2008 Mazda CX-9 Long-Term Road Test

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2008 Mazda CX-9: That's Using Your Head

January 22, 2008

Warning: The following 2008 Mazda CX-9 post may contain discussions of volume and volume settings that might only be fully appreciated by Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap. Some aspects of Andy Rooney-ism are liable to creep in, as well.

Didja ever notice that when you switch from, say, the FM radio to your iPod running through the Aux connection that the volume levels don't match up? Most of the time, I find the iPod volume to be too soft - even with the iPod turned up to max.

After switching from AM or FM, I find I have to turn up the volume so I can hear the iTunes version of NPR's "Wait, wait," or my personal heavy metal favorite "Big Bottom" on my Nano. A few minutes down the road, I switch back to AM for a traffic report and the durn volume is now so loud that it blasts my eardrums clear in. Dontcha just hate that?

It seems that many cars have their volume knob linked across the various inputs. So, for example, if I set the volume to 11 on my AM dial, its setting is 11 for FM, AM, CD, Sirius and, usually, Aux. This is fine for most of those, as the levels have been standardized and normalized over the years.

But Aux jack inputs are different. No one seems to be able to decide what the output level of the typical third-party music player should be, or the level at which an iTunes song or podcast should be mixed. So, in some cars, the iPod sounds come in lower than the rest - most of the time, actually. But I find that it can vary from podcast to podcast, song to song.

So I was gratified and relieved to find out that Mazda has thought about this. If I set the volume to 12, as shown below, that volume level carries over to AM, FM, Sirius and CD, as per usual.

Nigel: "Your volume goes all the way up to 12? Blimey!"

Yes, but when I go to Aux, I find that that volume can be independently set. In the example below, I've set it to 24, but...

Nigel: "24? Now you're just yanking my chain, mate. You and your band must rock pretty hard, Andy. Why haven't I heard of your band, The 60 Minutes, before?"

Yes, as I was saying. When the Aux volume is at 24, AM, FM and all the rest remain steadfastly set to 12. So when I flick the mode switch back and forth, the volume levels between Aux and the rest are as matched as I care to make them.

Now, I'm sure there are other cars out there that can do this. But it can't be many, or I'd have noticed before. After I found this easter egg of a feature on our 2008 Mazda CX-9, I went back and tried a couple of other cars in the fleet. None of them behave in this way.

Anyone else notice this on their own car?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Automotive Testing @ 7,990 miles

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