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The car is a great place to listen to music. Whether you’re into Brahms or Motorhead, Spice Girls or Migos, listen to a single genre or love everything from baroque to psytrance, then a decent sound system in the car is important. The fact of the matter is most cars just come with a "good enough” system, which is fine for those that just like to have something on when they drive. But, where do you look if you want a sound system with some real quality?
Most companies have a "premium” sound option but often they are to be found lacking. Hyundai, for example, uses Infinity for its upgrades, and although they are a marked improvement for someone that likes their music loud, it won’t satisfy an audiophile. However, Hyundai is also now offering a Krell system and that changes the game.
These are the best in-car audio systems you can find short of going to specialists and spending huge money having one custom built for your car.
Revel perfected the art of accurate sound reproduction in home audio systems, and what they do for Lincoln is as exceptional as it is expensive if you tick the next level option. Revel builds the systems to the specific dimensions of each car and uses software to enhance low-quality streams, but the devil truly is in the detail. The lows you can feel without distortion, the warm and rich mids come with clear distinct highs that don’t get harsh or break up at high volume. Revel are building something very much at the high-end for Lincoln.
Bang and Olufsen systems in Audi cars are full on affairs with as many speakers that can fit and amps cranking big watts, but along with the huge wall of sound, B&O always brings clarity to the table so you can hear every distinct thump of a kick drum or tinkle of a piano key. There’s also B&O's Acoustic Lens technology that causes the music to be dispersed in particular patterns ensuring every person in the car gets the full experience.
B&O also partners with BMW, Aston Martin, AMG, and Bentley.
BMW has been working with Harman Kardon for a long time and it's always a strong option. Bowers & Wilkins is fairly new to the in-car audio world. It started out in Jaguars but can also now be found in some BMW models. Their party trick is using Diamond Dome tweeters, which are tweeters made using actual diamonds. It’s an incredibly thin layer of diamond, but the result is a purity of sound at high volumes that should satisfy even the fussiest of audiophiles.
Bowers & Wilkins audio systems are featured predominantly in Volvo’s current range, as well as in Maserati and Jaguar cars.
You can pay a lot of money for a Krell home sound system, but Acura offers one for your car. Acura’s ELS Studio system is pretty capable and well above average. However, the Krell system uses the same layout of speakers but with Krell's own hardware. According to Acura, the amplifier gives "one-third less distortion than the leading competitors’ flagship luxury car amplifiers,” but what we can tell you is that the dynamics are superb and you’ll hear lots of detail you may have missed before in familiar tracks.
Krell systems are now starting to be offered on Hyundai models.
Genesis advertises its Lexicon system as being Grammy Award Winning Sound, and that’s because Lexicon is mostly known in the recording industry for studio equipment. Lexicon’s systems are state of the art, and you can also find them in Rolls-Royce models if you want a truly high-end stamp of approval. If you want crystal clear audio that catches every tiny nuance in your music, then Lexicon is well worth hearing.
The good news is Lexicon systems are starting to be offered in Hyundai cars as well.
Range Rover’s website describes its Meridian Audio Systems as a concert-like experience. The key to that is two things. First, Meridian’s sound-processing technology that blends the stereo signal into the center and surround channels. Second is the small speakers dotted around the vehicle, including in the headlining, that acts as height channels to make sure passengers don’t miss a thing. The result is a refined and balanced system with a full sound through the vehicle.
Jaguar and McLaren also use Meridian sound systems.
Burmester wants to be the best sound system you can find in a car. We particularly love how tailored the systems are for the Mercedes cars they go in and don't mind using speakers in the roof. Burmeister doesn't rely on an output of watts, but aims for a three dimensional sound that is notoriously difficult to pull off consistently through different kinds of music. Burmester has done an excellent job though, and for audiophiles that love a Mercedes, it’s an excellent match.
Burmester also partners with Porsche for the Panamera.
Naim is a British audio company started by a man that loved modifying and racing cars as much as he loved audio. That might explain why Naim’s system for Bentley provides huge wattage through 20 speakers. After all, no matter how well built a luxury car is there’s going to be some wind noise at maximum mph. What sets the Naim system apart though is the digital sound processing system that makes sure the sound reaches every passenger, and because Bentley owners often have drivers, there’s a mode that makes sure the rear passengers get the full benefit.
Mark Levinson is an American brand at the highest end of car audio. Mark Levinson himself came up with the concept of high-end car sound in 1979, and Lexus took advantage of just how good those systems are in 2001 and has offered them as an option on many models since. If you want an incredibly rich surround-sound experience that rivals many home systems, then ticking the Mark Levinson option on a Lexus makes sense.