In-car audio has obviously improved over the years, but sweeping innovations have been few and far between. Enter LG, who is hoping to use slim vibrating panels to turn your car’s dashboard, roof and pretty much just about any surface into something that could create sound.
This is possible with a new product the company’s dubbed the “Thin Actuator Sound Solution.” Unlike traditional speakers with their discrete parts, materials and coil exciters, TASS employs film exciters. It’s an approach similar to what LG already uses in its thin OLED TVs, which quite literally pulsate their displays to produce audio. TASS’ passport-sized panels are just 10 percent of the thickness of a typical automotive-grade speaker — 2.5 millimeters — and 30 percent as heavy.
Because they’re that small, they can be stashed inside just about anything hollow to contribute to the overall interior sound profile. LG says it’s worked with a major audio company in developing TASS, which will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. It seems to be an elegant, efficient solution — not only in terms of how it saves on resources, but also space and weight. That last one is a big deal, because modern cars sure don’t need to be heavier. From the company’s release:
Its compact size and innovative form factor allow it to be installed in various parts inside the car such as the dashboard, headliner, pillar, and headrests while eliminating the deviation in audio quality for passengers inside. The device’s built-in nature not only allows the removal of speaker grills, but also enhances space efficiency by freeing up the space normally occupied by in-car speakers without compromising sound quality.
In addition, LG Display has excluded the use of rare earth elements such as neodymium (Nd) normally used in conventional speakers, boosting the speaker’s eco-friendly factor.
Of course the big question is how good these panels will actually sound in practice. The tech has been well received in high-end TVs like the Sony A95K, though most people investing in nice TVs are probably inclined to spring for soundbars or more dedicated audio setups with low-range oomph that would blow any TV out of the water anyway. In a car, though, the effect of audio coming from any surface presents the opportunity to truly immerse occupants in authentic surround sound. Perhaps it could be mixed with traditional speakers, for presence as well as punch.
LG says TASS will be commercialized in 2023, meaning it’ll wind up in cars next year. As usual with these sorts of supplier announcements, we don’t know what cars those will be yet, but we’re interested to hear the result.