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Sonic Blast: World’s Best Car Audio Systems

The VroomGirls Sound Check:

Jaguar XJL Supercharged with Bowers & Wilkins 7.1 audio system

• Standard on the XJ and XJL Portfolio is a stunning Jaguar 600W premium audio system, featuring 14 speakers and a powerful digital signal processing (DSP) amplifier. It can play CDs, MP3-encoded discs and DVD Audio, as well as DVD movies on the touch-screen (while the vehicle is stationary).
• The Bowers & Wilkins® 1200W surround-sound system is for the true audiophile. Optional on the XJ and XJL Portfolio, it is standard on Supercharged and Supersport models. Rivaling the best home hi-fi, it features Dolby® Pro Logic® IIx and DTS® Neo:6® encoders to deliver exceptional 7.1 surround sound via 15 channels powering 20 strategically located speakers. Three extra audio channels are available through optional WhiteFire® wireless digital headphones.
• Standard on all models are HD Radio™ and SIRIUS® Satellite Radio (subscription required).

My Take:

Disclaimer here – I like Bowers & Wilkins speakers. I like them a lot. They are the speakers I chose for my home theater system.

Now that that’s out of the way, the first thing I noticed about the Jaguar was that you had to provide your own USB cable to connect the iPod. Not a big deal, but, umm, I did just plump up 90 large for a new Jag, so maybe they could throw in the $.80 USB cable for “free?” This is not unique to the Jaguar. Many other companies do this as well, and I understand it, but…

There are multiple USB inputs in the car, so you have flexibility for the media (as do most of the systems in this test). The cubby that houses the iPod doesn’t have a light inside it, so it’s a little awkward to find it at night. The touch screen interface is very intuitive. I didn’t have to read an instruction manual to make it work.

Once you’re up and listening, it only takes a few seconds for a smile to cross your face. This is a fantastic sounding system. Easily one of the best I’ve ever heard. Full bass, clear and complex treble revealing beautiful sonic detail, and a rich mid-range. Exceptional.

My Bowers & Wilkins Sound Notes:

King Creosote feels like someone is playing a piano on the hood of the car and the windshield has disappeared.
– All the little textural sounds are clear and present – you become aware of sounds that you’ve never heard before in your music, things that are usually lost in lesser systems.
Choirova Academea sounds incredible. Clear lows, strong separation of the complex voicings in the mid range.
– In Frou Frou, the bass is really strong and would back the bass control down a bit.
Jesca Hoop sounds absolutely perfect.
Elbow – you can even hear the imperfections of the strings in the performance of the string quartet.
Deadmau5 “Strobe” is thrilling – this song could have been the sonic benchmark of the system’s designers – it sounds that good.
Mastodon fares better than the Foo Fighters, maybe because the drums are mixed back a bit.
– This system “likes” every style of music, but I don’t think the real heavy rock stuff is its strongest suit. The sweet spot of this system seems to be the pop, electronic, and classical music more than the heavier songs. Having said that, the heavy stuff still sounds terrific.

Pros:

– Intuitive interface
– Breathtaking sound
– Simple, easy to use buttons
– An overall exemplary car stereo system
– I love these speakers

Cons:

– One annoyance occurs whenever you adjust the volume, and the main screen freezes up to show us the volume level for a second or two. You can’t do anything else while that screen is up. It slows you down and it’s annoying.
– The surround sound – Dolby PL2X – sounds “hyped”, DTS Neo 6.1 slightly less so. But it feels like you should start with all that stuff off, and if you don’t like the way it sounds then start experimenting. DTS is nicer, but the low end is richer with it off.
– The only EQ controls are bass, middle, and treble. I miss the flexibility of the parametric EQ of the BMW or Rolls.
– The ultra low end frequencies the system is capable of will shake you and thrill you, but it can also be a bit too dominant at times.

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One Response to “Sonic Blast: World’s Best Car Audio Systems”

  1. FAA says:

    Thanks for the tip! I am picking up my Continental Flying Spur Speed With the Naim system and was wondering about settings; as knowledgeable as the salesman was about the car, I’m not sure he’d be much help setting up the audio system!

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