Warwick Acoustics is based at MIRA near Nuneaton, in Warwickshire, England. Before MIRA became one of the most important automotive test facilities in the world, it was a short-lived WWII base called RAF Lindley. This is relevant because it’s easier for a ‘civvy’ to get into a military airbase than it is to try to get permission to visit any company in the MIRA Technology Park Enterprise Zone (especially if you want to take photographs) because there is so much secret-sauce car stuff going on there.
Warwick Acoustics having offices, design, and manufacturing facilities in MIRA invites some interesting questions in their own right. You don’t just rent space on MIRA’s tech park; you have to be vetted and have relevance to the automotive industry. And Warwick is ostensibly a manufacturer of electrostatic headphones. What’s the connection?
The key word in that last paragraph is ‘ostensibly’. The development that has gone into those unique electrostatic drive units is a very scalable thing, and a flat transducer lends itself to the limited space available in the passenger compartment of a modern car. This means that rather than insert conventional cone-and-dome dynamic drivers in spaces where there is enough room to house them (which is why most in-car systems seem determined to play music to the driver’s knees), thin, flat, and flexible drive units can be placed almost anywhere in that passenger compartment, and that interests the automotive world.
If it’s understandable why the automotive industry wants Warwick, why does Warwick want the automotive industry? According to Martin Roberts, MD of Warwick Acoustics, they have a lot in common. “The space between the headphone and your ear is a very controlled environment and space, and a car is an incredibly controlled environment too. I mean, apart from road noise, everything in there is a given. You know what you’re dealing with from the outset.”
That automotive connection is an ongoing project for the near future (the MIRA cloak of secrecy means if I actually knew the car marques involved or even interested in this project, ninja death squads would be dispatched), but the known projects for Warwick remain the Sonoma M1 and the Aperio, both of which have been very favourably reviewed in Hi-Fi+. We were given exclusive access to the manufacturing process from start to finish, and it goes a long way in explaining just how hand-built these units are.