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Car Tech

With Summit, Harman takes your car to music venues around the world

At CES 2016, Harman unveiled its Summit, a new audio platform for high-end cars that not only replicates the acoustic qualities of famous music venues, but also creates a deep immersion experience far beyond surround.

Harman announced Summit at CES 2016, an audio platform for high-end cars that allows a number of impressive digital signal processing features.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Sitting in a Lexus LS modified by automotive electronics supplier Harman, the demo guy turned on the stereo and I heard the opening vocals of Can't Feel My Face by Canadian singer the Weeknd, the audio staged narrowly over the dashboard as if I was at a small concert. Demo guy turned a dial on a control pad, and the music track seemed to expand around the car, burying me in its tonalities.

This audio digital signal processing technology goes by the name of Quantum Logic Immersion, and it is a big step beyond simple surround sound. A feature of Harman's Summit platform, a new audio platform for high-end cars announced at CES 2016, Quantum Logic Immersion analyzes the audio stream and separates the frequencies, intelligently distributing them throughout its 12-plus channels.

The Lexus LS in which I experienced the system had speakers in the headrests and throughout the cabin, but the Summit platform is scalable.

Coming down to earth, I then experienced another feature of the system Virtual Venues, which attempts to duplicate the acoustic properties of well-known music venues from around the world in the car. For this demonstration, Harman programmed virtual acoustics for 10 venues, including the Sydney Opera House and CBGBs. For any song on the stereo, I could choose the venue in which I wanted to hear it.

The system relied on a lot of reverb to create the venue sound, so I wasn't wholly convinced, but it does allow a set of easily selected sound profiles, which complement specific genres. In an attempt to really bring the idea to life, Harman put four microphones in the cabin, so my speech or clapping received the same acoustic effect.

As a bonus, Harman's demo guy showed me how you can download additional sound profiles with this connected system.

The Summit platform builds off the impressive Individual Sound Zones concept that Harman showed me last year at CES. These new features show the flexibility of the platform's processing, and could appear in luxury cars within a few model years.