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audioXpress Magazine

June 2022


Driving Audio Innovations
Sound systems inside the car are at the core of all user interactions with the vehicle.
Editorial By J. Martins


audioXpress Magazine June 2022


  This issue of audioXpress focuses on the vibrant segment of automotive audio, which is where a lot of exciting technologies are being explored. Automotive cabin acoustics are not an easy environment but when we combine the latest transducers, amplifiers, and DSP, with careful design and tuning by system experts that now have access to the most sophisticated computer simulation and measurement tools, it's easy to understand why cars are currently at the cutting edge of applications in audio.

The transition to electric engines has completely changed the possibilities for car sound, as our annual Market Update details. We are now able to have consistent sound experiences inside the latest cars that the vast majority of people will never be able to experience elsewhere. And that's due to the fact that audio has now become a top priority inside electric vehicles (EVs). No longer as a mere extension of infotainment but as the essential component for the whole experience inside the vehicle.

Automotive audio systems in EVs need to cancel undesirable road noise; create suitable acoustic environments for passenger activities, including managing separate zones within the cabin; provide the most effective communications; offer the best possible musical listening experience for all passengers; and support voice control at all moments. Sound systems inside the car are at the core of all user interactions with the vehicle, including creating an audible human-interface for the car motion and propulsion engine (given that EVs are essentially silent), while enabling users to interact with the car systems through voice. And outside the car, a new class of audio systems is required to alert pedestrians to the presence of silent EVs.


audioXpress Magazine June 2022


Along with the smart home, this integrated automotive approach is one of the most formidable opportunities ever for the audio industry. It allows new companies — particularly speaker companies — a chance to prove concepts that would otherwise struggle to demonstrate their worth, and at a scale that would otherwise make investments too risky.

It also enables software companies, such as DSP Concepts, Meridian, Dirac, and even Dolby Laboratories, to develop technologies that are now at the core of automotive systems. And very likely, those investments will translate to benefits for many other consumer and even professional audio applications.

The fact that automotive systems now use multiple microphones (and other sensors) feeding primary and secondary sound systems for active noise cancellation, voice capture, and immersive audio reproduction is paving the way for active acoustics — something that the audio industry has been dreaming of for a very long time.

I recently attended an online session promoted by E-Coustic Systems, sharing details about the company's successful installations, and I was particularly impressed with the example of the DiMenna Center Cary Hall room in NY, which was fitted with active acoustics in 2016 to serve orchestra and chorus rehearsals, and is being used extensively for orchestra recording, including for countless Disney soundtracks. This is an installation based on the original Lexicon Acoustic Reverberance Enhancement System (LARES) technology, pioneered by David Griesinger, Steve Barbar, and Neil Muncy, using digital signal processing to decorrelate loudspeaker and microphone signals in real time. Of course, after hundreds of successful installations in some of the best concert halls, opera houses, auditoriums, and even large-scale open air performances, E-Coustic Systems currently offers a perfected solution with fewer microphone and loudspeaker channels, which dramatically simplifies system architecture and features advanced electro acoustic enhancement algorithms.

And because very few homes will ever be able to accommodate the requirements of a Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 speaker setup, most consumers will only listen to a reduced, spatial audio, binaural rendered version. In the near future, at least there's a very good chance that they will be able to enjoy fully immersive multichannel and object-based sound formats inside a car. A growing number of car manufacturers are realizing those immersive sound systems will need to be there anyway — so it's a win/win.



J. Martins





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