Volkswagen Magazine

LIVE SMARTER

the x-factor
of sound.

Iskandar Widjaja, 28, is one of the world’s most in-demand young violinists. Here he explains what divine sound means to him. And why the Dynaudio Confidence sound system in the new Passat comes astonishingly close to perfection.

Text Iskandar Widjaja
Transcript Marijke Engel
Photos Georg Roske 

What does silence sound like? It’s difficult to say. Music is always in my mind really – whether I am actually listening to it, or making it. If you practise violin six to seven hours a day, at some point your brain just won’t shut off. I then go through pieces in my mind that I’m currently rehearsing, especially difficult parts, again and again. So the practising goes on subconsciously, even though I don’t have the bow in my hand.
I’m looking for the ideal conception of the sound in my mind. There is no limit to the beauty of sound. Everything that we humans have created is an attempt to achieve perfection. That’s what distinguishes us as humans: our striving for something higher. To achieve the divine in sound.

» Only when the sound is good does the music have a chance to affect me physically, to flow through my body. «

The right instrument helps me to get there. I play a wonderful violin made in 1793 by Franciscus Geissenhof from Vienna. For especially important appearances, such as my début under Zubin Mehta at the Tonhalle in Zurich, I borrow a Stradivarius from 1734, which is currently valued at £6 million. That’s really something special. No violin maker has ever matched the ideal that was established by Stradivari. His work remains unequalled to this day. When you play a note on this instrument, the sun comes up immediately. It’s like butter and honey, an unbelievably fine, silky sound possessing this incredible radiance that goes right through the orchestra and carries back into the very last row even if you’re playing very, very quietly. No one has yet been able to explain why this is. There’s also something mystical about why the standard of the old masters has never been equalled. The wood is more responsive, the notes more nuanced. I think it has something to do with the varnish. Stradivari took his varnish formula to the grave.

Only when the sound is good does the music have a chance to affect me physically, to flow through my body. When I was little, I would often lay underneath my mother’s concert grand while she practised Chopin sonatas. She’s a trained pianist and still works as a piano teacher today. I was surrounded by sound – how wonderful! The Dynaudio Confidence sound system in the new Passat achieves a really similar effect. When I listen to pieces from my current CD “Tango Fuego”, from an acoustic standpoint I’m actually sitting inside my violin. In the tangos I hear not only how the bow strokes the strings – I actually hear my breathing. The highs are fine and silky. It’s really very, very good!
I imagine driving a Passat – or better yet, being driven in one – through a beautiful landscape and listening to music. A mobile concert hall with a view of nature – it doesn’t get any better. I love nature, for one thing, and it’s also the best place to enjoy music. And I’m also on the road a lot.
When travelling I really don’t do anything apart from listening to music. It’s the only time when nobody is making demands on me, and I can just immerse myself in the sound. When I’m on tour, I usually have headphones on, but it’s even better to hear the sound in a room and share the music with others.

A team at the highest level: violinist Widjaja and the new Passat at the shoot in Berlin.
With the Dynaudio Confidence sound system, you can choose between four sound settings depending on your music preferences.

I have a wonderful childhood memory that I associate with listening to music in the car: I learned to play violin by what’s known as the Suzuki method. It’s an intuitive style of learning and one of the ways in which it works is to listen to certain melodies over and over again. We had a cassette with instructions by the teacher Suzuki Shin’ichi. My mother always put this cassette in the tape deck in the car on our way to music school here in Berlin and reached back to hold my hand while we listened. I associate a wonderful feeling of security with those drives.
I often give concerts in Indonesia, the birthplace of my parents. When I’m travelling there, we’re often in the car for hours at a time with the whole entourage. We really get into it, singing loud and having a good time. If anyone asks me where I’m at home, I usually say, “my home is Bach”. But my playlist also includes Beyoncé, Take That and Disney songs. They’re beautiful, powerful melodies. Soundtracks from films are often great as well.

About the artist.

Iskandar Widjaja was born in Berlin, Germany, on 6 June 1986. He began to play the violin at the age of four. At the age of 11 he was accepted into the Hanns Eisler School of Music Berlin, and in 2003 he moved to the Julius Stern Institute at the Berlin University of Arts. Concert appearances have brought him to every continent. He has soloed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the Munich Philharmonic, among others, and played with directors including Zubin Mehta and Christoph Eschenbach. 2011 saw the release of Widjaja’s début CD “Bach ’n’ Blues” (OehmsClassics). On his current album “Tango Fuego”, he interprets Argentinian and Finnish tangos with the trio CAYAO.

When I hear music, it triggers a kind of flow effect. Everyday activities come easier to me then. Of course I also listen to my own recordings, but I can only enjoy them when the sound is perfect. In the Passat this works, as I said, astonishingly well – especially when you realise how difficult it is, in the limited space of a car, to create a sound atmosphere that comes even remotely close to the highest standards. The Dynaudio Confidence sound system has four automatic sound settings. I think my recordings sound best with the “Dynamic” setting – although, or perhaps because, the symbol for it is an electric guitar. To my ear, the sound has that x-factor, it’s full and brilliant – and that’s as true for Bach as it is for Beyoncé.

» To my ear, the sound has that x-factor, it’s full and brilliant – and that’s as true for Bach as it is for Beyoncé. «

I need music to live, and that’s no exaggeration. It’s my daily bread. It clears my head and helps me stay focussed, which is a blessing for me right now. A lot is happening in my life. In Indonesia I’m a bit like a pop star. There I have a completely different repertoire than here in Germany, where I am around the serious classical milieu. But the lighter, more playful stuff is also a side of me that I would like to show more of here in Germany. There are a lot of decisions to be made on that score. The moments during which I make these kinds of choices are the most silent moments for me. That’s when I turn the music off – including the music in my head.

sounds good.

From Ferrite magnets to MSP membranes – the innovations that make for the highest sound quality in the new Confidence sound system from Dynaudio.

For the new Passat, Dynaudio have completely redesigned the Confidence sound system. The system consists of 12 Dynaudio speakers perfectly integrated into the car’s interior. During development, the positioning of each speaker was adjusted by Dynaudio sound specialists and Volkswagen engineers to fit in with the special features of the interior.

rich sound for all.

The three-way system in the front area delivers especially crisp, distortion-free, high-frequency reproduction and detailed midrange. For the high frequencies, a specially coated 60 mm fabric dome is used, powered by internally vented Ferrite magnets. They allow fine reproduction of the highest-frequency tones – typical of Dynaudio speakers. In the rear, an additional two-way system with two additional 60 mm fabric domes rounds off the speaker set-up. In Surround mode, the rear speakers act as effect speakers for the first row of seats.

With 12 speakers, Dynaudio creates the perfect sound space in the Passat.

The Dynaudio technology in the medium- and low-frequency range is unique in the automotive sector. Here Magnesium Silicate Polymer (MSP) material and extremely lightweight aluminium voice coils are used. These are driven by magnets positioned on the interior. This elaborate design enables power and precision, a dynamic low bass response and a clean, distortion-free midrange where space is tight and lightweight a must. A total of four 200 mm woofers and an additional subwoofer are used, and supply the Passat passenger compartment with an especially balanced low-frequency experience.

The Passat employs a centre speaker to fill the vast interior volume in the front end with very well-balanced sound output. The enhanced quality of sound staging for good music recordings due to using these additional speakers can immediately be detected. The directional characteristic was specially adapted to harmonise optimally with the side speakers.

sound in focus.

To ensure that the system can unleash its power with confidence, the Passat features the Dynaudio sound system as a fully active digital multichannel system. It also employs a 700-watt, 12-channel DSP amplifier. The active concept means that every speaker is addressed by its own amplifier channel to enable optimal channel separation and thus the best sound quality.

Thanks to the digital signal processing, the system now has four special sound settings adapted to different sound characteristics: Authentic (dynamic, powerful and absolutely neutral sound), Dynamic (rock-influenced, bass-oriented, live-like sound), Soft (for lower data quality) and Speech (specially adapted for the human voice).

With the sound focus function, the listener can direct the sound to his or her seat position. Unlike the fader, this function does not lower the volume in some areas while raising it in the desired area. Rather, the focus function digitally directs the signal to the right location by sending the signal with optimal timing. If the front left seat is the desired focus, the signal from the front right is triggered somewhat earlier than the left one. The sound stage shifts to the left half of the vehicle.