Mazda and Bose team up to offer class-leading music quality
IT’S NOT ALL about the improved driving experience of the new Mazda CX-5. Music lovers will surely appreciate the new audio system featuring a Bose multi-channel power amp and speakes offered in the 2.0 SP and XDL.
To start off with the MZD Connect infotainment system, there’s a new 7-inch touchscreen that pops out from the dashboard when you fire up the engine. The new location is easier to look at, requiring less eye movement.
After listening to the sound system while driving on the first day, I also spent some time the following morning to listen more carefully at the hotel carpark.
I get easily annoyed with technology, and complaining seems to be part of the job. In the new CX-5, you get the usual Mazda menu on the screen, which means that it is generally easy to use, except for connecting to Bluetooth audio, especially after the large amount of wine consumed the previous night. After spending a few minutes figuring out where to connect, and finally connecting, things got easier as I progressed.
The system offers a wide range of features, including Internet connectivity, hands-free phone function and navigation system.
I used an everyday Samsung A5 smartphone as the media player, with mainly MP3 and WMA files and felt right at once that the flat setting was too flat for my liking, particularly in the highs. Increasing the treble a few notches did the trick, and the system was pumping out some really good-sounding music.
The audio system in the new CX-5 was co-developed by Mazda and Bose Automotive Sound Systems and features a total of 10 loudspeakers. They include 25-millimetre tweeters on the A-pillars, 165mm midranges on the front door panels, an 80mm midrange “Twiddler” on the centre of the dashboard, 130mm midranges on the rear door panels, 60mm “Twiddler” midranges on the D-pillars, and a bass box with 130cm woofer in the trunk (it’s actually in the middle of the spare wheel). They are powered by an 8-channel digital power amp placed under the driver’s seat.
Though the amplifier section and loudspeakers are made by Bose, it’s not carried through to the front end, which features Aha by Harman for communications functions.
During the early 1980s, Bose, already a well-known American loudspeaker company with founder Dr Amar Bose’s famous “direct-reflecting” technology, created the world’s first factory-installed premium automotive sound systems for General Motors. Unlike conventional or aftermarket automotive systems, Bose systems were designed and tuned for a specific vehicle, leading to an important change in the industry.
The CX-5 features the latest Audiopilot2 ambient noise compensation and Centerpoint2 surround system, which can be switched on or off in the audio settings menu.
Centerpoint2 makes magic through using a proprietary Bose algorithm to analyse the stereo signal and convert it into multiple channels, enabling greater detail when reproducing music from nearly any source, including AM/FM, satellite radio, CDs and digital music files.
Activated, it suddenly sharpens the image and places the main instruments on the centre of the dash, creating a strong presence. But I didn’t like it. It sounded condensed and kind of artificial. Switching it off released that tight soundstage, resulting in a wider and more natural presentation. Perhaps the system would work better with classical music and its detailed soundstage. The YouTube video clip (that is also available in the online version of this story) doesn’t fully reproduce the exact sound in the cabin, but does give you an example with the system on and off.
Now with the system set up right, I had enough time to play a few tunes and notice more nice things. While the bass was more tight than punchy, I was able to enjoy the mids and highs with less interruption. Details start flowing out from normal MP3 files and stereo separation was excellent. The quiet cabin also contributed to good details.
Percussions in “You Should Be Dancing” by the disco-era Bee Gees were nicely positioned and were lively enough to make my finger tick. High notes sounded crisp and vocals were engaging and detailed.
If I had to rate the sound system in the new CX-5, I would easily give it 4 stars. It surely is the best-sounding set-up in its class and can actually challenge systems in more expensive German luxury cars. Unfortunately it’s time to change the menu format to something more user-friendly, and with more colourful and modern graphics. If that can be done, the fifth star will be coming.