“Music is so inherently part of the driving experience. In the car is one of the most revered places to listen to music. Often you get better audio systems in cars than you do in the home. And you can really crank the volume up!”

Dan Shepherd works at British speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins, who have partnered with Aston Martin to provide in-car audio systems in the DB12 and the Vantage models. 

He points out how many drivers listen to music more attentively in their cars than they do anywhere else. Often, they are driving alone, analysing the lyrics, even singing along to the tunes. It’s for this reason that Bowers & Wilkins, one of the world’s leading audio system providers, have put so much energy and technological expertise into their latest project. As an optional extra, anyone who buys the Vantage can choose to upgrade to their new sound system, which has been acoustically engineered for the model’s particular interior shape and space.

The double-amplified, 1170-watt surround-sound system has 15 speakers in all. These include five Continuum speakers and five Nautilus Aluminium Double Dome tweeters in the dashboard and the doors, two woofers in the foot well, two headline speakers in the roof, and a sub-woofer behind the seats. The 15-channel amplifier sits in the boot.    

Shepherd, who is Vice-President for Licensing and Partnerships at Bowers & Wilkins, explains how his designers have taken the very best of consumer sound-system technology and transferred it into the Aston Martin cars. The two British companies collaborated closely to ensure they achieved optimal sound without compromising the vehicle’s interior design.

Shepherd uses the dashboard-mounted tweeters as an example of this collaboration. “With tweeters, you want a very open structure around them so there’s no interference with the soundwaves coming out of the speaker themselves,” he explains. “So the tweeters are proud of the [dashboard] surface around them, and they fire directly towards the passenger and the driver, just as they would in a home product. It means you get a very direct and clear listen.”

But, at the same time, Shepherd and his colleagues were very conscious they couldn’t compromise the sightlines for the driver through the windscreen. “If the speakers were to stick out too much, they would obscure the vision,” he adds. “So there’s this massive compromise because you’re trying to do two opposite things at the same time. We spent a long time going through many design iterations to get this right. We worked really deeply with the design team at Aston Martin. This is their car, so we needed to respect the interior space.”

The precise placing of the speakers is of course vital to the in-car listening experience, which is why Bowers & Wilkins started their collaboration with their Aston Martin counterparts very early on in the design process. Fortunately, says Shepherd says, his designers were able to control the exact positioning and angle of all 15 speakers in the car while it was still in the factory. “When you get in the car and switch on the sound system, that is the sound that we signed off in the factory,” he adds.

Even tiny details such as the perforation of holes on the speaker grilles have been taken into account. Shepherd explains how they opted for very thin steel grilles rather than aluminium ones, allowing them to dictate the pattern of the holes drilled into them, and in turn the movement of sound waves emanating from them. “We get this really accurate pattern. The Aston Martin designers love that because they can get this harmonious industrial design pattern which complements the interior, and we get a great open area for the sound.”

Ultimately, it’s the fine details like these that ensure the audio system in the Vantage so brilliantly combines the very best in sound, design and engineering. As Shepherd stresses: “It all needs to sound fantastic, look fantastic, and the engineering aspects of it need to be fantastic too.”

Dan Shepherd’s top 10 driving tunes

Smile by Wolf Alice
Suck My Kiss by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Antagonist by Nova Twins
Killing In The Name by Rage Against the Machine
Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Angel by Goldie
L.S.F. by Kasabian
Elements by Lindsey Stirling
So Good To Me by Chris Malinchak
Woman by Little Simz