German automotive parts supplier Continental has developed a new speaker-less audio system for cars it calls Ac2ated Sound. Continental says the new system will reduce the amount of weight traditionally taken up by car speakers by up to 90 percent, using surface vibrations to deliver sound, much like a violin.
Continental’s system replaces speakers with actuators, which are tiny transducers similar to the core of a traditional speaker. The actuators are attached behind panels in the car, and create micro-vibrations that are then carried by surfaces. Dimitrios Patsouras, Continental's engineering director in charge of noise, vibration and harshness, tells Wards Auto that different parts of a car’s interior are suited to deliver different types of frequency ranges. “The A-pillar is suited for high frequencies,” he says, “while the door panels, for instance, have the right properties for generating medium frequencies. Similar to speaker technology, we use large components such as the roof lining or rear shelf to generate low frequencies.”
Traditional high-end car audio systems can utilize tens of speakers that add a hefty amount of weight and take up interior space. Continental says its system not only lightens the load by up to 30 pounds, it frees up significant interior space, and draws less power, making it ideal for electric car options. While these are definite perks and can help make a more spacious, fuel-efficient car, there are concerns. Continental admits that while it’s invited sound experts like violin maker Martin Schleske to take a listen, the system hasn’t been tested with audiophiles. Also, if entire panels are used to transmit sound, the experience could be muffled if a passenger leans against a door.
Those looking to purchase in the higher-end car market might also be turned off by an actuator system, preferring standard premium options like Bang & Olufsen instead. A lot of car audio supremacy is defined by who has the most and best speakers. Continental’s system is projected to have an upper tier version with up to 12 channels, but the company acknowledges it is “going against that paradigm a bit,” and believes their initial target market will be “high-quality, middle-end” vehicles.
Some cars, like certain Volkswagens, currently use actuators in different ways — like at the base of a car’s windscreen to emit a fizzy noise depending on your driving mode, or in the exhaust system to enhance engine sound. This is also not the first speaker-less audio system for cars. In 2011, Bongiovi debuted a similar system using transducers for Toyota vehicles.
Continental says it is still a few years away from bringing the technology to market, but will demonstrate the Ac2ated Sound system in January at CES in Las Vegas.