2014 Audi RS7 Bang & Olufsen audio. Click image to enlarge
2014 Audi RS7 ($115,000) with Bang and Olufsen Advanced Sound System
As a package, the RS7 and optional $6,500 B&O audio are a match made in high-tech and high-art heaven. This crazy rapid luxo-hatchback is haute voiture on a stratospheric level, so it seems fitting that the pricy audio upgrade should announce itself on startup with a pair of metallic sculpted tweeters that rise phoenix-like from the dashtop. As does the LCD interface screen.
Here, the visual theatre meets its sonic promise. These tweeters with “acoustic lens” technology are designed to spread high frequencies evenly throughout the cabin. The system delivers over 1,200 watts through 15 speakers, including a rear subwoofer and centre tweeter. Automatic real-time adjustment of equalization and volume compensates for changing condition. To these ears, this B&O might be the most technical sounding system of the group tested, delivering an unprecedented clarity across the complete audio spectrum. One might argue it’s a bit clinical, yet the obvious obsession to detail creates an experience that floors you. Just like the car.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Burmester audio. Click image to enlarge
2014 Mercedes-Benz S 550 ($108,200) with Burmester
Well, the newly anointed king of the luxury flagship heap also gets a mighty impressive 13-speaker audio system as standard kit. Mercedes-Benz asked sonic tinkerer Dieter Burmester to tag along while they developed their new S-Class. He worked with Benz for over two years, designing and building his sound system while they designed and built the car. (And it should be noted I’m slumming it with the base system. There is an optional High-End 3D Surround Sound experience with twirling and lighted tweeters, 24 speakers and 24 amplifiers that runs $6,900.)
Base or not, the Burmester system in this Merc fills the cabin with a concert-like experience. A nine-channel 590-watt DSP amplifier does the heavy lifting, but I’m betting much of the nuance and warmth comes from the combination of both digital and analogue filters. Woofers are mounted in the longitudinal beams in the footwells of the driver and passenger “This is the best position as these deep tones can really spread out and fill the space” – so sayeth Burmester.
It makes the already big cabin feel huge. The sound is rich and even with no peaks or valleys in the spectrum. In short, perfectly natural – the kind of hi-fi audio that fully encompasses but never tires. The fact that the Merc’s cabin is tomb quiet contributes to the aural love-in. Burmester says “I want to bathe in the music and I don’t want anything to disturb this moment.”
The beautifully filigreed metal speaker covers on the doors? Visual icing on this multi-tiered sonic cake.