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September 2, 2019

This is How Mazda Made Their Stock Speakers Sound Better than a Bose

Mazda prides itself at the attention to detail they’ve bestowed on the 2020 Mazda3. It’s come to a point where things like wipers and door hinges didn’t escape scrutiny. But one of their proudest achievements in the all-new Mazda3 is how their engineers managed to make the standard 8-speaker sound system sound better than its predecessor’s Bose system.

Program Manager Koichiro Yamaguchi explained that the “ideal audio system” is hard to quantify. So, with the all-new Mazda3, they opted to focus on two things: enabling the occupants to listen to sound at their preferred volume, and reproduce sound that’s true to the sound source. With that, the team actually started working on an ideal speaker layout even before the engine and chassis were finalized; it’s one, Mazda says, is unique from any other audio manufacturer.

Yamaguchi-san says good sound is determined primarily by how humans hear. With that, two factors are at play: the car’s NVH, and the speakers’ ability to produce a wide range of sound.

The first is addressed by reducing the number of required holes around the body, adopting 10 damping nodes to control any unwanted NVH, and decreasing sound reflection by using the headliner and even floor mats (yes, Mazda doesn’t recommend that you replace the OE floor mats now).

The second one is trickier, but Yamaguchi-san and his team found the solution by looking at how resonance affects sound. The breakthrough happened when the figured to move the door speaker to the cowl. Because the Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture gives them space to implement this layout, they’re able to produce a more powerful, tighter sound quality while also eliminating any rattling in the door. Next, they moved the mid-high range speaker from the upper dashboard to the upper door area removing any reflection to produce a more accurate tone and clarity.

These changes enabled Mazda develop a standard sound system that matches, or even for some, surpasses the performance of the previous model’s Bose sound system. While he did reveal that the speakers themselves are manufactured by Pioneer, they’re not off-the-shelf components; rather, they are specially designed for the Mazda3.

With such great strides done to the standard Mazda Harmonic Acoustics speakers, the company’s official term), what would an owner expect from the Bose sound system. Standard on the 2.0 Premium and Speed models, it comes with four additional speakers (for a total of 12) over the standard set. For Yamaguchi-san is offers expanded liveliness and reinforced low pitch thanks to the addition of two satellite speakers, a center speaker upfront, and a sub-woofer at the back.

Mazda’s human-centric approach has definitely produced a speaker system worth writing about. By studying how people perceive sound, they’ve upped their “sound” game even with the standard, often nameless audio system. It’s also great news therefore that the Mazda3’s infotainment system can take full advantage of this human-centric approach by being able to play high-def music files like FLAC along with the standard MP3, WMA, AAC, and OGG formats. Oh, it can play videos too.

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