Audi, an automaker best know for its image of "understated luxury," is busy creating one of the most over-the-top OEM car audio systems that we've ever seen. The Audi Sound Concept takes an Audi Q7 SUV and crams 62 speakers into the cabin. Nope, that's not a typo: sixty-two!
The system consists of five tweeters spread between the dashboard and the rear seating area, a woofer in each of the four doors, a single subwoofer out back, and a whopping 52 midrange speakers wrapping the perimeter of the cabin and enveloping the passengers in 360 degrees of sound. You're definitely not going to want to crank this rig up to 11.
However, there's more to this setup than pure volume. The true reason Audi is going to all of this trouble is a technology called Wave Field Synthesis. In a nutshell, this technology uses an obscene number of speakers to create a virtual soundstage that the listener inhabits. The advantage is that localization is reduced and audio takes on more 3D characteristics than a simple five-channel surround-sound system can offer. Virtual audio sources can move around the listener, above and below, or appear to be coming from outside of the vehicle. And unlike traditional audio arrays, the audio staging isn't dependent upon the listeners' positions. Sound is perceived from the same virtual location by every listener within the ring of sound.
However, don't expect to run down to your Audi dealer next month and pick up a Q7 with the Ludicrous Speaker Package; in its current testing configuration the amount of amplification needed to run the rig doesn't leave much, if any, space for hauling groceries. If the technology in the Audi Sound Concept ever sees the light of day, it won't be anytime soon. We're hoping to see more of this sort of technology when the 2010 car show season winds back up later this year.