New York auto show: Sonically underwhelming?

We went to the New York car show to check out the sounds, but high-end car audio, even in $250,000 luxury barges doesn't compare to a decent home hi-fi.

Rolls-Royce cars now sport Lexicon sound systems. Steve Guttenberg

I went to the New York International Auto Show to listen. Weird yes, but I'm the audio guy, and nowadays high-end cars all have high-end audio systems . These cars go for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I was hoping to hear some decent sound. That didn't happen.

Naim's car audio system for Bentley didn't wow us. Steve Guttenberg

The nice folks at the Bentley Motors display put me in a spectacular Flying Spur Speed ($252,000). The car has a 6-liter W-12 engine with twin turbochargers, 6-speed automatic transmission, and a claimed top speed of 200 mph. The interior was lavish beyond belief, with truly gorgeous wood and leather that puts your average Mercedes to shame. Rock stars and sports heroes know how to live!

The sound? I'm sure the engine sounds fabulous, but they wouldn't allow me the honor of blipping the throttle. Ah, there was a Naim audio system in the car, and I'm a fan of Nain's home gear, but the Bentley's sound system was nothing to get jazzed about.

The $6,900 Naim audio system sports 15 speakers, including dual subwoofers. Just don't kid yourself, it's not remotely on par with a credible home system. I thought the in-dash display was sort of tacky. Naim would never put such a thing in its home systems.

The Mini Cooper sound system was one of the best per dollar, that's for sure. Steve Guttenberg

Next, Rolls-Royce cars, like this awesome Phantom Coupe pictured at the top of this blog ($437,000), now have Lexicon audio systems. Too bad I didn't get to hear it. (Maybe the Bentley guys told them about me, just kidding.)

The Mini Cooper people were a lot friendlier, so I checked out the sound in their 10 speaker MINI Hi-Fi Sound System. Considering it adds just $500 to the car's bottom line, it was pretty good.

I listened to all sorts of mainstream car audio systems, and most were pathetic, sounding pretty much like $100 boomboxes, but with more bass. The aural equivalent of Big Whoppers, ugh!

Still, upscale car systems aren't much better, and I hope their buyers don't think they have any idea what good sound is just because they have high-end branded sound systems in their cars. High-end car audio is not remotely the same thing as a good home system. Real audio is a very different trip.

 

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