“You hear two things in the womb, you hear [the baby’s] heartbeat, and you hear the James Bond theme.”
David Arnold, composer of five James Bond films, jests to a crowd of 24 sitting in the iconic Studio 1 housed inside Abbey Road Studios in London, England. Right behind Arnold sits a more-than-70-piece orchestra filling the world’s largest recording studio—where a number of the Bond, Star Wars, and Avengers films were scored—set to perform three of the most recognizable pieces of music in movie history, the James Bond Theme, Goldfinger, and Skyfall.
Arnold, the orchestra, and 150 guests filed into Abbey Road’s Studios 1 and 2 on behalf of Bowers & Wilkins to celebrate 60 years of iconic James Bond music and the brand’s special edition the Px8 007 Edition headphones. Throughout the night we got to experience the sounds of Bond in three unique ways, first by way of the live orchestra. If viewing a live orchestra of nearly 100 professional musicians perform live in the most famous recording studio in the world wasn’t enough, we each got to sit directly next to one of the performers, being fully immersed in the event.
After that, we moved on to the Studio 1 control room, sitting in with one of its engineers to listen to the performance again through Bowers & Wilkins flagship 801 D4 loudspeakers. Finally, before the evening commenced with a reception in Studio 2—the recording studio responsible for the vast majority of The Beatles' discography, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Radiohead’s The Bends, and much more—we listened to the tracks in Bowers’ new Px8 headphones.
Founded in 1966, Bowers & Wilkins has been working in partnership with Abbey Road Studios since 1988 when the studio adopted the brand’s Matrix 801 speakers. In the present day, the studios feature Bowers’ 800 Series Diamond D3 speakers that are the outcome of seven years of research and 868 individual changes.
“If you’re going to be involved with anybody in the recording music industry from our perspective, there are several extraordinary studios that are right up there in the pinnacle. This is definitely one of those,” Andy Kerr, Director of Product Marketing and Communications of Bowers & Wilkins says. “It’s one of the most storied, it’s one of the most world-famous, and within it, we have the fortune that we have some incredible people working here… Having the input and the conversations that we have with the people that work here and the feedback that we get from them on a regular basis is brilliant because it helps us to produce better products.”
Outside of being an integral part of Abbey Road, Bowers & Wilkins are a crucial part of countless albums and movie scores recorded within the studios’ walls. Everything that you hear in one of the studios’ movies or albums gets played into the control room on a set of B&W speakers. “For us to be connected with [James Bond] and many other films besides, of course it’s amazing…” Kerr says. “A good number of people don’t know what I do, but if I say to them, ‘have you seen Return of the Jedi?’… if you’ve seen it, you’ve heard our speakers, and that I feel is a very powerful story.”
B&W’s connection with the Bond franchise runs deep, with its 800 series loudspeakers being used to monitor the recording of Spectre and Skyfall and in celebration of the 60th-anniversary franchise, Abbey Road Studios engineers used the same loudspeakers to create Bond 25, an album featuring all 25 iconic Bond themes. Arnold has composed five Bond films himself, From Russia with Love, The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, and Quantum of Solace.
Before the night’s immersive experience inside Abbey Road Studios began, we got a chance to speak with David Arnold about the iconic James Bond film franchise, working with different Bond actors, and more. The conversation has been edited for clarity.