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It's All In Your Head(liner).

Next-generation audio speaker systems are low mass, low profile -- and will install in 12 seconds.

The blending of high-end audio components and modular integration in new vehicles is looking up -- specifically right above your head, in the vehicle's headliner. Shortly after the millennium, a major interior systems supplier will unveil a feature-loaded unit that installs in 12 seconds, and incorporates the first generation of ultra-light weight, ultra-thin speaker technology.

"If you think about where the speakers are today, all of them are below your ear," says Donald Robinson, an Overhead Zone Manager at Johnson Controls (JCI) in Plymouth, Mich.. JCI and its partner, Wixom, Mich.-based DLC Design, an audio consulting firm, have placed the new speakers in the headliner. This raises the "sound stage," creating audio that sounds like it's coming out of the vehicle's windshield, rather than off the floor. And, JCI claims, it produces much more of a quality, concert-like effect.

Initially, the company will employ low-profile cone speakers that are about an inch thick, weigh one-third of a pound, and are 2.5 inches in diameter. The cone speaker technology, branded as Headline Audio, features a screwless attachment process. It will first appear in a production vehicle in 2002, claims JCL

On its heels is an even more advanced fiat-panel speaker technology. These units range from 2mm to 4mm thick, and weigh a tenth of what the cone speaker does. Three basic types of driver are being evaluated: ceramic-based piezo, electrostatic and electromagnetic. Robinson won't reveal cost, but he says the speakers will be priced equivalent to current OEM units.

How good will they sound? A premium audio system rating normally starts at a 3.5 LIT (Listening Technology).

"We received a 4.3 audio rating for a demonstration system we did for one of our OEM customers," Robinson claims. Flat-panel demonstration vehicles are under development, and JCI expects the first ones using the technology to enter the market in late 2003 or early 2004.

The piezo-based technology was licensed by JCI for OEM automotive use. The specialty speakers are also used on computer platforms and even in picture frames. When used in a vehicle, a transducer is placed on the backside of the headliner. With it in place, the headliner itself makes the sound. "The whole headliner, in effect, becomes the cone of the speaker," Robinson says.

There are other benefits. The modular headliner unit -- with overhead console, sun shades, CHMSL, dome light, wire harness and speakers attached -- snaps in at the assembly plant in 12 seconds. "You make just one electrical connection," Robinson says.

Modular Package Tray

Further back in the vehicle, another supplier is lot)king at integrating multiple audio features and functions in the rear shelf tray. Visteon says its prototype rear shelf tray -- the door-to-door, C-pillar-to-C-pillar area -- incorporates everything from proposed child tethers to fancy audio enhancements. It claims the tray will cost 5% to 10% less than a current conventional package, with 20% to 25% less mass.

Today's typical assembly method for this shelf is to fabricate multiple sheetmetal stampings into a package tray structure. "What we are looking at is making that all one piece," says Steve Lavender, design supervisor at Visteon's Modular Package Tray Group in Dearborn, Mich. Visteon is also studying several different materials for the tray, including aluminum, magnesium and plastic composites.

"The package tray is one of the last unclaimed areas in the vehicle," Lavender says. "There's really very little content back there." Among the audio features, for example, automakers are interested in incorporating audio sub-woofer chambers and different high-performance speaker combinations. Other are integrating storage areas that are accessed from the trunk, or adding a GPS antenna for a navigation station.

"Everything's on board at this point," Lavender notes. Several automakers are interested at this point, and the first applications should appear in 2003.
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Title Annotation:audio speakers for automobiles
Comment:It's All In Your Head(liner).(audio speakers for automobiles)
Author:Martin, Norman
Publication:Automotive Industries
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 1999
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