The guys at our sister publication Stereophile would be horrified, but my home audio setup currently comprises an iPod hooked up to a set of $70 JBL Creature II speakers. Hi-fi, it ain’t.
Which perhaps explains why I reach for the top-shelf when choosing audio systems for my long-term test cars. My 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid rocked a $5690 Burmester setup, while my 2012 Audi A8 had a $6300 Bang & Olufsen system. So I was mildly disappointed to find the best I could order for the Range Rover was an $1850 system by a company called Meridian. Meridian? Never heard of it…
It turns out British-based Meridian builds the sort of digital audio equipment my colleagues at Stereophile take very seriously. I got to hear why when the Meridian guys demonstrated the company’s top-of-the-range home audio system. It sounded like the artists – from classical musicians to hard rockers – were playing live, right there in the room. Truly extraordinary, as was the $220,000 price tag. But I began to suspect the optional 19-speaker, 825-watt system in the Range Rover might sound OK after all.
Hit the audio settings button on the Rangie’s touch screen, and you’re offered the choice of a standard stereo setting, and three surround settings labeled “Meridian,” “Dolby Pro Logic II,” and “DTS Neo 6,” as well as equalizer sliders for bass, treble, and the subwoofer.
After lots of experimentation, I’ve decided I prefer the Meridian setting. As it happens, this, says Meridian engineering chief Richard Hollingsworth, is the setting designed to make your music sound as close as possible to the way it sounded to the guys at the recording studio mixing desk. To me it delivers a close, warm, full mid-range over a tightly controlled bass and crisp high frequencies. The Dolby setting injects a touch too much pomp into the bass for my liking, while the DTS setting results in more noticeable spacing between the instruments and a slightly crystalline edge to the sound.
Clicked over the 10,000-mile mark rolling down the 405 freeway in Sunday traffic alongside a 427 Cobra and a rat-rodded 50s ...
Regardless of which setting you prefer, it’s hard not to be deeply impressed by the performance of the available 19-speaker Meridian system in the Range Rover. For $1850, it delivers incredible bang for the buck; in fact, I’d need to conduct some serious back-to-back testing to be convinced the Audi’s $6300 Bang & Olufsen setup sounded better.
There’s only one problem: I think I now want a Meridian home audio system, and an entry-level one costs about $10,000. I’m going to be listening to those $70 JBLs a little while longer…
|Our Car |
|Service life || 12,604 mi |
|Average fuel economy || 16.4 mpg |
|CO2 emissions || 1.18 lb/mi |
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ || 17/23/19 mpg |
|Energy consumption || 205 kW-hr/100mi |
|Unresolved problems || None |
|Maintenance cost || $0 |
|Normal-wear cost || $0 |