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NYIAS 2015: Audi with Bang and Olufsen

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The new Audi R8, here shown in a space-gray, is a rocket and there’s no mistaking it for anything else. The price tag starts at $116k, so I’m not sure what I was expecting. Perhaps more car?

This is one of those times when the parallels to high-end audio are useful — you don’t have to spend a lot, but if there’s a particular thing you do happen to be looking for, you’re likely to have to pay through the nose to get it. True “full range” in a loudspeaker, for example. Or, the ability to go from zero-60mph in less than 4 seconds. You know. Just as a random example. Yeah. Well, if you want that, that’s gonna be expensive.

So, the question then is, who’s really going to be adding a “serious” stereo to a car that’s clearly appealing to an entirely different demographic?

I have no idea. Me? I’d have thought that lux cars and sport-lux were a bit different here, but clearly the stats guys know better. And that’s why B&O has systems for a whole suite of Audi sport-lux cars. And not just them — I found very similar systems from B&O in the Aston Martin cars, too.

At the risk of over-simplifying, let me start by saying that the B&O-equipped cars were perhaps the finest-sounding of the lot. There was just something pure and relaxed about the sound that put it directly at odds with much of the crap auto makers slap into their lux boats.

The most distinctive thing is that up-firing tweeter popping up from the dash that they call the Acoustic Lens. Drawn from their BeoLab home loudspeakers, the design looks like a diffusor/reflector array, and one positioned to minimize beaming.

Traditional loudspeaker design dictates that the listener needs to be positioned within an acoustic ‘sweet spot’ in order to get the most from the listening experience. Our acoustic lens technology creates an improved sense of space and realism while maximizing the area in front of the loudspeaker where the sweet spot exists. Sound is dispersed over a 180° angle, so whether you are at the wheel or a passenger watching the countryside slide by, it will feel like you have a front row seat in one of the world’s best auditoria.

Class D ICE-power amps drive the speaker arrays, which can number up to 19, depending on the configuration and level of fitment.

Last but most definitely not least is the extensive use of DSP technology to address all the pernicious and unavoidable aspects of space. Interestingly (and appealingly), there’s significant use of noise-cancellation (think, road and wind noise) to increase clarity without having to turn up the volume.

Very impressive.

In the R8, the B&O system is 13 speakers with 13 channels of amplification (550 watts) and 10 channels of DSP signal control. The S8 takes you to the flagship 19 speakers with 19 channels of amplification and over 1.4kW of power, and will set you back an additional $6,800 on your $115k land-yacht.

Gotta say, for $7k, that’s quite a system. And one delivered with the room “issues” already sorted? Ha. No brainer. Hello, “value”!

The only question: where the hell am I gonna get $120k for a car?

Happily, the B&O systems are available in most Audi models — and not just the crazy-expensive ones.

Aston Martin, BMW, Mercedes also carry B&O systems. More at Bang & Olufsen.

Interestingly, the car audio business was bought last week (during my visit to NYIAS, actually) by Harman International. This move brings Bang & Olufsen together with Bowers & Wilkins, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson and Revel Speakers.

Interesting to note is that Harman paid $156M for the lux business unit. What’s interesting? Well, the fact that the entire home-stereo market was recently valued at somewhere around $200M.

Car audio is big business.

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.