Spatial Audio makes more sense in a car than a home speaker, at the moment, says Cambridge Audio CEO, Stuart George.
Cambridge Audio announced a deal to build a cutting-edge sound system for the iconic car brand DeLorean in August last year. Details about the system remain unknown, though DeLorean’s association with the 80’s Back To The Future film series has led to plenty of speculation.
“Spatial Audio is on our list of things to look at because, as you will appreciate, we are moving towards the automotive audio sector as well, which is really exciting for us – and there has been a huge interest in what we’re doing there,” says George.
"Within that space, Spatial Audio seems to be a really big deal. And you can imagine that, with cars, there is a lot of conversation around audio in general – whether it's localised and how many zones you can have for audio within a car and so on.”
George says Cambridge Audio is currently limiting its scope for Spatial Audio to the car space, as he feels there are too many variables and unknowns around how to make it work in normal homes at the moment.
“Outside cars, I don’t think people are on the same page when it comes to the science and the physics of it. It’s more in people's imaginations at the moment,” he says.
“Let's wait and see how that develops. But from our point of view, on the hi-fi separates side of things, the quality of reproduction that comes through from those products, and the sound stage that they can create, already means that there’s less relevance to Spatial Audio [in the home].”
Spatial Audio is a new technology that aims to “surround” listeners in a dome of sound, letting them hear audio from above, behind and on their left and right sides. The tech made headlines this year with Apple’s HomePod 2 and the Sonos Era 300 smart speakers both listing it as a key selling point in their respective launches.
We have reviewed the technology only on the HomePod 2 for now, with the Era 300 having yet to pass through our listening rooms. We were impressed with how well it worked during our time with the Apple speaker – though our review team notes that the Dolby Atmos-powered Spatial Audio really shone when being used to watch movies, where the additional audio coming from above really helped elevate the viewing and listening experience.
George adds that, though Cambridge Audio is limiting its plans for Spatial Audio to cars for the moment, he can see it working on smaller, lifestyle products in the future.
“It has got relevance for headphones and then smaller form factor products,“ he says.
“There’s nothing I can tell you about just now, but there are elements in the works. Particularly in the slightly more convenience-focused lifestyle-orientated space; but that’s down the line.”
Cambridge Audio is one of many audio brands entering the automotive space. Bowers and Wilkins has a similar partnership with BMW and Sonos is currently working with Audi, while Apple has also already implemented – via Burmester – a Spatial Audio sound system in Mercedes-Benz's premium offerings.
This piece is part of a week-long British Hi-Fi Week event where we celebrate the best UK audio tech, past and present. So make sure to keep checking back with us!
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