After orchestrating the design and installation of some pretty far-out Bang & Olufsen sound systems into vehicles like the R8, A8, and Q7, you’d think Audi’s sound engineers would be perfectly content. Not so. In fact, in pursuit of the perfect sound, some engineers within the company have created their dream sound system, which involves stuffing 62 speakers into a Q7.
The venture, dubbed the Audi Sound Project, is the pet project of infotainment development engineer Peter Gleim. His goal — to focus on wave field synthesis — sounds like a scientist’s fantasy, but is actually quite impressive. The object is to recreate a sound wave with several sources (i.e. speakers) placed closely together. Each speaker is controlled separately, so the signal can be delayed and staggered, allowing the listener to hear an exact reproduction of the original sound. Better yet, the sound is produced in an identical fashion for each seating position.
“We can simulate any wave front,” Gleim said in a release. “With stereo, we can generate a sound as if the two speakers were located far outside the car. We can also add any desired spatial impression computationally — not as a sound effect, but as a mathematically precise simulation.”
Gleim’s team managed to cram all 62 speakers, baffles, and amplifiers into the Q7, but its interior looks anything but normal. The ASP system includes five tweeters, five subwoofers, and 52 midrange speakers, all connected to a large power amplifier. Speakers are integrated into the dashboard, pillars, door panels — virtually anywhere engineers could find space. Three separate PCs are needed to control both the amplifier and the entire speaker array.
“Our goal was to show what is technically feasible; to explore the limits,” said Denis Credé, head of Audi’s sound development. “What we are learning will be integrated into the sound systems of tomorrow. It’s like with racing: A lot of what is first tried out on the race tracks of this world later shows up in modified in production vehicles. The Audi Sound Concept project is like racing for sound systems.”
We imagine both packaging and cost are two major hurdles in pushing the ASC into production. On that later note, adding the 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen system in an A8 or Q7 adds roughly $6300. We suspect that figure would grow exponentially for a 62-speaker system.
We’re fans of excellent sound systems, but aren’t always convinced they’re worth the investment. What say you — when shopping for a car, is the sound system an important component, or do you skip that option box?