CES 2015: Harman Sound Keeps You Sane at the Wheel

No more, “Can we turn down/up the radio?” No more, “I don’t want to listen to the game.” No more, “Knock off the whining or I’ll turn this car around right now!”

Harman’s new automotive audio technology looks to keep drivers and passengers aurally isolated from each other for the good of in-car group sanity.

Individual Sound Zones

At CES 2015, Harman rolled out a preview and demo of Individual Sound Zones (ISZ) — a new in-cabin technology that enables drivers and passengers to create sonic zones between individuals for the ultimate personalized car audio experience. The basic understanding is that there are countless noise sources in any car — and the radio/music, navigation and speakerphone calls are the primary sources of deliberately chosen sounds inside the vehicle. From the outside, you have engine noise, ambient traffic sounds, competing music, et. al., to muddy the audio environment. Harman’s ISZ tech looks to reduce that clutter so each passenger hears only what he or she wants to hear.

ISZ maximizes speaker directivity and minimizes sound bleeding in and between the zones in a vehicle for a more personalized in-cabin experience. ISZ does not eliminate all sound signals, but it can refocus the audio between driver and passengers.

ISZ utilizes a car’s own audio system speakers with the addition of headrest speakers equipped with micro speakers, along with Electro Dynamic Planar Loudspeakers in the ceiling. Each passenger can activate and control their ISZ, increasing or decreasing music or radio sounds — or directing speakerphone calls to individual passengers.

Individual Sound Zones are available now to all automakers, but Harman execs expect the process of building it into vehicles to take a couple model years.

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The ISZs cobble with Harman’s new HALOsonic technology suite — a combination of noise cancellation and enhancement systems that sweeten the sounds coming into a car. This active noise management solution uses a collection of microphones and speakers to enhance and contour sounds inside and outside the vehicle.

Less desired sounds in any car might include road noise, engine tones and ambient racket from the passing environment. HALOsonic’s microphones pick up that noise and feeds it back at itself via onboard speakers with Engine Order Cancellation (EOC) and Road Noise Cancellation (RNC). The end result cancels out a percentage of the unwanted sounds.

However, some engine noise is desirable — as in exhaust notes and engine purrs from performance cars. Electronic Sound Synthesis (ESS) generates the authentic sounds of an engine, inside and outside the car. That system not only makes driving a performance car more pleasurable, it can add noise for electric cars and hybrids to let pedestrians know you’re coming.

Electronic Sound Synthesis also assists automakers in emission reduction by synthesizing engine sound — allowing manufacturers to  focus exhaust ports once needed to make a racket. Inside the vehicle, ESS provides high-performance auditory feedback for smaller, more fuel-efficient engines, generating the exhilarating sounds desired by customers for an enhanced drive experience and reinforcing OEM brand DNA. In other words, it can help a gutless car sound a little more tough.


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