Review: 2013 Aston Martin DB9 avec BeoSound

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by Danny Kaey on April 07 '13

2013 Aston Martin DB9 2

Well, well, well… it's about that time to dive back into the things we love the most: fancy cars.  The circle of cars evoking such caption as Aston Martin's latest all new for 2013 DB 9 are far and few between.  Yet, somehow, each model generation that AM produces somehow seems to significantly enhance that experience that much more.  Such is the case with the all new for 2013, DB9, which has taken on cues from the previous top line model, the venerable DBS and now sits just right beside the brand's ultimate crown jewels, the even more awesome Vanquish.  The DB9 is, of course (anything else would in fact be utterly uncivilized, unless it was powered by AM's own V8) powered by the company's tried and true V12 petrol engine, churning out more than enough stallion power to drive you from point A to B.  Alas, that is merely half - a third? - the story as it isn't so much about sheer power, rather, the confluence of how it all gets together that is oh so mesmerizingly captivating.  It is after all, billed as the "world's most timeless, elegant sports grand tourer", a distinction that it carries with grace, might I add.

Being a true SonicFlare review, we of course also focus our attention to the ever more refined Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Hi-Fi entertainment system, which this DB9 so proudly displayed as an OEM upgrade option.  Living life large with 13 fully active speakers, each custom designed for their appropriate space in the car's interior, gives you a commanding sonic experience, to say the least.  Powered by the latest ICEpowered modules (another B&O domain) and featuring the Acoustic Lens Technology which is also another B&O hallmark, this ain't your local fixer-upper's boom-boom bass-job system.  Simply put, those seeking that sort of an experience must look elsewhere.  Of course, no fancy B&O system would be complete without the appropriate DSP controlling to ensure that all this wizardry actually gets to your ears in a time and phase aligned fashion. Car cabins are such a nuisance when it comes to acoustics.  DSP to the rescue.  'nuff said.  

AM DB9coupe 1

What is so significantly different from other such approaches to car Hi-Fi is the fact that B&O engineers worked together with Aston Martin's team to produce precisely these acoustic effects in such a notoriously difficult environment.  By comparison, designing speakers for your home is infinitely more simple.  Thus, Aston Martin has been able to - let's call it - round out the overall driving experience with the appropriate in car experience.  After all, in today's day and age, a customer expects nothing less than the complete driving experience.  And what an experience it is. From the doors ever so slightly slanting upwards as you open them to placing yourself inside the cabin, to the sonorous sound the V12 sparks as it receives barking orders from the car's glass key powered ignition system, I can't think of anything similar in recent automotive history that would evoke such grandeur.  

The shear growl emitted by the car's exhaust upon start up is nothing short of exhilarating, if not reassuring that the investment you just made is paying off in spades.  "Man, this thing is gorgeous" were words I heard repeatedly during my stint with the Aston.  "Mind if I take a picture?" Satisfying indeed, I suppose.  Perhaps it was the Volcanic Red paint of the DB9; perhaps it were the carbon ceramic brakes; perhaps it simply was the fact that this car, with this paint job and tan, hand stitched interior simply exuded style and grace.  Technologically speaking, the 2013 DB9 speaks the latest lingo; care for AM's latest generation triple adjustable sport damping suspension?  Check.  Fancy 20" wheels and wide rubber?  Check.  Single clutch automated tranny?  Check.  Trust me.  This thing is wicked.  Speaking of wicked: it is in fact amazingly quick.  60 is hit in around 4 point-what-two-or-so clicks on the clock, and top speed, well, lets just say its "sufficiently" fast.  

AM DB9coupe2

No doubt, no sane person would ever consume this car's raw stallions on public roads, suffice is to say that at no point in time did I ever feel underpowered.  Speaking of power: the BeoSound system has quite the power itself, no, not stallions, wattson's in this case.  1100 to be precise.  Now typically, experiencing a Hi-Fi system is quite a bit different from driving a super car and listening to your favorite tunes, alas, the two experiences aren't necessarily as far apart as one would assume.  Both require you to stay seated for a period of time; both require you to focus on the task at hand - listening to music - and finally, both are typically enjoyed in a private, personal sort of environment.  I suppose the sumptuous leather seating surface of the DB9's driver or passenger seat would beat my Eames aluminum group chair any day of the week, but hey, that's minutia at best.  

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As the BeoSound system is pretty much tuned for proper sound straight from the factory (remember, they did spend quite a bit of time fine tuning the ins and outs of the DB 9's Hi-Fi), fiddling with any of the adjustments - in this reviewer's opinion - is a mute point and in fact would make the sound worse not better.  Thus, all tone controls left at their factory presets produced a well defined, coherent, time aligned and even sound, covering pretty much the entire gamut of the audio spectrum.  On tracks with tremendous bass such as Trentemøller's Nightwalker off his master piece The Last Resort, you really feel the gut wrenching, slam of the synth bass lines as if you were siting by a massive sub.  Wait a second, you are!  Another neat trick of the track are the spatial cues thrown around in and out of phase, giving you the illusion that you are truly submerged in the track, even though this isn't a surround sound encoded disc.  The DB9's BeoSound successfully recreates these effects without even breaking a sweat, no doubt, the time aligned DSP working its magic.

IMG 5437Designing a proper Hi-Fi system for any environment is difficult - integrating it successfully in a mobile car environment with very limited acoustic space, and limited space, period, is that much more challenging.  Kudos to the B&O and Aston Martin team for successfully having done so - with style to boot.  Spatial cues are abundant, even - especially so - with orchestral classical music.  Cue up an intimate concerto, say, Heifetz fiddling the violin, or play papa Beethoven's grand 9th symphony and you'll be in for a treat.  Said symphony, the 9th, off Solti's incredibly well recorded masterpiece sounds at times better than the Hi-Fi I have at home.  Wait, did I just say better?  Sure, much more enveloping, nay, three dimensional: you simply feel as though you are part of the performance, whereas at home - unless it is in fact a surround sound encoded disc, you always feel like merely a participant looking at the event.

Melodic folk pop, such as James Taylor sounds rather terrific as well, might I add.  Crisp, clear, strumming his guitar, James Taylor sounds just about right.  Sure, a high resolution home system will give you that bit more depth, and life-like quality, but hey, it's a Hi-Fi in a car.  Hey, the way I look at it, let's not forget how atrocious that used to sound like.  All in all, I can't recommend the buyer of a DB9 not spend the money on the B&O BeoSound system, heck, if you have $200k to spend on a car, another 8 or so in extras, particularly when they authoritatively improve the overall driving experience to the degree the B&O does, is money well worth spent.

Whilst in the parking lot of a favorite El-Lay hang-out, I couldn't help but notice the looks the car received - quite simply, you can't help but feel special in this car.  Sure, your typical Ferrari, Lambo or McLaren attract a certain type of clientele, alas, the Aston does too.  Me personally, I'd take the Aston any day - it's just a different league all together.  Who knows, maybe I have been watching Skyfall one too many times.  Sorry, I can't help it.  Aston Martin having been chosen as the first luxury super car manufacturer to partner up with Bang & Olufsen needs to be commended for having acquired this relationship and driven it to its logical conclusion.  Over the years I have driven many a great luxury car, nay super car, but the Aston Martin was always amongst that very top, distinguished class - it's not so much that it screams attention as it oozes confidence and luxury all whilst at the same time barking up to 60 in no time what-so-ever.  

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Bang & Olufsen too, need to be congratulated for their efforts - let's not forget just how difficult it is to integrate a Hi-Fi system in a car environment, specifically in such a confined space as the DB9.  Yes, there's fancy DSP holding a tight grip on the sound, yes, a home Hi-Fi will at times give you more of what an audiophile aspires, but hey, this ain't too shabby for a car.  Certainly not for a system costing $8400.  Heck, my current speaker  cablers from EINSTEIN cost more than that.  Who knows, maybe the slightly larger Vanquish or 4 door Rapide offer up a bit more Hi-Fi air and depth on top; for now, for this grand tourer, the BeoSound is about as good as it gets.  Quibbles?  The user interface could maybe use an all touch based UI, it is 2013 after all.  On the other hand, to be honest, I didn't miss that.  The draw and attention to more important things is that much more captivating.  From the engine's roar to sixtyfivehundred rpm (especially when switched to "sport" mode) to the precise turn-in of the steering and superb neck-snapping handling of the chassis, this car is perhaps the golden goose for Aston Martin.  I know it would be mine.  Most highly recommended, and please, do order the B&O BeoSound; you'd be shocked at how good it will sound, fancy V12 under the bonnet and all.  A+++


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