and all the rest struggled to innovate. But the companies that make speakers, amplifiers and control systems for cars and trucks rolled out great products.
introduced a crop of excellent products, many at
So even if you're rolling around in a brand-new ride, a basic audio upgrade should yield some serious aural return. Here are the top audio components for 2009.
Best factory installed system
Lincoln MKS THX II Certified 5.1 Surround Sound System
: About $47,000
and GM's Cadillac flash serious audio hardware in their best rides. But spend one minute inside a properly configured Ford Lincoln and you'll realize this sucker sounds better than many movie theaters. Lincoln, to my knowledge, was the first to put a THX theater-level sound system in a car. And the surround sound in it is eerily accurate. The miraculous performance probably wouldn't stand up to a better in-room system, but still, you're in a car.
Best aftermarket installed system
: About $5,000
Impossible to find, difficult to install and fabulous to have. The legendary Audison brand, from Italy's
, sets the standard for installed sound systems. Audison's handcrafted audio components can compete with the best audio guts in the world. The quality is ridiculous. Its Thesis Quatro amp will run you a cool $5,000, and you could easily drop 10 times that amount on a full installation of amps, speakers, control systems and cable.
Best low-end gear
Memphis Car Audio
Shallow S-Class subwoofer and amplifier
: $555 and $299, respectively.
For the cost, Memphis Car Audio strikes the best balance of loud and smooth. For less than a grand, you can install a furiously loud, low-end thumper that won't sound like you're running a jack hammer in the trunk. The system can be easily mounted under a car seat, so you can be on Thunder Road and have room for the kids. It's simply tremendous at outdoor parties.
Best affordable audio upgrade
: Starting at $230
These readily available, 6.5-inch upgrade speakers from Focal are my pick in the"just get me some better sound now" category. The 165s are clean and easy to drop in, even for DIY mechanics.
carries a full line of these units. Even a couple hundred dollars buys great sound for the money, so there's no excuse to have bad audio with Focal guts in the world.
-- Reported by Jonathan Blum in New York
Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.