Geoff im Ideenland

Geoff Martin is an expert in flawless studio sound. When Bang & Olufsen recruited him for the Audi A8 project, he had quite a few reservations. "People who’ve worked in studio technology tend to be quite snobbish," explains Martin. "I didn’t have high expectations of the sound in a car. To be honest, I’d always regarded a car radio as the epitome of poor sound." Peter Blum, Head of the advanced Sound System project at AUDI AG, understands why he had such reservations: "The acoustic conditions in a car are actually a nightmare. The car body acts as one huge, dull acoustic object, and the driver and front passenger are always seated too close to one of the speakers for the sound pattern to be symmetrical. But the biggest problem is the constantly changing driving noise that is superimposed on the music." The ambitious challenge facing the premium system from Bang & Olufsen was to make it possible to experience perfect sound in this acoustically hostile environment.
The teams at Bang & Olufsen and Audi already had three years’ development work behind them when Martin came on board. The system’s technology was mature and it had already been tried out in the first few vehicles. Martin was to take care of the finetuning. at first he worked exclusively with Bang & Olufsen’s acoustics engineers; communication with colleagues in Ingolstadt was done by phone and computer. After a few weeks, Martin packed his suitcase and flew to Germany. He wanted to speed up the exchange with his counterparts at Audi. And he wanted to experience the product at closer quarters.
The Canadian clocked up countless laps at the AUDI AG proving ground. And even more kilometres on the autobahn during the three months he spent in Bavaria. He was often accompanied on these trips by his counterpart at Audi, sound engineer Wolfram Jähn. Martin explains: "First of all we had to eliminate all sources of noise interference. Wolfram has an amazing sense of hearing, nothing escapes him. We completed an untold number of trips together, listening closely while accelerating, braking or driving over different types of surface. Whenever we detected noise disturbance, we took the car to pieces and rectified every part that was causing undesirable vibration."
The things that Martin and Jähn deemed "a disturbance" are virtually imperceptible to the ordinary ear. One day, when working indoors, they scoured every millimetre of the A8’s interior in search of a rattling noise that they were detecting when the system was reproducing particularly high notes. The source actually lay outside the car: both men had picked up the trembling of a light bulb on the ceiling of the room they were working in, through the car’s closed doors.
Acoustic "cleansing" of the car was the first step. But their real work began once there was no longer anything to distract them from the system’s sound. Together, the engineers had to define what "advanced sound" actually means: probably the biggest challenge that the team faced. "at first, the live experience was my ideal," comments Martin. The Ingolstadt-based team of Blum and Jähn, on the other hand, had clear notions of what qualified as the sound of an Audi model, and what did not. "Particularly at the beginning, our different ideas clashed. Sound is something utterly subjective. Everyone experiences a piece of music differently and concentrates on different aspects. What’s more, our response to sound is very emotional," adds Martin.
and perfect sound - what does that sound like? Back in Ingolstadt, Jähn described to us how he listened out for the naturalness of notes. He goes into raptures about the "transparency" of the system’s sound: "The Bang & Olufsen system enables you to hear the wood of a percussion instrument. With guitar music, I hear the twang of the strings and the contact of the fingers before they are plucked. That opens up entirely new dimensions!"
In the frenzied final phase, Jähn set out on test drives all over Germany, complete with his private CD collection in tow. "Those trips were incredibly exciting. The Advanced Sound System is a true mentor, it trains the ear. You suddenly discover pieces that you thought you knew by heart in an entirely new light."
Martin the studio professional was able to contribute his appreciation of acoustic three-dimensionality, the precise positioning of the instruments and singers in the room. "Perfect sound: for me, that means getting as close as possible to the live experience. At a classical music concert, I have to be able to picture the orchestra in front of me, with my eyes closed. The stage has to be acoustically right in front of me, with all the instruments arranged in order."
It had hitherto been technically impossible to realise the sheer acoustic power of a studio recording in a car until the combination of DSP (digital signal processing), ICE Power, a new type of amplifier technology, and the acoustic lenses from Bang & Olufsen’s BeoLab 5 speakers came along. "A car hi-fi system was virgin territory for both Bang & Olufsen and myself as a studio engineer. Perhaps that is why the system turned out to be so innovative. Throughout the entire process I sought above all to raise expectations of an in-car sound system and push up the benchmark. For me, that benchmark was ultimately not the music system of another car, but the best sound that Bang & Olufsen has ever produced in the sphere of home entertainment." The results are certainly there for all to hear!

| Eric Felber

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Bang & Olufsen

The exclusive Danish brand boasts decades of experience in the use of aluminium. The speaker covers for the A8 are finished to a precision of hundredths of a millimetre.


A technician fits the covers for the door speakers. The perforated aluminium shells are then tinted to match the interior colour.