Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound System launched in Jaguar XKR Portfolio

Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound System launched in Jaguar XKR Portfolio  
Filed under:
Audio, Jaguar
on 03/07/2007

Bowers & Wilkins, the British loudspeaker company with an unsurpassed reputation for innovation and performance, announces its first production premium sound system in Jaguar’s XKR Portfolio launched at the Geneva Salon de l’Automobile (auto show). The system is the result of a rigorous audio development programme reflecting a commitment to deliver authentic sound reproduction to the car environment. The system utilizes many of the same design and development techniques that Bowers & Wilkins has perfected in its home and recording studio products to help solve the challenges of recreating great sound in the car.

Until now, the only way for audio enthusiasts to experience the transparency and clarity of a Bowers & Wilkins sound system was through the company’s line of home loudspeakers. Starting with the XKR Portfolio, Jaguar customers will be able to enjoy Bowers & Wilkins premium sound in their cars. The process to deliver the level of sound reproduction proves equally as impressive as the end result.

Kevlar, a hallmark of Bowers & Wilkins’ mid-range speakers, was a natural choice for the speaker cone material. The precise composition and resins used by Bowers & Wilkins remain guarded secrets, but the company examined over 40 different design prototypes to evaluate which achieved the best sonic purity of the signal. “All Kevlar is not the same,” says Bowers & Wilkins’ Senior Automotive Business Manager Martin Lindsay. “The technique we specify is designed to minimize distortion therefore minimizing any sound colouration. As a result, these speakers produce clearer sound throughout their range and deliver more fine detail to the listener.”

The process for developing the tweeters (smaller speakers designed for higher frequencies) was equally exhaustive. Based on stiffness properties required to ensure an extended, distortion-free high-frequency response, aluminium was picked for the dome tweeters. These were also tested over several weeks using laser scan to determine the break-up frequency and our usual battery of acoustic measurements combined with critical listening tests. The tweeters ultimately selected were those that achieved the most ideal (near-pistonic) performance.

Once the speaker components are selected they become “Gold Reference” samples, tagged and signed by the lead engineer. This approach follows a well-proven practice used in Bowers & Wilkins’ own manufacturing process and is viewed as essential to benchmarking the level of quality that the Bowers & Wilkins brand requires.

To ensure that the complete in-car system delivers the transparent, faithful sound reproduction that Bowers & Wilkins is known for, the company worked with in collaboration with Jaguar on speaker mountings, angles and final system tuning. The engineering teams painstakingly adjusted the system level, sound equalization, overall balance and time delay settings, to ensure a consistent and compelling entertainment experience, eventually narrowing their selection down to a final choice of three EQs.

The final three EQ profiles were analysed both in the laboratory and on the road over a pre-determined test route involving varying conditions of road surface and speed. From these, the optimum and most appropriate was selected. “After listening to some passages of music over twenty or thirty times, the final EQ emerged,” says Lindsay. “The sound clarity is stunning clear, defined and very rich. This is the sort of system that you could live with every day, not tiring and as unstressed playing a quiet classical passage as a rousing rock anthem. We are also proud of vocal reproduction, voices sound pure and natural.”

Further reinforcing the attention paid to every aspect of the system, Bowers & Wilkins’ engineers worked to devise a different acoustic response curve for the coupe and convertible vehicles also taking into account when the roof is down. “There are characteristic differences between the vehicles and not just when the cabin is wide open,” continues Lindsay. “Using knowledge gained from the laboratory sessions coupled with understanding the need for road noise compensation, we were able to factor these into our open cockpit road tests. It’s a good example of how the in car environment needs to be adapted in response to various passenger, driving and source conditions.”

The collaboration element of the programme proved to be equally successful. Bowers & Wilkins worked in close partnership with Jaguar and suppliers over an 18-month period. A truly global collaboration, with activities co-ordinated between Bowers & Wilkins in the US and UK together with partners in Europe, it is the first production programme from the newly formed Bowers & Wilkins Automotive Group.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the level of performance in the XKR Portfolio,” says Lindsay. “Thanks to the commitment on the part of Jaguar and its suppliers, Bowers & Wilkins is able to realize a great sound system with sound-staging which is truly amazing. In the end, the only disappointment is not being one of the customers lucky enough to own one of these incredible cars.”

The Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound System comes fitted as standard equipment in all Jaguar XKR Portfolios. The XKR Portfolio presale is underway and Jaguar expects market introduction to start in July 2007.

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