Continental and Sennheiser have developed a speakerless audio system
The technology is on display at CES, and it's just as crazy as you might think.
Craig ColeFormer reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Giant automotive supply company
has been working with the audio experts at
to develop a groundbreaking new sound system that it's showing off at CES 2020, one that makes speakers a thing of the past.
Continental has paired its Ac2ated Sound system with Sennheiser's Ambeo Mobility software, the latter of which enables calibration and fine-tuning of sound quality.
But what sorcery is this? How can you have a sound system without speakers? Well, this is not the result of magic or some other dark art, just clever engineering.
Instead of conventional speakers, Continental has figured out how to excite certain surfaces inside a vehicle to create sound. The idea was inspired by musical instruments, ones with resonant wooden bodies, like violins.
The Ac2ated Sound system has special actuators that basically vibrate interior components. Parts of the dashboard, A-pillar trim, door panel components, rear parcel shelves and even a vehicle's headliner can all be used to produce sound.
Supposedly, this system makes it seem as though you're sitting in a concert hall, filling the cabin with immersive sound. And since so many different components can act as speakers, this seems a like more-than-reasonable claim.
The Ac2ated Sound system provides numerous benefits over conventional systems. Most importantly, it can enable significant weight reductions. By eliminating speakers and their associated hardware, tens of pounds can be taken out of a vehicle's interior. This can really add up if a car or truck has a particularly elaborate sound system, one with, say, 28 speakers, like the Revel 3D arrangement available in the Lincoln Aviator crossover.
Not only can Ac2ated Sound eliminate unwanted mass, it can also make designers' lives easier. When creating vehicle interiors, they always have to leave space for mounting speakers, ensure there's room in the door panels, on the dashboard, in the backseat areas to mount these sound-emitting devices. If various interior components can instead be used as speakers, this gives them much more freedom to use space in creative ways.
It will be interesting to see if or when Continental's Ac2ated Sound system hits the market. We reached out for more information about this, and to see if automakers are interested in the technology, but the company did not immediately respond.