Harman, the company that boasts such top brands as JBL, Harman Kardon, and Infinity in its sprawling auditory lineup, gave us a sneak peek at its latest vision for car audio this year at CES: the Infinity Voyager Drive system. Comprised of a new multi-piece system that moves the drivers out of the doors and into the dash, Voyager is a whole new take on car audio, allowing you to bring the music with you virtually anywhere.
The crux of Voyager is the new in-dash docking station, which is designed to be pre-installed in new vehicles, or as an aftermarket installation to replace your stock stereo. The dash piece boasts multiple drivers designed to spread sound throughout the vehicle from its central location, sourced from your smartphone via Bluetooth or a standard in-dash head unit.
But the most intriguing pieces in the system are the two removable components: a saucer-shaped removable Bluetooth speaker that pops in and out of the dash piece with ease, and a removable subwoofer designed to sit in the trunk while you drive. The latter can also be removed from the trunk and linked up with the saucer piece for a boombox-style speaker system you can rock at the beach, the next tailgater, or just about anywhere else.
The three separate pieces employ a clever bit of synergy, with the removable saucer acting as the nucleus, easily allowing users to keep the music going simply by popping it out of the dash and bringing it along. The word “Millennials” came up a lot during the presentation, as Voyager aims to be an affordable and fun way to integrate car audio with Bluetooth speakers, which have become extremely popular with younger listeners.
At first, it seems a bit odd to pull the speakers from the doors and load them all in the front dash — there’s no doubt that the backseat gets a bit of the shaft here without rear-door speakers. That said, the sound in our presentation came through pretty clearly even from the back. This makes sense when you realize that the drivers are better aligned with your ears than they would be in the bottom of the doors. The portability factor is pretty intriguing as well, allowing those who never want the music to end to easily bring it along with just the push of a button.
Sound quality from the little saucer piece was less than stellar in our preview (as you might imagine from such a small speaker), and while adding the sub is a great way to beef things up, the one used in the prototype system was pretty dang heavy. Still, this is just a prototype after all, so we may see this system evolve with some clever engineering to make the saucer sound more full, and the sub a bit more portable.
Harman is hoping to get its new Voyager system into vehicles next year, so we’ll have to wait and see how it evolves before it makes the jump into your next vehicle.