Amateurs Can Make Cars’ Audio Systems Sound Better – Forbes

Ford and electronics giant Harman are refining car audio systems with the help of amateurs.

Actually, at Harman’s US headquarters in Novi, Michigan, they call their testing crews ‘trained listeners.’

Harman owns a host of familiar audio brands, including B&O Play, which last year was selected by Ford to replace its previous audio supplier, Sony. So in developing sound systems for its forthcoming 2018 Expedition full-size SUV and EcoSport compact crossover models, Ford and Harman engineers joined forces to improve consumers’ listening experience with a new process.

With the essentials of the vehicles’ audio systems – multiple speakers, amplifiers and signal processors – in place, the engineers turned to teams of non-audio professionals, specially trained to give meaningful feedback on details of sound quality inside a vehicle.

After listening to reference sound tracks in a studio environment at the extensive Novi facility, learning how to distinguish elements of sound and discern unwanted issues like speaker distortion, the teams would evaluate the vehicles using the same audio tracks.

Ford acoustics supervisor, Joe Kafati explains the process of tailoring sounds for specific Ford models is very detailed and time consuming. “We are refining the sound experience over a 24-month period – as much as 1,200 hours per vehicle to get the audio just right,” says Kafati.

“That is a lot of time to be calibrating speakers,” notes Jonathan Pierce, Harman’s senior manager for global benchmarking, “but at B&O Play we have a good synergy with Ford, who understand the value of high quality sound in the vehicle cabin.”

Pierce explains that the combination of conventional microphone and trained listeners’ analysis of a cabin’s sound system produces in a more satisfying result than the traditional data-based approach.

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