On the Road Again

Driving from Las Vegas to LA, I had to stop and get a picture of my favorite highway sign, which marks the exit to Zzyzx, California, an unincorporated settlement in San Bernardino County and the former site of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa that is now occupied by the California State University Desert Studies Center. My ride was a 2010 Lincoln MKZ on loan from THX so I could evaluate the car's THX-certified multichannel sound system. I played a wide variety of music on CD and DVD-Audio, including jazz, classical, and rock as well as two CDs I recorded—one with my wife, Joanna Cazden, and the other with my avant-garde trio Many Axes.

As in previous incarnations I've heard, the system sounded great, with one glaring exception—it was way too bass-heavy at the default settings. The system only offers bass and treble tone controls (I have long wished for a useful graphic EQ with more than 1-octave bands), but turning the bass down almost all the way and increasing the treble somewhat improved the overall sound quality quite a bit. And it can play LOUD without audible distortion, a hallmark of THX car-audio systems. Once I had the tone controls dialed in, it provided an excellent soundtrack for my trek across the gorgeous desert landscape.

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CJLA's picture

Hi Scott, When I was younger I cut my teeth in car audio prior to being a custom integrator. As good as car audio has become, I've never heard a system that truly puts the DRIVER'S seat balanced into the center. I would have axpected by now that some company like Audyssey would have created a larger sweet spot to do this. In my mind this would represent a true leap forward since 90% of the time it's just the driver in the car listening to the tunes... But then again I don't drive around in high end cars, so perhaps there is already a system out there signed-up w/a specific car manufacturer?

Oscar Worthy, DDS's picture

Scott, any idea who makes the speakers themselves for the Lincoln THX? Isn't it funny how systems try to demonstrate their strength by the capability of the subwoofer alone? I guess the default Lincoln THX settings are designed to WoW!(old school THX Laserdisc pun intended) the buyer. Is there an integrated DVD system in there for movies, and if so how did it sound? With regards to the above, it's pretty difficult even with DSP to create a driver centered persective to the listening experience as you are so far to the side of the cabin and with the inherent speaker positioning---like listening to your home theater on the far left side of the couch. I have the Dynaudio system with PLII in my Volvo XC90 and even it places the sound centered above the dashboard, but it sounds great. There's only so much sweet spot, in audio or in golf.

The Audio Dufus's picture

Doctor, is it true that I need to floss daily, or is that just to sell more floss?

Oscar Worthy, DDS's picture

I will tell you what my father told me...you only have to clean the teeth that you want to keep. Hope that answers your question. Keep on keeping me in business.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Oscar, THX doesn't reveal the suppliers of its components. Regarding the balance, the THX car-audio system of a couple of years ago had DSP presets, including one for a driver-centered perspective, and it worked surprisingly well. For some reason I can't understand, they removed this feature in later model years, including the 2010. You can use the manual balance and fade controls to achieve much the same goal, though as you point out, it's really tough to get it right in a car. BTW, I just learned that this model year is the first to use DTS Neural Surround to upmix 2-channel recordings to multichannel. No wonder my CDs sounded so good!

Oscar Worthy, DDS's picture

One last question, does the system have video for the back for a mobile movie THX system? I've been talking that that would be fun since high school. If so, I would rather someone else drive, so that I can watch a show instead. With THX's lofty goals for reproduction carrying over to the car, I bet it did sound great.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

The system can play DVD video, but only on the front-seat screen (the only screen in the car), and only when the car is not moving so as not to distract the driver. It's not meant to be a mobile video system. The music did sound great once I toned down the bass.

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