Aston Martin BeoSound DB9 Volante
Fantastic integration between speakers; excellent imaging; poised, controlled bass delivery; expressive midrange; oh, and that V12 engine note
Unintuitive interface; small display; sounds brighter as the volume gets louder
The BeoSound is a dynamic, entertaining and stylish system but a handful of operational issues taint the overall experience
James Bond goes through his fare share of Aston Martins. Every time he specs up a new one, the list includes niceties such as surface-to-air missiles, bulletproof glass and ejector seats.
Your standard customer doesn't have quite the same choice – but they can specify Bang and Olufsen's BeoSound in-car entertainment system. This high-end Danish brand provides custom-built in-car systems for Aston Martin's complete range, and we've been lucky enough to spend some quality time in the company of the system fitted inside Aston's DB9 Volante (that's convertible to you and me).
This sports car is a remarkably refined ride, although the growl of the 470bhp V12 engine is a constant reminder of its animal instincts. But, if you ever need a break from that engine note, a system such as Bang and Olufsen's comes in very handy.
In total, there are 13 speakers dotted around the car, in ten different locations. The breakdown is:
2 x 9cm midrange drivers and 2 x 1.9cm soft-dome tweeters in the rear
1 x 20cm subwoofer under the rear seat
1 x 9cm midrange driver in each front door
2 x 14cm woofers in each footwell
1 x 9cm midrange driver and 1 x 1.9cm soft-dome tweeter in the centre of the dashboard
The party piece, however, has to be the pair of 1.9cm Acoustic Lens tweeters that rise up gracefully from each corner of the dashboard. Their funky design allows for a 180-degree horizontal distribution of high frequencies. Bang & Olufsen claims that this improves the sense of space, imaging, steering and realism, and negates the need for sitting in a sweet spot.
The main head unit includes FM and AM radio (DAB would be nice), and a six-CD changer. Tucked away inside the armrest is an auxiliary input, USB input and an iPod connector cable. Hook up your iPod and you can navigate through tracks, albums and artists using a small joystick on the main console.
Unfortunately, this method can be frustrating and unintuitive – and matters aren't helped by the small, narrow display.
By contrast, the speaker system works remarkably well. It's difficult to produce good imaging within the confines of a car's cabin, but the BeoSound handles the task extremely well. You can pinpoint vocals, and instruments boast direction and focus. And, considering the number of speakers in attendance, the system delivers top-drawer integration.
Bass notes don't sound loose or detached from the rest of the arrangement, although you do need to turn the volume down a notch or too to prevent the system from sounding too boomy. With 974W of ICEpower amplification on tap, the BeoSound system isn't exactly feeble. It fires out a powerful, punchy and poised sound although upper mid and high frequencies can harden up when pushed.
And, on the odd occasion that you're blessed with a few rays of sunshine, the Volante version of the DB9 also has separate settings for listening to tunes with the roof down. You have to crank the volume up when travelling at speed, but the dispersion and imaging remain largely intact.
At £4750, the BeoSound isn't the cheapest of in-car entertainment solutions, but if you can afford a DB9, it's fair to assume that the added cost isn't going to place a major strain on finances. The user experience is hindered by the fiddly control system, but this is a very entertaining system nevertheless.