Spending big on high-end car audio system: Is it worth it?

Any audio system would sound adequate with some tuning. But is that really not enough?

BHPian mgastor2022grey recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Hey guys, hope you all have been in good health.

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of YouTube videos which show car owners who upgrade the audio system of their cars for a huge amount of money. Now, I am just getting myself clear, I love premium audio and am a basic audiophile. But, are we really using our money wisely? I don’t know…

For starters, when we cross the budget of 20 lakh, we get a good audio system which is a bang for your buck.

We have now started to see branded audio being a part of the standard equipment of manufacturers. For example, we have a 9-speaker JBL system in the Nexon, an 8-speaker Bose system in the Seltos and Creta and a 9-speaker Infinity system in the Hector. However, we still have companies which don’t care for audio at all (That’s for you MG! The Astor has an unbranded 6-speaker system, which IMHO is not adequate)

When we realize that our cars don’t have a good enough audio system, we begin to search for aftermarket options. We may initially start with a small budget, but later end up spending which may cost us a fortune (I have a friend who has an I20, started to spend for audio with an initial budget of 3 lakhs, but later ended up spending roughly 11 lakhs!).

We even have certain BHPians such as @flipflop, who has spent 29 lakhs to get the best out of his Sonet.

I have certain YouTube videos in which state owners spending a mini-fortune for their car’s ICE, such as this one.

I’m not criticizing these people, just a doubt that many people have: Are these upgrades really worth it? Many people have stated that car manufacturers don’t offer enough of this high-end system. (Not only complaints from Creta but also from a Volvo XC90 customer who stated that the 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins speaker sounds bland)

Now more and more companies are offering ridiculous pricing for their car’s sound system, such as Bentley’s Batur which is asking $32000 (approximately 27 lakhs) for its premium audio.

According to me, any audio system would sound adequate with some tuning. But is that really not enough? Do we really need a mini concert in our cars where we will be spending a max 24 hours? I really do not know…

BHPians, please throw some light on this…

Here’s what GTO had to say on the matter:

I believe in two sayings:

To each, his own

Live, and let live

What anyone else does with their money is entirely their domain. We shouldn’t ever criticize that. Some people spend big money on car audio, while others spend 4 lakhs on a handbag, 10 lakhs on a watch, 90 lakhs on a wedding and 100 crores on a house.

Whatever makes him / her happy

Personally, I don’t think spending big bucks on a car audio system is worth it and I have written as such in a related thread (The Downside of High-End Audio Installs). This negative vote is coming from someone who has a 4000-song neatly catalogued music collection on iTunes, has a premium music subscription to all the services and spends at least 10 hours a day listening to music. I am still the old-school type who downloads all the songs he likes and adds them to iTunes.

But the real magic of music is from the voice of Eminem or Asha or Enya, not the 1-lakh rupee component speaker. I enjoy music even on reasonably good headphones costing under 10,000 rupees, or my girl’s Airpods!

Most new cars now have very good ICE systems from the factory, and they only get better in the 20-lakh car segments and up. With my 530d (two stock subwoofers) and Superb L&K, I feel absolutely no need to upgrade the audio system. The Thar has a decent music system for a convertible Jeep, although I do intend to spend 20 – 50k on upgrading the speakers, an amplifier and a subwoofer. 50k is not over the top at all.

For my home entertainment, I would splurge a bit more because we are very big on TV shows & movies. I think I’ve spent about 2 lakhs on my home audio system and am on the lookout for a bigger 65-75 inch TV now (which will be another couple of lakhs).

Here’s what BHPian Rajeevraj had to say on the matter:

Not to trivialise or belittle the question, but in my view, these are questions that will have no clear conclusions and there is no end to it.

The same can be extended to a lot of things. Is it worth spending 30 Lakhs on a car when you can pretty much get everything in a 15L car? Is it worth buying a BMW for 70Lakhs when a Superb at 50 L will probably give you more? Is it worth going to a fine dining restaurant and spending 2000 per person when the neighbourhood hotel will probably give you the same food at 200? People buy large mansions and houses for 2-3 people when something half the size will still be too much.

All of these exist because there is a section of people who find value in it. It may be inexplicable to a vast majority, but that is what it is. We all find joy in doing and buying different things. This is just one of those.

Here’s what BHPian d3mon had to say on the matter:

People forget that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

A car interior has terrible acoustics to start with. Imperfect positioning of the listeners w.r.t. speakers, unavoidable reflections via tons of surfaces and road/traffic noise creeping in.

OEMs with high-end audio options (like B&W in Volvo) spend millions of dollars and hundreds, if not thousands of hours in an attempt to tune out the inherent issues with a car’s interior space. These are audio engineers with PhDs and decades of experience and expensive audio measurement equipment, mind you.

If you think just throwing expensive audio components at the problem can solve these issues, I think you’ll end up being disappointed. You need a solid foundation (a well-built car that can cocoon you from the outside world – nothing lower than the likes of a Skoda superb, IMO), good quality components (this is what most of these audio installs focus on) and then tons of tweaking for it to sound as good as it can within the constraints of a car’s (acoustically) flawed interior.

Here’s what BHPian Vid6639 had to say on the matter:

My view is for the car there are too many variables to get audiophile-grade sound and one will never be happy with the non-ideal environment of a car. If you look for perfection it will be a money-draining pit of no control.

So I prefer to have good audio at home and then in the car spend nominal for upgrading stock audio if it is subpar.

For example in the Ecosport, I added an amp, component speakers and a subwoofer.

In the Jimny, I am adding component speakers and carrying over the amp and subwoofer from the Ford as I didn’t see the point in going all out with fancy speakers and a DSP.

If the sound with better speakers and the amp doesn’t improve, I may go for a different amp with an inbuilt DSP to keep the setup simple.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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