Best car sound systems

Want the best possible speakers in your next car without spending mega-money? We've rounded up affordable models with standout sound systems

James Wilson
Apr 29, 2021

Having a great sound system at your disposal when behind the wheel can transform even the dullest journey. Not only can decent speakers turn traffic jams into karaoke sessions or shrink the longest of motorway slogs, a good audio setup enables you to really enjoy your favourite tunes, making sure they're not ruined by tinny speakers.

When it comes to car sound systems, there are two figures which are most commonly bandied about. The first is the number of speakers and what qualifies as a good number depends on the type of car. Smaller cars may have five or less (the super-basic entry-level version of the old Dacia Sandero had none), with better systems offering seven or eight, while super luxurious cars such as the Bentley Bentayga might have as many as 20.

Furthermore, there are different types of speakers. Subwoofers are all about the bass, pumping out the lowest frequencies, mid-range speakers focus unsurprisingly on mid-level sounds and then there are tweeters, which focus on high-pitch sounds. A good selection of these should result in balanced, full-bodied sound.

The second figure that is important for car sound systems is the wattage (often shortened to watts or more simply W) a system offers. Effectively, the higher the watts the more powerful a system is and, in theory, the louder it can get.

With that in mind, below are eight of the best cars for those wanting an excellent sound system. We've included a broad range of car types, including affordable small cars, high-performance hatchbacks, stylish saloons and even chunky SUVs. To qualify each car had to offer an audio system which is a cut above most rivals.

Do bear in mind that the best sound systems are often optional extras or reserved solely for range-topping models or the highest specification levels. So be sure whether any potential purchase comes with the speakers you want before signing on the dotted line.

Which car stereo is best?

1. Volkswagen Up

Our pick Volkswagen Up Beats
Used deals Limited stock

The Volkswagen Up is the kind of car that appeals to those looking for an affordable small car - as it should be both cheap to purchase and offers low running costs. Thanks to ‘Beats’ trim it should also appeal to motorists hunting for a more powerful sound system in their city car.

The Beats system comes with seven speakers - including a subwoofer - dotted about the cabin and the maximum system output is 300W. While these numbers are modest compared to the rest of those listed below, the Up is by far the smallest car here and this is a potent system for a car of this size.

Away from audio systems, the Volkswagen Up is a very competent small car regardless of trim. It is more refined than rivals such as the Citroen C1 and while not as stylish as a Fiat 500, it is more practical. For example, the Up is available as a five-door while the Fiat is solely offered with three doors. Aside from electric e-Up models, all versions use 1.0-litre petrol engines, with lower power versions for cheap insurance and more powerful ones for quicker acceleration, and you can choose between manual and automatic gearboxes.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Ford Fiesta

Our pick Ford Fiesta Titanium B&O Play
Used deals from £12,425
Monthly finance from £200*

Ford has long offered upmarket Fiestas but it wasn’t until the latest-generation model launched in 2018 that a high-end sound system became available. The system in question is made in partnership with audio company B&O and is rated at a maximum of 675W. Things are slightly more confusing for potential buyers when it comes to the number of speakers included, with some versions quoted as having eight and others 10. Either way, these are good numbers for a small car.

When shopping for Fiestas with a B&O system, there are plenty of options. Some older models sold up to 2018 had ‘B&O Play’ in their name, so are easy to spot, but newer versions don’t. In general Titanium X trim and other high-level Fiestas (ST-Line X, Active X, Vignale and ST-3) come with the B&O system as standard. The Fiesta is also great to drive, well made, affordable and in all but entry-level Style trim (which is no longer available for new models) standard equipment is plentiful.

FORD FIESTA BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Mercedes A-Class

Our pick Mercedes-AMG A35 Premium Plus
Used deals from £25,499
Monthly finance from £397*

The latest A-Class arrived in 2018 and is available with a 590W 12-speaker Burmester sound system. The subwoofer alone is rated at 120W, which is more than the entire sound system can muster in many cars. Another appealing high-tech feature is Mercedes’ impressive 'MBUX' option, which includes two 10.3-inch displays which take up much of the dashboard, with one serving as a media system and the other a digital driver display in place of traditional dials.

Mercedes only offers the powerful Burmester setup on A35 Premium Plus and A45 S Plus models. Both of these are seriously quick, although this does come at the expense of running costs and firmer suspension than other versions. A35 Premium Plus and A45 S Plus do both come with suspension that features a comfort setting, though, which helps things somewhat.

MERCEDES A-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Lexus UX

Our pick Lexus UX Takumi
Used deals from £32,663
Monthly finance from £490*

Many current Lexus models offer striking styling both inside and out, modern petrol-electric hybrid setups and plenty of the latest in-car technology. The UX is no exception. Lexus also regularly tops the charts for owner satisfaction - it finished first out of 30 car manufacturers in the 2020 Auto Express Driver Power survey, which sees motorists rate their cars.

Since the UX’s launch in 2018, top-spec Takumi models have boasted the best sound system. It is a Mark Levinson setup - with Mark Levinson being a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics - and it features 13 speakers with a total maximum output of 668W.

The Mark Levinson system is also included in a number of optional extra equipment packs, such as the Tech and Sound Pack. Lexus only offers its UX with one hybrid engine and gearbox combination - a 2.0-litre petrol engine paired with an electric motor and automatic gearbox. There is a fully electric version, too.

5. Volvo XC60

Our pick Volvo XC60 R-Design
Used deals from £27,995
Monthly finance from £424*

The XC60 is Volvo's mid-range SUV - sitting above the XC40 and below the seven-seat XC90. There is nothing mid-range about the Bowers and Wilkins audio system that is available in the XC60, though. It includes 15 speakers and is rated to a massive 1,100W. There are also a number of ‘room modes’ which Volvo claims recreate the acoustics of spaces such as a concert hall or jazz club.

While impressive, the system doesn’t come cheap, adding around £1,650 to the list price of new models. Thankfully, second-hand values for models that feature this kit are far more reasonable - with less of a premium to get yourself into a Bowers and Wilkins-equipped XC60 - but as the system is an optional extra that is part of Volvo’s ‘Tech’ pack, be sure to check whether this is fitted to any car you're considering. Moving away from the sound system, the XC60 is comfortable to drive, well equipped and features a very stylish interior.

VOLVO XC60 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Jaguar XF

Our pick Jaguar XF S
Used deals from £24,765
Monthly finance from £410*

Jaguar’s high-end audio partner is Meridian. There is more than one Meridian system available but it is the ‘Surround Sound System’ that is most impressive. In the current XF this translates to a whopping 17 speakers and a maximum output of 825W. Meridian’s Surround Sound System also comes with something it calls ‘Trifield’ which is supposed to be capable of recreating the original space where the audio was recorded.

The range-topping Meridian system is optional on all XFs, so if you are looking for a second-hand model, it's wise to double check that the upgraded system is installed to any versions you're looking at to be sure you're getting the best audio.

The current XF was launched in 2015 and quickly established itself as one of the most appealing upmarket saloon and estate cars to drive. It also won many hearts in the looks department, both outside and in. As of October 2020, Jaguar updated its XF by adding tweaked styling, a more modern media system and mild hybrid technology.

JAGUAR XF BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Audi TT

Our pick Audi TT Black Edition
Used deals from £21,655
Monthly finance from £337*

Audi is currently on its third-generation of TT. Overall the German carmaker’s latest attempt is the best yet - largely thanks to it being more enjoyable to drive than its predecessors. The cabin is one of the best available in a small coupe or two-seat convertible. Audi’s 'Virtual Cockpit' digital dials are a particular highlight, as these replace traditional dials with a crisp digital display.

There is also an optional Bang and Olufsen sound system which comes with 12 speakers and is rated at 680W. When hunting for a TT with the Bang and Olufsen setup, it isn’t as straightforward as you might hope, as most trims don’t include it as standard. In all but range-topping Vorsprung specification Audi bundles the uprated sound system into its ‘Comfort and Sound’ pack, so don’t assume Sport, Sport Edition, S-Line or Black Edition models automatically have these speakers fitted.

AUDI TT BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Range Rover Velar

Our pick Range Rover Velar HSE
Used deals from £46,000
Monthly finance from £593*

The Velar’s sleek body shape and beautiful interior help make it very desirable. In truth, the Velar is a Range Rover for those that like an SUV to focus more on style than being able to drive up muddy hillsides. This is no bad thing as most people don’t do much heavy-duty off-roading.

SE and HSE variants feature Meridian’s 17-speaker 3D Surround System which is rated at 825W. When looking at new and used models, there is plenty of choice when it comes to both petrol and diesel engines. There is no choice in gearbox, though, as an automatic is the only option.

Driving a Velar is a refined and comfortable experience, but models with air suspension are the most comfortable, so keep an eye out for these if comfort is one of your top priorities. Air suspension comes standard on new HSE and R-Dynamic HSE versions.

RANGE ROVER VELAR BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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