Whether used for minimising background noise on a business flight, or silencing the babble of commuters on a train, noise-cancelling headphones have made journeys more serene and enjoyable for millions. Now, Ford has applied the same thinking to its cars.
Ford’s Active Noise Control uses three microphones, strategically placed in the cabin, to detect undesirable noises from the engine and transmission. The system counteracts those noises with opposing sound waves from the audio system – without affecting volume levels of music and conversation. Driver and vehicle behaviour is recorded and anticipated, for example when a driver is accelerating in a lower gear.
“Whether listening to a favourite playlist, tuning into a much-loved station, or simply enjoying a respite from the demands of modern life, the experience of sound – and just as importantly silence – can be a fundamental part of an enjoyable car journey,” said Dr Ralf Heinrichs, supervisor, Noise Vibration Harshness, Ford of Europe, “Our new Mondeo Vignale with Active Noise Control offers drivers enhanced levels of comfort, and fewer distractions.”
Active Noise Control is part of a range of innovations for the flagship Ford Mondeo Vignale that enhance sound quality. Another example is acoustic glass that can improve the sound-proofing qualities of the windscreen and front windows. Containing a layer of acoustic film thinner than a human hair, acoustic glass reduces the intrusion of wind noise caused by air flow around the window pillars.
“Noise is intrusive and reduces the driver’s mental processing power, and can lead to distraction and stress,” said Dr John Cartwright, chief medical officer, Ford of Britain. “By removing unwanted powertrain noise, Ford is helping customers to complete their journey calmly and in comfort.”
Great sound by design
Every Ford vehicle undergoes extensive testing to help minimise noise, vibration and harshness. This includes driving on some of the world’s most challenging surfaces, both in the real world and at Ford test facilities (including Ford Dunton Technical Centre in Essex) where conditions include gravel roads and some of the worst potholes found worldwide. From the ground up, the Mondeo Vignale’s cabin has been designed to offer the optimum sound experience.
For example, by using foam rather than fibreglass for engine bay insulation, the Mondeo Vignale achieves a reduction in powertrain noise transferred to the cabin of up to 2 dB. Sound‑proofing within the underbody shields, wheel arch liners and front and rear doors block tyre noise, and the new integral link rear suspension also contributes to a reduction in road noise experienced of up to 3 dB.
The Mondeo Vignale also is one of the first European Ford vehicles to benefit from the newly established global Vehicle Harmony team. Testing includes ensuring all sounds in the cabin, interior illumination, and the feel of surfaces are appropriate and complementary – from the sound made by the indicators, to that which is made when the heated rear window switch is depressed.
“Vehicle interiors are a precious yet complex space with hundreds of carefully positioned individual functional elements, just like instruments in an orchestra. To bring harmony to the customer experience, these instruments must be in tune with one another. That’s where the Vehicle Harmony team comes in,” said Erika Tsubaki, design supervisor, Ford of Europe.
Vignale and Sony
Sound engineers from Sony Corporation spent extensive hours tuning the Vignale audio system to deliver an exceptional acoustical experience on the road with a customised stereo mode, and a true surround experience.
“Our engineers have gone to extreme lengths to develop the audio system for the Mondeo Vignale to ensure a world class luxury audio experience. Delivering this luxury depends on reproducing sound as the artist intended and underpinning the acoustic emotion with the look, touch and feel delivered by our elegantly styled and carefully constructed centre panel design,” said Ian Hubbard, global automotive entertainment director, Sony Europe Limited.
Comprising 12 high-quality speakers and a sophisticated DSP (digital signal processing) amplifier, the audio system from Sony transforms the in-car listening experience. The Class D amplifier, with 10 independent channels, is built for efficiency. This amplifier is smaller and requires less power from the car’s electrical system than conventional amplifiers. Additionally, it offers features such as stereo and surround DSP modes, and speed sensitive volume control.
The speakers have been optimised by Sony to create exceptional linearity and tonal balance. Low and midrange speakers in the audio system from Sony make extensive use of polypropylene material. Polypropylene provides stable performance over the life of the vehicle in a way that even the best fibre material cannot. The multi-layer soft dome tweeters provide crisp and clean high frequency sound.
Advanced production checks
Mondeo Vignale is produced at the company’s state-of-the-art mega-plant in Valencia, Spain, and hand finished at Ford’s Vignale Centre, where vehicles are subjected to 100 additional tests.
The Valencia facility includes a 300m ‘rattle and squeak’ circuit that helps engineers ensure everything sounds right inside the vehicle, and all components fit snugly and securely. Ford also has recently introduced an industry-first test that reflects increasing use of audio streamed via Bluetooth from external devices such as smartphones. A full register of musical notes played through the speakers via the auxiliary port and a wired connection ensures that playback meets the same customer expectations as audio enjoyed through the system’s own CD player and radio.