MP3 files may sound fine through your earbuds, but route it through a car's audio system, and the insulated cabin makes it all too easy to hear the wan bass line, the whiny middle range, and the absence of subtler bits, crushed under MP3's path of compressive destruction.
Harman, the audio and infotainment company, has an answer: a new technology called Clari-Fi, which analyzes a file in real time and replaces a surprising amount of the quality lost through MP3 compression.
Harman emphasizes that Clari-Fi will tailor the correction to the music. The company claims this approach differentiates Clari-Fi from other solutions, which just slap some stuff at the top and the bottom without looking too closely otherwise.
I previewed this technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. As I sat in a well-insulated room, nattily dressed Harman executives played an MP3 file, first in its regular, lossy form, and then with the Clari-Fi technology (then called Signal Doctor) enhancing the sound. With Clari-Fi doing its thing, the song sounded fuller and richer. I had the same experience in a demo car Harman had outfitted for the show.
Soon you'll be able to hear the difference for yourself. Clari-Fi debuts in the Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System that will be available in the new Lexus NX crossover, just unveiled on April 20th at the Beijing Auto Show. When this car makes it to showrooms (at an as-yet unannounced time), you can hop in, connect your phone, and give it a listen. Even if you don't plan to buy a Lexus, you can hear what the future holds and keep an ear out for Clari-Fi in more audio products.