World-renowned artists have joined automakers in an effort to rethink car sound systems in the age of electric propulsion
Driving with music is a pleasure. Depending on the genre and on the moment, it can cause a very positive impact on how we feel. Car audio can make us excited, more energetic, calm down our nerves… Not to mention it can be the base of happy road trips with the family. This is why automakers have made a huge effort to better understand details of audio systems for cars. And to improve them as much as they can.
While such work has become quite common in this industry, two recent examples have stood out. Fiat has partnered with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli to create a special edition of the 500 compact. Renault, in turn, has increased its cooperation with French composer Jean-Michel Jarre to work on many future projects. In this article, we are going to explore the beautiful nuances of the relationship between driving and music.
How to improve car audio?
First of all, through sound quality. High-end systems use speakers of several types distributed throughout the cabin. It is not simply about power; the goal is to use specific speakers for each part of the sound and install them in appropriate regions. Paying attention to that ensures high sound resolution while sparing the speakers from excessive wear over time. Burmester has done a great job with Mercedes-Benz cars.
It is also important to ensure stability. Listening to CDs was a big challenge because any heavier vibration from the street would interrupt it. Later, we could play music from a flash drive but the system was usually slow and had a confusing interface. In modern systems, the main issue we can mention is the connection with our phones; if Bluetooth and 4G are unstable, the music comes out spotty and taking too much time.
Last, but not least, audio systems need to keep up with the times. It is not about offering as many options as possible, but to offer what people actually use. For example, not having CD or cassette players is good; their physical space and production costs could be redirected towards faster hardware and more capable software. The best strategy in this is to concentrate on the sources of media people are using the most.
How is modern audio better?
The most common strategy is for automaker and audio company to cooperate. Burmester, as mentioned, creates a different project for the cabin of every Mercedes Benz car. They balance the application of new technologies to make the system refined on upscale cars and affordable in the others. By keeping that in mind, all systems remain adequate for each car’s context and become effectively attractive to their buyers.
Fiat has taken a different, yet just as interesting, approach some weeks ago. It applied JBL’s Virtual Venues technology on the 500 and invited Bocelli to use his experience in improving the system. In that case, the audio system is focused on advanced software, rather than employing many physical items. It manages to offer premium quality while preserving the original cabin space, which is essential in such a small car.
In both cases, we can observe that the partners work exclusively on the audio system. While that already delivers great results, settling is not a trait of the car industry. The other recent even that motivated this article is starred by Renault and Jean-Michel Jarre. They decided to work together on the car as a whole; inventions such as Sonic Roads and Sonic Bubbles are going to rethink how audio is executed in a cabin.
Creation of car sound identities
Renault and Jarre see the silent ride of electric cars as a blank canvas. They are going to take a less is more approach where the audio system focuses on each passenger individually. The goal is to make the overall experience more immersive to each person rather than simply making the whole thing more powerful. It is quite an interesting solution considering that, in nowadays, many people drive alone most of the time.
Another key point is creating a sound signature. We know that image is essential in any product and sounds become more important in an electric car; it is only natural to rethink them. The duo will work on the welcome sequence when you enter the car; the audio system’s interface; and the sound emitted when the car is traveling at up to 30 kph. The latter is intended to warn pedestrians that the car is approaching.
Last, but not least, Jarre will assist Renault in developing the Sonic Road algorithm. It will detect the car’s surroundings (time, location, weather etc.) and select the most appropriate audio content. It can be music, news or podcasts; everything to better integrate driver and car to the environment. According to the duo, such initiative is going to “amplify the feeling of being fully immersed in the surrounding environment”.
What can we expect?
Solutions like those strive to make cars more pleasant. Once autonomous driving becomes mainstream, it will help make them an extension of our houses; it is more pleasant to travel like that than to feel trapped inside a steel box for an hour. Which of those three is your favorite? Besides that, do you think that they are going in the right direction? AutomoBible will be proud to cover the next advancements in this topic.