How do I know if I have RNS-850 in my T?
New here, my first post. I have a new 2012 Touareg Lux TDI.
From Day 1, I noticed the RNS-850 nav/radio didn't sound right when tuned to an FM station broadcasting in HD Radio. I finally figured it out.
The RNS-850 plays HD Radio in mono, not stereo. Sound comes from all the speakers, but it's in mono. And in fact it's only the content from the left channel. The right channel information is completely missing.
Thinking this had to be a problem with my RNS-850, I tried 2 other Touaregs at the dealer, both with RNS-850. They do exactly the same thing: They will not play HD Radio in stereo. One of those Tregs had the DynAudio premium sound system.
My previous car was a 2011 Tiguan with RNS-510, which also supports HD Radio. It worked perfectly. I then tried a 2012 Passat at the dealer, also with an RNS-510, and it worked fine.
Dealer reported the issue to VW. VW opened a case. They had the dealer take a scan of my car and send it to them for analysis.
Their response: The RNS-850 is working "as designed". There must be a problem with the radio stations here, or the signal is too weak, or I don't know what I'm talking about.
There are at least 4 FM stations broadcasting in HD Radio here: KWAX, KRVM, KLCC, and occasionally KZEL. All 4 stations play HD Radio fine on an RNS-510 but the RNS-850 plays them only in mono.
The dealer is within 5 miles of the radio station transmitters and has clear line of sight. There is no possibility of this being a weak signal issue. Nobody is able to explain to me why the 850 would do this but the 510 is fine (according to me).
Note that you need to be listening to music to detect this problem. Talk isn't in stereo and you would never notice there's a problem.
Does your RNS-850 play HD Radio in stereo?
- If the RNS-850 locks onto an HD Radio signal, the "HD Radio" display icon turns bright white and you should have perfect digital sound.
- If the signal is weak, the icon will be grayed out, in which case you're listening to conventional analog FM.
- If the icon isn't on at all, either the station isn't broadcasting in HD, or the signal is too weak to get a digital lock.
HD Radio Station Directory (US)
How to enable HD Radio on the RNS-850:
- Place a check mark in the "HD Radio" option box
Now tune to an HD Radio station playing music. Is it in stereo, or is it in mono? If you're not sure, you can go back to the menu and toggle HD Radio on and off and listen for the difference. Note than when you check the box to enable it, the station you're listening to will take a few seconds before HD locks in.
If you believe your RNS-850 has this issue, please report it to VW Customer Care!
If you want, tell them to refer to existing Case #120196851.
If VW doesn't hear from more RNS-850 owners about this, they're not going to take it seriously.
Good question. I haven't researched all VW cars that get the RNS-850, but I know the 2011-2012 Touaregs equipped with nav have it. The Touareg may be the only one.
Note that this HD Radio problem is probably unique to North America, maybe just the US. RNS-850s are used in Europe too but I don't think they use the same system for digital radio.
I talked to a professional car audio guy about it. He claims there are "issues" with some HD Radio chipsets used in 12 Volt applications like cars.
I'm going to try to make a video with stereo audio to demonstrate this problem. May post it to YouTube if it turns out good...
Don't let VW tell you it's "weak reception". If the signal is strong enough for the HD Radio icon to light bright and remain on, you have a digital lock and you should be getting perfect stereo.
Last edited by Eugene-Dave-1; 04-23-2012 at 02:01 PM.
VWoA once again acknowledged my complaint, including reviewing my video demonstrating the problem. Again they say the RNS-850 is functioning "as designed". Complaint rejected, and they intend to have no further communication with me regarding my issue.
Interestingly, there are a couple of lawfirms (easily found in a Google search) who are trying to put together a class action suit against auto makers regarding problems and defects with HD Radio. They list a bunch of complaints about HD Radio like it drops out of digital too often, sound skips, etc.
Here we have a situation where a major car manufacturer is now knowingly selling new cars with 100% defective HD Radio tuners. You tell me.
Billiken: If you have a chance to try HD Radio in a current-year Audi please let us know the results. If the HD Radio in the Audi works correctly, that suggests a possible firmware issue in the VW RNS-850. On the other hand, if the Audi has the same problem, that suggests a defect in the HD Radio tuner chipset used in these nav systems.
Last edited by Eugene-Dave-1; 04-24-2012 at 01:07 PM.
Since I discovered this issue with the RNS-850 and how tough it is to get VW (and others) to understand it, I've asked random people "What do you think the difference is between mono and stereo?". Their answer is usually along the lines of "Well mono is 1 speaker, and stereo is 2 speakers". Of course stereo requires 2 (or more) speakers, but that by itself doesn't make stereo. You can play mono (monaural) material through 2 or 6 or 12 or 20 speakers, and it's still mono.
Not saying that applies to anyone here. In fact if someone's RNS-850 plays HD Radio in stereo, I'd like to compare VCDS data with you and see if we have different revision head units or something.
Last edited by Eugene-Dave-1; 04-29-2012 at 11:59 AM.
I'm sorry to say that I discovered mine doesn't play stereo at all. I tried FM, FM/HD, SDRAM, CD and every single one mode sounded - to me - like monaural. And there's nothing in the manual that suggests a "stereo" indicator that lights up to indicate stereo vs mono FM reception. So I hooked up the VDCS, navigated to Radio (56) and performed the self-test. Confirmed. When I select LF, the same thing plays out of all 4 speakers. When I select RF, same thing. LR and RR, same. This damn car has a thousand+ dollar monaural entertainment system installed.
I have an appointment with the dealer on the 7th.
Many tracks by The Beatles are perfect for stereo testing, and almost everyone either has them, or can borrow a CD from someone. The tracks have extreme left-right separation. For example Nowhere Man has the backing instrumental track panned hard left, and the vocals panned hard right:
If that track were played back on my RNS-850's HD Radio tuner (and two other 850s I've tried), it would sound like this:
The vocals would be nearly 100% missing because the 850's HD Radio throws out the right channel and plays only the left channel through all the speakers.
Some early Jimi Hendrix stuff also works great for testing left-right separation. Here's The Wind Cries Mary. The vocals are hard left, the instruments are hard right:
HD Radio on the 850 would make that song sound something like this because only the left-channel vocals would be present:
And so on...
If you have access to these songs on CD or MP3 or whatever, they're great for testing stereo separation.
Also a lot of radio stations do a Breakfast With The Beatles or Beatles Hour once a week, or more. If you tune into one of those broadcasts it's a good way to hear the stereo separation (assuming they're playing the stereo version of a song and not the mono version!). Or tune into any classic rock or oldies station. A lot of older songs have this very pronounced left-right stereo effect.
Last edited by Eugene-Dave-1; 04-29-2012 at 03:43 PM. Reason: clarity
The good news is I think my complaint is finally gaining some traction with VWoA. I shoud know more in a week or so. Meanwhile I encourage everyone with this issue to report it to VW Customer CARE so they have it on the official record: 800-822-8987.
haven't noticed (rarely listen to radio) but we have a number of HD stations nearby; i'll see if i can't replicate it. same issue with cds/mp3/etc?
have you tried talking to the regional rep (can't say i get along with ours ) or touareg executive customer service?
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I have met with the VW district Quality Technical Manager. He was humoring me by agreeing to talk to me, but he could not figure out what I was complaining about. I honestly don't think he knows the difference between "stereo" and "monaural" (mono) nor could he tell the difference when listening. When I pointed out to him that I had an RNS-510 in my 2011 Tiguan and it worked FINE with HD Radio, and asked him why I would say the 510 works but the 850 doesn't, he had no response. *shrug*
Is Touareg Executive Service for Exec owners only? Or can any Touareg owner talk to them? I've only been going through VW Customer CARE.
I was contacted by phone and by mail - by Touareg Executive Service immediately after purchasing my 2011 TDI Sport last May. They called again after the 90 day courtesy inspection and after the 10K service. Seems pretty clear to me - that it's the Touareg part that counts, not the trim level. Perhaps the selling dealer failed to inform TEG when you purchased yours.
It's my intention to lay my monaural issue on them, and I can't help but think they'd be of more assistance than the customer service overlord. Perhaps you should give them a call and let them know you own a new Touareg. The number I use is 1-877-589-4928
Last edited by grohgreg; 05-01-2012 at 02:13 PM.
Apologies for posting the same thing on multiple boards but I'm on a quest now to get the word out on this...
Update: VWoA now says my problem is weak reception, there is no problem with the RNS-850, too bad, turn off (disable) HD Radio if you don't like it. It's as if they paid no attention whatsoever to my explanation of the problem, which has absolutely nothing to do with weak reception.
I am very persistent about such things and I am not giving up. It may take time but I honestly think that now that VWoA is knowingly selling luxury SUVs with a defective RNS-850 head unit, they have set themselves up for some expensive legal liability.
Hint: Google "hd radio farce". If you think your RNS-850 has the HD Radio defect I've described (in great detail including an audio/video demonstration), get your name on the record. It may take a couple years but eventually we will get something from this even if it's just cash instead of what I really want which is an RNS-850 that works correctly.
Same here, mine works fine in all modes. Even used my trusty pink noise generator to measure frequency on both channels. I'm an old audiophile and always aware of "real" stereo. A good test is to play new and old music by Santana. Definite left and right separation on his guitar solos. Please note that a car is not a great environment for audiophile quality music. Stereo separation over the air is 20dbs at best on FM. Practically all music played over radio stations is digital and compressed to gain storage capacity so stereo and dynamic range suffers. Music will sound more mono now. Music from older CDs will always sound better than MP3 or any other digital media that compress the sound.
Just to add in that I did some testing and it is very definitely mono in HD.
On another note - if you have an iPhone, iPad or Android consider getting iHeartRadio. You can get almost every radio station from around the country and stream it via bluetooth to the radio. It sounds better and clearer than FM or HD and much better than that compressed junk they call satellite.
And.... it's in stereo.