CarTronics: Mapping The Landscape Of Premium In-Car Audio

By Seyth Miersma

June 01, 2011

The advent of the Winding Road Comfort Index has had some interesting results here in our Ypsilanti office. In addition to causing us take a different approach to our time in test vehicles (we’ve seriously never lavished so much time on getting into and out of the back seats of cars), the Comfort Index has made us listen a little differently.
 
Sure, we’re well adapted to listen for the melodic strains of an engine surging past 7000 rpm, but these days we’re also turning down the wick—at least for brief stretches—to listen for wind and road noise, and to take a deeper read on the quality of the audio system.
 
So, endeavoring to learn a bit more about the wild and complicated world of in-car audio (something we intend to get some help with from our impressively credentialed sister publication Playback at AVguide.com), we started to breakdown the marketplace just a bit, and with interesting results.
 
Of course most automakers offer “name brand” audio upgrades for many models—Honda seems to be the only large-scale exception to this rule—but we found it interesting to see how many of these brands were shared across the industry. The well known Bose brand, for instance, is one of the most widely licensed audio names in this space, offering its sonic stylings in cars ranging from Chevy to Maserati. Harman/kardon is nearly as large, though seemingly possessed of a taste for mostly premium makes.
 
Have a look the full chart below, and be sure to tell us, in comments, about the best in-car audio system you’ve ever experienced.
 
Premium In-Car “Name Brand” Audio
Automaker
Alpine
Chrysler, Dodge, Land Rover, Scion
Bang & Olufsen
Audi, Mercedes-Benz
Bose
Acura, Audi, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Fiat, Infiniti, Maserati, Mazda, Nissan, Porsche, Saab
Boston Acoustics
Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge
Bowers And Wilkins
Jaguar
Burmester
Porsche
Dimension
Hyundai
Dolby
Volvo
Dynaudio
Volkswagen
ELS
Acura
Harman/kardon
BMW, Buick, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Saab, Subaru
Infinity
Dodge, Hyundai, Kia,
JBL
Toyota
Kicker
Dodge
Lexicon
Hyundai, Rolls-Royce
Mark Levinson
Lexus
Meridian
Land Rover
Naim
Bentley
Pioneer
Chevrolet, Scion
Rockford Fosgate
Mitsubishi, Nissan, Suzuki
Sony
Ford
Shaker
Ford
THX
Lincoln