Mobile Home Theater

This is the first of a three part series where I get to write about two of my favorite things that I never get to write about: audio and cars. As more and more audio companies get out of the house, we’ll see more and more of this cross-pollination.

THX II Certified Car Audio System and the Lincoln MKX

In most ways, the Lincoln MKX is pretty typical of sport utility vehicles of late. It’s pretty big, heavy, and has a certain “I’m here!” look to it. There’s a fair amount of chrome, but certainly not as much as some others. Perhaps not as typical are a V6 engine (most have V8s), a stepped on jelly bean sort of look, and a high end audio system option. The $995 price for the aural upgrade isn’t bad, and far less than some audio system upgrades.

The MKX was the second Ford product that THX designed from scratch, the first being the Zephyr (now called the MKZ). THX head guru Laurie Fincham praised the Lincolns for one aspect that makes any car audio designer’s life easier; they’re quiet.

Every car audio speaker system is approached in different ways, as every car, company, and designer is different. THX and Ford looked at the fact that most media played back in a car is just 2-channel. That, and the fact that surround sound can sound very odd to the people in the back, drove (yes, a pun) them to design the MKZ system as 2.1. From scratch it was also made to maximize the bandwidth, so it can play both deep and high cleanly.

The 2.1 configuration doesn’t mean there isn’t a center channel. A specially designed slot speaker was integrated into the dash. This so the stereo sound doesn’t get pinned to the doors. There are three modes: “Driver,” “All Seats,” and “Front.” Depending on the mode the center channel gets activated to even out the mix. “Driver” centralizes the balance so the driver gets the best sound. “All Seats” spreads the sound so it’s as good as it can be for everyone. The sound spreads more to the doors, but there is a fullness that “Driver” doesn’t have. “Front” does as you’d expect, sounding a lot like “All Seats,” minus the fill from the rear. I found “All Seats” to sound the best overall with most material.

The speakers themselves are mostly in the doors. A 1-inch tweeter is in front of the door handle, and a 5x7 mid-woofer is a little below. The dash has that special slot center channel, which is a 1-inch tweeter and a 2.75-inch midrange. The back doors house a 5x7 two-way. The subs are located on the sides of the trunk. Like many of the new car audio systems, the rear 1.5-inch rear speakers are up out of the way (and aimed towards the passenger compartment) on the D-pillars.

The MKX’s 12-channel (one for each speaker) amp has integrated DSP. It has built in limiters to reduce clipping, or very occasionally for heat.

The sound is quite good. There is no boomy bass, easily the most trite and annoying trend in car audio. THX succeeded in their goal for bandwidth, as the entire frequency range is readily audible. Well, at least it sounds that way, I couldn’t measure the frequency response. The treble is clear, but not harsh. Bass is not quite as defined as some car audio systems, but isn’t bad. There is plenty of volume capabilities.

Is it worth it?
It’s odd reviewing car audio, as for most readers here, they’ll probably upgrade the audio system regardless. So instead, what if you’re in the market for one of these types of vehicles. Is this one more or less worth it because of the audio? Well, yes and no. The audio system is quite good, and its integration into the electronics of the vehicle can’t be duplicated by any aftermarket installer. Here’s where my hobby intersects with my job. I just can’t see why anyone would buy this car. It’s an excellent example of the mediocrity of current Ford vehicles. I will grant that I would never buy an SUV, but as far as SUVs go, there are far better. The inside of the MKX has miles of plasticy crap. The engine is fairly torquey, and makes nice sounds, but the driving experience is mundane even for an SUV. There is little wrong with the MKX, it’s just not very good. Hopefully THX will be able to put their substantial experience and talent into a system in a decent car. Oh, wait, they do…

Lincoln MKX $34,120
THX II Certified Car Audio System $995

Coming up next, Mark Levinson and Lexus LS

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COMMENTS
Bruce's picture

I love that last sentence. Thing that also struck me funny is the upgrade was only $995. My 97' Eldo had an upgrade that was $1500 and all you got was DSP, a feature I never use on my Bose system. I love that cars are getting better in the audio department though. There's a big difference from my 77' 280Z, which its original tape deck still works by the way, and my Caddy. I can't wait for Carputers/CarPCs to get installed factory or aftermarket versions get better. Oh, and you are so right about Lincoln. They are a joke, lol, and I work at a Ford/Lincoln/Mercury Dealership. Is there going to be a Coach on your list?

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

The push-button radio in my '75 914 worked too...till I ripped it out. Hard drives in cars is a dicey idea, as regular hard drives hate motion. Solid state drives, on the other hand, should be fine. I think some company has a hard drive in a car already, but I don't recall which one. Perhaps that will be Apple's next big thing, the iCar.

Bruce's picture

Yeah, a Mac Mini will fit in the dash easily. Just for the love of God would they stop with the iStuff. Maybe its ok for Apple to do it since they started it, but everyone else doing the same is just plain dumb and annoying. There are companies that make carPCs that fit in a single/dual din slot or in the trunk. I know they have fanless heat syncs but I don't know what hard drives they use. Samsung came out with that 64gig piece of sweetness that can read 64 mb/s, write 45 mb/s. Four of those would be sufficient, for now. The new CTS has a 40 gig hard drive. 20 for GPS, 20 for music.I have got to learn more about getting the internet in the car. With internet radio/television, GPS, and whatever else would be nice to have. Plus, I'm not a fan of satellite radio. We have it at work and I have more music on my computer than they ever play. They repeat the same songs 2 to 3 times a shift. That's just wrong. So might as well just save my money and listen to what I have on a hard dr

bruce's picture

last word was drive obviously. I did double space between paragraphs so it wouldn't all run together. Sorry, guess it didn't transfer.

Bruce's picture

I wish we could comment on your news and reviews like we can here. I just read your "1080p Projector Rodeo" and am in full agreement with you on projectors. I see a 6k plasma and a 5k projector and there is only one choice for me. I love that huge screen. Of course, I don't know how much longer my wife is going to let me keep our livingroom a cave for. One day, I will have a basement for my theater. Anyway, I was wondering about screen size for high def. For example, when people email pictures to you from a 1.3 meg cell phone and from a 8.0 meg digital camera there is a particular size each one looks good in. If you zoom in too close you really start seeing the nasty pixels. So for a projector at 1080p, is there a particular size that is its correct native intention. I've heard that 42" and within 10' is when you can actually see the difference between HD and standard. Your review was the first time I read an "expert" using a screen bigger than my 106". I

Bruce's picture

I can't tell right now if mine is too big because I have not made the jump yet to HD. Hopefully very soon I will. I do know that for DVD it is too big. You can definately tell there is a need for HD on that big of screen. Thanks for all the help you and everyone else has been on helping me find the right gear for my home.

Hank's picture

The review should have focused only on the audio system and left out the amateurish editorializing on the car itself. Frankly I'm tired of magazine reviewers who trendily extoll foreign cars and just as trendily bash the domestics without applying any kind of objective criteria to judge the substantive differences (of which there are few). Every mainstream automobile today has a plastic interior, so calling the Lincoln's interior "plasticy crap" is a meaningless statement. I do business with all the major Tier 1 automotive interior suppliers, who supply complete interiors to both foreign and domestic brands, often out of the same plant and the same production lines. They use the same grade of materials and same techniques of design and manufacturing regardless of the final application.

Bruce's picture

Hank, your ignorance is showing. I am all for American cars. I love my Cadillacs and my Corvettes. But Lincolns are a joke. This MKX is nothing but a rebadged Edge. The Lincoln Mark LT is the biggest joke. It's a stinkin' F150, or what we at the Ford Dealership call the Ford Fiso, with different tags. The motor, frame, suspension, body are all the same. When you go from a Tahoe to an Escalade, there is a world of difference. Granted the first Escalades weren't, but they are now. All domestic cars aren't the best though. The Vette may be the most bang for the buck, but what domestic compares to a Bugatti or even Benz. Don't get me started on the love for Toyotas and their Hybrids. That Prius does hardly anything to help the environment. If people really cared they would take a bus, subway or ride a bike. Making a car get a couple more mpg's than a Corolla has very very little affect on anything. Make a useful vehicle, truck/suv, more efficient than you have accomplished

Bruce's picture

continued... at least something. GM's Hybrid buses will save more fuel and cut down more harmful gases and CO2 than all of those Toy' Pods will. Of course, I'm not much on all this hooplah about CO2 causing Global Warming. In the seventies, they said we were heading for another ice age. Then in the nineties we were warming. Now some say we are cooling again. Can we accept that maybe the Earth goes through cycles already? Oh, throw out the fact that the sun has been having more solar flares lately and Mars and Mercury have shown warming too. Must be all the SUVs they are using. Ok, I have vented. I feel better.

Danny's picture

Whereas once I was blind, now I see. You have my deepest condolences Mr. Morrison.

Greg's picture

Off Topic- plamsa t.v question. Geoff, I was thinking about buying a 50" Panny until I was blown away by the 58. Two questions. Do the smaller t.v.'s have better processing? Do I lose anything by going bigger? Second, Are the plasmas becoming more technologically advanced whereby you can violate the distance rule to a certain extent? I'm not sure I'll be able to be the 11-12' away.

Bruce's picture

Hey Greg, Take a look at Pioneer's new KURU line of plasmas. Geoffrey talked about them a while ago before they came out here: http://blog.hometheatermag.com/geoffreymorrison/051007pioneer/ The sister site for here is UltimateUV and if you look at their listings for plasmas they only list Pioneer as the Ultimate choice. I don't think they really can be beat and they are reasonably priced, well I don't know about the Elite models yet, but the Pioneers are. Of course, I would still recommend a projection screen because they are comparible in price with flat screens and you get so much more.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

Bruce:
There is no specific size, it has to do with the distance you are from the screen. Scroll a few pages into the blog and you

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

Greg:
Within the same line, the different sizes probably have the same processing. With a 1080p display, you can sit pretty close before you start to see pixels. So close, in fact, that you

Bruce's picture

"Hank:Your own biases are showing. I can say with total confidence that I know more about cars than you do." Wow, I have to say I didn't expect this sentence, but I love it. I know when I was a teacher and one of my students would come up and say they didn't understand a math problem, in my head I was like, "well, that's because you are an idiot." But you can't say those things. I guess those rules don't apply here. Good stuff. Anyways, thanks for the direction to gearworks. Didn't see that before. Very helpful. I'm on auto blogs and sites more than I am here and I agree with you some but you have to admit, domestic cars are getting better (excluding Lincoln). Look at the new Buick Enclave and Cadillacs. There is still room for improvement but they are much better than before and comparible with other auto makers. The Vette is in a class of its own though. Maybe not interior wise, but you cannot get more bang for the buck which helps us forgive it

Bruce's picture

Man, that counter doesn't work. (cont.) its mild shortcomings. Plus, my Lumina went to 226,000 miles and only died because of neglect to change the timing belt. And it was a 92' which is supposed to be GMs bad years. My theory on reliability is for nowadays, if you take care of your care, it will last longer than you will want to keep it.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

I don't know about getting better, but there are some gems in the mire. For every Corvette or CTS-V, there

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

I

Bruce's picture

I was over 30 characters under when I ended the last post that got cut off. No biggie though. "Where American car companies so often fail is that they just don

Bruce's picture

and ignoring any shortcomings of foreign cars. They make them to be perfect when they are not. Toyota's recall book now is huge compared to even Ford's. There are some nice domestics now and a lot of good foreign cars as well. Heck, Toyota has a huge luxury car with a V12 but you can only get it in Japan. There are so many cool cars we can't get here. I admit that gas mileage never has effected me. You will never see me in a Prius, Focus (no offense), or Metro. I like luxury, power, and speed. I love to drive and if it cost me more at the pump, so be it. I have no real loyalty to brand anymore, but I do like to see when a domestic comes out with a winner. Warms the heart.

Bruce's picture

Hey Geoffrey, check out the FT-SX under Toyota's future concept vehicles. It's an exact copy of the Ford Edge. Grant it, if Toyota puts it in production it may be a better vehicle but come on, what hacks. It has the same shape, same grille, even the same headlight design. It looks more like the Edge than Lincoln MKX. Toyotas are good vehicles, but they are so boring and unoriginal.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

My question is this: What is a foreign and what is domestic anymore? My "domestic" was built in Mexico, and many "imports" are built here. So wouldn't buying a Toyota be "Buying American?" in some cases?I guess it's all in who you want your money to support. Buying a US built Toyota will support the workers in that area, but also their foreign suits, while buying most "domestic" cars will support foreign workers and domestic suits.Doesn't matter to me, but it's just not as clear cut as some make it out to be.

Bruce's picture

True dat, lol. I found a site that told you the top ten cars that the majority of your money spent on them stayed in the US. #1 was the F150, #2 the Silverado, and #3 was the Camry. The Sienna even made it to #7. The big three, back when they were riding the great wave, were able to put a lot of money into their workers. Now that the tide is reseeding, it has really hurt them to stay competitive. They had talks though recently, so we will see what happens in Detroit. But yeah, I work at a Ford Dealership and about 1% of the parts I hand out are made in America. They are usually made in Mexico, Canada, Japan, or Germany. So, I saw the blog on posting. Too lazy to do the paragraph thing but if I send to that email address, does that go directly to you, or do I have to put an attention on it. This way I can ask questions when I need them, or talk cars, and leave only comments on the blogs.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

If you send it there, I'll read it.

Aron's picture

And after you get done with the Levinson/Lexus system, perhaps you could take a look at the Linn/Aston Martin combo - now that would be an interesting review!

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

I wish! One of my colleagues got to do just that, in the Scottish Highlands no less. It's a tough job...

Hank's picture

"Hank: Your own biases are showing. I can say with total confidence that I know more about cars than you do. Also, the fact that I am paid to do this means by definition not an amateur." Whether or not I as a reader have biases is a non sequitur regarding whether or not you have them as a reviewer. You can say whatever you want with total confidence and still be wrong. Since you don't know anything about me, your confidence is clearly unfounded and can be dismissed as braggadocio. I didn't say you are an amateur, but obviously it's possible to be a professional yet still deliver an amateurish result; just ask Lloyd Carr of Michigan about his coaching performance against Appalachian State this year.

Hank's picture

"How about interiors? Have you sat in a Volkswagen recently? Now compare that to a similarly priced GM." Hmm, VW is your standard-bearer for quality? Well, I realize that you're a self-proclaimed auto savant, but you might want to bop on over to jdpower.com and note that VW at #35 is dead last in the entire industry in brand quality. Yep. And "American crap" Lincoln is all the way up at #6, only one step behind #5 Jaguar (another Ford brand) and one step ahead of #7 Mercedes-Benz. Mercury, another "crappy" American Ford product, appears at #8, only one step behind Mercedes-Benz and one step ahead of perennial "quality-leader" Toyota at #9. Shocking, huh? Yeah, I guess driving a Porsche 914 means you're stuck in the '70s in more ways than one.

Hank's picture

"Hank, your ignorance is showing." Ad hominem."'Hank: Your own biases are showing. I can say with total confidence that I know more about cars than you do.' Wow, I have to say I didn't expect this sentence, but I love it." Sycophancy? Yuk, Bruce, please wipe Geoffrey's boot polish off your tongue.You guys seem to think I'm here to argue domestic vs foreign. OK, let's get that out of the way. My view is that American cars don't automatically stink and foreign cars aren't automatically wonderful. You can find examples of horrible design and quality from all brands regardless of national origin. You can also find very well-done vehicles from both domestic and offshore sources.My original point, still unrefuted: Geoffrey evinced unreasoned universal bias against American cars in the review, amply confirmed by his subsequent posts here, which rendered the review worthless to anyone wanting an objective take on the vehicle's sound system.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

Reviews are inherently subjective, a point completely lost on you, I'm sure. You don't agree with me, so therefore I must be wrong. An amusing and highly common sentiment in this anonymous internet world.

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