INFINITI MOTOR COMPANY LIMITED, Hong Kong - For 30 years, INFINITI has worked in close collaboration with Bose. Even before the first INFINITI, the Q45, to the brand's present-day model range, this enduring partnership has provided customers with a superior audio experience.
From the brand's inception in 1989, INFINITI has always sought to create luxurious interior spaces that enhance the driving experience. Premium audio has helped to achieve this. With a contemporary cabin that was crafted to appeal to the senses of touch and sight, sound was just as important. The Q45's development team sought an audio system that would reproduce sound of such clarity that drivers could enjoy their music in the car as much as they might from their home audio system.
INFINITI turns to Bose
From the get-go, INFINITI recognized the benefits of partnering with an audio specialist which truly understood the science behind the sound. Bose was enlisted to engineer a sound system specifically for the Q45 sedan which brought a premium listening experience to the cabin of the car.
This was easier said than done, and reproducing exceptional audio clarity within a confined space posed a challenge. Not only is the cabin much smaller than a home environment, for example, but the interplay of different surfaces can have a negative impact on sound quality – windows reflect sound, while seats and carpets soak it up. The immovable 'furniture' of the cabin – such as seats or the center console – as well as the packaging of the car's structure itself are also limiting factors. Within this confined space, Bose developed a four-speaker system that could work best with the cabin layout.
From early concepts to the actual production vehicle, Bose spent almost two years developing the Q45's four-speaker system. Early conceptual work was carried out at Bose's laboratories in Framingham, MA, with much of the integration of the technology taking place at INFINITI's base in Atsugi, Japan. INFINITI provided Bose audio engineers with access to an early concept of the Q45 to help them incorporate the speakers, electronics module, and speaker enclosures necessary to create an immersive, high-clarity audio experience.
Hiroshi Miyazaki, now Global Director for Bose Automotive's Nissan and INFINITI business, has worked at Bose for more than three decades. Playing a key role in a partnership that has endured for 30 years, he recalls:"Back in the eighties, car makers were increasingly looking to improve audio performance in their vehicles. We needed a new ground-up approach that would see us design a sound system that would deliver superior clarity throughout the cabin of INFINITI's first car. We worked with INFINITI engineers to fit the Q45 with loudspeakers and amplifiers that were among the most powerful within the industry, with the most advanced signal processing tech of the time."
In a pre-internet era characterized by fax machines and Filofaxes, the logistics of collaborating on this project were complex, with INFINITI based in Japan and Bose in the U.S. "We would decamp to Japan for two weeks at a time," says Miyazaki. "We would arrive at INFINITI's base at 7am and work right through until 10pm, including weekends."
The hard work paid off. When the Q45 was launched in 1989, the Bose audio system was one of the most advanced on the road. Other cars were equipped with audio systems which were powered by the radio unit, resulting in low power and high distortion. The Q45's system had its own amplifier and custom equalization, with tailored speakers in the front doors and on the rear deck, delivering a remarkable listening experience. It was the first step in a long, fruitful partnership.
Surrounded by sound
Fast forward to the dawn of the new millennium, and audio was turning digital. Where the 1989 Q45 featured a cassette player, the latest cars were fitted with CD changers and digital signal processing (instead of the analog signal processing that had come before). But Bose once again ensured INFINITI was a step ahead of the competition, in 2001 introducing its AudioPilot noise-compensation technology to the new INFINITI Q45. Bose AudioPilot digital signal processing automatically adjusts sound levels in response to extraneous noise, unlike conventional systems that simply change the volume based on speed. A microphone installed in the cabin continuously monitors noise levels, and digital electronics intelligently adjust the sound coming out of the speakers. The result is a consistent experience for all occupants.
Five years later, Bose introduced its new 5.1 'Studio Surround' system in the 2006 INFINITI M sedan. This system featured Bose 'Personal Surround' speakers within the shoulder of each front seat to give occupants a more immersive listening experience. A year later, the new INFINITI G35 sedan featured what Bose dubbed a 'Studio on Wheels' audio system, which represented a significant step forward in sound system capabilities. The G35 was one of the first cars to feature 10-inch woofers in each front door, required to realize the car's superior acoustic power. More than simply swapping out smaller speakers for new, larger ones, INFINITI and Bose worked together to redesign the very structure of the G35's doors in order to house the new system.
One of the more notable demonstrations of Bose and INFINITI's close partnership came with the arrival of the 2009 G37 Convertible. Miyazaki explains: "INFINITI wanted an open-air audio system which was as clear and powerful when travelling roof-down at 70mph as it was when the car was parked with the roof up. In the prototyping stage, we actually chopped the roof off a G37 Coupe, the car on which the Convertible was based, so we had a valid development mule. We created the first-ever headrest speaker system, which was specifically designed to provide the right level of acoustic power and clarity to overcome highway noise and wind buffeting when driving al fresco."
To this day, INFINITI and Bose continue to collaborate to give car owners the best possible audio experience. While technology has evolved significantly during that time, from the Q45's cassette deck to the latest Bluetooth streaming features in the QX50, the desire to work in partnership and engineer the ultimate sound system remains as strong as ever.