Given the popularity of high-end aftermarket and OEM sound systems, it would appear many motorists disagree.
We’ve put together a list of some of the best musical upgrades in the business – when carmakers and audio firms meet. Pump up the volume.
Ford Mondeo Vignale and Sony
The super-plush Ford Mondeo Vignale boasts a Sony digital radio and 12 hi-fidelity speakers as standard. Does this make it worthy of an appearance here, perhaps not? Not least because with its multitude of tiny buttons, it does feel a bit old-school.
But it’s the Active Noise Cancellation system that’s of real interest. It uses three microphones to monitor engine noise and then directs opposing sound waves through the speakers to improve cabin ambience. Clever stuff.
Audi and Bang & Olufsen
Audi and Bang & Olufsen are so-called ‘partners in technology’, but new Audis are also available with Bose systems. They don’t come cheap. Order a new Audi A8 and a Bose surround system will set you back £1,175.
Upgrade to Bang & Olufsen’s Advanced Sound System and you’ll need to part with £6,740. Ouch. Still, you do get 14 individually-mounted speakers, each with their own amplifier.
Each speaker gets its own little house, which minimises noise pollution. So you can listen to Simply Red and nobody else will know.
Lexus and Mark Levinson
Hair by Mark Levinson? No, audio by Mark Levinson, at least it is if you buy a new Lexus and part with some extra cash. The audio company claims no other carmaker offers the ride quality and levels of hush required for its systems.
The Premium Audio system features multiple bespoke speakers (number varies according to model) and a digital surround system.
What’s more, each speaker is said to deliver twice the sound of the same energy consumption, while the Auto Volume System automatically adjusts the volume when switching between artists and recordings. On the GS it’ll set you back £1,000.
Porsche and Burmester
The Burmester High-End Surround Sound System is available as an option across the Porsche range. In the Panamera, the result of the upgrade is 16 amplifier channels with a total output of more than 1,000 watts and 16 speakers including an active subwoofer with a 300-watt class D amplifier.
Porsche claims the ‘natural and richly textured spatial sound’ is ‘unmatched.’ Mind you, at £3,597, it ought to be.
Mercedes-Benz and Burmester
Burmester enjoys a similar relationship with Mercedes-Benz. The companies started working together in 2009 and the High-End 3D Surround-Sound System made its debut in the all-new S-Class.
We’ve experienced the sound in the new C-Class and it’s very good. But we’re not totally convinced by the rather chintzy-looking speakers.
Aston Martin and Bang & Olufsen
If you’re driving an Aston Martin, surely the sound of the V12 engine is the only soundtrack you’ll ever need. This is a well-worn cliche, because in the real world you’ll want to settle back into the comfort of your Aston Martin and enjoy a few tunes.
The Bang & Olufsen BeoSound system is big league stuff. In related news, last month Bang & Olufsen sold its automotive vision to Harman for £106 million. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on future in-car audio systems.
Maserati and Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers & Wilkins is a British-based high-end audio company based in Worthing. Last year, it extended its collaboration with Maserati by announcing the arrival of the P5 Maserati Edition Mobile Hi-Fi headphones.
The cost? A mere £329.99. You could also buy an 805 Maserati Edition speaker for £7,500. But don’t worry, in-car audio systems are available too.
Bentley and Naim
In February 2008, Bentley joined forces with high-end British audio experts, Naim. The aim was to deliver an ‘as-live’ in-car audio experience. This was properly bespoke, with Naim going as far as to ascertain how the body panels behaved in motion and the way in which the sound waves bounced around the cabin.
So instead of delivering an off-the-shelf amplifier, Naim produced a brand new one especially for Bentley. A six-layer circuit board was developed and the system was tested in temperatures ranging from 70-degrees to minus 40. So it should work.
Rolls-Royce – bespoke
Not for Rolls-Royce, the lure of a dual-branded audio system. Instead, when Rolls-Royce was developing the Wraith, it went and built its own 1,300-watt, 18-speaker audio system. But then Bespoke is a big thing at Rolls-Royce. Cars made to order is central to the brand’s promise.
Volvo and Bowers & Wilkins
The new Volvo XC90 takes most things to the next level and the 19-speaker in-car audio system is no exception. Bowers & Wilkins has brought its ‘Tweeter-on-top’ technology to a car for the first time, helping to minimise acoustic reflection from the windscreen.
This is something you must tell the person sat next to you over dinner. But perhaps not something you’d say on your first date.
BMW and Bang & Olufsen
The Bang & Olufsen high-end Surround Sound System offers just about the best soundtrack you can get in a new BMW, unless of course you’re driving an M3 or M4.
Indeed, BMW claims the sound is so good, you ‘could almost be in one of the world’s best concert halls.’ Come now, BMW, the 7 Series is big, but it’s not that big.
Land Rover and Harman Kardon
In the good old days, Land Rover gave you a choice of audio systems. The relationship with Harman Kardon went back over 15 years, having been offered in top-end versions of the Discovery and Range Rover. In 2010, British specialist Merdian Audio started developing systems for new Land Rover models.
Land Rover and Meridian
It all started with the Range Rover Evoque and has grown since then. Order a top-spec Range Rover or Range Rover Sport and Meridian is now the in-car audio system of choice.
Jeep and Harman Kardon
Jeep has stayed loyal to the Harman Kardon brand, the high-end audio system standard equipment in the Grand Cherokee Summit and SRT models. The 19 GreenEdge speakers ensure little noise is lost out of the cabin, while a 825-watt amplifier ensures your B*Witched album can be enjoyed in all its glory.
DS and Denon
The DS brand has recently separated from the Citroen mothership, off to pursue a more luxurious, lifestyle-led life. The DS3 and DS4 models are equipped with a high-end Denon audio system, which includes soft-dome tweeters, 165mm woofers, a central mid-range speaker, subwoofer and digital amp. Just don’t call the cars Citroens, OK?
Fiat and BeatsAudio
Fiat is hoping to appeal to a young and happening audience by offering BeatsAudio equipment in many of its cars. Indeed, you can even order a Fiat 500L Beats Edition, featuring a sound revolution courtesy of Dr Dre. Whatever that means.
Ferrari and JBL
Since 2008, JBL sound systems have been offered in new Ferrari cars. Here’s a Ferrari FF parked outside Strawberry Fields, made famous by the Beatles.
Tick the optional JBL Professional sound system box on your new Ferrari California spec sheet and enjoy five 25mm ceramic tweeters, three 80mm midrange speakers, two 200mm carbonfibre woofers and…well the list goes on.
Toyota and JBL
But you don’t need a Ferrari to enjoy the sound of a JBL sound system. Since 1996, Toyota has offered JBL in-car audio solutions in its range of cars. Certain trim levels of some models will have the JBL Premium sound system fitted as standard, but elsewhere it can be ordered as an option.
In the GT86 it costs £1,100 and features an amplifier, JBL speaker set and wiring kit. Research on owners’ forums suggests it’s a worthwhile upgrade.
Lamborghini and Monster
The Lamborghini Veneno of 2013 was no ordinary supercar. In fact, Lamborghini called it a ‘racing prototype for the road.’
The $4.5 million Roadster version was treated to a Pure Monster Sound audio system tuned by Noel Lee of Beats by Dr. Dre fame. The use of Monster tech created a ‘live music’ experience for the nine lucky people who were able to buy the extreme Lamborghini.
Jaguar and Meridian
With Land Rover switching to Meridian, it was always likely that Jaguar would do the same. Order, say a new F-Type, and the standard-fit audio unit will consist of a 180-watt system, six speakers and an eight-channel amplifier.
Upgrade to the Meridian Surround Sound System and the wattage increases to 770-watt, the number of speakers doubles, as does the number of channels offered by the amp. All for £1,700. Image shows the interior of a Jaguar XJ fitted with a Meridian system.
Chrysler and Harman Kardon
The Chrysler 300C may have bowed out of the UK, but it was possible to fit a Harman Kardon audio system to the car. The pack featured a 12-channel amplifier, 900 watts of power, seven 3.5-inch midrange units and various other gadgets to keep a Maplin sales assistant busy for hours. Curiously, the system is listed on the Harman Kardon website for a penny under £120,000. We think this may be a misprint!
Tesla Model S
In a tribute to Spinal Tap, the volume control in the Tesla Model S goes ‘up to eleven.’ For that reason alone, it warrants a mention here.
Lexus LFA and Yamaha
Now for something completely different. In order to extract the best soundtrack from the LFA’s 4.8-litre V10 engine, Lexus turned to Yamaha’s musical instrument division.
The LFA’s chief engineer, Haruhiko Tahahashi, likened the sound to that of ‘the roar of an angel.’ Yamaha’s solution was to create uniquely-shaped ribs in the intake manifold cover. It’s at this point we wish we had perfected the MSN sound app.
Dacia Sandero and the sound of silence
The antithesis of all the above is to do without an audio system. Buy a Dacia Sandero Access for £5,995 and you don’t even get a radio.
In fact, the entire car costs less than some of the systems we have mentioned. Makes you think, doesn’t it?