In the summer, linen replaces wool, menus switch soup for gazpacho, and when reaching for car keys drivers prefer convertibles. Open air vehicles are all about the x-factor: they trade structural rigidity, weight, and storage space for the enjoyment that comes with dropping the top. But another component to that x-factor is music. HARMAN understands the value of being able to bring your beach playlist with you on a summer day—many JBL speakers are wireless and waterproof, made with outdoor activities in mind. In convertibles, HARMAN adapts its audio systems so don’t have to worry about losing sound quality when they lose the roof, after all music makes driving fun cars even more fun.

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Source: Audi

Convertibles equipped with HARMAN systems are practically synonymous with summer vacations. For example, the Audi R8 Spyder, also known as Iron Man’s two-seater of choice, is remembered from the movie with Robert Downey Junior as Tony Stark speeding along the Pacific Coast Highway. The updated R8 Spyder has a Bang & Olufsen Sound System featuring 13 active loudspeakers, including two in each headrest so owners can blast AC/DC and channel their inner Tony Stark, even at high speeds with the roof retracted.

Acoustically, a convertible presents a challenge to the acoustic engineers, like Greg Sikora, Senior Manager, Head of Acoustic Systems Engineering Europe, for HARMAN who is tasked with tuning it.

“Without a roof, low frequencies, also known as bass, leak out from the cabin, and wind, engine and road noise flows in freely, and we have to accommodate for that,” said Sikora.

To address these difficulties, HARMAN devotes special attention to the convertible versions of cars equipped with our sound systems. Sikora explains HARMAN’s problem-solving process.

“Each automaker wants a customized experience for their drivers that reflect their unique brands and models,” explains Sikora. “HARMAN has the strongest and most diversified brand portfolio in the world that we tap into and then we work with our customers’ engineers to design audio systems – from sound and visual marks to user interface and integration.”

Specific to convertibles, HARMAN accounts for how the audio experience changes once the car is moving. Static tuning is important for red lights and parking lot speeds, but when the wind and engine rushes in at speed music can get washed out. In a clever approach, HARMAN systems automatically boost frequency bands most compromised by wind and engine noise when the car begins to travel faster, so drivers don’t have to reach for the volume knob every time they merge onto the highway.

In cars like the R8, the sound system is optimized for performance with the top down thanks to separate sound profiles for that style of driving.

Sikora attributed some of his team’s progress to ever-increasing computing power: “Thanks to improvements in Digital Signal Processor (DSP) memory and power that have compounded over time, cars can now include more tuning sets and offer more sophisticated noise compensation algorithms. In addition to the wide array of tone profiles available on modern cars, convertibles make adjustments to each when the roof is down.”

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Source: Audi

Sometimes, HARMAN engineers have to tackle inherent compromises with convertibles. In the case of the Audi A5, the convertible version was robbed of trunk space where the original subwoofer was positioned to make space for the folded roof. To make sure the experience isn’t compromised, HARMAN engineers introduced a new subwoofer design which features two subwoofers in separate locations.

When people think about their summer travels, they want to rev the engine, and blast the perfect soundtrack that makes them sing out loud as they speed down the open road. HARMAN’s attention to detail – on display in the R8 Spyder – powers this perfect scene , made even better when you’re lucky enough to hit the highway with the top down!

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