BMW and Harman Kardon

The BMW and Harman Kardon Partnership: Top-Performance in the Champions League

BMW and Harman Kardon® both embody excellent performance, top quality, extensive individuality and the principle of enjoyment. Together, these two iconic brands stand for pioneering systems that demonstrate technological and emotional leadership.

Since 1993, acoustics experts of the Hi-Fi specialty company have worked closely together with the engineers of the premium automobile manufacturer. The 3er BMW E36 marked the beginning of the productive cooperation, starting with a tailor-made "Harman Kardon Spatial System": Ten speakers and an amplifier together delivered a system performance of 260 watt and provided for a musical experience that had never been known in an automobile before. "Spatial Sound", a new room-based sound effect installed for the first time, was the predecessor of the modern surround sound system. The high standards of both brands were the top priority during development: Each system must meet the highest requirements of an excellent sound experience without any compromise. This requires close cooperation between the engineers from both brands during a very early design phase of a new BMW model when the optimal integration of the high-end sound system is done. Standard solutions are never an option. The principle followed at Harman Kardon is that every car requires an individual, tailor-made solution.

For example, Cabriolet buyers rightfully desire an equally perfect sound experience when the top is up or down. With a Combi or SUV, on the other hand, the acoustic experts have to take the larger space of the interior into account when tuning the sound.

Excellent, enveloping sound can only be achieved if an audio system is developed in line with the profile of each model variant of the specific automobile. That's why it takes up to four years on average from the first designs for a sound system until it is ready to be installed in the car.

Because all interior components have a dramatic impact on the acoustics, engineers from Harman Kardon also work on sound system development directly at BMW. These so-called resident engineers harmonize the requirements of the automobile manufacturer with the proposed solutions from the sound specialist. Among other aspects, the number, size and position of the speakers must be defined and the individual components have to be coordinated. Computer simulations that use the vehicle data are used to develop the mechanical parameters of the speakers.

Further coordination takes place in numerous complex steps. Even when a new Harman Kardon sound system has passed the complex, scientific tests, it must still undergo the all-important final test: the human ear.

After the simulation tests on the virtual model, the top acoustic experts from Harman Kardon carry out detailed, direct audio comparisons. "The human ear remains the most precise measuring instrument," according to company founder Dr. Sidney Harman. This is something that still holds true today. The final sound must always match the high Harman Kardon standard, but may feature fine nuances - depending on the particular car model and the relevant target group. The sound should exactly reflect the character of the respective BMW model and corresponding target group.

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