Beijing Auto Show 2018: Steering to a New Era, Indeed!


Perhaps no industry is undergoing as dramatic a disruption as the automotive industry, as many manufacturers are transitioning from traditional automobile companies to, shall we say, mobile-entertainment-on-wheels companies.

That was clearly apparent at the recently-concluded Beijing Auto Show as automakers from around world gathered amid the swirling and industry-altering winds of change this market is experiencing. The show’s 2018 theme Steering to a New Era was most certainly apropos as information and communication technology are presenting unprecedented opportunities in today’s automotive space.

Many unique and a few extreme ideas, that centered on luxury and customization, were apparent across the bustling show floor while new EV concepts also had a dominant presence.

If one thing remains true across all debuting vehicles it’s that technological innovation is clearly turning today’s automobile into a mobile entertainment pod – where immersive, powerful, and pristine in-car audio will continue to play an increasingly important role.

The Dirac Solutions Driving the Innovation

Creating an acoustically refined and optimized in-car audio experience has, historically, been a major challenge for the industry, given the various seating positions, unique vehicle layouts that vary by make and model, and natural speaker deficiencies.

However, over the last decade, we’ve tackled this challenge head-on with a suite of groundbreaking audio optimization solutions that includes Dirac Virtual Center, Dirac Live, and Dirac Unison, among others.

Dirac Virtual Center creates a vehicle-wide listening sweet spot, where all passengers hear music as if they were seated in the optimal vehicle position. It achieves this effect by both using phase correction and equalization to perfectly align each speakers’ audio, creating what Dirac calls the phantom center, while simultaneously correcting near-side bias.

Dirac Live works in tandem with Dirac Virtual Center as a state-of-the-art digital room correction technology that targets the key quality problems that automotive audio suppliers face by optimizing impulse responses and frequency responses of the sound system for a pristine, natural sound. 

Expanding on Dirac Live, Dirac Unison not only optimizes each speaker’s individual impulse and frequency response, it actually co-optimizes the impulse and frequency responses of all speakers within the entire sound system. This unique approach enables new degrees of precision while minimizing in-seat and between-seat sound quality variations. Dirac Unison is featured in the Volvo XC40, which was just named the 2018 European Car of the Year.

While in-car sound optimization has historically been a challenge but we’re clearly helping conquer it with these solutions. In fact, our sound optimization expertise was evident in multiple Beijing Auto Show 2018 booths as esteemed manufacturers such as Bentley (Moulsan), BMW (M5), Volvo (XC40, XC60, XC90), Polestar 1, and more, all prominently featured Dirac solutions. These are models with a price range of $35,000 to over $200,000, proving Dirac-enabled cars can fit almost any budget.

Ahead of the Audio Curve

The Beijing Auto Show 2018 threw a spotlight on the importance premium in-car audio is going to play in the overall vehicle experience as we move ever closer to our autonomous vehicle future.

As the need to “pay attention to driving” slowly begins to decrease in a driverless car world, attention is shifting from the driving experience to the entertainment experience – where immersive and powerful surround sound audio is clearly critical. The fact in-car audio will take center stage in this hard-charging trend is, pardon the pun, music to our ears.

Profound change is headed our way and perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future the daily grind of the commute will turn into a leisure hour.

Industrial auto industry stalwarts will be pitted against tech-industry newcomers. It’s going to be a very noisy next decade or so in this space and for many it may be a bumpy ride. No worries here, as Dirac plans on smoothing things out doing what we do best – continuously inventing the future of sound with our innovative audio solutions. And it’s a comfort to know everyone will be listening.

- Niklas Thorin, General Manager BU High Performance at Dirac Research