BMW iX1 (BMW X1) audio review: Harman Kardon upgrade?

The BMW iX1 is a compact all-electric SUV that’s fun to drive, offers a good electric driving range, is stylish both inside and out and is also competitively priced; we gave it our Best Buy award.

In terms of its audio configuration, the iX1 has a stock six-speaker system. However, the Harman Kardon audio upgrade, which costs £660, takes the tally up to 12 speakers; the latter configuration is on review.

Click here to read the full BMW iX1 review

BMW iX1 audio setup

To tweak the audio settings, one has to navigate through the 10.7″ infotainment system. Here are our optimal settings:

  • Treble: +2
  • Bass: -1
  • Balance & Fader: Centre
  • Enhanced Sound: Off

The EQ controls are rather primitive, as there are only Bass and Treble controls. Quite surprising, as its larger sibling the BMW iX3, has a multi-band EQ, which provides excellent customisation for more experienced users.

As for connectivity, both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported over a wired and wireless connection – the former type is suggested for you to attain the utmost audio fidelity. Bluetooth is also an option, however, the SBC and AAC codecs are supported only.

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BMW iX1 audio performance

For a demo of the BMW iX1’s audio system, head on over to our YouTube channel.

In terms of its audio configuration, the stock six-speaker system has a midrange driver within each of the four doors and central bass speakers underneath the front two seats. The optional £660 Harman Kardon system adds the following: a tweeter and midrange driver as a central speaker in the dashboard, and tweeters within each of the four doors, which takes the tally up to 12 speakers in total. Driver sizes and wattage weren’t provided by the manufacturer.

The omission of a subwoofer is quite surprising, especially considering other Harman System audio systems we’ve reviewed feature the speaker in the boot – such as the configuration found in the BMW i4, Kia Soul EVVolvo XC40 and Polestar 2. The missing speaker does have an effect on the overall sub-bass extension, with bass-heavy songs such as ‘Another One Of Me’ by Diddy & The Weeknd & French Montana sounding a little tame in the lower echelons of the bass tones. The same comments were made about the Harman Kardon system found in the BMW iX3, which also opts for central bass speakers instead of a singular speaker in the boot.

With that said, the sub-bass tones can still be felt, especially at the front of the cabin, providing for an engaging experience over vehicles that leave out bass speakers altogether. Speaking of which, the audio drivers found underneath the front two seats do an excellent job of delivering a hefty punch in the mid-bass tones; so much so, that we had to reduce the bass EQ by one notch as it was a tad overpowering.

The emphasis on the lows results in pushed-back mids, which means both Ciara and Chris Brown’s vocals don’t come out to the foreground in their single, ‘How We Roll’. To combat this, you might want to add a few notches to the Treble EQ. However, this also alters the top-end presence, which is already quite zingy. As such, you’ll need to accept that the system has a V-shaped sound signature. It’s quite disappointing that the manufacturer hasn’t provided a means of altering the mids independently from the highs, as this could have led to a superior listening experience.

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Moving onto the soundstage, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Here, without the ‘Enhanced Sound’ option enabled through the infotainment system, the speakers lack width and depth; but with it switched on, there’s a slight reverb. As a result, if you want a reference sound, you’ll need to sacrifice the overall soundstage by having the option disabled. Yet again, it’s surprising that there’s no means of adjusting the surround sound effect. Indeed, the Harman Kardon audio system found in the BMW iX3 provides more flexibility with a ‘Surround’ slider, which can be used in conjunction with the ‘Logic 7 Surround’ option. However, in the iX1, it’s an all-or-nothing type of approach.

With that in mind, instrument separation, tonality and imaging (minus the slight reverb) are all excellent. We sense many will be pleased with the overall reproduction, and better still, thanks to the numerous audio drivers within the cabin all five occupants will be entertained.

Aside from its sound reproduction, the BMW iX1 has a very quiet cabin, competing with the likes of the serene BMW iX3, Jaguar I-Pace and Audi Q8 e-tron. Using a sound meter, we recorded: 35 dBA at a standstill; 49-53 dBA, while driving at 20-30mph; 57-61 dBA, while driving at 40mph; and 69-72 dBA when at 70mph. Those are pretty low figures, especially considering its size, making it one of the quietest vehicles in its class.

What we don’t like, however, are the IconicSounds, which provide fake engine sounds that are played back through the audio system. They’re not as accurate as some of its competitors and are best left disabled. Of course, that is subjective, so should you wish to have a fake whoshing sound each time you put your foot down on the accelerator pedal, the option is there.

BMW iX1 audio awards

Read next: Tesla Model Y audio review: An audiophile’s dream?

TotallyEV’s verdict on the BMW iX1’s audio system

On the whole, the Harman Kardon audio system found within the BMW iX1 packs a punch and will leave most excited with its overall sound reproduction. Given the added premium and what it brings over the stock six-speaker system, it’s an option we’d definitely suggest looking into, especially if you’re into audio. As such, the system receives TotallyEV’s Performance award.

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However, if you’re a serious audiophile, you might want to consider the alternatives from Tesla, Volvo, or even Kia, as these vehicles come fitted with more impressive and capable systems that’ll perform better across the entire frequency range.

What do you make of the iX1’s audio system? Let us know in the comments or via social media; we’re on: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Christopher Minasians
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-ix1-bmw-x1-audio-review-harman-kardon-upgradeThe BMW iX1 and X1 house six audio drivers as standard but can be upgraded to a 12-speaker Harman Kardon system. The latter is well worth considering if you’re looking for that extra audio zest. While it doesn’t excel across the frequency range and lacks advanced EQ controls, it provides an exciting and engaging sound reproduction and as such, receives TotallyEV’s Performance award.


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