Case In Point: THX on Wheels
The Center Channel Challenge
Unlike high end sound systems in other vehicles, you may never know what components are actually behind the speaker grille or under the rear deck, where the DSP unit and 12-channel, 600W amplifier live. Instead, THX assists in the design process, supplying a set of specifications, then helps Ford test the system to make sure the specs are met. These specs include frequency response, audio output at reference levels, measured distortion at reference levels and more. The end result is an overall clean sound that’s fairly neutral, though you can tweak bass, treble and other settings.
The audio system is available in two different configurations: stereo and full 5.1 channel surround sound with built in DVD player. If you opt for the surround sound system, you can enable DTS Neural Surround, which takes a stereo music signal and synthesizes a 5.1 channel mix.
One of the big challenges when building 5.1 system into a car is the center channel speaker. THX wanted a real center channel, not a virtualized one. Ford balked, believing that a true center channel would be too bulky for the space available in the center of the dashboard.
Thus, the slot speaker was born. PC users with refined audio tastes may know about THX designed slot speakers – the THX certified Razer Mako speakers use them in the satellites. But the slot speaker was originally designed for automotive use. That low profile design allowed THX and Ford to embed an actual center channel speaker in the dash.
One of the other aspects of a 5.1 system is the “.1” – a true subwoofer that can handle LFE (low frequcney extension) effects. The MKT has an 8-inch, long throw subwoofer in the back of the vehicle near the rear door. Tweeters are built into the right and left windshield columns, and the midrange drivers are built into the doors.