When prompted, I hold my breath. The silence is overwhelming. I’m at Galaxy Studios in Belgium, standing in Galaxy Hall, one of the quietest spaces in the world. With a noise floor of 14dB, the ambient noise within Galaxy Hall is less than half of that produced by a soft whisper. The entire studio is not only lined with all types of sound isolating materials and super thick glass, it is also suspended on springs, further isolating the space from environmental noise from frequencies as low as 3 Hz. This is one of the best sound recording and mixing facilities in the entire world, and it’s where Porsche has come to develop its latest premium 3D hi-fi sound system for the new Panamera and Cayenne.
Called the Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound System, this $6,870 option is Porsche’s premium spec stereo. It is the result of Porsche’s continued partnership with Burmester Audiosystems and its application of 3D sound imaging technology developed by a company called Auro-3D at Galaxy Studios. Burmester is a privately owned and Berlin-based manufacturer of audiophile-grade home audio equipment, producing high-tech stereos ranging from around $20,000 to well over $250,000. Burmester has been working with Porsche since 2006 and together, they launched their first premium stereo option in the then-new Panamera of 2009. Today, a Burmester system is the premium stereo option in most Porsches, but only the Panamera and the Cayenne offer the 3D surround sound setup, as these vehicles have enough space for the requisite 21 speakers.
Part of a three-tier offering, the Panamera and Cayenne are offered alongside a base system, an upgraded Bose stereo ($1,820, or included on some models), and finally the 1,455-watt Burmester stereo. The price ensures that only the most audio-obsessed would consider the Burmester. But, for those that check the box on the options list, the Burmester sound is incredible. Driving from Brussels airport, I’m sitting right seat in a 2018 Panamera Turbo Gran Turismo, and even with my phone offering compressed MP3s via Bluetooth, the system sounds sublime.
Part of a three-tier offering, the Panamera and Cayenne are offered alongside a base system, an upgraded Bose stereo, and finally the 1455 watt Burmester stereo.
The Burmester’s party trick is the application of Auro-3D’s surround sound technology that uses vertical surround sound channels to add a defined height and space to a recording. Using speakers mounted high on the A-pillars and an array of speakers projecting into the windshield, the Burmester system presents a well-defined stage directly in front of the driver and front passenger. The system offers four listening modes: Pure, Burmester’s signature sound profile; Live, which attempts to recreate the brighter elements of live performances; Smooth, which pads the high and low frequencies to help battle fatigue during long drives; and 3D Surround, which is similar to Pure but with a much more pronounced room presence, offering a more expansive soundstage that seems to extend well outside the confines of the Panamera’s cabin.
From Vulfpeck on Spotify to lossless high fidelity playback of Banks, Jamiroquai, and The Eagles, I greatly preferred the Pure and 3D Surround profiles. With the lossless files, the experience is excellent. Especially vivid at high volume, the Burmester system is wonderfully clear, punchy, and rich. Even as my non-audiophile brain considered the nearly $7,000 price tag, I smiled as I heard parts of Banks’ “Gemini Feed” I had not experienced when listening on my home stereo.
Given that the Panamera starts around $97,000, and the Panamera Sport Turismo seen here is closer to $200,000, I doubt Porsche would expect to see the Burmester become their most popular stereo option. That said, within context, many brands offer carbon fibre trim packages that can cost well into five figures (and Porsche sells Carbon Ceramic brakes for $10,320). For my money, especially on a vehicle like the Cayenne or Panamera, keep the steel brakes and get the Burmester, you can use it all the time and your passengers will love it.
Easily controlled from the huge multimedia display in the centre of the Panamera’s dashboard, the Burmester settings are understandable and the 3D surround profile offers a sliding scale to control the intensity of the 3D effect. To my ears, this element is best when set at a lower level where the effect is delivered without a pronounced impact on the original recording. Furthermore, the Burmester interface offers software for setting the soundstage rearward for those in chauffeur settings, additional processing for low bitrate files, and processing that will actively account for road and ambient noise. The entire system is nicely integrated into the already very good Porsche multimedia interface and the result is a customizable but not overly fussy application of this excellent and highly specialized hi-fi from Burmester.
Should you be shopping for a new Porsche, don’t miss the chance to at least demo the Burmester system. But consider this warning: one listen to your favourite song may cost you nearly $7,000.
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