Buick Enclave Radio
2009 Buick CXL Standard Single-CD and XM Radio. enlarge.
I'm reviewing the standard radio.
The optional radios with Bose speakers will sound completely different, and ought to operate the same ergonomically.
The radio is easy to use and control by feel, both directly and on the steering wheel.
The radio controls are excellent, but the standard speakers are mediocre.
The radio is a joy to use. It's easy to turn on and change channels. All radios used to be this easy until unemployed computer people started designing car radios which no one can figure out how to use.
The Enclave's radio has big, dedicated power and volume controls. It also has a real, dedicated tuning knob. If you haven't seen how bad other radios are, you probably don't realize that many radios today, like the one in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, require several layers of menus just to change channels! The Enclave is designed the way it should be.
Setting presets is easy: just hold the button until it beeps.
There are at least five sets of presets. Hit the FAV button to cycle through them. You and the wife can each have your own sets, or program each set for each city in which you vacation.
Every preset may be any channel on any radio band. Gone are the old days where each button was only allowed to be programmed for AM or FM. On the Enclave, you can have preset #1 set to AM, the second preset set to FM, and the next one to XM radio. It doesn't care; put your favorite stations where you like.
Sadly, the radio won't work without the ignition turned on. Better radios, like most European cars, work whenever you turn them on, keys in or not. The Enclave radio will play for 10 minutes after you take out the key, but that's it.
If you sit too low, you won't be able to see the bottom row of pixels of the radio's vacuum fluorescent display.
The Enclave's sound system doesn't have enough gain (volume) to play soft passages loudly enough, presuming you're listening to a CD or a good classical radio station.
The radio display should pop up on the center console as you tune, but they don't. You still have to look over at the radio if you want to se what it's doing.
There is only one volume setting. If you have it cranked up for a soft CD and change to the radio, it stays cranked instead of remembering the volume setting when you last used the radio. Likewise, if you turn it off with the volume cranked (or zeroed), it turns back on that way. Other radios recall the last used volume setting for each source, and reset to a reasonable volume every time they turn back on.
The speed-dependant volume control works great. I never noticed it change, but I did notice that once set at any speed, the volume was always right where I wanted it at any other speed.
The stereo spread is great. It sounds good no matter where I moved my head as a driver. I don't expect imaging, but I do expect the sound not to puddle-up on one side of the van or the other. The Enclave is swell; the sounds comes from all around you.
The sound quality is worse then expected from GM. Even GM's crappiest car radios have been superb for a decade or two, since GM learned to EQ the radio to compensate for the speakers. Even in Cavalier rental cars, GM put a couple of cheap paper-cone speakers in the back deck, and with the right dedicated EQ, they sound great.
The Enclave is much worse than GM rental cars from years ago. Since there is no trunk and no back deck in the Enclave, there is no place to put speakers so that they can reproduce bass properly. Since the speakers are in the doors and dash, and they aren't particularly good drivers, the Enclave reproduces no low bass.
There is some broad peaking around 150 Hz to hide the lack of real bass. Thankfully, there is no peakyness, thumping or severe resonances. The Enclave's sound system is relatively smooth throughout its limited range.
To compensate for the lack of proper bass, the Enclave also lacks any high treble. In designing audio systems, the Enclave is correctly designed to cut off the top end of the audio spectrum to match its lack of deeper bass, so the system sounds balanced.
EQ (Tone) Controls
The EQ controls are hidden. To get to the EQ controls, hit the button with the two eighth notes (the musical notes on the top left button).
If you hit the EQ button you get to some silly presets.
I left the EQ on flat for best results. The bass control, as heard through the system, mostly had broad effect around 100 Hz.
The sound is congested. It isn't very transparent.
It's enjoyable enough for speech, single voices and simple instrumentations like Mozart. Anything more complex, like popular music, or large ensembles like a Brahms Requiem, and the sound starts to collapse on itself.The standard sound system of a 2000 Dodge Caravan with optional CD player was far, far better. So are Chevrolet Cavaliers.
The Enclave I borrowed had XM Radio. See my separate report on XM Radio.
The Enclave's radio has an excellent "CAT" button which lets you browse XM channels by category.
AM is fine. It's limited by the signal and not the radio.
With a weak signal, the windshield wiper motors generate enough interference so that they will add static to the AM radio.
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