Hands on with Devialet's vision for in-car audio

Devialet wants to crack the in-car audio market by using fewer speakers
(Image credit: Future)

Back in December, Devialet announced a new business partnership with Faurecia, one of the world's biggest automotive technology companies. The aim was to combine Devialet's knowledge and expertise in acoustic design, signal processing and loudspeakers with Faurecia's electronic design and in-car system-building expertise.

The first results of this partnership were on display at CES 2020 where Devialet gave What Hi-Fi? an extended demonstration showcasing what it could potentially bring to the world of in-car audio.

The demo was simple yet extremely effective. Devialet had an Audi Q5 as a test mule which was fitted with two of its own demo systems besides the car's standard Audi set-up. Devialet gave us a quick blast of each system so we could compare and contrast.

Devialet wants to crack the in-car audio market by using fewer speakers

(Image credit: Future)

The standard Audi Q5 10 speaker system includes a centre channel and a subwoofer in the boot. It's not a Bang & Olufsen set-up, but it's not the entry-level set-up, either. 

Next up was the 'Premium' Devialet system. This doesn't actually introduce any extra speakers, in fact, Devialet takes the subwoofer out of the equation entirely, relying on its own processing to squeeze more bandwidth and performance out of the remaining speakers. All the hardware, including amplification, is the same.

Being able to remove the subwoofer has a few positive knock-on effects. Not only does it help reduce weight, which can affect reduce emissions, it also creates more space in the car and could make it cheaper for a car manufacturer because they don't need to buy as many components for their systems.

Devialet wants to crack the in-car audio market by using fewer speakers

(Image credit: Future)

And the results were quite staggering. You'd think removing the subwoofer would result in a huge drop in the quantity and quality of bass, but if anything the sub-less system managed to extract just as much and even more in the way of bass detail and weight. The system's speakers also sounded better integrated.

Playing Daft Punk's Get Lucky, when we switched to the Premium system, the soundstage grew larger and wider with a greater sense of scale. The track's vocal moved higher up for a more convincing stereo image. It also sounded much more dynamic with the standard system sounding messy and compressed in comparison.

For the third system demo, Devialet introduced additional speakers into the mix. Its Premium 3D Sound System system saw the introduction of eight smaller speakers, four in each door panel and four in the roof of the car.

Devialet told us besides processing stereo content for 3D use, its system was future-proofed for content specifically mixed in 3D such as Dolby Atmos Music and Sony 360 Reality Audio.

Devialet wants to crack the in-car audio market by using fewer speakers

(Image credit: Future)

Devialet proceeded to play us both a stereo track and a dedicated Dolby Atmos demo clip. The introduction of the 3D speakers produced a more obvious effect with the Dolby clip. You felt properly immersed in the track, as torrential rainfall lashed down over our seat and leaves swept between the speakers overhead. With the standard music tracks, the effect was more subtle, but that's what we'd expect.  

So how soon can we expect to see a Devialet system on the market? Devialet told us they'd been in talks with a few car manufacturers at the show and in our opinion they can't have failed to be impressed. Just the jump in quality made by adjusting the processing and removing the subwoofer was worth the entry fee on its own. Fingers crossed we get to experience the real thing in the near future.


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