Audi's Bang & Olufsen Sound System Reviewed

B270

About a year ago, I was intrigued by images of Audi’s upcoming Bang & Olufsen premium sound system for the A8 sedan. It looked terrific, but no car stereo system I’d ever tested had lived up to a $6,300 price tag. Then last week I got to test one out for myself in a black S8. Not only was it worth every cent, it was pure aural heaven.

The one thing you can’t escape about the system, before you even hear it, is that it looks cool. How does a sound system impress with looks? The speaker covers are all real metal, and two directional tweeters literally rise out of the top of the dash when you turn the key. Talk about trick.

Here’s what I listened to:

Nine Inch Nails, With Teeth: If you want to test out clarity and power in one CD, this is the one. The B&O system reproduced the diginoise Trent Reznor is famous for flawlessly, along with deep beats and raging guitars. There isn’t a ton of low-range bass, it’s just crisp and clear. I think Reznor should buy one of these S8s just to hear his own work on it.

My Morning Jacket, Okonokos: This is a live set from a band that styles itself largely after Neil Young. There are no digital effects here, just guitars, bass, keyboards, drums and vocals. The classic rock setup really brought the system to life with some warmth, and each instrument was perfectly clear. I had to go back to this disc and listen again just to make sure it was as good as I thought.

Queens of the Stone Age, Lullabies To Paralyze: This was the only disc that didn’t sound better in the S8. I don’t think the system is meant to play heavy metal or heavily amplified guitars. There wasn’t much power behind the huge guitar riffs. Don’t get me wrong, it still sounded good, but it’s clear this system isn’t for the heaviest of metal heads nor the fans of low-end bass.

There’s a six-disc changer and an interface for an MP3 player, but I only tested out CDs. The Audi’s multimedia interface controller is really one of the best on the market, with easy-to-navigate menus and buttons. If you can’t see the large LCD screen in the middle of the dash because you’re driving the S8 to the limits, a small screen in between the gauges also displays stereo information when you use the steering-wheel-mounted controls.

At the end of my drive I simply did not want to get out of the car. I wanted to make a dash to the record store, point the S8’s nose toward Alaska, and mash the accelerator. Instead I had to go to work, completely envying those who can afford to buy one of these mobile music studios.

By David Thomas | August 13, 2007 | Comments (12)
Tags: Audi, Car Gadgets

Comments 

Barry

You said MMI is "one of the best on the market, with easy-to-navigate menus and buttons". Sorry, but not on the planet Earth. I work for a company where we actually had customers evaluate various HMI (Human Machine Interfaces). MMI may be better than i-Drive, but that's like saying a Pinto is better than a Yugo. Have you tried to actually operate it while driving - I mean more than just changing tracks. Switching between sources like AM/FM/CD/etc requires looking straight down away from the road. Plus you have to drill down the menus to do most anything.

Barry,
Yes compared to iDrive and Mercedes' system it is preferable in my eyes. Mercedes is close though, but the four buttons that surround the dial are always in the same place so you can "feel" them when you see the coordinating function on the screen. Plus there are plenty of buttons to change the mode from CD to FM etc that you don't even need to use the interface. The thing you need it for the most is the sound balancing which you shouldn't need to play with too much.

Troy

6300.00 for an OEM audio system? That is highway robbery. A stop at your local car audio shop will have your system sounding much better for a fraction of the cost....with more features.....customized to your liking.

Troy,
I've covered Sema and heard good aftermarket systems. To get anywhere near this you would have to spend about $6300 in aftermarket anyway and you wouldn't be able to find it at your local best buy. And even then remember Audi tests the system for the vehicle's exact acoustics.

Troy

Dave,

I agree to an extent.

Chain Store electronics stores and deep pocket Corporate sponsored built and customized trailer queen SEMA vehicles aside, any Car Audio specialty shop would be able to rival the Audi's OEM system in both Sound Quality and SPL if so desired....for much less. It's done every day in various make/model vehicles.

Can you tell I'm tired of paying out the nose for inferior OEM audio that's touted as being "premium".. only to notice the only thing premium is the price tag?

6300.00 can buy a multi amplifier DVD/NAV system with multiple mids/highs/subs, headrest video screens.... All customized to the customer's brand loyalty and tuned to the vehicle's acoustics it's being desinged for. Cash will be left in the owner's pocket too.

This is not to say the Audi system doesn't sound good. I'm also sure the target audience of the vehicle will be happy with it's performance as well. As an audiophile though, I would order the car devoid of the OEM system and use the 6300 for a better setup.

Sultan

If you had the chance to test the Lexus LS 460's Mark Livenson 19 speakers sound system, How do you compare it with B&O ?

Novara1

Tory,

You have a good point but the vast majority of these cars are leased and therefore owners are unable to install high-quality aftermarket systems. For a factory sound system, the A8's B&O system is without a doubt one of the best on the market right now.

Novara1

Troy,
Sorry for misspelling your user tag in my first post! :)

IHeard

I just wanted to say that the Audi system does not sound good to me.

Heather

Last time I checked, the A8 runs about $78k. The B&O sounds amazing, and anyone who can afford an $80k vehicle, likely isn't too worried about $6k.

Barry B

I'm thinking about ordering a new Audi A6 and pondering adding the extra $5900 for the Bang & Olufsen sound system over the stock Bose system. Anyone have any thoughts/experience with the 2012 sound systems??? Thanks in advance.

Barbara Breslin

I bought my new 2013 A^ last October. Loaded it up, so also sprung for the B&O sound system upgrade. I can't believe how tinny it is. There is absolutely no mid-range. The treb and base are present, but there's a huge sound gap. I've played with every knob and drifted the fade and balance around. the only way to get "decent" sound out of it is to stream my iTunes and use it's pathetic equalizer on of all things the "flat" setting to render anything decent. I realized the pleasure of good sound systems in my old 1995 S500 Mercedes which has the limited Bose system. Then I had real nice Harmon Kardon in Mercedes E320's and R320 (Both CDI powered) and even with CDI at low speeds the pure sound emanating from the speakers was great. These little tweeters that retract from dash are all form over substance. Even the salesman admitted it's not at all what he had expected, when I verified with him, that I was setting it as well as I could. Sooo bummed. How can you really love all that this vehicle has to offer as far as acceleration, handling and comfort, when the sound system is lame? I'm forced to look into some sort of aftermarket equalizer, or something. Any suggestions??? hate to contemplate it.

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