Factory car audio systems are no doubt getting more complicated. The evolution of OEM audio systems has come a long way over the years – integrating navigation, voice control, Bluetooth capability and more. Adding aftermarket components is increasingly difficult since they typically have to be integrated into the complex, factory system.
One thing nearly every OEM system can benefit from is added bass, but fitting a large subwoofer into your vehicle might not be feasible. Rockford Fosgate believes they have the solution with their new IBeam.
Announced at the 2009 CES show, the Rockford Fosgate IBeam is a tactile transducer that transmits bass vibrations to your body rather than pressurizing the surrounding air like a subwoofer. Basically, the IBeam vibrates to bass audio tones like what you might feel if you put your hand on a subwoofer or the side of a sub enclosure.
Some of the IBeam’s features include:
• No enclosure needed… Just plug and play
• U.S. Patent #7,402,922
• Mounts in any position and can be completely hidden/covered
• Can be used with/without traditional subwoofer
• Small size allows installation in any vehicle
• Accurately energizes listeners auditory cortex without pressurizing air
• Transmits information via bone harmonics and other direct stimulus routes
• Reduced noise pollution over conventional transducers
• Frequency Response 20Hz – 800Hz
I recently took the IBeam for a test drive in a 2005 Saleen Mustang. The Saleen was already equipped with an aftermarket amp sending about 500 watts to a trunk mounted 12” subwoofer, so I had a good baseline to compare the IBeam to.
The IBeam needs to be securely mounted to the metal frame of your seat. You can install it under the driver or passenger seat, but the seat with the IBeam will feel it the most. About the size of a small box of tissues, the IBeam is small enough to fit under pretty much any seat. I installed the IBeam under the passenger seat since it was the most accessible for me.
The IBeam hooks up just like a speaker and requires no additional power. I simply disconnected the speaker wires from the subwoofer and hooked them up to the terminals on the IBeam.
The difference was immediately felt. The seat with the IBeam transmitted an incredible feeling of bass throughout my body. Surprisingly, the vibrations were far more accurate than I thought they would be, much like a quality subwoofer. Moving over to the driver’s seat significantly diminished the feeling, so if you plan on sharing the “thump” you’ll need to install an IBeam under both front seats.
The overall feeling was not exactly like a subwoofer though. I could feel the bass much more than actually hearing it, which I believe is the intention of the IBeam. Diehard audiophiles won’t find the IBeam an adequate replacement to a subwoofer, but it certainly adds something new and unique to a good audio system. If are upgrading a quality OEM system with decent low-end (BMW 7-series, Audi S8, Lexus, etc.), the IBeam would be a viable solution that can be easily hidden.
If you have a full aftermarket system with a good subwoofer, I’d still give the IBeam a try. After running the IBeam on its own, I decided to test it along with the subwoofer. To me, this is where the IBeam really started to show off. It was incredibly fun. The IBeam added the chest pounding exciting of standing front row at a live concert while the subwoofer added the audible tones the IBeam was missing.
Credit has to be given to Rockford Fosgate. They are thinking outside the box with the IBeam. Although it won’t add the missing bass a crappy OEM audio system craves, it will add something very special to an already decent system. Once you experience the “feeling” of bass in your car from the IBeam, you’ll wonder how you’ve lived this long without it.
The Rockford Fosgate IBeam should start shipping April 2009 with a retail price of about $450.