BMW i4 audio review: The Harman Kardon audio upgrade

The i4 is BMW’s first all-electric Grand Coupé and arguably the automaker’s best EV to date. Starting from £51,905, the vehicle offers great handling characteristics, a stylish interior and exterior design, and a respectful driving range – it attained our coveted Best Buy award.

When it comes to audio, there are a few different configurations. In the UK, the rear-wheel drive eDrive40 has a six-speaker audio system with 100 Watts of power output, but for an additional £820 one can upgrade to the 16-speaker 464-Watt Harman Kardon audio system; the latter configuration is on review and comes fitted as standard within the i4 M50.

Click here to watch the full BMW i4 review

BMW i4 audio setup

To tinker with the vehicle’s audio settings, you’ll have to navigate to the appropriate menu on the 14.9″ infotainment system – here are our optimal settings:

  • Logic 7 Surround: On
  • Surround: -1
  • Treble*: +2
  • Bass*: +4
  • Balance & Fader: Centre
  • 100 Hz: +2
  • 200 Hz: +2
  • 500 Hz: +0
  • 1 kHz: +0
  • 2 kHz: +1
  • 5 kHz: +2
  • 10 kHz: +3

*The Treble and Bass settings adjust the appropriate frequency bands, while the 7-band equaliser provides the ability to tinker with the independent frequencies. For example, the three notches added to the 10 kHz band compound with the two additions added onto the Treble EQ, resulting in a five-step increase.

In order to connect up to the vehicle’s system, you can use a wired or wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connection. If, however, you’d like to connect over Bluetooth, the BMW i4 supports the SBC and AAC codecs – the latter being the better out of the two.

Moving onto media controls, they can be accessed through the digital display, via physical buttons found below the centre display and through the buttons on the steering wheel.

Read next: Polestar 2 audio review: A phenomenal Harman Kardon system

BMW i4 audio performance

For a demo of the BMW i4’s audio system head on over to our YouTube channel.

In terms of its audio configuration, there are a few that are available – in the UK, only the Standard and Harman Kardon systems are present.

The Standard system outputs 100 Watts of power and has a midrange speaker in each of the doors and a central bass speaker underneath the front seats.

The Hi-Fi speaker system has 205 Watts of power, where it adds tweeters within the front doors, and a centre speaker configuration that has a tweeter and midrange combination within the dashboard; taking the tally up to ten speakers.

Move to the top-spec 464-Watt Harman Kardon system that we have on review, and you’ll have an additional seven speakers within the cabin, which takes the tally up to sixteen. Here, you have a tweeter within each of the rear door trims, and a midrange and tweeter combination by the rear parcel shelf.

Now it should be noted that there’s a bit of discrepancy between BMW’s website, the press material and Harman Kardon’s own website. Indeed, there’s no mention of the ‘Hi-Fi system’ via the online configurator or UK brochure.

As for the HK system, it’s listed as a 16 speaker 464-Watt system in the press material we received, 17-speaker 445-Watt system on Harman Kardon’s website and 17-speaker 464-Watt system through the online UK configurator. What we will say, however, is that there is a Harman Kardon-branded box found within the underfloor compartment in the boot, where low-end tones can be heard coming from it. This suggests that there’s indeed a seventeenth speaker in form of a subwoofer in the top-spec audio configuration.

No matter which source you’d like to believe, the sub-bass tones that can be heard and felt within the cabin are spectacular. The extension of the low-end tones are delightful when listening back to WizKid’s single ‘Essence’ and give you a real sense of fulfilment.

BMW i4 eDrive40 front design

Similarly, the mid-bass tones are executed to perfection. Both the control and presence through the bass slams in ‘Never Find’ by WSTRN can be appreciated throughout the i4’s cabin, although, one will attain a better experience at the front where the central bass speakers underneath the front seats provide an exciting audio reproduction through the low-end frequency range.

There are no complaints in the highs either, with the dedicated tweeters at the front and rear of the cabin working eloquently to provide a non-fatiguing top-end sparkle; you’ll be left tapping your toes to your favourite tracks.

Read next: The best dash cams to mount inside your vehicle

As for the mids they are, unsurprisingly, a bit recessed. Here, the i4 retains Harman Kardon’s sound signature, by having a slightly warm and V-shaped sound reproduction; and while BMW’s all-electric sports saloon won’t compete with the premium audio system found within the Tesla Model 3, it still provides an accurate tone throughout the mid-range frequencies, and with a bit of EQ, vocals can be brought to the foreground – you won’t want to add too many notches to the mid-range frequencies as doing so will detract the system’s tonal accuracy.

BMW i4 eDrive40 electric range

Moving onto the soundstage, the Logic 7 Surround option, which can be toggled through the infotainment system provides a much-needed extra lair of width and depth information to music. Without the option enabled, the small nuances that can be heard throughout Wale’s ‘On Chill’ are somewhat lost, with music sounding flat and uni-directional. As such, we’d recommend enabling Logic 7 Surround, but taking one notch off the setting in order for it to sound more like a reference system.

With that in mind, instrument separation, tonality and imaging are all excellent. We sense many will be pleased with the overall engagement one can attain within the i4, and better still, thanks to the numerous audio drivers within the cabin all five occupants can enjoy stellar audio quality.

Finally, the BMW i4 provides good cabin insulation, where tyre and wind noise are kept down to a minimum. Using a sound meter we recorded, 36 dBA at a standstill; 52-55 dBA, while driving at 20-30mph; 60-63 dBA, while driving at 40mph; and 69-72 dBA when at 70mph. As for when the windows are brought down, the level increases by roughly 12 dBA.

BMW i4 eDrive40 audio review TotallyEV award

Read next: Tesla Model 3 audio review: Better than the Polestar 2?

TotallyEV’s verdict on the BMW i4’s audio system

It’s safe to say the Harman Kardon audio system within the BMW i4 is among one the best we’ve heard to date, going toe-to-toe with the likes of the Tesla Model 3 Premium audio system, the Harman Kardon systems found within the Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Pro, Polestar 2, Kia Soul EV and the BMW iX3, and bettering the likes of the Bang & Olufsen system within the Audi e-tron GT and the upgraded Burmester system inside the Porsche Taycan. Indeed, the BMW i4’s audio system easily receives our Audio Excellence award.

If you were looking to order the more sensible i4 eDrive40 and you’re currently contemplating the £820 Harman Kardon audio upgrade, we’d highly suggest investing in the far superior-sounding audio system; and for those who are looking at the i4 M50, you’ll be pleased to know that the standard HK system competes with some of the very best audio systems on the market.

What do you make of the BMW i4’s audio system? Let us know in the comments section below or via social media; we’re on: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Sub-bass
10
Mid-bass
10
Mids
9
Highs
10
Soundstage
9
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Christopher is an avid car enthusiast and techie. In his spare time, he reviews the latest consumer electronic products on his YouTube channel, TotallydubbedHD. Elsewhere, he practices Taekwondo, in which he has held a black belt for several years and coaches at a national level. He also speaks fluent English, French, Armenian, and loves to practice freestyle street dance.
bmw-i4-audio-review-the-harman-kardon-audio-upgradeThe BMW i4 comes with a few different audio configurations, with the top-spec Harman Kardon system bolstering the number of speakers found within the cabin. The 16-speaker 464-Watt combination makes for an engaging and lively reproduction making it one of the best audio systems we've reviewed to date. As such, the upgraded system receives our Audio Excellence award.

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