Driving a prestige vehicle is a multifaceted joy. From the initial look and feel – the reason you fall in love with it – to the handling and performance, every moment you're in the driver's seat yields myriad pleasures.
For luxury carmaker, Rolls-Royce, the comfort and pleasure of every ride is an experience that can augmented by one element most of us have in our pocket or on a shelf at home: music.
When approaching the challenge of designing a bespoke audio system for the prestigious carmaker's new Drophead convertible – the aptly named Dawn – Rolls-Royce audio engineer, Gerd Wolfrum, explains the concept was a simple, yet complex, one.
"We build our systems into the car – not as an afterthought," said Wolfrum. "In other words, the design of the car and the audio system are one."
For a company known to make each component of every car by hand, it's not surprising to learn that each of the 16 speakers in every Dawn is individually designed, positioned and powered to deliver an "optimised for 'Rolls-Royce quality' sound performance" in every seat.
Not your standard stereo
In a similar fashion, to achieve the essence of each piece of music and not merely produce a machine calibrated stereo, Wolfrum and his team will: "close our eyes and imagine the musicians playing right in front of us, and work to the 'nth' level of detail."
When creating a system like this to complement the luxury of a Rolls-Royce vehicle, Wolfrum knew the only way forward: "To aim for purity, authenticity and effortlessness."
Even with the top down, the bespoke audio system measures ambient noise via two microphones and subtly adjusts the audio signal to ensure your listening experience remains dynamic.
There are many other factors for an audio engineer to consider as the design of a new vehicle takes shape. Every material used in construction – from the chassis and panels to the interior components – can affect sound frequencies and distort the audio experience.
A master's craft
The challenges of designing the ideal sound stage for a luxury car are many, but are not entirely impossible to overcome if approached with perseverance.
"The perfect system does not exist," said Wolfrum. "[But] at Rolls-Royce we strive to get as near as possible to perfection. We spend painstaking time, weeding out each distortion and problem caused by various signal timings."
For Wolfrum and his team, thousands of kilometres were spent driving and listening to music – "Nemesea's Pure: Live @ P3, the enigmatic voice of Chris Rea, Hugh Masekela's Stimela, and Metallica, to test sound levels" – to develop the Dawn's listening experience.
To this end, he used the most obvious tool at his disposal to tune the system: "the most sensitive of instruments available – the human ear."
If you value your choice in luxury vehicles as much as your music collection, check out the gallery above.