Toyota and JBL Collaborate on Integrated Performance Audio
When we drove and reviewed the all-new 2019 Toyota Avalon earlier this year, the big technology news was clearly the long-awaited debut of Apple CarPlay in a Toyota product. While we also mentioned that a 14-speaker 1200-watt JBL performance audio system was available, we didn’t go into much detail on that system. It’s powerful and sounds great, but that doesn’t really tell the full story.
As technology advances and cars receive larger screens and more sophisticated audio systems from the factory, aftermarket audio sales have plummeted. In the past, consumers who really cared about sound would pay Best Buy or Crutchfield to help them upgrade their head units with the latest technology, install amplifiers and sub-woofers in their trunks, and even replace all of the OEM speakers. However the technology was simpler then, and most cars were equipped with 4 or 5 speakers. The trend over the past decade is towards a premium audio option for most vehicles. It began with luxury, but now is something we see on almost every automobile. The brands that previously made most of their automotive audio sales aftermarket are now integrated right into new vehicles that come off the assembly line.
JBL (a Harman company) has been one of the leaders in this trend, and collaborated closely with Toyota to develop a system for the 2019 Toyota Avalon. We were recently invited to visit TMNA Research & Development and the JBL / Harman offices in Detroit to experience the fruits of this partnership.
The JBL performance audio system is standard on the Avalon’s Limited and Touring grades, and is available as an upgrade on XLE and XSE grades. For that reason, Toyota expects this new system to have a much larger take rate than a typical premium audio option. It is a 7.1 channel surround sound system that utilizes 14 individual speakers (most in the segment), but they didn’t just toss all of those speakers into a finished vehicle. Toyota and JBL engineers worked very closely together throughout the entire design process. That working relationship allowed them to successfully combine a strong TNGA structure of the Avalon with the latest technology from JBL. The partnership helped influence speaker placement, speaker design, resonance cavities, and changes to prevent buzz and rattle like sealed inner door panels.
Engineers bench-marked against the best systems, two vehicle classes up, into the higher-priced premium large sedan segment. The result is a powerful system that sounds fantastic. Check out the diagram and list below for the hardware utilized :
- Four 1-inch freestanding JBL Horn Tweeters control the directivity of sound waves to maximize the optimal listening area at ear level
- One 12-channel next-generation, Class-D HID12 amplifier to pump 1200 watts of total power to the system, allowing for improved performance and unparalleled efficiency
- One 10-inch Dual Voice Coil Sub-woofer to provide more powerful, deep bass response
- Two 6-inch Wide Dispersion Speakers in rear doors
- Two 8×9-inch Wide Dispersion Woofers in front doors
- Five 3-inch Wide Dispersion Mid-range Speakers throughout
While speaker choice, placement, and installation is key to the sound quality, the main driver of this JBL system is the 1200 watt amplifier located under the front seat. Despite the JBL branding directly below the screen, there is no actual upgrade to the head unit, rather all of the power and capability upgrades are actually happening in the amplifier. It also enables two JBL software solutions; Clari-Fi and Quantum Logic Surround.
The Toyota first Quantum Logic Surround combines individual signal streams of music by using patented filter bank technology and psychoacoustic modeling to create an immersive multi-channel listening experience with exceptional clarity, detail, and image specificity. Clari-Fi analyzes audio streams in real time, rebuilds key details lost in processing, and restores high-fidelity.
We spent a full day with Toyota and JBL engineers, and were quite impressed with the level of detail that went into improving just one aspect of a vehicle. It was a fabulous example of Kaizen (continuous improvement), one of the key pillars of the Toyota Way philosophy. The results were compelling to us, however audio performance is something you’ll really have to experience for yourself in order to appreciate. The 2019 Toyota Avalon is in dealerships now, and we suspect they’d love to give you an audio demo.