Disclaimer: Ben’s “It’s the Little Things” post earlier today inspired me to write this.
One thing that took a little getting used to in my BMW 328i (E36), is the way the volume control works.
In all of the previous cars I’ve owned (Nissan, Subaru, Toyota) with both OEM and aftermarket sound systems, when you turn the volume knob on the dash the volume level is shown on the stereo adjusting in real time.
What’s the REAL point of that?
For people with mild OCD we’re always trying to make sure the volume level is set at an even number – say 14 or 28. Some people need it to feel even “more even” at 10 or 20.
Everyone (myself included) is always trying to find the “right” sound level, often multiple times throughout a drive. You have to change the volume when your windows are down, when they’re up, when you’re on the highway, if people are talking, etc.
But are we adjusting the volume based on sound, or are we first adjusting it based on an arbitrary number we see on a screen, that comes close to an appropriate sound level?
My BMW does not display a sound level.
At first it sort of bothered me – it felt like something was missing.
Now that I’ve gotten used to it, I love it. When I turn the volume knob I use my ears to determine when the sound is “right” – not my eyes.
There are a few counterpoints that can be made, for example “I set my volume to 32 to this CD because I know it’s right and I set it to 27 for the radio. That way I can quickly adjust the sound to the level I already know is right.”
I’m not sure if BMW is still doing this in their current models, as they seem to be conforming more to the masses (e.g. moving the window switches back to the doors instead of the center position near the gear shift).
But I think BMW had it right – even if only for a limited time.