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Aston Martin DBS & Bang & Olufsen BeoSound

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by Danny Kaey on December 01 '08

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Ahh... if only I had the spare cash left over... The Aston Martin DBS with the all new Bang&Olufsen BeoSound system was the show stopper for many car peeps at this year's 2008 LA auto show.  Rightfully so might I add.  Besides being featured in the new James Bond flick, Quantum Of Solace, the 2009 DBS is an amazing piece of engineering.  With the addition of B&O's audio expertise, you now can enjoy both worlds... race track performance and a killer audio experience... read on for more impressions...

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Bang & Olufsen can be seen as the first “high-end” audio manufacturer to successfully establish themselves as a true premium brand in the high performance luxury automobile market.  A brand rooted in rich history and with key engineering advances in hi-fi design, it almost seemed logical for B&O to venture down that road.  It all began in 2001 when Bjarne Sørensen, director for automotive concepts and technology approached Audi’s engineering team with the task of providing them with a car to showcase B&O’s sound engineering.  Audi obliged with an A8 sedan and work began almost immediately.  When it came time for Bang & Olufsen to demo their tricked out A8 to Audi’s top management team, no one really new what to expect.  It wouldn’t have been the first nor last time a reputable audio manufacturer got their feet wet in the automotive industry, only to discover that it was a dead end road.

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Alas, the fortunes appeared different for B&O, as virtually every single Audi representative hailed the system as being the best that they had ever heard.  Featuring B&O’s proprietary ICE switch-mode amplifiers, acoustic lens technology tweeters and midrange up front and heavy-duty DSP control and tuning, the sound was truly first-class.  Audi immediately commissioned B&O for the job and thus the partnership was born.  At first a $6800 option on the A8, both Audi and B&O projected modest sales.  Soon, however, it became apparent that many more customers than originally projected ended up ordering this system upgrade.


Fast forward to 2008 and B&O successfully managed to outwit the folks at Linn to become the premium audio partner for Aston Martin’s top of the line sports car, the DBS.  The quintessential coup de grace – you see, Linn isn’t a slouch when it comes to home audio: the LP12 turntable, various amplifiers and power supply upgrades, the 555 series, etc. all have received the highest accolades over the years.  Alas, someone, somewhere must have felt that B&O’s solutions offered the better experience and voila, we arrive at the 2009 DBS BeoSound.  The lines are amazing.  Curved but not overtly so, all body panels are beautifully executed and exude style, class, speed and that British touch which make this car so coveted.


Hop inside and you are greeted with sumptuous leather everywhere and a beautifully sculpted center console housing all of the car’s fundamental controls including the B&O head unit.  They did a great job of keeping all “audio” controls simple, intuitive and easy to use.  For the DBS, Bang & Olufsen decided to go all-out and utilize their retractable custom acoustic lens technology for the two front tweeters.  Much like in the Audi A8, you are treated to a visual spectacle of sorts as you power the head unit up and watch the tweeters raise from the dashboard.  Neat!  The complete system consists of 13 fully active DSP controlled and optimized loudspeakers. 

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Suffice is to say that at least on paper, B&O looks to have done a superb job packaging their proprietary BeoSound system to the heart  and soul of the DBS.  Familiarizing myself with the controls, I loaded up my 2k8 auto show demo disc and was immediately struck by the well balanced nature of the sound, almost a carbon copy of the Audi sound I am familiar with.  Clean, transparent and highly resolving, where among the first mental notes I took as I listened to Dean Martin’s voice off his Dream With Dean record.  Much like in the Audi’s, the BeoSound system is tuned for overall neutrality as opposed to warmth or perceived coloration of the sound.  I suppose that driving around in a sports car such as the Aston Martin, you would almost want a matching audio system with razor sharp handling and focus and that’s exactly what you get.

 

On Fire and Rain, James Taylor’s superbly produced 70’s hit, you can clearly make out each individual instrument imaged perfectly across the front and center stage.  For a tight cabin such as the DBS’s, hearing the depth and layering front and center is truly remarkable, no doubt a testament to the BeoSound’s synergistic approach and quality of execution.  Likewise, Blues in Blueprint, off Duke Ellington’s Blues in Orbit disc, shows off the systems incredible resolution prowess.  Here, the recording venue is much larger than the aforementioned James Taylor cut, with Duke and his orchestra taking on a bigger soundstage.  On a good home system, you will clearly hear the arrangements panned out across the width of your room; surprisingly, the BeoSound system inside the compact DBS managed to retain much of that soundstage grandeur.  Perhaps the only negative is that tape hiss was more prevalent than I remember; then again, this was a demo in a stationary car – picking up speed around town you’d probably never hear that hiss as it would be drowned out by the ambient noise anyway.

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Finally, a quick sample of 2raumwohnung’s Da Stehst Du, revealed a system capable of massive bass output and control.  Layers upon layers of sound are painted before you, with the sort of kick-in-the-pants bass you’d expect from a full range home system.  The pulsating bass line comes across as well proportioned, thankfully not sounding like that little boom box Honda at the red light next to you.  According to Bjarne Sørensen, ICE power, DSP control and sound tuning are all responsible for the “home audio” style high performance audio experience you get inside the DBS (or Audi for that matter). 

 

Fundamentally, what the BeoSound system inside the DBS does so well is to remain authentic and true to music in first place.  Unlike many other high performance audio systems I have heard (after market or OEM), Bang & Olufsen’s concept centers around music, not marketing hyperbolae or gimmicks and gadgets.  If you are looking for bells and whistles, flashing center console lights and fancy screen savers, look elsewhere – although there’s plenty of that available too.  If however, music is your primary concern and you happen to spend a lot of time in your car, then the BeoSound experience in the DBS will leave you looking for disc after disc, or corner after corner. 

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Even though the experience in the DBS was only a short one, it left me hopeful for many more high-end audio manufacturers to enter the realm of car audio.  Rumor has it that B&O is not quite done and will soon follow with…

 

(hey, gotta leave with a cliff hanger, ya’ know?!)