Evaluating sound systems as a car reviewer is sticky. Although my colleagues and I have listened to hundreds (if not thousands) of sound systems over the years, we are not sound professionals. There are people out there whose job it is to be sound professionals, and we should listen to them.
But! There are also people like me. I do not have the professional ear, but I have had the privilege of listening to the best premium sound systems in the industry and have always been obsessed with high quality sound, whether it is in a car, home theater or via headphones. And I’ve come to see a sound system like the holy grail of car stereos: the 2022 McIntosh 23 speaker system Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
Yes, this article gets the opinion tag, because this is strictly an opinion. Some audiophiles can perform professional and instrumental tests to determine what is really “best”. But most of us just want a system that sounds as incredible as the price we pay for it. For me, it is not possible to touch the new McIntosh system.
If you like first-class home sound, you know McIntosh. They are among the best in the industry and they have been around for over 70 years. Not only that, but McIntosh is an American company, and its equipment is made in America. Pairing with Jeep to place your system in a car that literally carries an American flag on its flanks only makes sense. This is also McIntosh’s first investment in the automotive industry in a long time, as its last full-car system was in the Ford GT in the 2000s. That car was more about the sound of its rumbling V8. This time, McIntosh is about impressing luxury buyers in a six-figure jeep.
I got to listen to the Grand Wagoner’s sound system in a controlled environment at the Chicago Auto Show last year, and although I was very impressed, I wanted to wait until I had the chance to listen to it in a finished car while cruising down a freeway to make some explanations. . Before we get to the impressions of driving noise in the car, however, I had time to sit down with McIntosh’s CEO Jeff Poggi for a chat about how this system came about and what McIntosh brings to the table.
“So we took this prototype by car, and we took it to Detroit,” Poggi said. “It was in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and we brought a system like this, a two-channel Mcintosh sound system, set it up in a room and we sat down with Sergio Marchionne, Ralph Gilles and Harold Wester. We gave them a demon, so here’s what we do in two channel sound, here’s what we can do in a car, we think this could be a really interesting brand match. ”
And just like that, Jeep was with. Then (over four years ago) McIntosh did not realize that it was on its way into the Grand Wagoneer project, but all FCA executives knew that this quirky sound system would go into their first real luxury car. Over the years, Poggi said, Jeep has really embraced McIntosh as a brand and let them run the project.
“Everything in this sound system is specially designed for this experience in this vehicle,” Poggi told us. “And they were super partners. They really made it possible for us to place the products we wanted for the best acoustics, which gave us all the opportunities we needed to provide the goosebumps experience you can have, and we brought with us basic McIntosh technologies from home to the car, which was important for us to make it really authentic. ”
When I eventually jumped into the new Grand Wagoneer for a seven-day test with this 23-speaker, 1,375-watt system, my feelings from the Chicago Auto Show were confirmed. The range of songs it could play with beautiful accuracy and control was second to none. Challenge it with the overwhelming bass you find in “Sail” by AWOLNATION, and there is no hint of distortion or dip in quality. Start a more delicate song with details that you know only come up with great sound equipment, and the clarity and control is amazing. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac was epic – the guitar just surrounds you, and the lyrics contribute to the feeling of warmth to the whole scene. I really could not find a single song that caused any problems for this sound system. And just as a set of new headphones or speakers can do, listening to many of my favorite songs was almost a whole new experience. I just wanted to keep listening to more and more songs to hear how this sound system would lift them.
And before you think that this sound system is just some cool speaker with the McIntosh name on it, Poggi explained how this system uses key technology from McIntosh’s mega-expensive home system. Poggi described two of the most effective technologies for us: Low Distortion / High Performance (a unique engine design) and Power Guard (a restrictive software).
“So in the speaker you have a magnet and a coil,” Poggi said. “And it’s the basic movement of how a speaker moves back and forth, introduces electricity through the windings to move the magnet, and we have a special design patent around the motor design that allows us to push higher sound pressure levels out of that sensor to “gives us really, really low distortion. That’s the core of McIntosh. We want to give you the most power, the most dynamic range without distortion, staining, none of that.”
You can turn up the volume as high as you dare in Grand Wagoneer, and those speakers will play with you, just like Poggi says, without any distortion or degradation. This control can also be attributed to the next McIntosh tech Poggi detailed: Power Guard.
“Power Guard is basically a limiting software that we’ve developed that ensures that the amplifier never overrides the speakers so that it causes problems,” said Poggi. “You do not want the amplifier to push too hard and the speakers to break with distortion, so there is a characteristic in the amplifier, a red light, and when Power Guard is switched on, the red light in the amplifier lights up. The Jeep team actually took it all the way to the extreme, and not only did we put Power Guard in the vehicle’s amplifier, but then implemented the red light on the user interface, so you can actually see, as a consumer, when Power Guard is on. ”
There’s some really cool stuff out there for an audiophile. This attention to detail is also seen elsewhere in Grand Wagoneer’s cabin. The door speaker grilles are backlit in McIntosh’s signature blue color. Green McIntosh logos are visible as a trademark, and the speakers have similar aluminum details as those displayed on the company’s home audio equipment. Even the volume knob is designed to replicate the setting knobs on McIntosh systems.
And then there is the user interface of Grand Wagoneer’s large infotainment system that takes it one step further. You can bring up a screen that shows the sound meters if you are extra nerdy, like myself.
Not only is the classic two-channel stereo sound quality the best, but the software that runs features such as 3D surround sound has also been set in a masterful way. The large Grand Wagoneer’s cabin is effectively transformed into a lovely concert hall, as the music bounces around you in such a natural and correct way. There are plenty of sound systems that offer gimmicky surround sound, but McIntosh’s systems do not fall into that category. It’s so much better.
No matter what type of driving I was driving – when I was sitting by a light or crossing the highway – the McIntosh system in the Grand Wagoneer offered the best car sound I’ve ever heard. The entry price is high with the 23-speaker system only standard on the Obsidian and state-of-the-art Grand Wagoneer Series III (optional on the Series II as part of a $ 3,995 package), but I do not think anything even remotely close to this Jeep in price ($ 109,025 as tested) can offer a superior audio experience. However, the premium sound’s arms race just keeps picking up speed, and I’m excited to see what’s next.