Johnson Controls Inc. wants to take away your car speakers.
Not the sound, but the speakers themselves, the bulky cones that must fit into car doors along with window regulators, locks, side impact beams, handles, trim and storage.
Instead, the auto supplier working with specialists from Bongiovi Acoustics would mount small exciters on the substrate of pillar trim and headliners, turning the trim itself into speakers.
It's not necessarily new technology, said Dave Phillips, executive director of interiors business development for JCI, during a Jan. 10 interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. What's different is that we can tune the sound specifically for the material we're using, getting quality sound.
For a concept-car interior and in proposals currently being discussed with automakers, JCI whose auto unit is based in Plymouth, Mich. tunes those exciters specifically to work with its compression molded polypropylene with a natural fiber filler. That material goes onto both pillar trim and headliners.
It also improves the sound just by the proximity of how close it is to your ears, rather than in the doors, added Eric Toth, lead interior designer.
Ford Motor Co. used a similar program to replace the door speaker in its 2005 Mustang, but sound quality held back the concept from taking off. That's where Bongiovi Acoustics stepped in.
The company, based in Port St. Lucie, Fla., was founded by recording engineer Tony Bongiovi, who got his start with Motown records, and went on to create Power Station recording studios. He used his expertise to create Digital Power Station, an electronic and instantaneous system of remixing music for optimum audio performance. DPS is already an option available to boost the performance of standard audio systems in some Toyota cars sold in Canada.
For JCI's program, a Bongiovi system automatically tunes the audio signal to the exciter also called a transducer which is packaged in an injection molded carrier to work in harmony with the compression molded substrate and turn the trim into a speaker.
This is specifically built to this platform, Bongiovi said.
Greg Thom, a Bongiovi sales representative, demonstrated the system at the auto show with a movie and a sports utility vehicle with the speakers removed and replaced with exciters in the pillar trim and headliner. The JCI system is the next stage in automotive audio, he said.
Removing the door speakers also cuts weight, while freeing up space in the door for storage or other options, which designers appreciate, Toth said. It gives them more options to change the look of their cars.
And even when the radio is not on, automakers can improve the sound quality of the car, since the open space of the speaker placement in the door otherwise allows road noise to reverberate into the car, Thom said. Without the speaker, they can more easily control that sound.
It's all lightweight, it's using green products, it's compression molded, said Richard Arnold, vice president of overhead products with JCI.
It's exciting technology for us, he said.