Audi gives Sonos its first in-car audio victory in the new Q4 e-tron EV

Audi and Sonos have quietly teamed up on in-car audio, the connected speaker company’s first foray into the automotive industry, with the technology first appearing in the new all-electric Q4 e-tron crossover. Audi previewed the interior of the new EV earlier this week, along with its augmented reality heads-up display, but it was a few underground Sonos logos on the speaker grilles that caught the eye.

The Q4 e-tron will be Audi’s smallest vehicle in the North American e-tron EV lineup, at least for now. A compact SUV, this is Audi’s first model to use the VW Group’s all-electric MEB platform, something the automaker is expected to exploit not only for features like all-wheel drive, but also for a great price. lower compared to previous e-tron models. who have skewed towards luxury space.

Final images of the electric crossover’s exterior have yet to be released, only with the Q4 e-tron in camouflage, but Audi has shown a significant gallery of images of the interior. They flaunt features like the new AR HUD, which will be optional, and the new infotainment touchscreen that can be configured up to 11.6 inches. Audi will also offer both traditional fabrics like leather for its seats and animal-free versions using textiles.

However, Protocol’s eagle eyes spotted a familiar logo on the speaker grilles. While the Audi Q5 SUV offers an optional Bang & Olufsen audio system, as available on most of the automaker’s models, the Q4 e-tron has Sonos speakers instead.

Sonos CEO Patrick Spence confirmed the partnership at an investor event on March 9. He has expressed in the past his desire to expand the business beyond the home and into new markets, in a more ambitious way than current Sonos portable speakers like Move and the newly announced Roam. Indeed, he pointed out to investors, a significant portion of the money spent on audio equipment is devoted to on-board systems.

“Like we said, we want to be in all of the different categories of audio, and therefore one of the big ones – if you think about the $ 90 billion that is spent on audio every year – a lot of that is. in the car, ”Spence explained. “We are therefore delighted that our first partnership to bring our sound experience to automobiles is with Audi and the Q4 e-tron. You’ll be seeing a lot more about this very soon, so stay tuned for more. ”

Neither Audi nor Sonos have said exactly how the EV’s system might differ from other in-car audio systems. In the B&O system of other Audi models, for example, it was the Danish company’s 3D sound technology that was implemented, with the upgrade package including more speakers in the cabin and a beefier amplifier. According to Spence, however, we could expect more from what Sonos has in mind.

“The way we think of all of this is, how do we bring that holistic experience, right, into new areas of audio? So you saw him today with Roam, ”he explained. “In thinking about this product, how can we make sure that it’s not like so many products that have gone out and are thrown in a drawer and forgotten? We want to build it in a way that it’s really easy for people to get it involved. And we do it by creating and inventing technology like Sound Swap, which allows you to easily move music. ”

Sound Swap is a new system developed by Sonos, to link the functionality of the Roam portable speaker when it moves between Bluetooth and WiFi modes. In the first case, it connects directly to a Bluetooth device – such as a smartphone or tablet – but when it moves within range of a WiFi network on which a Sonos speaker system is installed, press and hold the “play” button will automatically switch the current audio to the nearest Sonos speaker. The system also works backwards, says Sonos.

“And while we’ve been thinking about the automobile, thinking about how it connects to the system and how we make it easy for customers, that’s really what we think,” continued Spence. “Not all of that will happen in the first iteration as we go through this, but every category of audio that we get into, we want to bring that unique experience, that unique connectivity that we talked about. So we see the automotive industry doing the exact same thing over time, and we love to get started with Audi. They are very innovative on this front and ready to experiment. So at first, but you can expect us to think about it and bring our connectivity to all areas of audio. ”

It’s not hard to speculate on what this sort of Sonos “connectivity” might look like in an automotive situation. Being able to seamlessly transition from playing audio from the home Sonos speakers to the car when you need to leave the house, for example, and then doing the same in reverse when you return, is a possibility.

Meanwhile, Sonos products like Sonos Radio – its free music streaming platform – and the subscription-based Sonos Radio HD version that adds quality and removes advertising would be obvious additions to the car. Currently, they’re only available for playback on Sonos speakers over WiFi, but with all recent Audi models offering built-in cellular data connections, the ability to stream to a vehicle would make sense.