Sennheiser and Continental speakerless audio turns cars into instruments

Automobiles are becoming more and more advanced these days, almost becoming like smartphones on wheels. Especially with the advent of full or hybrid electric vehicles, smart car systems, and the upcoming 5G, modern cars offer an almost completely new experience to both drivers and passengers except in one aspect. Audio is still delivered by conventional speaker systems, something that Sennheiser and Continental are working to change with their new immersive audio system that turns the whole car into a soundbox.

Audio specialist Sennheiser and automotive tech company Continental have come together to bring their unique audio technologies to the cars of the future. Continental's Ac2ated ("actuated") Sound System removes the need for actual speakers by exciting and vibrating different surfaces of the car. If you think that's bonkers, you probably haven't noticed how vibrating surfaces are pretty much the basis of musical instruments, especially classic string ones that use their wooden bodies as a resonance chamber.

With Ac2ated Sound, components like the A-pillar and door trims, the roof lining, and the shelf become the speakers, vibrating to emit sound in different frequencies. This delivers an even more immersive audio experience because the sound really does come from all directions and not just from speakers that needed to be hidden yet carefully placed at the same time.

That's only half the story, though, and the other half comes from Sennheiser's AMBEO Mobility software. The company's technology not only calibrates and fine-tunes the sound quality, its spatialization algorithms also analyze any audio that is playing and determines how and where to best deliver the sound through the Ac2ated Sound System.

This may all sound, no pun intended, like some fancy new audio system but it does have significant practical benefits especially for electric vehicles. By removing the need for conventional speakers, this speakerless 3D audio system not only reduces component costs but also the overall weight of the vehicle, an important consideration in battery-powered cars. Plus, it also allows designers to play around with the interior when they no longer have to consider speakers hiding inside. Sennheiser and Continental will demonstrate this audio system of the future to a lucky few at CES 2020 in Las Vegas this week.