A Rolling Concert Hall

Volvo enhances its in-car audio with help from Dirac Research and Bowers & Wilkins.

byThe Foundry at Time Inc.|
A Rolling Concert Hall


Concert-quality sound in a car? It’s no longer a dream. Volvo worked with Swedish audio technology firm Dirac Research and high-end speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins to create an audio powerhouse for the Volvo S90 unlike anything else on four wheels.

A listening environment fit for a full orchestra — or a single vocalist. Volvo engineers tapped into Dirac Research’s software to map the exact acoustic characteristics of the Gothenburg Concert Hall, home to the Swedish National Orchestra. With a touch on the tablet-like screen, the 19-speaker system can be optimized to mirror the historic concert hall, a stage environment, or a recording studio. The sound system uses technology developed for reference speakers installed in some of the world’s most famous acoustic spaces, including London’s Abbey Road Studios, where countless other rock legends recorded their iconic works.

An active acoustic environment. Volvo engineers used precise measurements to evaluate the environment inside the S90 and sculpt the system’s output accordingly. Sound can be directed to a specific area, or wrapped around the entire cabin. It all adds up to the best possible bass integration and clarity, no matter what’s streaming.

Top-notch treble. The high-performance, low-distortion Bowers & Wilkins speakers with “tweeter-on-top” technology were strategically placed around the car to optimize sound. The dashboard-mounted tweeter aims high-frequency sound at listeners, rather than reflecting it off the windshield, for crisp, clear treble, whether you’re taking a phone call or enjoying your favorite music.

Booming bass. In the S90, Bowers & Wilkins’ signature yellow speaker cones are visible behind elegantly perforated metal grilles. A revolutionary free-air subwoofer integrated into the S90’s body turns the interior of the car into a massive sound chamber to bring out the lowest end of the sound spectrum.