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Bentley forms exclusive partnership with British audio manufacturer Naim to deliver the world’s best in-car sound system

February 20th, 2008

Bentley Motors has entered into partnership with Naim Audio, one of the world’s most respected creators of hi-fi systems, to produce an unparalleled in-car sound system for all its future models. After 18 months of research and development, the result is an ‘as-live’ in-car audio experience which remains true to both Bentley and Naim’s philosophy of no compromise in the search for quality.

From design concept to production, Bentley and Naim’s engineers worked closely together to create the sound system, which is carefully tuned for each model using the most advanced acoustic analysis. Each system features an 1100 Watt amplifier – the world’s most powerful production unit fitted in a car – and, depending on model, up to 15 speakers with drive units specifically designed for Bentley by Naim. Bentley is also the first car manufacturer to use a next-generation Digital Signal Processor (DSP) in its audio system, enhancing the listening experience still further.

The pairing of Naim Audio – based in Salisbury, England – with Bentley Motors is an ideal brand partnership, for each manufacturer has built a proud British heritage and a reputation for offering their customers the very best products in their respective  industries. Branded ‘Naim for Bentley’, this system will soon become synonymous with the ultimate in-car audio experience.

“Our customers expect the ultimate in every experience when they commission a Bentley,” said Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen, Chairman and Chief Executive, Bentley Motors. “The ‘Naim for Bentley’ sound system delivers the world’s ultimate in-car audio
experience – allowing for ‘as-live’ audio entertainment that is as pure as the Bentley driving experience itself.”

It is this experience and philosophy which led to a simple brief: to deliver the equal of the world’s finest home hi-fi within a car and hence create the world’s best in-car sound system.

“We are absolutely delighted with the new ‘Naim for Bentley’ range,” said Paul Stephenson, Managing Director, Naim Audio. “The parallels between our two marques are so striking – we are both proud British manufacturers with a desire to produce the finest, hand-built products of their kind – that it is the perfect partnership.”

Founded in 1969, Naim has formed a reputation for producing the finest hand-built amplifiers on the market. Naim has attracted a loyal following of audiophiles who appreciate their systems’ ability to reproduce music exactly as the artist had intended it to be heard and who recognise their superb reliability and build quality.

Customer-driven demand
In recent years the market for premium audio within the ultra-luxury automobile sector has evolved markedly, with many manufacturers offering systems that have been commissioned from a partner brand in the audio industry. For Bentley it was imperative that any such partner be able to uphold the marque’s own values of quality craftsmanship and best-in-class design.

Naim Audio’s highly specialised workforce and its passion and commitment to music were key factors in the company’s appointment. Bentley recognised that their owners would cherish the pride and attention to detail that goes into producing a Naim product. Benefits from such a close partnership will reflect the personalised service offered by both brands and ‘Naim for Bentley’ will be a truly bespoke product.

Industry-leading Power Output
An 18-month development programme was undertaken at Bentley’s Crewe, Cheshire home and Naim’s research facilities in Salisbury, Wiltshire. A clear specification for the sound system was soon fixed, with industry-leading power output from a unique 1100 Watt amplifier and a state-of-the-art speaker system to deliver a pure sound experience.

To achieve these ambitious targets, Naim began by undertaking the most advanced acoustic analysis of the cabin areas of every Bentley model – in both hard-top and convertible guise – in all road conditions. Resonance levels were measured throughout the cabin and bodywork to allow the engineers to design unique speaker drive units for each car. The effectiveness of this approach is underlined by the fact that even with the system delivering breathtaking performance at full power, only a low level of sound can be heard from outside the car.

The Naim Audio system was designed on the premise that whatever Bentley model it was installed in, it would be capable of producing an audio experience equal to any class-leading, home hi-fi system. The central factor for this was the 1100 Watt amplifier which was designed to operate within a remarkably compact space.

Naim Audio amplifier designer Steve Sells explains the significance of these limitations:

“Within this tiny area we need to incorporate some of the most densely-packed, high-tech components imaginable and still ensure the amplifier meets our strict performance targets. The level of engineering that goes into the amp’s internals is unique. Every circuit board is optically checked by a computer-operated camera to ensure each component is perfectly oriented. It even checks the quality of each solder joint.

“The amplifier is then hand-assembled to ensure a perfect line-up of all the circuit boards and cable dressing and every single input and output is computer-tested to ensure it matches our uncompromising standards.”

Only by using a highly complex, double-sided, six-layer circuit board could this incredible amplifier be made to fit within the same footprint. Even more remarkably, despite the high power output, it has a unique fanless design, a specification insisted upon by Naim to ensure no interference from moving parts. Despite this, the amplifier still meets full Bentley requirements for thermal management and has been tested in ambient temperatures ranging from -40 degrees Celsius up to 70 degrees Celsius.

Unparalleled Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
Every electrical component used within the system is specified by Naim to meet the highest engineering tolerances. The Digital Signal Processor (DSP) offers users eight modes to enhance their listening experience. These range from Naim’s main ‘audiophile’ mode – the absolute reference setting for sound playback – through to other settings including driver-optimised, balanced, rear-optimised, Digital Media playback (via mp3, iPodTM players and digital radio), Spoken Word, Classic and Enhanced.

The DSP performs Dynamic Equalisation which adjusts EQ (sound levels) for every DSP setting dependent on car speed. Other audio systems use a microphone to read background noise and adjust EQ levels accordingly. However, this method has an inherent time lag that was deemed unsuitable by Naim. As a consequence, the Naim system has variable Dynamic EQ settings, supplying a new level for every 1km/h of speed change in the car. This means that every DSP setting has over 300 unique EQ levels. These also vary if the car is a convertible, detecting whether the roof is up or down.

Class-leading Speaker Specification
The state-of-the-art amplifier powers a series of class-leading speakers, again designed exclusively for Bentley by Naim, with arguably the most advanced specification of any in-car audio system. Fifteen speakers in the Continental range (14 for the Continental GTC) and 11 speakers in Bentley’s flagship range of Arnage limousine, Azure convertible and Brooklands coupe will provide phenomenal sound quality, thanks to highly optimised magnet and voice coil systems, which are rarely found in automotive audio.

Located throughout the car, 25mm tweeter units designed using the latest catenary-profiled domes for the optimum balance of rigidity and weight channel high-frequency sounds, while unique 80mm midrange loudspeakers operate in frequencies down to 450Hz and contain an impressive 32mm voice coil. Larger 130mm bass midrange loudspeakers and powerful twin 200mm subwoofers control the lower frequencies.

The individual loudspeakers are driven by individual amplifier channels, all of which are controlled by the DSP for optimised performance and are digitally controlled to reduce sound leakage to the outside of the car.

The Arnage, Azure and Brooklands models also utilise the same amplifier and DSP settings, with their eleven-speaker layout tuned specifically to the larger cabin area of these models.

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