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Dirac – Digitization reduces costs of quality entry-level sound systems

Two leaders in the development and production of automotive sound systems have joined forces to improve in-vehicle sound quality from entry-level to luxury vehicles.

In June 2021, Swedish audio technology pioneer Dirac announced a collaboration with US semiconductor firm Analog Devices, Inc (ADI). The partnership, according to a company release, will pave the way for Dirac’s new digital solution for entry-level audio systems with ADI’s automotive processors to create a more complete, bundled offer for ADI’s global automotive customer base.

Using Dirac’s digital solution, ADI’s automotive customers will be able to achieve an optimized acoustic performance and immersive sound experience more easily, quickly, cost-efficiently and consistently across their entry-level sound systems, utilizing up to nine speakers, say the companies.

“Launched in March 2021, Dirac’s all-new solution for entry-level systems is built upon the company’s 15-year legacy working in the high-end space, yet also features innovations that address the specific needs of the entry-level sound systems. The intelligent audio platform features the industry’s first semi-automatic tuning system based on scientific measurements that optimizes performance and delivers signature sound in a way that is highly efficient, consistent, and
predictable,” says the company.

According to Dirac, its digital solution, which can now be bundled with ADI processors, is built on an all-in-one intelligent audio platform comprised of a measurement system, tuning tools, sound optimization algorithms, and hardware interface platform. The Dirac platform includes patented digital sound optimization and spatialization technologies that vary depending on the level of speaker system. For entry systems, the available technologies are measurement-based magnitude response correction, patented virtual bass, and virtual centre – to tackle common acoustic challenges like negative car cabin impact, unbalanced soundstage, and lack of immersion. For higher range systems, Dirac offers solutions like sound stage widening and active comfort zone.

“Analog Devices is a global leader in automotive audio processing. Our SHARC® processor line offers ultra-low latency and determinism to meet the needs of a fast-growing assortment of exciting audio applications, including active noise cancelation, in-car communications and personal audio zones.

The SHARC portfolio seamlessly scales from entry-level to premium sound systems and, when combined with Dirac’s solution, elevates automotive audio to new heights. Dirac’s ability to overcome the physical limitations of audio systems, coupled with their scalable software solutions, make Dirac a perfect match for Analog Devices’ SHARC processor portfolio,” commented Andrew Lanfear, Automotive Audio Processor Product Line Director, ADI in a joint media release.

In May 2021, Dirac issued a US$18 million direct share equity round from its current investor DIG Investment and a new investor, TIN Fonder. According to Dirac CEO Peter Friedrichsen, the investment positions Dirac to fully leverage and lead what it believes will be the next great era in audio driven by software, rather than hardware alone.

“Since the dawn of reproduced sound, advancements in audio performance have historically been driven by hardware innovation,” said Friedrichsen. “This paradigm began to shift when companies like Dirac first introduced technologies that demonstrated the ability of software to achieve new, higher levels of performance. Today, we believe that the future of sound is in the hands of software and, with this investment, we fully intend to make Dirac the driving force in audio industry innovation across all platforms, devices, and environments.”

Dirac says it has also realigned its senior leadership team to fully capitalize on this software-driven industry trend. Growth business veteran Peter Friedrichsen joined the company as CEO, freeing up former CEO Mathias Johansson to focus his energy and creativity on innovation as Chief Product Officer. U.S. tech industry veteran Wade Giles joined the company as VP of North America to drive new partnerships with semiconductor manufacturers, and Klas Åström was appointed Chief Financial Officer.

Over the past 12-months, Dirac has experienced marked success across all of its core channels – home audio, pro audio, automotive, headphone, mobile, and streaming – striking key OEM deals with brands such as Onkyo, Pioneer, Philips, Hyundai, Volvo, Polestar, BYD, Klipsch, and ASUS, among others.

Dirac has also developed new sales channels, working directly with semiconductor and middleware companies – like NXP, Analog Devices (ADI), and CRI Middleware – to integrate Dirac audio directly into chipsets and platforms. According to the company, Dirac customers, in addition to the industry at-large, are realizing the many benefits of upgrading hardware performance through today’s most cutting-edge digital audio software. Costs are saved, new products are released more quickly, time-consuming tunings are made more efficient, sound profiles can be personalized to individual consumer preferences, and – ultimately – product performance is significantly improved.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Lars Carlsson, Head of Business Development, Automotive at Dirac, what the company’s strengths are in the field of in-car entertainment.

Carlsson: For over 15 years, Dirac has been a pioneer in the automotive audio space, working with numerous luxury and premium brands, including a deep partnership with Volvo, to design and integrate Dirac’s digital solutions in their vehicle sound systems to create tailored, perfected sound experiences.

Our strengths are in that, firstly, we provide an all-in-one platform – from measurement, optimization, and spatialization to fine tuning, exportation, and integration. We deliver all you need to achieve better sound, faster.

Secondly, we integrate our patented algorithms into our platform for easy application and to achieve the highest possible performance.

Lastly, because of the above-mentioned strengths, our solutions deliver unique values verified by our customers: the best possible sound experiences that stretch the limits of hardware performance; consistent signature sound across car models; cost and time saving; and improved workflow and global collaboration.

Now, we’re actively expanding to cover the entire automotive industry – a process that will be greatly accelerated through our collaboration with ADI.

AI: How do you see your partnership with ADI adding to Dirac’s strengths in the automotive audio space?

Carlsson: ADI is one of the industry’s most respected and in-demand manufacturers of premium semiconductor solutions for the automotive market, and, through this collaboration, we will together be able to deliver the entire automotive space a complete solution that levels up the performance of smaller channel count sound systems.

AI: How do you see the future of in-car entertainment?

Carlsson: The autonomous car of the future will not be used simply for transportation, but also as a moving home theatre, conference room, and entertainment centre – each of which is reliant on audio. In order to deliver diversified user experiences for a variety of usage scenarios, automakers will need to redesign their audio system layouts as well as integrate sophisticated digital audio algorithms together with feedback from the different vehicle systems. In doing so, these sound systems will be able to produce improved directionality, separation, and adaptability across different audio sources.

AI: How are automotive manufacturers responding to the changing dynamics and requirements of autonomous cars?

Carlsson: Automakers are also beginning to experiment with different speaker set-ups, including the use of smaller speakers in unique locations, such as in the vehicle’s dashboard, roof, floor, and even in the seats and headrests.

Furthermore, automakers are increasingly relying on software and digital solutions to deliver superior listening experiences to all passengers regardless of their position within the vehicle, for any usage scenario.

As we enter this next automotive generation, we at Dirac look forward to improving vehicle audio and passenger acoustic comfort worldwide, and we see the coming changes to vehicles as both an opportunity and a challenge we fully embrace.

As we continue to work with our valued partners and vehicle manufacturers on new audio solutions and capabilities, Dirac’s solutions will increasingly become a key differentiator to the driving experience.

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