NIO went the extra mile – and more – when conceptualizing the ET7’s audio system. The NIO ET7 features 23 speakers powered by Opteo Professional and Dobly Atmos technologies from Swedish digital audio pioneer Dirac.
NIO and Dirac’s work on the ET7’s audio system reveals the evolution of car interior design and the role software played in its redesign.
The sound of the NIO ET7
Each car manufacturer has a specific sound that they would like their passengers to enjoy in their vehicles. NIO also has a distinctive sound, and for the ET7 the Chinese automaker wanted it to be crystal clear.
NIO worked closely with Dirac to create their sound. The official NIO ET7 online page says the four-seater has 23 speakers, four overhead speakers and a subwoofer. It also has a 20-channel amplifier and comes standard with Dolby Atmos technology.
However, NIO and Dirac didn’t just add lots of speakers to the ET7. Both companies have been meticulous and intentional with the ET7’s audio system.
Redefine the cabin
Audio experts must consider the environment in which the sound will be played, which makes working with vehicles difficult. Lars Carlsson, Head of Automotive Audio Business Development and Vice President of Dirac, said Teslarati that automotive experts have to consider many things when creating the perfect sound inside a vehicle. They must take into account the chairs, the different surfaces of the cabin, the windows, etc.
The NIO ET7 has 16 microphones positioned in each seat for a total of 64 microphones in the cabin. Dirac had good insight into the acoustic performance of the car’s cabin as he measured the ET7 prototype.
“We are founding [everything] on the measurements. So we measure the car. We measure every stakeholder,” Carlsson said.
After measuring the cabin, Dirac used algorithms to “deduce the optimal solution” for its sound field control technology. With sound field control, Dirac has created “super speakers” for the ET7. Typically, there are three speakers in a car door: low frequency, mid frequency, and a tweeter for high frequency. Dirac uses sound field control to digitally align the speakers, making them work together to produce full, quality sound.
“So we combine the left front speaker with the right rear speaker with [the] the front right and the front left and the subwoofer to create an even sound field in the car, which means we can actually create an equal type of audio experience in every seat. You would have the center right in front of you and good imaging and a very even base distribution,” Carlsson explained.
The critical role of software in future vehicles
Software is playing an increasingly important role in the automotive industry as automotive OEMs and startups reconceptualize the idea of the vehicle. Today, car manufacturers are reinventing the use of the car interior as more and more vehicles integrate autonomous software.
The software is at the center of the redesign of the cabin space for passenger activities. Many car manufacturers have started investing in software for their vehicles. For example, Volkswagen has invested 2 billion euros in a joint venture with the Chinese company Horizon Robotics. And Stellantis recently launched a software development center in India.
Audio, in particular, is starting to play a bigger role in the cabin as automakers introduce more types of media for passengers to enjoy on the road. The electric cars coming out in the market now have fun new features, like karaoke, videos, games, etc., which are highly dependent on audio systems. However, it is the autonomy that motivates the redesign of the cabin.
“We have a huge interest in our solutions because audio is becoming more and more important in the car. Maybe not with electric cars because it’s a quieter environment, but looking in self-driving cars, where you might be working in your car, listening to music, watching videos, maybe having to be rotating seats,” Carlsson said.
“There are also a lot of challenges ahead, but I would say Dirac is very well equipped for future challenges because software for everything in cars is key,” he added.