Ford announced today that it will introduce a new premium audio option, B&O Play, in an effort to meet rising demand for quality audio throughout its model range. The change to Bang & Olufsen audio systems (owned by Harman since 2015) will happen across Ford’s global lineup beginning next year, signaling the end of a partnership with Sony that started in 2003.
B&O Play will offer “specifically tailored speaker placement and calibration for each vehicle in the ford range,” according to Ford’s press release.
Harman, which already works with Ford to supply high-end Revel audio systems for Lincoln (pictured below), introduced the B&O Play brand in 2012. B&O Play is a more affordable series of products focusing on younger buyers with an appetite for good design in products like Bluetooth headphones and speakers. Although it’s B&O Play’s first automotive application, the Bang & Olufsen brand has deep roots in car audio systems most notably with Audi, but also with Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, and recently the BMW 7 Series.
Ford says that the move is largely in response to the power a premium audio system can have to sway potential buyers. It quotes a 2016 Automotive Audio Branding study that claims a third of buyers consider it to be a significant factor when deciding on a vehicle.
In our own testing of high-end audio systems in luxury vehicles, the clear winner was the Meridian audio package in the 2016 Range Rover Sport, although the Lincoln MKX was not far behind with its Revel system. We weren’t able to test a Bang & Olufsen system in the Audi A8, nor was the new 34-speaker Panaray system in the Cadillac CT6 yet available at the time of publication.
While Ford will continue to use Shaker audio systems for the Mustang, a Ford spokesperson confirms that anywhere you currently see a Sony system (Focus, Fusion, Explorer Platinum, to name a few) it will soon be replaced with a B&O Play system.