Dynaudio Excite Sound System review – VW Golf (Mk 7)
Dynaudio Excite Sound System for Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk 7
£525 (upgrade cost)
Dynaudio has been providing uprated, high-class audio for various Volkswagens since 2002. The Danish manufacturer even takes pride of place in the ultra-expensive £1.55 million Bugatti Veyron Vitesse Rafale (Bugatti is VW-owned) with its high-end Puccini set-up.
But, while crazily expensive supercars are just a poster on the bedroom wall for us mere mortals, the new Mark VII Golf and its Dynaudio Excite Sound System is a little more attainable...
We’ll touch on the rest of the infotainment options shortly, but the Excite set-up (named after the company's Excite speaker range) brings with it a 10-channel digital amplifier, eight speakers, one subwoofer and 400W of power.
There’s a pair of soft-dome tweeters in the front of the car, together with a pair of 17cm MSP (Magnesium Silicate Polymer) mid/bass drivers.
The same configuration can be found in the back of the Golf. The main subwoofer is built into the spare-wheel void in the boot and features twin voice-coils, hence the use of two channels of amplification. Tick the options for this enhanced speaker set-up and it adds £525 to the cost of the car.
Our test car was fitted with Volkswagen’s Discover Navigation Pro touchscreen navigation/DVD radio system with integrated voice activation, 64GB hard drive and twin SD card slots.
This will set you back £1725 as an optional extra. If that’s too steep, you could go for the standard £735 Discover Navigation system, which does without niceties such as the hard drive and the more advanced 3D map system.
The good news is that you don’t have to tick the box of any of these systems to enjoy the Dynaudio Excite set-up – it can be added as an option all on its own.
The focal point for the Discover Navigation Pro system is an 8in colour touch-screen. Compared with some of the other screens we’ve used, in the Porsche 991 for example, the Golf’s is quick to respond to your prods. All the menus are presented clearly, so you don’t get lost in a maze of menus and options.
There are dedicated touchtabs for Radio, Media, Nav and Sound options – and there’s a neat proximity sensor, which brings up a menu bar. This means the screen is kept free from clutter for the majority of time, only springing into life just before your finger makes contact with the screen.
The touchscreen is rewarding to use then, but the volume dial feels a little cheap and insubstantial, as do the controls on the steering wheel. We’d like something that feels a bit more substantial and tactile for the money.
File compatibility for the system doesn’t extend to the likes of WAV, FLAC or Apple Lossless (ALAC), but it can handle MP3, WMA and AAC variants. It supports up to 2GB SD memory cards, up to 32GB SDHC cards and up to 2TB SDXC cards. These slot into sockets tucked away in the glovebox.
The system provides a choice of four different sound settings for music playback. ‘Authentic’ sounds the most neutral to us. Dynaudio claims it reproduces what was in the original recording and we found it the most natural and expressive of the bunch.
The ‘Dynamic’ setting seems to boost the sound and size of the soundstage, but it sounded a little artificial and over-egged in lows and highs compared with ‘Authentic’.
Dynaudio recommends the ‘Soft’ setting for low-resolution sources such as the radio or MP3s. But, realistically, you don’t really want to be switching modes every time you go from Bluetooth to CD playback. ‘Soft’, to us, was one of the least impressive settings, robbing music of its vibrancy and pep.
‘Speech’ is for news broadcasts, audio books and hands-free use. In the VW Touareg, the car automatically selects Speech for hands-free calls and reverts to the previously used mode when the call ends.
In the Golf you have to physically switch to this mode for hands free and then turn it off again. We wouldn’t bother – we didn’t struggle to hear when using any of the other settings for hands-free. We suspect most users will pick the setting they prefer and just stick to it.
The last sonic option is to customise the bass, midrange and treble levels, using the on-screen sliders. We found leaving things on the ‘Authentic’ setting provided the most realistic and entertaining sound. Some systems sound a bit boomy or overpowering from the off, but the Dynaudio system is really well-balanced.
Dynaudio’s multi-woofer concept means the system has plenty to integrate, and, to its credit, all the elements of the Dynaudio system knit together remarkably well.
Unlike other systems on the market there’s no centre channel to help fill the gap from passenger to driver, but this isn’t much of a distraction as Dynaudio does a good job of filling that space, stopping the sound from appearing too directional and obvious.
In fact, for the money, the general level of sound quality is impressive. There’s dynamism and punch in spades and there’s just enough of a spread of sound in front of the driver without it all sounding disjointed and unbalanced.
Play Drake’s Own It over an iPhone 5s through the car’s USB socket and the vocal sounds clear and distinct when the track hits the stripped-down sections. But when the bass and drums kick in, the Dynaudio system wastes no time hitting you with excellent precision and control.
We streamed the same track over Bluetooth and felt the wired connection sounded more solid and substantial. Going wireless introduces a touch of hardness, although it’s still very listenable.
The system picks up where you left off if you leave and then return to the car, which is a nice touch – as is the ability to see the album artwork on the screen.
As you'd expect, DAB sounds clearer and more precise (although a little more compressed) than the vaguer, noisier FM, but they're both really listenable – great news if you happen to live in a DAB-devoid zone.
The Dynaudio speakers do just as good a job communicating a big Barclays Premier League Clash on Radio Five Live as they do the charts on Radio One. The system sounds hugely entertaining either way.
As with most car configurations, there are a lot of options for the Golf GTI – many of which you can probably live without – but £525 for Dynaudio’s Excite system is money well spent.
If you find yourself regularly at the mercy of congested motorways and city centres, it’s great to know the fantastic sound from this system will be there to keep you company.
by Andy Madden