It's the same system as in the Rolls-Royce Phantom--the same brand, at least. The paradigm-shifting Genesis sports an available Lexicon surround-sound audio system with 500 watts, 12 channels, and 17 speakers, plus an HD radio tuner. There's also an iDrive-ish controller to manipulate it all, and it works surprisingly well, so keep your smart mouth to yourself. All Genesis sound systems come with XM Satellite Radio and inputs for USB and iPod attachments, too. Lacking? That big Rolls-style radiator grille. We'll let you be the judge, positive or negative on that.
Ford's Shaker 1000-watt system is just that--the best, easiest way to make the Mustang's natural good vibrations go to eleven. The Shaker setup is available across the V-8 lineup, from GT to Shelby GT500--and its 1000 watts of power plug-and-play nicely with Ford's Bluetooth-enabled SYNC controller and available Sirius satellite radio. (A "Shaker 500" will have to do for V-6 'Stangs.) Bring your own Beach Boys MP3s--or AAC files, if you're one of those hardcore Apple-blinded loyalists.
2009 Chevrolet MalibuEnlarge Photo
Chevrolet Malibu, and most of the GM lineup
It's not luxuriant sound that makes the Malibu's stereo--and most GM stereos--good enough to make this list. It's their utterly logical preset setup. You can use a single set of preset keys to program in stations on AM, FM and XM. For those of us who still use all three bands, it's a godsend. Steering-wheel audio controls and USB links for MP3 players are good, too--they scroll through all presets and seek as well--but GM's USB port integration has taken some hits for its, uh, knockoff look. Like seek buttons on the steering wheel, this whole preset thing has us asking: do automakers do any benchmarking anymore, and why isn't this the new normal?
Runners-Up: Acura's DVD-driven audio systems. Yep, they sound awesome--but DVD-Audio is the Blu-Ray of its kind. Ahead of its time, and quite possibly overkill. Audi's Bose speakers sound great, and their roller-controllers on the wheel feel great--but faceplate buttons and MMI controls are a learning hurdle here.
Have a favorite of your own? Let us know what it is in the comment section below--and don't miss our fantastic Infinity speaker giveaway.