An Exuberance of Loudspeakers

Sound System Designer: “How many speakers would you like in this car?”
BMW: “Yes.”

In my misspent youth, although I was intensely attracted to all things audio, this fascination unfortunately did not extend to my motorized transportation. This was understandable, considering that I was driving 2- and 4-wheel vehicles with an average seating capacity of about 1.5 people. In any case, well into adulthood, the cumulative number of loudspeakers in all the vehicles I had owned was exactly 4. To wit:

Vehicle Speaker Count
Various BMW, Triumph & Suzuki motorcycles 0
Willys Jeep 0
Lotus Seven 0
Porsche 914 2
Porsche 911 2
Total Number of Speakers 4

This quadrature compares rather poorly to the number of speakers available in the new BMW iX, which is 30. Yes, you read that right. This new Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System is replete with 30 loudspeakers. As noted, it rides in the BMW iX, an electric SUV, available in the Spring of 2022. The iX has an estimated range of up to 300 miles. If you have really crank up the 1,615-watt stereo, the estimated range is 3 miles. Just kidding. Maybe.

The sound system embraces the “more is better” design approach and does not shy away from placing a speaker in any location that may conceivably improve sound quality, or at least increase the number of places where sound is coming from, and what body parts get an extra tickle.

A famed Nautilus Diamond Dome tweeter makes an appearance in each front door. The diamonds on the tweeter cones are said to increase the cones' rigidity which is a good thing. Also, this is useful if you intend to propose to your date.

In addition to the two Diamond Dome tweeters, there are three aluminum dome tweeters and five aramid fiber midrange speakers. A further eight speakers are placed in the front and rear headrests and can be individually adjusted for each listener. The front seats also contain speakers for massaging your kidneys and shakers for shaking your posterior to give a “tactile bass experience.” Similarly, there are subwoofers positioned beneath the rear seats.

Interestingly, to avoid having the interior look like a loudspeaker warehouse, the cabin design uses “Shy Tech” in which many of the speakers are concealed behind fabric or otherwise embedded somewhere, greatly reducing the quantity of visible audio paraphernalia.

As noted, the iX is an all-electric SUV (BMW calls it a SAV, or Sport Activity Vehicle. Very generally, its proportions are similar to the analog BMW X5. The specs are electrifying: 0 to 60 is rated as 4.6 seconds; maximum horsepower is 516; and 10 minutes of fast charging is good for 90 miles. You can read more about the iX here No word yet on pricing for the Diamond option. I paid $400 cash money for my 1948 Willys Jeep (very pre-loved). Even accounting for inflation, I'm guessing this Diamond system will cost more.

A final note: I can hardly imagine the trials and tribulations of the audio engineers who toiled to balance and tune this multitude of loudspeakers. Pending the opportunity to audition the fruits of their labor, I tip my hat to them.

B&W has been my go-to loudspeaker manufacturer for many years; at least to my ears, their stuff is simply outstanding. I look forward to taking this buggy for a spin. I'll report back when I do.