Visteon brings home audio sound into the car

Visteon partners with SRS Labs to get 5.1 channel audio out of two channel car audio systems.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.

Ford S-Max
Visteon used this Ford S-Max, a European car, to demonstrate SRS Labs' audio. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Good audio has become a major selling point in cars, and automakers are signing up partners from the high-end audio world in droves. But Visteon's technology makes it unnecessary to throw all those speakers and amps in new cars.

Visteon is working with SRS Labs, a company that provides audio-shaping software for home theater systems, to improve audio in cars. SRS Labs' software and Visteon's hardware, which processes digital signals, add virtual subwoofers and 5.1-channel surround sound to even the most basic in-car audio systems.

We sat through a demo of the system in a Ford S-Max, a European test-platform, and listened to tracks played through multiple audio profiles. The S-Max itself had a simple six-speaker system, with woofers in the doors and tweeters on the A-pillars.

The two-channel audio profile raised the audio level so it seemed to be emanating at head level, and staged it across the dashboard, so it seemed we were sitting in the front row at a concert.

A virtual subwoofer enhanced low-frequency audio, bringing a very rich bass sound out of the standard speakers.

The most impressive audio profile used the virtual subwoofer and additional psycho-acoustic programming to create a very realistic surround sound experience. The audio was lifted up, as with the two-channel profile, and seemed to emanate from all around the car. The audio can also be set to put the sweet spot on any seat in the car.

This audio system will be available in any car that uses Visteon's DSP.