Finally, and perhaps most significantly, B&O attacked a raft of other challenges via the aggressive use of DSP. The company’s newly developed processor supports sixteen separate channels and uses fourteen of them to create an EQ, delay, and active crossover profile for each speaker. The objective is to calibrate the overall system response to its environment; to dynamically compensate for factors such as road noise; to upmix stereo sources to 7.1 channels; to provide listeners with an enveloping soundstage centered directly in front of them; and to best optimize, according to the user’s wishes, the listening experience for either the driver, both front-seat occupants, or the entire car.
The Acoustic Lens-equipped tweeter sounds as sweet in the Audi application as in the Beolab 5. Here, however, it must contend with the hump that forms the top of the instrument binnacle. Thanks to that acoustic impediment, tall listeners in the driver’s seat heard nearly all the sound emanating from the left tweeter. Those riding shotgun were rewarded with a naturally broad soundstage and excellent imaging. Shorter listeners reported essentially opposite results. In addition, there were obvious discontinuities between drivers (the speaker kind, not the people kind), and the back seat had yet to be optimized, so it was strictly off limits.
When confronted with these observed shortfalls, B&O’s engineers replied with acknowledgement and assurances that the problems will be addressed before the system’s September debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show. These pledges hold credibility. The assembled press was shown two prototypes: the latest and, for comparison’s sake, an earlier iteration. The progress manifested in the more recent version— with its significantly greater dynamics, deeper and more controlled bass, and smother overall response—was enough to convince us that the rate of improvement is swift indeed.