Editorial

Is Spending Loads Of Cash On A Premium Sound System Worth It?

We get being an audiophile, but some of these manufacturer systems are outrageously expensive.

We recently tested the 2016 Lexus RX 450h, which came equipped with the Mark Levinson premium audio system. In our RX, this system included 15 speakers with surround sound and was bundled with the larger 12.3-inch navigation system. For $1,510, we thought that the Levinson system sounded fantastic and getting the larger navigation screen rolled into the price was just icing on the cake. But while the cost of premium audio was justified in that case, in some cars it's simply outrageous.

For example, the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Audio in an Audi A8 costs a whopping $6,300. You could buy a 2005 Audi A4 for the same price as this stereo. It may be expensive, but this system is pretty amazing. The Bang & Olufsen system packs 19 speakers into the cabin, with two acoustic lenses that pop out of the dashboard when you turn it on. The system puts out 1,400 watts, which will drown out road noise even if you decide to go 200 mph. Unfortunately, we the $950 Bang & Olufsen system available in smaller Audi models like the A3 is more than adequate.

As we all know, Porsche models are highly customizable. That is why the German carmaker offers not one, but two options for premium audio. This first option is a 12-speaker Bose unit which features a subwoofer for a total of 550 watts. The Bose Surround Sound System costs $1,590, which doesn't sound unreasonable. What might be a bit overkill is the Burmester High-End Surround Sound System priced at $5,290. This system puts out 821 watts through 12 speakers with a 300-watt subwoofer and a class D digital amplifier. The Burmester system sounds great, but if you're buying a sports car like a 911 we don't see why you need such an expensive audio system.

We may not love the idea of a 911 with a $5,000 stereo but we do think that some premium audio systems are well worth the cost. For example, the Levinson system that Lexus offers is very impressive. Although we think that the Burmester system in the Porsche is a bit pricey, we absolutely love it in the Mercedes C-Class. The Burmester premium audio system comes in the C-Class as part of the "Premium 2 Package," which includes keyless entry, satellite radio and LED headlights and taillights. For $2,220, the Burmester speakers in Mercedes cars are works of art. No one really pays attention to the speaker grille, but the ones in the Mercedes are beautiful brushed aluminum.

In "normal" cars, premium audio can be a great addition and can increase the car's value. For example, the 10-speaker Sony audio system in the Ford Focus, part of the "401A Package," comes with Recaro Seats and automatic temperature control. However, spending over $5,000 on an audio system seems a bit silly. Years down the line, expensive models like the Audi A8 will depreciate so much that it will sound dumb when the whole car is barely worth as much as the stereo cost when it was new. If you don't consider yourself a serious audio snob, save yourself some money and stick with the stock audio system or piece together your own ideal setup.

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