At CES 2020, some really radical futuristic car concepts and technologies made their worldwide debuts, such as the electric/autonomous car from Sony, of all companies. However, there was also another interesting technology on display in Las Vegas, which came from Continental and Sennheiser — speakers. Or, I should say, a lack thereof. Essentially, both brands have partnered together to create a new way of providing rich in-car surround sound without any actual speakers, called Ac2ated Sound. So how is BMW going to make engine sound, now?
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Ac2ated Sound works similarly to how any stringed instrument works, such as a violin. Essentially, actuators inside certain interior body panels, such as door panels and the dashboard, convert electrical signals into motion or vibration. Then sound waves are transferred, through a special bonding process, into each body panel and uses the panel as a resonance chamber, just like a violin.
According to both Continental and Sennheiser, this Ac2ated Sound system can create a rich and concert-like surround-sound experience without a single in-cabin speaker. The purpose of this is not only rich sound but less weight. Speakers, with all of their wiring, amplifiers and subwoofers, are very heavy when summed up. In fact, both brands say they can reduce weight by almost 100 lbs per car, depending on the application, obviously. That’s a lot by just eliminating speakers and it could make a huge difference in electric cars moving forward.
Also, the lack of speakers frees interior designers up even more, allowing them to forget about designing specific places for speakers, then having to engineer where they go for sound quality. So this new system removes a lot of hassle associated with designing in-car sound. Plus, how cool would it be to listen to a Bohemian Rhapsody Live at Wembley in rich, concert-like surround sound without seeing a single speaker?
Of course, this leaves BMW with a problem. Where’s its engine sound going to come from? We all know that BMW’s speakers make more noise than its actual engines and exhausts. Kidding aside, this system will actually probably benefit such speaker-augmented engine noise, as the lack of physical speakers will make it feel more real. Still, it’s fun to poke fun at BMW’s fake engine noise while also marveling at this cool new tech.