The Future of Car Audio

So what does the future hold for car audio? Well, no one can predict the future but here are a few of the hottest new technologies that I think will gain huge ground in the coming years. These are starting to gain popularity and should continue to enjoy immense growth.

Surround Sound

As the price of LCD monitors, DVD players and surround processors continue to drop we'll see more growth in the area of surround sound. The popularity of watching movies in the car will fuel much of the growth. The boom will also be spurred on as our stereo (left and right) audio programs are supplemented and replaced by true surround sound audio recordings. As more and more consumers listen to the improvements over stereo recordings the push for more surround sound discs and surround sound systems will increase.

DVD-Audio and SACD

One of the technologies that will allow more surround sound formatted materials is DVD-Audio and its rival the Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD). Compact discs, as good as they sound, could sound better. The information put onto a CD is compressed in order to fit on a standard CD. With the higher capacities offered by DVD-Audio and SACD we'll hear music with much less "lossy" compression. This should improve the sound dramatically. Which format will eventually win over consumers is anybody's guess. SACD is backed by Sony and Phillips, the creators of the original CD technology. DVD-Audio is backed by others eager to avoid paying Sony and Phillips the royalties on current CD technology. The consumers may take a "who cares" attitude to both formats. Consumers have already shown that sound quality isn't always the most important factor to them with the embrace of MP3 technology, a "good enough" format if ever there was one. Wait for the dust to clear before purchasing a unit.


Computers, video, audio, games, navigation, cellular and satellite will continue to become a part of the automotive environment. No longer uncommon features are navigation systems, video systems, integrated cellular, satellite technologies and mobile gaming. These have all been integrated into OEM systems with the exception of gaming. As more and more consumers get a taste of mobile entertainment we will see the demand for more rise and the cost of acquisition fall.

42 Volt Electrical Systems

Currently our vehicles run on a 12 volt system (12 volt battery with a 14 volt alternator). As we see more and more electronic devices such as those mentioned above we'll need more juice to power it all. Automakers are already working on the next generation charging system. A 42 volt standard that will hopefully be implemented in the next five years. This 42 volt system will have a 36 volt battery and a 42 volt charging system. As the voltage increases the current required by components will decrease. For example, an amplifier that requires 20 amps at 14 volts would only require 7 amps with a 42 volt system. This smaller current draw will allow wires to be of a smaller gauge. Many new devices that weren't possible because of the large currents they would require will now be possible.


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