Volvo Cars latest audio systems are pushing the limits of sound delivery design -– and proving there is more to awesome music than meets the ear!
Keeping a finger on the pulse of the ever-changing global music scene is not something you automatically expect from a carmaker, yet for Volvo Cars it’s fully in tune with the desire to deliver an enhanced driving experience.
As a leading global premier carmaker, Volvo sees delivering pretty awesome music as an integral part of making the motoring experience more pleasing and less stressful -- and thereby safer. It is an approach born out by Swedish research indicating that a driver’s personality and driving behaviour can be affected by the kind of music being played.
“We all know that driving on today’s busy roads isn’t always pure pleasure, but the one thing most of us use to wash away any angst is music,” says Håkan Hellman, product manager, product planning Volvo Cars.
Impact of music
The recent study carried out by researchers from the University of Gothenburg’s Music Science Institute and the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute examined the impact of music on driving performance. Their conclusion was that it is possible to measure changes in driving behaviour dependent upon the music being listened to, which can create a sense of well being, stress or irritation.
Underlining music’s unique ability to both stir and sooth us at the same time, Håkan Hellman says Volvo has harnessed the phenomenon by developing and elevating in-car audio systems to an art form. “Our ambition is to deliver unparalleled sound reproduction whether you’re into the music of Detroit hip-hopper rap star Eminem or the ageless classic opera delivered by Placido Domingo.”
The launch of the Volvo C70 sports coupe in 1997 set a milestone in automotive entertainment with its use of Dolby Surround Pro Logic, a matrix decoding technology for transforming standard two-channel stereo into multi-channel surround sound. Volvo was the first car manufacturer to factory-install the Dolby Surround system, which works with any stereo audio format, including CD, FM or satellite radio, cassette, MP3 files and MiniDisc.
Since then, Volvo Cars has demonstrated its leadership role by continually pushing the limits of car entertainment forward, and in the process winning one accolade after the other from the global motoring press for its audio strategy of migrating surround entertainment from the home to the car. Volvo Cars won the 2001 Best of the Best award from the Robb Report for its premium car sound systems, while in 2002 Forbes.com voted the new Volvo XC90 ‘the best new luxury SUV’ partly as a result of its ‘awesome’ 12-speaker surround system.
Surround sound moved first from the movie theatres to homes. Now Volvo Cars is the first to put high-quality surround sound in motion, creating mobile concert hall experiences for drivers and passengers alike by partnering with such technology-drivers as Dolby and Dynaudio, a world-leader in creating state-of-the-art loudspeakers and acoustic systems that are used in the world’s top studios.
Overcoming the challenge of creating concert-like acoustics in the challengingly constrained car interior, Volvo design and production engineers have taken in-car entertainment to a new revolutionary level with its latest XC90 SUV and S80 models.
The Volvo XC90 surround sound system includes 13 speakers, one of which is an 8-inch, 140-watt, active sub-woofer providing improved bass reproduction, while the S80 comes with nine loudspeaker locations, including a coaxial speaker in the hatshelf that ensures rear seat passengers get enhanced audio quality.
Designed to wrap you in sound as you drive regardless of whether you are listening to FM radio, digital radio, cassette, CD, or downloaded digital music files, Volvo has added a center speaker to provide a solid, natural-sounding center image for both front-seat passengers. This gives a sound that's more like a stage full of musicians sitting in front of you, instead of hearing only the speaker next to you, as happens with most car audio systems.
Says Håkan Hellman: “Both the Volvo S80 and the Volvo XC90 epitomise where Volvo is heading with its audio technology thinking, bringing audio into the 21st century and offering customers enhanced pleasure through three levels of the specially designed audio system.”
He notes, for example, how in the XC90, the latest generation Dolby Surround Pro Logic provides a unique realistic sound experience, with a centre loudspeaker in the instrument panel supplementing the other loudspeakers. A sound processor divides the two stereo channels into a left-middle-right sound pattern that provides a more three-dimensional audio profile. A special ‘effect’ channel enhances the perception of space in the rear loudspeakers, generating a sense of immediate presence. And each of the four rear-seat passengers can listen to their own radio station or favourite disc simultaneously without disrupting the other occupants.
“Most of us relax at home with nice music on cool sound systems. The roadmap ahead for mobile audio is clearly pointing towards the potential for surround and what Volvo’s premium systems can deliver in terms of motoring enhancement and less-stressed safer driving,” Håkan Hellman concludes.
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