Six Days in Santa Fe: Hyundai Santa Fe Infinity Audio Gives You Options

Sections: Car Audio, Infotainment, Navigation

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The speakers in our 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited test vehicle were, like the 2013 Hyundai Azera we had previously, branded Infinity. Cue jokes about Nissan’s premium division — which spells its name “Infiniti”, by the way — supplying Hyundai with speakers. No matter. They’re good stuff for stock units. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

The head unit and Infinity drivers in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe impressed both for their quality of sound and their customization options.

Typically, you’re lucky to get so much as a three-band EQ and adjustable speed-sensitive volume controls in a six- or seven-passenger SUV like the Santa Fe. A 2013 GMC Acadia Denali we tested had only two audio EQ presets, for example. But Hyundai’s effort in our 2013 Santa Fe tester was admirable.

First things first: The unfortunately named (though differently spelled) Infinity audio speakers sounded superb. The power amp delivered clean tones across the EQ spectrum all the way up until the last, loudest volume settings I tested. I was seriously impressed. There was a mild amount of washy-sounding cymbals and other high frequencies at the top of the volume register. The sweet spot for getting the full rock concert experience was to crank the volume to about 3/4 of its power, which allowed for enough thump from the 12 speakers to let you “feel” the music a little bit without suffering any loss of sound quality at all.

Once again, I can’t help but compare the overall quality of the sound emitted from those Infinity speakers to that of the Mark Levinson audio systems I’ve tested in several Lexus vehicles, including the RX350 F-SPORT SUV. The Levinson systems typically sounded cleaner, but also seemed slightly quieter, at the top of their register than did the Infinity system.

No matter, as I liked the control interface of the Hyundai Santa Fe’s infotainment system better than the Remote Touch controller in those Lexus models — and thats saying a lot, because I’m one of apparently only a few autojournalists who like the Remote Touch control interface in most Lexus models. By comparison, the Hyundai’s screen was closer to me, easier to read, and easier to navigate because I wasn’t having to drag a scrolling icon selection tool across the screen.

Also, I really liked how customizable the Hyundai’s audio was. Not only was there a three-band EQ that could be swept above or below center on any band, there also was a fade/balance matrix.

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The full fade-and-balance control screen was easy to use. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

If you used voice guidance when you punched up a destination address in the Santa Fe’s solid navigation system, the audio setup menu even gives you the option of which resource gets priority when announcements about the route are made. You can set it up so that the voice of the navigation mistress is louder than any music or radio station that is playing, or you can make the two equal in volume, or you can give the voice directions lesser priority and make the music louder whenever announcements about the route are made.

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This menu in the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe’s audio settings allows the user to decide which takes precedence when navigation voice guidance is being used: the navigation voice, the music being played, or both equal. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

That was really a nice feature I wish more navigation systems gave me. So often, I’ll plug in a destination to a given address, and when voice directions are given, I won’t be able to hear them — probably because I enjoy rocking out too much, especially in cars whose speakers are as good as the Santa Fe’s. In most cars, it seems the navigation voice is turned way down by default, and I have to catch the bot talking and quickly turn up the volume of the guidance voice by reaching for the volume knob as soon as the voice starts talking.

Finally, there was a setting to turn the head unit’s surround sound option on or off (I left it on because it made the music sound notably fuller), and a setting to turn speed-sensitive volume control on or off (I leave it off in every vehicle that gives the option, just as a matter of personal preference. I’ve yet to meet a speed-sensitive volume adjuster that I didn’t find overzealous and annoying.) As a finishing touch to the level of customization allowed by the Hyundai Santa Fe’s head unit, it let me choose whether I wanted to hear an audible “beep” every time I touch a button on the touchscreen.

Does all that make it worth the $2,900 option price? To be fair, that price includes the Santa Fe’s huge panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated seats, and an HD radio receiver (more about it later). With all that added to the package, it may prove tough to pass up for many shoppers in this segment of family-hauler.

Disclosure: Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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  • Brett

    Nice review. I dug my version in the Kia Sorento as well. However, I would not call the system unfortunately named. The first Infinity home speakers debuted in the late 60s and Nissan didn’t launch the halo brand until ’89!

  • Lyndon Johnson

    True enough, my man, true enough. But if I had a dime for every time someone on the interwebs commented on a Hyundai review something to the fact of “Oh look, they bought their speakers from Nissan HUEHUEHUEHUE!” I could buy you lunch tomorrow.

    As solid as the Santa Fe felt — and knowing it was assembled in Korea — I’m interested to drive the Equus someday. Because even though I compared the Hyundai Santa Fe to the Lexus RX350 some, it really isn’t competing in that league at all. The Equus, however, is honestly trying to go to bat against the Lexus LS460 and other fullsize, rear-wheel drive luxury cars. THAT would be interesting, given how impressed I was with the fit-and-finish of the Santa Fe.