by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

The new Mercedes-Benz SL: Infotainment - The fully integral sound of tomorrow

As a rule, those gifted with a sensitive sense of hearing cannot expect much listening enjoyment in a roadster. Even good car radios and CD players are disappointing under these arduous acoustic conditions. Instead, in open-top cars, the music flies away with the wind; it frays and breaks up in all directions without its acoustic base – passengers generally have to be satisfied with a woolly “sound carpet”, or close the roof. Open-air pleasure and musical enjoyment could hardly be expected in a roadster. A great part of the blame for this lies with the location of the bass loudspeakers in the doors or under a seat. Mercedes-Benz now presents a solution to this conflict: the unique Frontbass system, which at last creates the conditions for a concert hall ambience in a roadster too. In the new SL, the Frontbass system is celebrating its world premiere.

Crisp bass sound from the footwell

The principle sounds simple: Instead of being placed in the doors in the usual way, in the new SL generation the bass loudspeakers are installed in the footwell in front of the driver and passenger. This is not possible with traditional vehicle shell structures, but the two front longitudinal members in the front aluminium skeleton of the new SL provide the resonance space needed for this arrangement. The loudspeakers are fitted directly in two openings in the firewall on either side of the footwell. Cavities in the longitudinal members behind the speakers act as resonating chambers. The outstanding inherent rigidity of these structural components results in ultra-precise low notes with extremely little distortion, right up to very high signal levels. In order words, the new SL features clear, crisp bass sounds with a high dynamic range as part of its standard equipment.

The position of these two independent closed woofers in the footwell permits the creation of ideal acoustic conditions, because the firewall, the vehicle floor and the underside of the dashboard form a sort of funnel that focuses and concentrates the sound – a better sound performance is the result. The acoustic effectiveness improves significantly. The formula ‘low energy plus lots of sound volume’ saves energy on top of it all. This way, the Frontbass system also contributes towards a CO2 reduction.

Precise, brilliant sound

With the new Frontbass system, Mercedes-Benz is not only revolutionising in-car bass sound reproduction – and in particular aboard an open-top roadster – it is also creating the conditions for exceptional listening enjoyment. Since the bass loudspeakers now do not need to be installed in the doors, the disruptive acoustic vibrations typical of this configuration no longer occur. In addition to this, the sound experts have placed the mid-range and high-tone loudspeakers in the doors, the dashboard and in the vehicle rear optimally close to the beltline and thus almost at the same height as the SL occupants’ ears. This way they produce a precise, brilliant sound quality. The experts speak of an exact stage reproduction with precise instrument representation and an equally precise spatial graduation.

Even the standard entry-level Frontbass system creates a pronounced encircling sound feel and an emotive sound experience, independently of whether the vehicle roof is open or closed. As Norbert Niemczyk, responsible for the new Frontbass system at Mercedes-Benz, explains: “Our objective was not mere sound volume – although in this respect, too, the system performs amazingly – but a clear sound instead, one that never becomes “mushy”. We have achieved this. All those who experienced the sound with the Frontbass system for the first time got out of the car with a big smile on their face – in-house we call that the Frontbass smile.”

Friendly to the surroundings: focused sound

Acoustic enjoyment of the highest level is part of the programme in the new SL both with a closed and with an open top. As the Frontbass system focuses the sound, the powerful sound is concentrated on the vehicle occupants – the surroundings are significantly less disturbed than is the case with conventional sound systems. Apart from this, the amplifier automatically controls the loudspeakers in a different manner depending on whether the passenger compartment is closed or open, according to the acoustic conditions, in order to create the best possible sound.

Frontbass is always on board

The Frontbass concept is the standard basis in every version of the new Mercedes-Benz SL. In the entry-level variant it is coupled with an amplifier that is integrated in the COMAND head unit with an output of 4x25 watts, two Frontbass loudspeakers with a diameter of 217 mm, two two-way systems for high and mid-range tones in the doors and two more mid-range speakers in the rear.

The optionally available Harman Kardon® Logic 7® surround sound system in conjunction with the Frontbass concept offers a further enhancement and a musical delicacy of concert hall quality. The heart of the matter is a Class D amplifier with a total output of 600 W and a digital signal processor (DSP) for ten audio channels. The two Frontbass loudspeakers and six two-way systems provide an even more precise and better defined sound reproduction quality.

Finally, the ultimate in high-calibre pleasure for the eyes and ears comes courtesy of the high-end Bang&Olufsen BeoSound AMG sound system, also available as an optional extra. The Class D ICE power amplifier and the Class D DSP amplifier with a total output of 900 watts actively control the twelve high-end loudspeakers via separate channels, thus ensuring the hallmark B&O crystal-clear sound reproduction. Via the B&O-specific True Image menu various sound settings such as the true-to-life studio-like reproduction in reference mode or a space-optimised reproduction in surround mode can be selected – and the sound fields can be precisely adjusted to the seats being used. In addition to this, the automatic volume regulation function Vehicle Noise Compensation automatically adjusts in accordance with the speed and the exterior and interior noises measured with a microphone, facilitating exclusive audiophile high-end sound at all times, irrespective of external influencing factors such as noises caused by the engine or the airflow.

High-end music enjoyment with the DVD “Mercedes-Benz Signature Sound”

So that SL drivers can fully appreciate and enjoy the Surround Sound and the unique Front Bass system, Mercedes-Benz has edited an exclusive, limited music DVD with the title “Mercedes-Benz Signature Sound”. The name stands for the unique signature sound of the musical pieces. It comprises 15 well-known pop/rock songs and 10 masterworks of classical music, re-worked and fine-tuned to the exceptional acoustic conditions of the roadster by Grammy-winning experts at one of the best sound studios in the world. Its transparent, crystal-clear sound provides a musical experience of the highest level. The DVD “Mercedes-Benz Signature Sound” can be found in every new SL Roadster that has been ordered with a Surround Sound system.

Bodyshell tuned to Frontbass

In order to realise the Frontbass concept, the sound specialists worked in close cooperation with the bodyshell designers right from the very first planning stage. A small welcome side effect is that since the Frontbass concept made the loudspeakers in the doors superfluous, the designers were able to use the space made free in the doors for additional stowage compartments.

Infotainment with internet access, too

Even in the entry-level version, the new Mercedes-Benz SL is equipped with the “Cockpit Management and Data System” COMAND – a car radio and CD/DVD player in one. The functions also include Bluetooth telephony plus easer operation of the car telephone. COMAND Online featuring internet access and a DVD changer is also available as an optional extra.

Both COMAND versions feature a high-resolution TFT colour display with a 17.8 cm diagonal (800 x 480 pixels) at the side next to the instrument cluster. This screen arrangement prevents the driver from being distracted as far as possible.

Both COMAND variants are operated via what is known as a “Controller” located on the centre console near the armrest. This is an optimum ergonomic position for it, and from here it can be operated easily and safely. The Controller is a very high-quality turn-and-press actuator with a galvanised surface and can be intuitively moved in eight directions. Functions can also be activated or confirmed via rotating and pressing it. A user-friendly new control logic for the main menus and the sub-menus which can be opened up step by step enables drivers to leaf through the menus safely and in a targeted manner.

Even in the entry-level version, COMAND includes the following features:

- FM radio twin tuner with phase diversity and an additional RDS/TMC tuner for traffic information
- Entry-level 4 x 25 W audio signal amplifier
- DVD drive for audio and video

In addition, COMAND Online offers:

- Six-disc DVD changer
- Internet access
- Integral navigation system with map display (including birdview and a 3D map),
- Integral hard disc for navigation data and additional functions (e.g. music server)
- The LINGUATRONIC voice-operated control system

Both COMAND variants also support the following components:

- Sound amplifier
- Media Interface
- DAB receiver (Digital Audio Broadcast)
- TV receiver (standard-fit in Japan, not available in the USA).

COMAND Online with a DVD changer

The alternative multimedia system COMAND Online provides internet access. When the car is stationary, it enables customers to browse freely in the internet and quickly access a Mercedes-Benz online service. These integral services include weather information and a POI search via Google. A route that has been previously configured on a PC using Google Maps can also be sent to the car and downloaded in this way.

The fast navigation function for COMAND Online also has new functions to offer, for example a 3D display with three-dimensional city views. Also new: routes covered can be recorded and repeated later, specific personal destinations can be stored or imported via an SD card, plus four alternative routes can be displayed on the navigation map, including a particularly economical variant.

The new COMAND Online with a DVD changer offers a 6-disc DVD changer.

New online services for COMAND Online

Since the launch of COMAND Online in the new SLK and the facelifted C-Class, there have been three Mercedes-Benz Apps available to customers:

- For calling up weather forecasts and maps,

- For the Local Search from Google, displaying Google Street View images,

- Plus Google Panoramio photos, with the option of searching for destinations in the extensive Google archives.

All COMAND Online users also have access to a Facebook app.

Mercedes-Benz is launching additional new apps with the new SL: as well as a free news app and a Yelp app (in the US version only), there are MB Apps for share prices and also a car-park finder:

- With the news app the user is always kept updated on events. Sorted according to various categories such as financial or sports news, it always finds the latest bulletins from around the world.

- The Yelp app (in the US version only) enables users to search for restaurants from the vehicle. This function uses the social database filled by the Yelp Community. The Yelp app offers a selection according to various restaurant categories within which it is possible to search for the best locations at the current position, at the destination or at a position one chooses.

- The new app which searches for car parks calls up the current occupancy of multi-storey car parks in real time, as well as other information such as opening times and charges. The app supplies data in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. If a suitable parking opportunity has been found, the driver can start the navigation to that destination or call the telephone number stored.

The aerials are no longer visible

The new Mercedes-Benz SL no longer has any visible aerials. The aerial structures for the radio and TV reception are housed in the windscreen. The concomitant aerial amplifiers are located in the area of the A-pillar. The aerials for the telephone and GPS/Navigation are discreetly integrated in the hybrid boot lid.

New Digital Owner’s Manual

For the first time Mercedes-Benz is equipping the new SL with a Digital Owner’s Manual. The driver can use it to call up information on operating their vehicle via the COMAND Online system and view it there on the screen.

The new SL’s Digital Owner’s Manual has decisive advantages over a printed version:

- All the information is available immediately.

- It is quick and convenient to search for certain information

- There are various options available for performing a search – by inputting a key word, via the index or via the virtual depiction of a vehicle

Mercedes-Benz supplements the Digital Owner’s Manual for the SL with a reduced printed edition which contains the fundamental steps for reliable operation of the vehicle. Not to be forgotten is the fact that as only around 280 printed pages are included as opposed to more than 580 previously, approximately half a kilo in weight is saved.

Credits: Daimler AG

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