Automakers aren't the only ones using the 2007 Detroit Auto Show to show off new products; Alpine also launched its new Imprint technology at the show. Imprint isn't a new car stereo or amplifier--instead, it's part methodology and part technology for designing the perfect sound to fit any car. Alpine researcher Alan Trevena, who demonstrated the system for me, said that Imprint takes a lot of the guess work out of designing a car audio system. Instead of relying on a "golden ear," an expert who sets the audio parameters based on his or her own opinion, Imprint measures a variety of parameters and comes up with an audio solution.
I'll spare you the technical details, which can get a bit arcane. For the demo, Alpine had rigged out a Chrysler 300C with the system. Alpine had replaced all the speakers in the car, but it was still a modest setup. The dashboard had high-end speakers at either end and a center fill in the middle. Low-end speakers were mounted in the doors, and a 10-inch subwoofer sat in the trunk, making eight speakers in all. We listened to a variety of music during the demo, from classical to jazz to acoustic guitar to electronica with a lot of bass, and it all sounded spectacular. The system doesn't produce a surround effect--it's designed to make you feel as if you are at a live show. During the demo, I could close my eyes and get a sense for what the band would sound like if it was right in front of me.
The sound quality was really stunning, especially for a system designed with relatively modest components (barring Alpine's Imprint digital signal processor). Alpine hasn't announced any deals yet to get the Imprint system used in cars, but the company has done a lot of work with Chrysler in the past, among other automakers. Because of automotive production cycles, Alpine says Imprint won't appear until the 2010 model year.