How do you design the audio system for something like the new Rolls-Royce Phantom? It takes a lot of patience, a lot of tweaking, and a very special playlist. Rolls fills us in with the highs, lows, and mids of what it takes to make a noise fit for a King, Queen, or plutocrat.
“Integrate studio quality audio into a motor car.” That’s the briefing that Rolls-Royce gave its engineers when it came time to develop the sound system for the company’s latest sedan. The Bespoke Audio System for the Phantom wasn’t benchmarked against other cars, it was benchmarked against the kind of rooms where the recording artists, producers, and audio engineers make sure that their sound is ready to be released to the world.
The thing is, recording studios don’t need to do 110 km/h on the highway. With the wind noise, road noise, and other distractions that represents. They’re probably also not mostly made of glass. So the engineers built the car’s interior environment as they built the audio system.
It starts with the frame. Adding extrusions and complex shapes instead of flat surfaces. This is better for rigidity, but it also helps eliminate sound resonating in the panels without the need for add-on sound-deadening. There’s also a resonance chamber built into the car’s side sills that was tailored to the frequency response of the subwoofer. They made the frame of the car a tuned subwoofer box.
130 kg of sound deadening material, 6mm double-glazing windows, and even tires with a foam layer in between the rubber layers all help make the car quiet. So quiet the acoustic testers had to make sure their instruments were working.
The audio system itself uses an 18-channel amplifier providing 1,300 watts. That’s one channel for every speaker. The speakers themselves use magnesium-ceramic speaker cones for improved frequency response. Two microphones in the cabin allow for an adaptive sound experience, adjusting the equalizer to compensate for what’s happening in the car.
So what do you listen to so that you can test this impressive audio system and make sure you’ve got it right? A playlist that ranges from classic rock to modern pop. With none of the classical you might expect. Forget Beethoven and Bach, Rolls-Royce today is using Rage Against the Machine and Metallica, as well as Pink Floyd, Nirvana, the Eagles, and more. If you want to test your own cars like a Rolls, we’ve included the full list below. Just remember that low-quality MP3s over Bluetooth aren’t going to do even the lowest-level modern car audio system justice. Rolls-Royce engineers use lossless digital recordings.
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here 
From Here to Eternity -Giorgio Moroder, From Here to Eternity 
Across the Lines – Tracy Chapman, self-titled 
Sad But True – Metallica, self-titled 
Bembe / Abakwa – Terry Bozzio, Solo Drum Music II 
Klangfarben Melodie – Terry Bozzio, Solo Drum Music II 
Know Your Enemy – Rage Against the Machine, self-titled 
Fistful of Steel – Rage Against the Machine, self-titled 
Passion – Gat Decor (Naked Edit) 
Where Did You Sleep Last Night? – Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York (Live) 
Stimela (The Coal Train) – Hugh Masekela, Hope (Live) 
Hotel California – The Eagles, Hell Freezes Over (Live) 
Paranoid Android – Radiohead, OK Computer 
Lyric Lickin – Del The Funky Homosapien, Future Development 
Insomnia – Faithless, Insomnia 
Raining in Baltimore – Counting Crows, Across a Wire: Live in New York City (Live) 
Safe in New York City – AC/DC, Stiff Upper Lip [Deluxe Edition] 
Scrappy – Wookie, Wookie (Deluxe Edition) 
Marionette – Matthew Jonson 
Intro – Nemesea, Pure: Live @ P3 (Remixed & Remastered) 
Bass Solo – Nemesea, Pure: Live @ P3 (Remixed & Remastered) 
Drum Solo – Nemesea, Pure: Live @ P3 (Remixed & Remastered)