Top 5 best-sounding in-car audio system we’ve tested

Shaun · Dec 19, 2020 02:57 PM

According to Waze data, Malaysians spend an average of 1 hour and 12 minutes per day on the road. More likely than not, most of us will be listening to our favourite tunes on the go.

Some of us are a little more particular about audio quality than others, which is why we’ve rounded up the top 5 best-sounding in-car audio system we’ve tested at each price range.

1. Under RM 50k - Proton Saga

There’s no contest in this category, the 2019 Proton Saga has the best sounding audio system by a comfortable margin. There’s no renowned Hi-Fi brand here or 20 speakers, just a good old fashioned 4-speaker setup.

The 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system is slick to operate and graphics are clear. But what’s outstanding is the energetic audio performance. Bass is punchy, mids are not repressed, and treble has enough sparkle. Plus, there’s an equalizer setting for users to tweak to their liking.

Of course, if you’re used to higher-end systems, then you might find it rough on the edges – a little unrefined. But considering the price point of the Proton Saga, nothing else comes close.

2. RM 50k to 100k - Toyota Vios/Yaris

Most sound systems in Toyotas are tuned for a smooth sound signature with soft-textured bass, giving the impression of refinement. This applies to the Toyota Vios and Toyota Yaris as well.

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto available in the 2021 Toyota Vios/Yaris

In the Toyota Vios/Toyota Yaris, the sound is rich with meaty low-end and mids with decent imaging from the repositioned tweeters. Highs or treble is a little reserved when all sound effects are disabled and the equalizer flattened, but slight tweaks on the equalizer will easily add sparkle. 

That’s all it needs to get a well-balanced sound, just avoid those artificial sound effects.

3. RM 100k to RM 150k - Mazda 3

In the 2019 Mazda 3, a lot of effort has been put into the speaker placement location and it has paid off. The imaging is bang on with good separation and clarity.

But there is a gripe – it lacks the warmth of a subwoofer. It just doesn’t go low enough in the bass frequencies nor does it dig deep. If only it came with the Bose system, which does have a subwoofer and should solve this gripe.

That being said, most cars in this price range don’t have an audio system that includes a subwoofer. So we’re giving the Mazda 3 a pass for this as it the rest of the frequency range is well tuned.

4. RM 150k to RM 250k - Volkswagen Arteon

Now, as prices go up, expectations get higher as well. There are several worthy considerations at this price range such as the Toyota Camry with its JBL system. But the Volkswagen Arteon’s Dynaudio system is chosen for its faithfulness in music reproduction.

Sure, the JBL system in the Camry sounds richer and full-bodied, but the bass can get a touch overenthusiastic, muddying the mids at times. The Dynaudio system in the Volkswagen Arteon doesn’t colour music as much, especially with “Authentic” sound profile selected.

It sounds clean and each instrument or vocal is well defined. The subwoofer doesn’t make its presence felt until it’s turned up a couple of notches. It complements the higher frequencies rather than overpowers them.

Subwoofer mounted under the boot floor

However, if you’d prefer a more aggressive sound, it will oblige when you select “Dynamic”. Bass texture firms up and mid-bass gets a boost along with treble. Rest assured, there are enough settings for most users to tweak to their liking.

5. RM 250k to RM 350k - Volvo XC60

Onto the best audio experience we’ve had so far – the Bowers & Wilkins system in the Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus. Highs are airy and crisp, yet never harsh nor sibilant even when connected via Bluetooth. Bass is weighty and goes deep, courtesy of the subwoofer.

There are a few settings that alters the soundstage, including a “Concert Hall” sound profile that supposedly mimics the experience of um… concert hall. But it does sound rather synthetic depending on genre of music.

We prefer Individual Stage. When selected, it’s as if audio is coming from the windscreen. That shows how precise the imaging is, the sounds are almost tangible. The Bowers & Wilkins system in the Volvo XC60 is one of the few systems that sounds great even in its default settings right out of the box.

To wrap up, we’d like to note that sound is very much subjective, as each individual may have his or her own preferences. Perhaps you disagree with our list and you’ve experience something superior to these in their respective price range. In that case, do sound off in the comments section.