LG’s new ‘invisible’ speakers could revolutionize car audio

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LG Display has unveiled a ground-breaking new “invisible” speaker technology for automobiles, with a flat panel system that can easily be placed in headrests as well as car dashboards.

Developed as a direct replacement by the South Korean tech giant for traditional speakers in vehicles, the Thin Actuator Sound Solution (opens in new tab) system does away with the regular protruding voice coils, cones and magnets found in most speakers and instead uses a film-like exciter membrane. 

These can vibrate off panels and various materials within the car interior with LG claiming it can produce a “rich, 3D immersive sound experience”. 

The panels’ measure just 5.9 x 3.5 inches and crucially just a tenth of an inch thick, with a featherlight weight of 1.4 ounces, “without compromising sound quality,” according to LG.

That slim design means the speakers could be situated almost anywhere within the interior of a vehicle, with the tech giant suggesting they could be hidden inside headliners and pillars, as well as headrests and dashboards.

The flat speaker system appears to be based on the CSO (opens in new tab) (Cinematic Sound OLED), which LG Display has shown off in an OLED TV where the display panel vibrates to generate audio without the need for dedicated speakers.  A similar innovative vibrating panel system is also used in Sony’s high-end TVs, including the Sony A95K.

LG has nevertheless stated that Thin Actuator Sound Solution has been developed with an unnamed “global audio company”.

LG Display says it expects the speakers to start appearing in new car interiors in the first half of next year, with the general public set to get their first listen when the tech is exhibited in January at CES 2023 in Las Vegas.

The all-new Sony A95K QD-OLED TV

LG Display’s new tech appears to feature similar tech to that used in Sony’s A95K TV. (Image credit: Sony)

Analysis: Nothing flat about this automobile audio breakthrough

Coming hot on the heels of NTT’s recent announcement of its leak-free, open-earphones, this new development from LG Display indicates we’re heading into a new era of how we’ll be able to consume audio.

If the speakers sound as good as LG claim, then we’d expect car manufacturers to quickly adopt the tech as the benefits appear crystal clear.

Makers would have more room to play with within the cockpit and dashboard area, while also freeing up room for slimmer door frames in the passenger area as they would no longer have to incorporate a coned speaker. Their featherlight structure would also make for a significant saving in weight and in turn efficiency for the vehicle.

The most exciting prospect for us is that the Thin Actuator Sound Solution could also allow for an increased amount of speakers that could be liberally positioned around vehicle interiors. While LG hasn’t mentioned it in its release, we’re really curious to find out if the tech works when placed in the ceiling – if so it could really open up some interesting multi-speaker support for spatial audio and Dolby Atmos.

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