Prestige upgrades give your ears a treat
Concert-hall quality sound for all seven occupants is the promise of the new Audi Q7.
The music is delivered by a 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3-D sound system that is second to none. It uses Fraunhofer Symphoria technology to deliver a clearly defined front stage and a perfectly balanced surround- sound field for each seat.
Most prestige marques offer car buyers upgrades to exclusive sound systems made by brands usually associated with esoteric home hi-fi. And involving international research institutes such as Fraunhofer indicates just how serious it is being taken.
The average driver will spend 1000 hours a year in their car so music is important in filling in that time. But at what cost?
Bentley offers Naim Audio as a $15,000 upgrade while most Lexus cars come with a Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 835watt model.
Audi offers Bang & Olufsen upgrades ranging from $2000 for the A1 to $17,000 for A8. Related brands Jaguar and Land Rover embrace Meridian upgrades from $2270-$10,500, while Aston Martin offers B&O in some models as standard, in others as a $14,500 upgrade.
Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System in Audi Q7.
BMW provides a Harman Kardon upgrade for $1200-$1900 and in the 6 Series B&O for $14,000-$16.000.
Mercedes-Benz uses a Burmester hand-made system which includes 13 speakers, front bass and 590 watts multi-channel DSP amplifier. It’s a $2990 upgrade on the C-Class and standard on the S-Class.
Lamborghini offers a Sensorum upgrade for $8200 while Bose pops up in marques including Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia and Audi. But Bose insists it has a clean-sheet policy, each fit-out engineered to work in harmony with the interior of each car.
The typical installation includes special multi-channel amplifiers designed to cope with the rugged life and extreme temperatures of a car environment.
The use of DSP (digital sound processor) technology ensures sounds from all speakers reach the listeners at the same time.
VNC (Vehicle Noise Compensation) analyses ambient road noise and modifies the musical playback to match the environment.
Installing subwoofers and bass drivers facing backwards extend the bass range and tweeters can pop up out of dashboards for 180- degree stereo.
Speakers can also be installed in headliners for a surround-sound effect as has been done in Rolls- Royce’s sunbranded $15,000, 1300-watt bespoke upgrade.
There is often a choice of amplifiers in the upgrade, such as the 825 watts or 1300 watts offered by Range Rover and Jaguar.
But big amps are not just about loud volume — large amps enable wide dynamic range without noise distortion. However, there are those, such as Grant Lauterbach, of Alberts Car Stereo Morley, who say car buyers may be getting less for their money than they think.
“It is and will always be a compromised listening environment, ” said Mr Lauterbach, who has been installing sound systems in cars for 35 years. “Sure, you can install high-end audio systems and enjoy the wide dynamic range of concert-hall quality — if you park in a bunker with the engine off.
“But even the most luxurious car will have some transmission and road noise that will compromise the sound.”
Mark Jeisman, of Surround Sounds and WA agent for Naim Audio, which sells systems worth up to $250,000, leapt to the defence hi-fi upgrades, such as the Naim in the aforementioned Bentley.
“I have heard it and it is a fantastic sound, ” Mr Jeisman said. “The road and engine noise is very quiet due to the ride and insulating qualities.”
Perhaps best to leave the last word to musician Neil Young, a campaigner for quality sound:
“Music is about feeling your soul, whether it makes you laugh or cry, just as long as you feel it, ” he said in a recent interview.
Maybe that’s the ultimate test for audioupgrades in luxury cars.
Bentley offers Naim Audio as a $15,000 upgrade.
Burmester surround-sound and video screens - www.mbusa.com/mercedes/future/model
Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System - www.bang-olufsen.com/en/car-audio/car-models/audi/q7
Naim Audio - www.naimaudio.com/naim-for-bentley
© The West Australian
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