks. I live 17 miles away from the nearest AM station and reception is extremely poor during the day and non-existent at night. It's definitely not the station because the reception is fine in my other three vehicles.

    Any help I can give to the group, I will, including registering a formal complaint.
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