PEUGEOT AND FOCAL HIGH FIDELITY: AN ALLIANCE OF PASSION AND KNOW-HOW
Since 2014, PEUGEOT and FOCAL have been working together to ensure that sound in production vehicles is a source of pleasure for drivers and passengers. In 2015 PEUGEOT innovates with the Fractal concept and an acoustic installation 9.1.2 and sound design, in collaboration with Focal.
As an emblematic French Hi-Fi company, Focal is placing the skills of its cutting-edge acoustic engineers at the service of the Lion brand and is working hand in hand with the team of interior designers of PEUGEOT. Experienced creators, craftsmen of sound and music lovers, Éric Dejou, designer and head of the i-cockpit strategy at PEUGEOT Design and Guillaume Buisson-Descombes, head of the manufacturer relations unit at Focal, tell us a few secrets about the top-of-the-range sound system in PEUGEOT vehicles.
You are both sound specialists, can you tell us a bit more about it?
Guillaume Buisson-Descombes: "Passionate about audio and music for a very long time, and a musician myself, I have always liked to "tweak" sound. After ten years in the industry in general, I joined Focal at the beginning of 2019 where I worked on the development of aftermarket speakers. A few months ago, I took over responsibility for the Manufacturer Relations unit, which concerns the implementation of all Hi-F i option projects for car manufacturers, including the Stellantis group, our biggest customer and even p artenaire, as we are beyond the simple customer-supplier relationship."
Éric Dejou: "Before working for PEUGEOT, I was a musician and I still am! Today, I am a designer in the PEUGEOT interior design team, particularly on the i-cockpit strategy . My role is to dress up experiences, i.e. arrange the space, create an atmosphere by paying attention to the shape of materials, light, music and sound."
Tell us about the different stages of a new vehicle's sound system
Step 1: Creating a sound experience
G. B-D. “We are involved from the very beginning of a new vehicle project to define, with the product teams, the type of sound solution it will be equipped with (speakers and functionalities such as the surround function, bass enhancement, etc.).
Unlike other brands which, for example, target an older audience with a more comfortable listening experience, PEUGEOT's audio is more incisive, more marked the image of the design of the new vehicles. We try to transcribe this in terms of identity and sound signature.”
E.D.: "What is important in sound is also what you don't hear. Silence also gives rhythm and enhances what we are listening to. With Focal, our job is to respect the technical requirements to stage the sound atmosphere and the objects that carry the sound."
G. B-D. “We don't try to be neutral, it's not like listening in a music studio. At Focal, our sound signature is characterised as follows:
Bass articulation: the low notes are present but controlled and comfortable;
The highlighting of voices and certain instruments so that they stand out in the vehicle;
The extreme frequencies (very high) give a greater impression of space and increase the definition of the timbres of the various instruments. All of this adds richness to the sound.
These fundamental bases are adapted according to the vehicle. For example, the PEUGEOT 308 has a Focal Premium Hi-Fi System with 10 new generation speakers, a new subwoofer and reinforced amplification. The speakers incorporate exclusive Focal technologies for a pure and detailed sound on board. You won't find exactly the same sound system in any other vehicle. However, whatever the vehicle, the brand's sound identity is always recognisable. A PEUGEOT always "sounds" the same!”
E.D.: "The car is nowadays one of the best places to listen to quality music. It's like being in a cocoon, it's a time when you're often alone and so it's a time for listening. For example, I really work on music in the car and it's really high quality listening. It's about creating a special atmosphere. The music of the voices of those who are talking in the car is also important, the circulation of sound, the fact that it bounces off the glass surfaces, etc. All this is part of our approach.”
Stage 2: Speaker design, development and validation
G. B-D. “When you choose the Focal option, you benefit from 40 years of experience in audio technology in your vehicle. The loudspeakers fitted to the vehicles are based on exclusive Focal technology. We work in partnership with Stellantis, which manages the implementation of the speakers' manufacture. All the industrialisation and development phases are entirely controlled by Focal”
E.D.: "Hi-Fi is also about the objects that carry the sound. The sound adventure is truly multi-sensory. The sound is the final objective, but the passenger's overall experience is also based on a specific sound environment: turning a volume knob, adjusting the different bass levels, observing the rhythms on a screen. People take ownership of the experience: we offer them an object that will adjust to their uses and desires. That's what it's all about.”
Step 3: The vehicle's sound system
G. B-D. "There's nothing worse to put on a sound system than a car because of the engine noise, the driving noise that creates vibrations. In addition, there is no room in a car, so we have to put the speakers everywhere and especially where there is room in the cleanest way possible. The technical partnership with Stellantis is essential here to be able to offer the best acoustic setting for the speakers. We therefore pay particular attention to the insulation. It is also possible to have laminated glass to avoid aerodynamic noise and further isolate the interior from the outside. This is a technical solution adopted on the most upmarket vehicles.”
E.D.: "Today, you need rigidity to hold the speakers. We need to fix things as much as possible: for example, a car door is a mobile element that needs to be made "rigid". There is also a question of visibility. A car interior should be like a canopy with light and visibility. You have to manage to place the sound objects so that they don't take up space in the storage area, for example. We always find a win-win solution to find the right equipment without encroaching on other aspects of the cockpit. You don't just make music, you also drive! The balance is different for each car because the users are not the same.”
Step 4: Finalisation
G. B-D. “When the vehicle is ready to be marketed, we spend two to three weeks per vehicle to develop the Focal sound signature. We check all the processes and ask for any changes before we put our signature on the vehicle. The distribution of the different elements must be harmonious. The focus (the precision of the location of the music elements) must be perfectly adjusted. For all these adjustments, we use very specific measuring instruments but above all our ears. In practice, we sit in the cars and listen to music, lots of music! Music that we know well, from quality recordings to check that the system reproduces all its richness. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I've even listened to my favourite sounds and been carried away by the intense emotion of listening, to the point of tears in my eyes.”
E.D.: "Music has always been very important to us: we are not people who just like to drive. We are not people who just like to drive. We are always looking to improve the sound environment of our cars to offer our customers more and more. We create a cocoon of performance around a piece of music or around a voice and then there is a moment when the emulation takes place between the atmosphere we have created for listening and the emotion that emerges from the sound. During work sessions, I have sometimes listened to sounds that I knew by heart and discovered things that I had never noticed before. It's really very moving.”