When it comes to automotive audio systems, most customers believe more is always more. After all, bigger speakers produce better sound quality, and more powerful amps generate higher volume. Right?
Not always. Toyota, working in close cooperation with its long-time partner, Harman International, is about to turn such thinking on its head. When the 2012 Camry and 2012 Prius v come to market later this year, buyers will be able to select optional premium audio systems that incorporate JBL GreenEdge technology—a new approach to in-car sound that promises to deliver more with less.
The development of JBL GreenEdge technologies began several years ago when Lexus asked for Harman’s help in devising a sound system that could fit within the tight constraints of the LFA supercar’s interior. That challenge inspired Harman to create audio components that not only take up less space, but also consume less energy while cranking out higher volumes and more authentic sound.
“The goal was to produce twice the performance at half the energy,” says Robert Myers, senior manager of global brand and product marketing for Harman. “To help us get there, we employed a holistic yet individualized approach for each vehicle. What works for LFA, clearly, will not work for Camry. And the best system for Camry probably won’t be the best for Prius v.”
While Harman develops audio systems for several automakers, Myers says that the GreenEdge innovations would not have been possible if not for the company’s close working relationship withToyota, which is more collaborative than it is with its other automotive clients.
More Efficient -- As this chart shows, the GreenEdge system consumes less power than the current JBL system, especially at higher volume levels.
“With Toyota, we get involved very early in the vehicle’s design process,” says Myers. “With other automakers, we aren’t brought in until the end, when the vehicle is pretty much set. We’re often left trying to fit speakers into the available holes. That makes a huge difference in the quality of the sound.”
To extract more from less, Harman focused on two areas:
- New high-voltage amplifiers—More efficient power supplies produce higher output while minimizing power consumption and heat generation. Compared with its predecessor, for example, the new Camry’s amp produces less heat, eliminating the need for a cooling fan.
- New high-efficiency loudspeakers—Redesigned speakers are optimized for minimal power consumption, maximum acoustic output and minimal weight. For instance, the Camry’s pair of 6-inch x 9-inch rear speakers will be replaced with a pair of speakers that are just 3 inches in diameter, plus a 7-inch x 10-inch subwoofer.
As with many new technologies, the GreenEdge approach could create confusion in dealership showrooms. Traditionally, the higher the system’s wattage, the more sound it could produce. However, the 2012 Camry’s premium JBL system is rated at just 120 GreenEdge watts, yet can operate at higher volumes than a comparable 600-watt system. And it delivers better sound quality. This “new math” is similar to that of compact florescent light bulbs that are rated at lower wattages but are brighter than conventional incandescent bulbs.
Dealership salespeople will play a key role in telling the story. The JBL GreenEdge technology is one of many innovations that promise to setToyota’s vehicles apart from the competition.
“We recently conducted a nationwide survey of customers on the importance of ‘green’ technologies,” says Myers. “The results were clear: 71 percent said such innovations would have a strong influence on their next vehicle purchase decision and 43 percent were willing to pay more for the environmental benefits offered by a ‘greener’ premium audio system. GreenEdge represents a big opportunity forToyotaand Harman.”