Car makers and sound systems seem to go hand in hand to ensure that their customers get the very best in car entertainment experience. Over the years we have seen Bose together with Dynaudio and many other reputable brands teaming up with car manufacturers to craft a unique experience. Volvo is one of those brands which teamed up with Bowers & Wilkins to craft out an experience in the all new XC90.
I remember when the XC90 was first launched way back. A friend of mine who worked at Volvo Marketing got drove us up Frasers Hill in a loaner unit and the one thing I remember him commenting was that the sound system was top notch in the XC90. I guess it isn’t just marketing speak now.
The Bowers & Wilkins system for the XC90 uses bespoke acoustic technology developed over its five decades of pioneering research into loudspeaker design. The XC90 system is derived directly from acoustic technology developed for reference speakers used in some of the world’s most demanding acoustic environments, including London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios.
The result of the collaboration uses a combination of high-performance, low-distortion speaker designs, including extended range aluminium tweeters and Kevlar® midrange units, reflecting components found in Bowers & Wilkins award-winning premium loudspeakers. It also features a centre speaker with Bowers & Wilkins tweeter-on-top technology for the first time in a car, providing a more open, spacious sound.
“The XC90 uses our tweeter-on-top technology, which has a number of advantages in the automotive environment. Fundamentally it increases the ratio of direct to reflected sound, as more of the signal reaches the listener directly from the tweeter, rather than reflecting off the windscreen first. All of this means that the Bowers & Wilkins audio system in the XC90 sounds incredibly tangible and lifelike,” said Stuart Nevill, Head of Engineering, Bowers & Wilkins.
The system is comprised of a 12-channel HARMAN 1,400 watts Class D amplifier serving a total of 19 Bowers & Wilkins speakers – 7 Nautilus tweeters (25 mm) with the latest treble technology, 7 midrange speakers (5×100 mm and 2×80 mm) with the characteristic yellow Bowers & Wilkins Kevlar cone clearly visible behind the cover, 4 cone woofers (200/165 mm) and the new, ground-breaking air-ventilated subwoofer (250 mm).
The engineers at Volvo Cars’ audio department and Bowers & Wilkins share a commitment to the highest standards of audio quality, and they were driven to make the sound system in the new XC90 stand shoulder to shoulder with the best currently available in the automotive market. This is also clear from a design integration perspective with a uniquely sculpted tweeter placed prominently on the dashboard.
“In my book the Premium Sound in the all-new XC90 is one of the top three audio systems in the automotive world,” says Michael Adenauer, former music producer and audio expert at Volvo Cars.
Volvo Cars decided that Bowers & Wilkins was its ideal partner. The UK firm was established in 1966 by two friends who shared an obsession to build the perfect loud speaker. This heritage has created a globally-respected high-end audio company, renowned for its technological innovations, many of which have been incorporated into the new XC90.
The audio innovations in the new XC90 include one of the first automotive applications of an air-ventilated subwoofer integrated into the body of the car rather than being a freestanding box that is simply bolted to it.
“The subwoofer design is integrated into our new Scalable Product Architecture and is possibly a world first in the automotive industry,” said Mr Adenauer. “This increases the subwoofer’s capacity to pulse more air, which enables extremely low bass tones all the way down to 20 Hz. In principle, it turns the whole interior space in the car into a giant subwoofer.”
New software enhances listening experience
The XC90’s new audio system also uses the latest and most advanced sound processing software from the specialist Swedish audio company Dirac Research, which manages the timing of the sound and co-operation between the speakers to optimise the sound for a specific or all seating positions and can also create individual acoustics from certain music venues or concert halls.
In the new XC90, the software has been used to re-create the exact acoustic qualities of Gothenburg Concert Hall, located in Volvo’s home town and home to the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the National Orchestra of Sweden. A simple change in the centre touch screen that controls all the car’s features and the system will immediately alter its settings to mirror this concert hall, a recording studio or a stage environment.
The top-of-the-line Premium Sound is one of three system levels available for the all-new XC90. The audio range also includes the High Performance system with a 224W amplifier, 12 speakers and the possibility to add the fresh air subwoofer. At base level, the XC90 has the Performance system, which features a 52W amplifier and 6 speakers.
“Great music and sound are among the most important factors for a truly enjoyable drive. This makes the choice of audio systems a vital part of our designed-around-you philosophy. We are very happy to be able to offer the music aficionados among the XC90 buyers one of the most desirable audio systems on the market,” said Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President, Research and Development of Volvo Car Group.