Geoff in Ideas Land

He is known as "The Ear", the master of perfect sound. At first he was only mildly enthusiastic about the task of creating a car hi-fi system - until he got to know the Audi A8. a visit to see Geoff Martin, one of the fathers of the Advanced Sound System.

When Geoff Martin looks out of the window, he sees lush green meadows, grazing sheep and the cobalt blue Limfjord nearby. The Canadian is a sound engineer at the Danish hi-fi specialist Bang & Olufsen, whose name enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide. Yet there is little evidence of the big wide world in this modest little town. Here in Struer, a community of some 11,000 inhabitants "in the middle of nowhere", or in north-west Jutland to be more precise, Bang & Olufsen ticks along to a harmonious rhythm, without the slightest hint of ear-splitting beats: this is not how pulsating life looks. And yet - this is where the most advanced high-end systems in the world are created, including the Advanced Sound System for the Audi A8.
We have come in search of the man whose acoustic signature is on the 1,100-watt acoustic marvel in the Ingolstadt carmaker’s flagship model. His astonishing ear for acoustics earned him the privilege of "spending three months living in the A8," as he puts it. He has a doctorate in sound engineering and is therefore a musician, studio technician and programmer rolled into one. He completed his undergraduate pipe organ degree, including choral conducting and ear training, at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.
The sign on the frosted glass door in the unassuming red brick building, tucked away behind the glazed facades of the main building, says "Ideas Land". Here, at Bang & Olufsen’s powerhouse of ideas, is where we have arranged to meet Martin. It is in the oldest part of the plant that the visions of the future take shape; this is where the company’s designers and creative specialists are at work.
Martin awaits us with a roguish smile. The man is wearing a knitted sweater, jeans and designer glasses. "How the devil did you find me?" he grins, alluding to the remoteness of Bang & Olufsen’s main base. The Canadian knows how to keep an Audience. Unworldly is the last word you would use to describe him, and yet he lives in his very own acoustic world. He seems to treat certain facts that ought to be downright obvious as rather tangential. When asked how old he is, he counters with a question of his own: "What year is it?" We reply: "To the best of our knowledge, 2005..." Martin: "2005? (Pause.) OK, then I must be 36."

The Advanced Sound System of the Audi A8 at a glance:
  • 14 speakers
  • Speaker grilles in anodised aluminium
  • 1,100 watts output
  • Two amplifiers: one classic linear amplifier and one switching amplifier (ICE Power)
  • Digital Sound Processor (DSP)
  • Surround sound reproduction
  • Two acoustic lens tweeters which are automatically extended from the instrument panel when the system is activated

What is ICE Power?
ICE Power combines the advantages of the classic linear amplifier with the benefits of the switching amplifier. For instance, a linear amplifier with an acoustic output of about 250 watts generates around 500 watts of heat in the form of power dissipation. This high power dissipation is a problem in a vehicle, because this is power that first has to be produced by the alternator and then cancelled out again by the air conditioning system. If a switching amplifier is added to the system, the power dissipation is reduced to 50 watts.

What is a lens tweeter?
The acoustic lens tweeters combine the freedom from tonal discoloration of tweeters with the pulsed reproduction of horn speakers. The way the sound is guided by the lens is also very important. This prevents the reflections that used to occur, thus guaranteeing a new quality of spatial reproduction.

Geoff Martin

Geoff Martin in the sound workshop. In the background:
Bang & Olufsen’s top speakers, on whose technology Audi’s advanced Sound System is modelled.