Car enthusiasts are also often audiophiles – and that doesn’t just go for the sound of a raucous, growling engine, such as in the Audi R8, but for the auditory pleasure a bumping sound system can deliver, too. There are some genuinely mesmerizing sound systems from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) these days – often standard-fit in high-end luxury vehicles or available as optional extras in top-tier trims. These systems can be out of reach, however, being that they’re in the cars not everyone can afford. So, here’s a list of just some of the most incredible, bespoke audio systems out there:
Harman Kardon is one of the best names in the automotive sound system business and has featured systems in cars from Audi, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Polestar, and more. In a recent partnership with Polestar, Harman Kardon designed a bespoke 13-speaker setup with 600 watts of power for the Polestar 2 SUV. It was designed to complement the car’s minimalist and digital essence using a ventilated subwoofer in the rear cargo area cavity for high-quality bass, and another air-powered subwoofer in the dashboard for a surround-sound effect. All the driver-assist technologies are also hooked up to the system for distinct, easy-to-place sounds.
Exclusive to the Lincoln Aviator full-size crossover SUV is a 28-speaker 3D audio system consisting of four sets of dual-height speakers in the headliner, developed by Revel Ultima. The system comes with an immersion control slider that allows the passengers to choose by how much they want to be enveloped by the music, essentially enhancing the audio experience for occupants in all six seats. There are three listening modes offered, too: stereo, which has the audio emit from either side of the cabin, audience, which creates a front-row concert hall feel, and on-stage, which delivers a 360-degree, surround-sound experience.
Bang & Olufsen
Bang & Olufsen is another well-known car audio brand that typically features its systems in high-end European vehicles. A first, however, is the B&O Unleashed sound system featured in the all-new Ford F-150 pickup truck – an 18-speaker layout tuned to deliver a high-quality audio experience to all occupants, no matter what seat they’re in. There are even speakers mounted within the headrests of the seats to provide a “near-ear” audio experience. Along with those, speakers in the headliner create a multi-dimensional effect.
Bowers & Wilkins
When it comes to premium audio technology, Bowers & Wilkins may be relatively new to the game, but is still one of the most prodigious. Jaguar was the first automaker to have used B&W systems, and now they can be found predominantly in Volvo’s latest range. A unique element in B&W’s tech are the Diamond Dome tweeters which are speakers made using genuine diamonds. The thin diamond layer makes for incredible levels of audio purity, even when the system is cranked up to high volumes.
Dolby is, of course, a very well-known technology brand, so while this one may not be quite as exotic as the others, it’s the specialized sound system and the car it’s going into that are quite extraordinary. A new automaker, Lucid Air, will soon be debuting its first all-electric luxury car in the USA and plans to include a top-notch 21-speaker surround-sound audio system as part of the package. It will include intuitively positioned front, mid-side, and rear speakers strewn throughout the cabin of the sedan. Lucid Air tasked Dobly with tuning the Atmos layout (a multi-dimensional sound experience) and even went to legendary mixing studio ‘Capitol Records Studio C’ to reference the sound design.
Other In-Car Audio Brands
There are loads of other in-car audio brands on the market, here are some:
- Mark Levinson
Because of how advanced these audio systems are, many active driver assist systems and safety measures are being incorporated in them, too, offering a practical solution to placing certain audible alerts. For example, audible blind spot alerts will emit from the direction a vehicle is detected at.