Volvo and Bowers & Wilkins
4:00 PM | February 7 2017

Perfect harmony

How Volvo Cars has teamed up with British audio specialists Bowers & Wilkins to make the music we love an integral part of our cars as well as our lives.

1966 was quite a year for music. The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Bob Dylan all released groundbreaking albums that transformed the cultural landscape. But while Lennon and McCartney and their contemporaries were busy reinventing the way music was made, a classical music enthusiast called John Bowers was focusing his attention and expertise on reinventing the way we listened to it.

The search for ‘true sound’

After discovering that stereo recordings of his favourite classical pieces rarely recreated the thrill and vibrancy of a live performance, Bowers set himself the task of designing a loudspeaker that would enable the listener to experience music in a way that was pure, satisfying, and as faithful to the artists’ original intentions as possible. Bowers called this ‘true sound’. Now, 50 years on, wherever a premium audio experience is paramount, you’ll find the ‘true sound’ of Bowers & Wilkins – whether it’s in the world-famous Abbey Road studios, the Primavera Sound Festival, or the latest Volvo cars.

Singing from the same hymn sheet

Creating great sound in a room or studio is one thing; creating consistently great sound in a moving car is an entirely different matter. Cars vibrate, they are exposed to an infinite range of ambient sounds, and they offer limited space to work with.

So, when it came to creating the premium sound system for the new 90-series Volvo cars, Bowers & Wilkins’ expert engineers and designers were involved from day one. And as a collaboration of two companies both with proud pioneering heritages, it’s natural it worked in perfect harmony to produce an exceptional listening experience that effortlessly combines superior sound with stunning Scandinavian design.

Quality, not just quantity

The key to successfully recreating the signature Bowers & Wilkins sound in a Volvo lies in the meticulous tuning and unique placement of the speakers. Tuning the sound system in a car is an art form that requires hours of listening, a lot of patience, and more than a few pairs of expert ears. Built using only the finest materials – including the Kevlar that’s famous for body armour – and the finest loudspeaker technology, each speaker occupies a unique position in the car to help achieve optimal sound quality. The speaker positions are worked on for years in advance of production, while five decades of audio expertise and countless computer simulations are utilised to help find the perfect audio sweet-spot.

Of the 19 on-board speakers, one in particular stands out. Tweeter-on-Top is a feature found in Bowers & Wilkins’ most advanced speakers and never previously used in a car’s audio system. Strategically centred on the dashboard, the exposed Tweeter-on-Top speaker points back into the cabin rather than upwards towards the windscreen. This helps minimise acoustic reflection from the windscreen and removes almost any interference. This ensures a superior level of sound that is more detailed, pure and authentic – especially when it comes to reproducing vocals.

With their desire for innovation, appreciation of genuine craftsmanship and unwavering belief that form should follow function, Bowers & Wilkins fits perfectly with Volvo Cars’ Scandinavian design philosophy.


View the rest of our our February I Roll Stories.

I Roll

Volvo is Latin for 'I roll' and was originally trademarked in 1915 with ball bearing production in mind. But 18 million cars later, Volvo has come to mean much more. 

Volvo started making cars in 1927 because we believed nobody else was making them strong enough or safe enough for Swedish roads. Along the way we’ve come up with dozens of innovations, some of which have changed the world. And it’s this proud history that continues our drive forward to the next great Volvo Cars idea.