The 2011 Jaguar XJ Sound System: How Jaguar Put Home Audio on the Road

Matt Jones

Twelve-hundred watts of amplification, 20 speakers and 15 channels tell the story of the story of the thunderous in-car stereo system on  Jaguar’s new 2011 XJ in a nut shell. But engineering such a feat took a lot more than big numbers. We sat down with Jaguar’s technical audio specialist Matt Jones and design director Ian Callum about the technical wizardry that went into one of the most sophisticated car audio systems we’ve ever seen.

For a complete walk around of the 2011 Jaguar XJ, including many more interior shots, check out our Jaguar XJ Photo Gallery!

We understand you’ve been working with Bowers & Wilkins for some time?

Placing speakers high in the door helped improve sound quality, but also posed significant design challenges for Callum and his team.
Placing speakers high in the door helped improve sound quality, but also posed significant design challenges for Callum and his team.

Matt: I’ve been working with Bowers & Wilkins for about the last five years. We did the XF system, the XK system, which won awards. They were really good, but they just weren’t quite what you would expect from a Bowers system in the home.

What did you change this time around?

Matt: We sat down about three years ago, and said we want to make the world’s best car audio system – equal to what people would expect in 2010 in their homes, or in a cinema, from anywhere like that really. We said, “We can’t just copy the opposition.” There are too many cars that you just design a car, then put some speakers in it. And this hasn’t been done like that. Ian and I actually worked together with Bowers & Wilkins to ensure that we actually got the speakers where you want them. If you were building a cinema room at home, you wouldn’t just build a room and then put some speakers in it, you would do it all together, and that’s what we’ve done here.

Ian: I used to do so many interiors at Ford, and our process was this: You’ve got an area, a door panel, and you know where the door handles are and all that, and we style lines around it and create these new shapes. There’s a lot of demand in a door, there’s a lot of stuff going on both external and internal. The guys at the end, the speaker guys, get the space that’s left, and it tends to be down in that bottom corner!

Matt: It just doesn’t work, you wouldn’t package speakers in a room there.

Ian: We said this time, let’s find out where they really need to be, and let’s work around the speakers. It worked out well.

You had to find room for 20 different speakers in there, how much of a challenge was that from your end, Ian?

Ian: The doors were the biggest challenge. It’s not just a case of where we want them, it’s the physical entity of the door behind that – the glass drop, the cage, the bars, that type of thing. So we had to do a reasonable bit of engineering to make sure we could put the speakers up top. But once we got the door speakers in, and we had the secondary speakers up in the finishers – the top corner – really the rest was just putting them where they needed to be. They weren’t obtrusive in any way. Shelves, front dash, that’s it really. These areas are fairly free space, you just put them where they need to be – the doors are always the biggest challenge.

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