By Jim Kerr

Almost all sound systems are based on analog technology, where variable voltage signals are transferred through amplifiers to move speaker cones and produce sound. Many music formats compress the signals: that means they delete or modify parts of the signal so more music will fit in a limited space. Compressed music enables us to save thousands of selections on a memory stick or device such as an iPod. Unfortunately, it also robs us of some of the richness of the music.

Then along came Tony Bongiovi.

Tony is a record producer and recording engineer with expertise in acoustical engineering and has credit for producing over 50 gold and platinum records. He has recorded everybody from Frank Sinatra to Jimmy Hendrix to Aerosmith. Sitting at the sound board, he adjusts and balances the tracks so the final sound represents what is actually heard in the recording studio. Now, he has taken that expertise and incorporated it into automotive sound systems in Toyota vehicles.

It starts with a digital box. Signals from the audio system pass into the digital unit where they are converted and modified into signals that drive the speakers. Through the magic of modern digital electronics, the box recognizes the type of music and converts it into a full sound spectrum. It can add clarity and depth so the final sound is like that heard in the recording studio.

To accomplish this, Tony Bongiovi has sat in each Toyota model for a couple hours with a laptop mixing the sound of different music types so they sound as they should. This setup is then programmed into a small digital box that can be installed in the vehicle by the dealer. By using digital delay, synchronization of speaker cones and changing the balance of the amplification, the digital box can make a conventional six-speaker system sound like high-end audio. You would even think there are big subwoofers in the vehicle, but there aren’t. Instead, all the speakers can be pulsed at once to act like a subwoofer.

Toyota’s suggested price for the digital box is $280 plus dealer installation and it is available through the dealer network.

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