2014 Lexus LS Mark Levinson audio. Click image to enlarge
2014 Lexus LS 460 AWD ($87,950) with Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound
This system comes as standard equipment in Lexus’s flagship sedan. Lexus states their engineers and Mark Levinson audio technicians spent over 2,000 hours tuning the system that features 19 speakers (including a 10-inch subwoofer), 15 channels and 450 watts with “speaker architecture” designed to deliver 7.1 surround sound. It provides an excellent listening experience, showing an even balance right across the audio spectrum. At this level, I’m looking for an all-encompassing richness that envelops the listener with no sonic peaks or dips. In keeping with the Toyota/Lexus experience, this ML system is all about smooth, silken delivery.
2015 BMW M3 ($75,000) with Harman Kardon
Standard issue with the all-new BMW M3 and M4 is an impressive Harman Kardon system that seems to suit the car’s personality to a tee. It’s powerful, smooth and a touch organic. Juice comes from a 625-watt DSP amplifier that powers 16 speakers – seven tweeters distributed around the dashboard, front, side and rear of the cabin; seven mid-range speaker similarly placed; and two bass woofers under the front seats. Logic 7 processing provides the surround sound action. Along with bass and treble controls, there is an eight-band graphic equalizer if you really need to mess with the sound. I found a slight boost to both low and high frequencies gave the sound more dimension.
2015 BMW M3 Harman Kardon audio. Click image to enlarge
Frankly, at this level of audio reproduction we’re splitting hairs. Anyone listening to a well-recorded CD in this M3 will be convinced it can’t get much better.
That’s before you put the car in Sport+, hammer the throttle and whip through those seven twin-clutched gears while the 425-hp twin-turbo 3.0L straight-six pins you into the gorgeous sport seats… oh crap, wrong story.
2014 Jaguar XJL AWD ($96,490) with Meridian Surround Sound System
Our Jag tester came with an $850 Meridian upgrade that boosts the speaker count of the base system from 14 to 20 (including two subwoofers), and sees the wattage jump from 380 to 825. Everybody has a fancy name for their digital processing that brings on board a 7.1 surround sound experience. British audio experts Meridian (well, it has to be British, eh what?) labels theirs Audyssey MultiEQ sound equalization technology. Call it what you want – it works. This is a hugely impressive system that washes the cabin in a highly nuanced sonic experience – it seems to expand beyond the leather and aluminum, creating a concert hall feel.
I can’t imagine what the 1,300-watt 26-speaker Meridian Reference system does.
2014 Jaguar XJ L Meridian audio & 2015 Hyundai Genesis Lexicon audio. Click image to enlarge
2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 Ultimate ($62,000) with Lexicon
The redone flagship Genesis sedan comes with an impressive 900-watt 14-speaker Lexicon system with Logic 7. You’ll hear the term Logic 7 bandied about quite a bit in the audiophile world. This surround-sound technology was originally created by a team of Lexicon engineers for professional recording use. In essence, Logic 7 takes a standard stereo recording and creates a surround-sound simulated multi-channel experience by utilizing a sophisticated matrix and digital algorithms.
Here we have 12 channels, and as would be expected of Lexicon, this system delivers an all-encompassing and extremely accurate audio landscape.