Rolls Royce Ghost Extended Audio Review
It's not every day you get the opportunity to sit in a Rolls Royce, and incredibly rare to attend a brand new product launch by Rolls Royce. Needless to say, when asked to review the audio system in the all-new Rolls Royce Ghost, I jumped at the opportunity!
With over 30 years of experience in the Audio industry as well as designing many award-winning car audio systems, I've seen and heard a fair few decent audio systems in my time. But hearing about the lengths the Rolls Royce engineering team have gone to on the Ghost to ensure the best possible listening environment, really piqued my interest.
As the Ghost was being designed from the ground up, the engineers had the opportunity to consider all aspects, not only from the automotive engineering aspect but also the vehicle's acoustics.
The aim, I'm told, was to make the car a 'serene environment for clients to enjoy in near silence', which astonishingly, the engineering team actually did too well. Early test participants reported feeling a little disorientated while sitting in the Ghost due to the absolute silence within the cabin. The team addressed this by introducing some low-level background noise, or 'Whisper', as Rolls Royce like to call it.
Before we get to the audiovisual system itself, let us look at what did Rolls Royce Motor Company did to achieve this incredible listening environment. The list is extensive, but here are a few of the key factors.
Rolls Royce engineered a 'damping of the dampers' in the vehicle suspension to remove as much energy transfer as possible, thus reducing the transfer of road noise. It's kind of like a 'decoupling' of the suspension from the main chassis, so you get the experience of flying on land.
Then, they engineered the monocoque from high-grade aluminium and designed it to reduce the opportunity for resonance and standing waves within its structure. Aluminium also has a lower acoustic impedance than steel, so this helps improve the overall cabin ambience.
The engineers then specifically tuned the chassis, body & even driveshaft to achieve a common resonant frequency. Even the seat frames have damping units on them, again to achieve a common frequency right throughout the whole cabin. This all comes together to achieve a relaxing listening environment while travelling. Don't worry about wind noise from around windows either, as they feature double glazing all around, plus noise damping materials added around the edges of the panes.
There's over 100kg of sound damping material added to the vehicle, including the air-conditioning vent ducting, and even in the tires themselves.
So as you can see, there has been a real 'ground up' approach to the noise cancelling, and that's even before we get to the electronics side of the Ghost's impressive audiovisual system.
The audio system is an entirely bespoke 18 channel monster (that you barely see). With 1300 watts RMS of power output, there is plenty of power, and that is obvious in the sound performance. The speaker cones are made of a magnesium-ceramic compound that delivers a sweet, crisp sound. The midrange and vocals, in particular, are so real sounding it's easy to get lost in the performance.
There is still plenty of trickery in this system though too! For starters, the body's sill section has been designed and engineered to be a perfect resonant chamber for the bespoke speaker system, transforming the body into a subwoofer. The 'starlight' roof lining has exciters built-in, so that it becomes a speaker too, adding the feeling of being enveloped by the sound.
Of course, no modern audiovisual system would be complete without an 'active' element to the audio control, so Rolls Royce employed two microphones into the cabin. These continually monitor and actively adjust the audio performance of specific frequencies to counteract any unwanted noises within fractions of a second.
So then, how does it sound? I listened to a vast range of music styles, in High Definition from the built-in hard drive audio-video server, right through to FM and DAB radio. The instant feeling is a genuine, honest and sweet-sounding system with plenty of power and control.
The strong point is most definitely the midrange and high frequencies, so the vocals and instruments such as trumpets, saxophones and strings make quite an impression. Chet Baker's trumpet was so crisp and accurate that I listened to more than a few tracks - something I never do with trumpet music!
Calvin Harris and Alesso's 'Under Control' instantly makes you want to turn it up, turn on the roof linings' Skylight' show, and party! It didn't matter what music genre it was, or even which source, the outcome was the same - tight, snappy, clean and crisp sound that was never fatiguing. This is what surprised me most given many systems that are so tight and snappy usually end up making you want to turn them down or off. That wasn't the case with Rolls' new Ghost system.
A little bonus for the passengers in this superb vehicle is that it has movie surround modes built-in, so watching a movie in a car together is taken to a whole new level.
To sum it up, the Rolls Royce Ghost's audiovisual system is the most impressive I've yet heard in a car, and that says a lot. I think that given a few hours with the vehicle and a few minor tweaks in the backend of the DSP, it could well be the best OEM car audio system in the world. And of course, Rolls Royce Motor Company, if you're listening, you have my number!
Dave Williams has been in the Consumer Electronics industry for over 30 years, with experience ranging from car audio through to high level custom installation and home theatre system design & installation. He now specialises in International Sales, representing several specialist Audio Visual manufacturers with his own company, Global AV Sales.