Harman, the group that owns audio brands like JBL, Infinity, AKG and Mark Levinson, has unveiled a new in-car audio solution here at CES. The Voyager Dashboard consists of a portable speaker unit, which pops into and out of the dashboard top, removing the need for the traditional head unit and speaker set up in the car. You're literally bringing the tunes yourself.
It's been designed to address frustration faced by many young car buyers today – and indeed anyone buying a smaller, cheaper car such as Fiat 500 or Ford Fiesta. Harman's thinking goes that, frustration occurs for young buyers today in multiple ways with infotainment in the car today. The small cars they are more likely to buy are paradoxically the least likely have the technology and connectivity they'd like. They want to bring their own phone into the car and use it as controller – but what if you've no speaker system in the car, or the one the car comes with is of very low quality (and let's face it, it tends to be in the smallest cars).
Voyager Dashboard answers a number of these issues.
It's primarily a thick, puck-shaped speaker unit. Beginning its day in the house – potentially as a speaker unit in the lounge rather like you might have a Sonos 1 in the corner of a room today – you pick it up as you leave, carry it into the car and drop into the hole on the top centre of the IP. The music it was playing in your lounge is now pumped out around the car, and you can control the sound stage, track, volume and more via a smartphone app or in-car controls. The dock in the dash-top charges it up, and you can control volume via in-car controls or App interface. The iPhone 6+ the system was demoed on neatly drops into a slot on the IP in front of the speaker, and acts as its controller.
What's critical here is that all the sound comes from the unit – and (in a static demo environment at least) it's pretty good. There are no speakers in the doors as on normal cars – saving weight, saving cost for the manufacturer and perhaps offering car makers the opportunity to spend that money on some other feature or aspect of the car.
You can enhance the sound by purchasing a larger speaker unit that the dash top 'puck' drops into when out of the car. Like the speaker itself, this unit can be used in or outside the home, and you simply jack it into a slot in the trunk of the car to power it, where it then acts as a subwoofer.
It'll be upgradable too, and is perhaps the first solution of its kind that we've seen which can double as a home and in-car set up. Integration, even in this demonstrator, was neat – you wouldn't object to it being in your dashboard.
Harman appears to have come up with an idea which is both well integrated, makes sense and yet 'improves' the audio experience in a do it yourself way. It's something we're sure that many young buyers could embrace, and we wait with interest to see which car manufacture takes up this idea first.
Harman appears to have come up with an idea which is both well integrated, makes sense and yet ‘improves’ the audio experience in a do it yourself way. It’s something we’re sure that many young buyers could embrace, and we wait with interest to see which car manufacture takes up this idea first.