It seems that one of the most common questions from people ordering their MINIs is should get the HK stereo. Part of the problem is that to my knowledge there haven’t been any professional reviews of the stereo not to mention that there is no operations manual that comes with the option.
So to address this issue I’m posting a couple excerpts of very well written review about the stereo. If you want to read the entire article with much more technical data you can find it here. The review was compiled by Bob and was sent my way via Scott from the Madison MINI Group. Here’s an excerpt:
Because there has been some controversy and apparent misunderstanding of the nature of the upgrade H/K audio system offered by MINI, I thought it might be useful to explain some of the features and the apparent design philosophy behind the system for users and prospective purchasers of the system
As a recording engineer by trade, I have worked for years with Harman Kardon and Harman Group professional equipment and have developed a respect, and a certain trust, for their products. Given that, I stuck out my neck and ordered the H/K stereo sight-unseen. I, for one, wasn’t disappointed. After listening to and analyzing the system, here are my observations. Please understand that all the information contained in this document was acquired through “reverse engineering”, meaning the information came from listening to and experimenting with the system, rather than from Harman Kardon. Where the heck is the manual that should have come with this thing?…
…If you are looking for an earth-shaking, modern, extremely high-powered system designed for hip-hop, and you plan to run it at 110db or above, maybe this isn’t the system for you. If you are looking for the type of system that can be heard from within your living room as a car passes out on in the street, this possibly isn’t the system for you. If you are looking for an “attack” system that can be leveled on the other motorists around you at stoplights, this probably isn’t the system for you. That isn’t exactly “Motoring”. Do I sense an attitude from the author here? Sorry. At any rate, those systems typically need a separate sub-woofer, which takes up extra space in the foot well or boot, space that is at a premium in our MINIs. If you are hoping to have a system with four similar-sounding speaker locations, this may not be the system for you.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for a reasonably powerful, musical, wide-range stereo, one which can be configured to optimize the front seat listening experience or provide music for all, this might just be the system for you. If you enjoy “audiophile” stereo systems at home, this may just be the system for you. If you don’t want to loose foot room or trunk space and want to keep the nondescript (though excellent) Boost front-end unit to deter theft, this might just be the system for you. Also remember, when installed at the time of purchase, this stereo is also covered for the duration of the MINI’s warranty.
As in most things audio, the final result is very subjective. Some will love this system, some will hate it. You’ll want to go down to a MINI dealer with your favorite disks in your hand and ask to spend an hour with a Harmon Kardon-equipped car to find out. You can listen with the car turned off, but the system will automatically shut down every twenty minutes. Just turn it back on. Bon appetite!
Again you can read the entire review here.