If you’re a car-shopping audiophile, it becomes extremely important to check a car’s radio system. Continue reading to check my top ten picks – includes some high-end selections that won’t break your bank, either. All of these will cost you less than $20k used, in fact, some even cost less than $10k.
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1. 2012 Volkswagen Jetta
Fender, the iconic guitar maker, has partnered with Panasonic and VW to build an audio system that looks like it belongs in a $100,000 premium car. The Fender audio update comes with a 400-watt amp and nine speakers. This includes separate woofer and tweeter units in each door along with an 8-inch subwoofer positioned on the rear deck and is available in the Jetta GLI, Passat, and Beetle.
Whether you prefer gentle classical string passages or the window-rattling bass pounding of the best rock and rap groups, the Fender system produces crystal clear highs, deep bass, and superb separation. Even when the volume is near maximum, you won’t hear trim pieces and door panels shaking from vibration overload, since VW has done such an excellent job of buttoning down the interior build quality of its cars. A 2012 Jetta will cost you just under $10k in the used market.
2. 2012 Infiniti M
Fitted with the Bose Studio Surround system, the 2012 Infiniti M premium performance sedan delivers incredible audio quality, just like its previous-gen model. The M 37’s 5.1-channel, 16-speaker configuration is amongst the best Bose products, more so when sampling high-fidelity DVD audio. Official wattage statistics are nowhere to be discovered for whatever reason, however, the system never feels underpowered.
The Infiniti M doesn’t disappoint, even in terms of performance and handling. The V6 engine under the M37’s hood offers great performance. For even greater performance, consider upgrading to the V8-powered M56. Rear-wheel drive and a seven-speed auto gearbox come as standard. All-wheel drive is also available. The M 37 retains an EPA-estimated figure of 18 mpg in the city, and up to 26 mpg on the highway.
3. 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander
If you are on a very tight budget, and looking for a vehicle with a good sound system, consider opting for a 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander. With a price range of $7000-$9000 in the used market, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander will offer you ample cargo space, sporty handling, a strong engine, along a good quality sound system. The Rockford Fosgate audio system drives a 710-watt amplifier that powers eight speakers and a 10-inch subwoofer, the sound quality is incredible for a car at this price.
4. 2012 Acura TL
Acura’s outstanding ELS audio system is standard on all of their vehicles (except the RL model, which ironically, despite being the flagship model, gets an average audio system). The ELS audio system sounds the best in the TL luxury sedan. The 440-watt, 10-speaker surround-sound system, designed by Grammy-winning sound engineer Elliot Scheiner, seeks to replicate the studio-level sound. This even includes the complete 24-bit, 96-kHz audio present in DVD-A discs—the greatest quality currently attainable.
Other than a fantastic sound system, the Acura TL sedan boasts a powerful 280 hp 3.5-liter V6 engine available on the standard models, and a 305 hp 3.7-litee engine available on top of the SH-AWD version. The Acura TL retains an EPA-estimated figure of 20 mpg in the city, and up to 29 mpg on the highway.
The Acura TL is known for its agile handling, roomy rear seats, and powerful engines. You could very well score a 2012 Acura TL for less than $15,000.
Also read: Are Acuras Good Cars? ALL Pros and Cons
5. 2017 Nissan Maxima
If you are an audiophile looking for your next car purchase, then you should truly check out the 2017 Nissan Maxima. Fitted with a premium Bose sound system that includes 11 top-class speakers and a host of sound management technologies such as Centerpoint, Active Sound Management system, and Surround stage.
The Nissan Maxima is not only an audiophile’s car, it will also cater to driving enthusiasts. Because under its hood is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that churns out 300 horsepower, giving this large sedan a sports car-like acceleration. Buyers will also appreciate the sheer beauty and luxurious feel of the Maxima. Nissan’s signature boomerang lights, along with the distinct floating roofline, makes it very attractive. Furthermore, the high-quality interiors make every instance special inside the car.
You can easily spot a well-maintained 2017 Nissan Maxima for just about $20,000
6. 2011 Lexus LS 460
By spending just under $20k, you can get a 2011 Lexus LS 460 featuring one of the most incredible sound systems – a Mark Levinson Reference 7.1-channel surround-sound audio system. It may not be the most powerful system on the market, but it does have less than 0.1 percent total harmonic distortion, 19 custom metal-coned speakers, and a frequency range of 20 to 20,000 hertz.
7. 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550
Available just around the $20k mark in the used market, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550 can be a really great option if you are an audiophile. The Mercedes S550 may be equipped with a Bang & Olufsen BeoSound premium sound system.
The setup includes 15 speakers that have outside grilles for a better feeling of space and ambience, as well as four acoustic lenses. A total of 1200 watts is generated by two different amplifiers: For transforming audio signals into 7.1-channel surround sound, a 750-watt ICE Power main unit works in tandem with a 450-watt digital signal processing unit. The result is an incredible audio system.
8. 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
The Chrysler 300 is not only a car that looks expensive even while costing under $20k in the used market, but also a proper audiophile car. At least for the SRT variants, the 300 sedan features a Harman Kardon premium sound system. This system has a 12-channel amplifier with 19 speakers, boasting 900 watts of power. The 19 speaker setup includes seven 3.5-inch midrange units with seven integrated tweeters and five subwoofers.
Like the stereo system, the 300 SRT8 packs a punch under its hood as well. The monstrous 6.4-liter Hemi V8-engine produces a massive 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 mph comes up in less than five seconds. But, you do have to compromise a lot on fuel economy. However, this large athletic American sedan will offer you loads of space inside, and well, it can even be mistaken for a lot more premium Rolls Royce.
9. 2018 Kia Optima
For just around $20k, you could very well score a 2018 Kia Optima. The Optima’s sound system has been improved for 2018. The new Harman/Kardon Quantum Logic Sound System in the 2018 Kia Optima offers a significant difference in sound quality. To deliver high-quality audio to every square inch of the cabin, the Optima features a 10-speaker system that boasts a combined power output of 630 watts. Your music will reach a new level of quality and clarity with the inbuilt Clari-Fi sound restoration technology.
10. Audi A4
The Bang & Olufsen system on Audi cars is one of the sound systems available in the market. Therefore, a 2016 Audi A4, available around the $20,000 mark in the used market, makes for a commendable choice.
The A4 is a wonderful saloon, that on top of the line Vorsprung models, features an incredible Bang & Olufsen audio setup which includes 19 speakers, capable of producing an outstanding total power output of 755 watts.
Also read: Are Audi Cars Good? (Pros and Cons)
11. Toyota Aygo
Not every car with a superb sound system has to cost a lot of money. So here comes the Toyota Aygo JBL Edition, a little bit unique car.
The Aygo JBL edition comes with the most powerful speakers ever witnessed on this vehicle. The JBL system generates a total of 600 watts.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity come standard on the Aygo JBL Edition, making it even better. This small city car can give you the experience of a rock concert at just the touch of a button.
If the incredible sound from this system wasn’t enough, the appearance of this vehicle alone will turn heads. The Aygo is easily identifiable, thanks to its fluorescent ‘Mandarin Pop’ orange roof and superior Electro Grey paint finish.
12. Infiniti Q50
Available with a premium BOSE sound package that includes 14-speakers anchored by three 10-inch wheel woofers for clearer, deep frequencies and enhanced sound pressure. The other speakers are then adjusted to deliver surround sound, tuned for the acoustics of the cabin, cutting out distortion and noise for an Infiniti-exclusive live performance experience.
In addition to offering an incredible sound system, the Infiniti Q50 is also a wonderful looking sports sedan with an aggressive face and creased sheet metal. Advanced safety technology and hybrid powertrain options make the Q50 quite a tempting option to bank upon. The Q50 comes loaded with a host of high-tech creature comfort and safety features such as ventilated seats, twin infotainment screens, sunroof, navigation system, parking camera with sensors, memory settings for the driver seat and electrically adjustable steering wheel.
Powering the Q50 hybrid sedan is a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine combined with an electric motor, producing a combined output of 360 hp and 536 Nm.
The following are the top premium car sound system providers:
- Bang & Olufsen
- Harman Kardon
- Boston Acoustics
- Ken Wood
- Rockford Estgate