The only people who more neurotic than car people are audiophiles. The two things often collide as a matter of fact. Custom sound system shows and competitions used to be a huge thing. In the world of luxury cars, there is also a mad dash to have the best car stereo setup. OEM partnerships with Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, and Harman Kardon show this obsession with hi-fi audio is quite real. But the newest breakthrough in audio technology may come from an unlikely source; the tire manufacturer, Continental Automotive.
Most companies have always tried to best the others in hi-fi surround sound by adding more speakers. Want the car’s stereo to sound better and more full? Just give the power amp more juice and pile on the speakers. There might be a new way to do things these days, and the Ac2ated system is leading the charge.
What is Ac2ated?
The Ac2ated is based on the belief that the smartest way to make a car’s audio sound great is by using the car itself as the speaker. According to Car and Driver, this process should reduce weight and save energy and space by eliminating the need for so many speakers. This car stereo system will use actuators or exciters, which are like little discs that emit an ultra-high frequency.
The Human Machine Interface expert, Susan Drescher says, “We are putting an exciter on a surface in a vehicle and giving it a very slight vibration to create a sound from that surface so that your car’s pieces become the speaker, as opposed to having speakers installed in the car.”
Turn your car into a Violin
The Ac2ated system seems really smart on paper. It’s basically taking all the acoustic technology of human history that we have used to build every analog instrument and apply it to cars. If the entire car becomes the speaker, then the quest for “surround sound” is over. The way Continental puts it, the driver and passengers will “feel as if they are sitting in a concert hall surrounded by sound.”
If this car stereo isn’t new then why are we just now hearing about it
Car and Driver says this concept of using exciters has been around for a while. Amazon sells various exciters and actuators and the folks at Solid Drive who make systems for home and office use. Although these earlier options are cool and get to the point, in order for it to work best, the exciters need to be a part of the structure of the vehicle to resonate the best.
Because the actuators need to be a part of the vehicle’s structure, the Ac2ated system needs to be adopted by the manufacturers, much like normal car stereo systems. Like speaker cones, the larger, softer areas like the headliner and door panels will work best for bass and mid-range frequencies, while the A-pillars being smaller and more rigid, will react best to higher, treble frequencies.
Working alongside Sennheiser, Continental places the actuators and fine-tunes the system. Because of this tuning and Sennheiser’s experience, the system can be further tuned by the driver by controlling bass, mids, highs, and the mix, just like any normal stereo.
The big difference
Unlike conventional speaker stereo systems, the Ac2ated uses half of the same components a premium system would require. Many modern hi-fi systems can have anywhere from 20-30 speakers. That many speakers, on average, can weigh up to 33 lbs. This new car stereo system doesn’t use the same amount of heavy speakers and doesn’t need the same power, which allows the automaker to shed the weight from heavy speaker magnets and amplifiers.
When and where will we see the Ac2ated car stereo system?
Continental says they are currently working with an OEM to house their new system, but they won’t tell us who. They are keeping it tight to the chest. This has the potential to change not only our car stereo’s quality completely, but the way car interiors are laid out when they don’t have to account for as many speakers and power amplifiers.