McLaren and Bowers & Wilkins. A partnership born out of passion and unrelenting attention to detail. A collaboration that is re-writing the rules of acoustic performance in the world’s most exciting high-performance cars.
McLaren makes uncompromising high-performance supercars and sports cars; machines that take drivers to the heart of the driving experience. Bowers & Wilkins makes the world’s most advanced speaker systems; loudspeakers that reveal the true essence of a musical recording. The two highly respected companies have joined forces to create audio systems that set new standards for acoustic performance inside vehicles that are themselves tearing up the supercar rule book.
It’s a partnership underpinned by shared values and heritage. Both are British companies with a global reputation that can trace their pioneering roots back to the mid 1960s. Both are renowned for high-performance engineering and relentless innovation in their respective fields. And just as McLaren’s reputation was forged on the race track, Bowers & Wilkins’ speakers prove their mettle in the most demanding audio environment of all: the world’s best recording studios.
Actions speak louder than words
Bowers & Wilkins and McLaren have been collaborating since the launch of the McLaren 570S Coupe in 2015. Following the incredible success of the 570S Coupe, McLaren and Bowers & Wilkins have combined to produce the audio systems for the 540C, 570GT, and most recently the 570S Spider – the most refined and road-biased McLaren yet, designed with a focus on day-to-day usability and long distance comfort. And then of course, there’s the brand new 720S – the star of the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show, and the first of a new generation of the McLaren Super Series of supercars.
McLaren is committed to ensuring that all of its cars deliver a more immersive, well rounded driving experience. This includes the provision of the best possible sound for the driver and passenger. A desire that led them to Bowers & Wilkins, the perfect match when it came to passion, attention to detail and performance.
The relationship between Bowers & Wilkins and McLaren has so far delivered in-car audio systems for both the Sports Series and the new Super Series. However, two high-performance, demanding companies working together will always present challenges, particularly when they come from different, sometimes contradictory, industries, and are leaders within their own fields. And there was a number of unique challenges and benefits that came about in the course of
As befits a brand famed for speed, McLaren develops at a furious pace. So, a close working synergy between the Bowers & Wilkins and McLaren engineering teams is vital to ensure development progresses smoothly; any design and integration issues must be resolved quickly and efficiently. The upside of this is that Bowers & Wilkins’ engineers are actively involved throughout the process, leading to more efficient working practices and a sound system that performs better as a result.
The challenges that arise invariably concern weight and size. McLaren is obsessive about keeping weight to a minimum and it is Bowers & Wilkins’ job to complement McLaren’s efforts on weight reduction, but without compromising on system performance.
The focus instead is on the use of high-quality transducers, optimally placed within the vehicle cabin, and the use of technologies such as ‘Micro Matrix’ enclosures, which appear for the first time in the McLaren 720S.
The space available to audio components always comes at a premium in the automotive arena, but particularly so in the case of McLaren’s sports cars. Again, it’s an area where close (and early) collaboration pays dividends. Firstly, at a very early stage, constraints are shared by the Bowers & Wilkins engineering team to define the optimum locations within the cabin to position transducers. Development then begins in reviewing the vehicle ‘buck’ in McLaren’s design studio, months before the detailed mechanical integration work begins.
There are many factors that are positive in this relationship; foremost is that both sets of engineers are experts in their respective fields, and the level of ability and respect that comes with this is fundamental. Also, both teams are relatively small, which allows timely and effective communication and rapid problem solving. It also means fast access to the people who have an impact and can make decisions; a vital element when working effectively.
The final piece of the partnerships puzzle fell into place whilst ensuring that the dynamics and subtlety to mark out a great audio system are preserved during the driving experience. This is obviously of vital importance with all in-car systems, but is particularly tricky when the roar of a supercar’s V8 engine is brought into the equation. The task of tuning the system for this and every system eventually falls to the same Bowers & Wilkins engineers responsible for the 800 Series Diamond. Intensive tuning takes place in laboratory conditions and on the road. This ensures that the system delivers the pristine sound experience that is the mark of Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers – no matter whether that is at home, walking the streets or in a car.