Kevin Voecks really likes to listen.
As the manager of product development for Home and Luxury Audio Group at Harmon Kardon, he’s spent the past 19 years perfecting his proverbial “craft beer” of elite sound systems: Revel.
After each of Voecks’ different home models was named best in class by audiophile press far and wide, the time came for a change in venue: a bigger challenge.
“We’ve always wanted to be in an automobile,” Voecks says, “but it had to be with somebody who would give us more flexibility than had happened in the industry before, because we insist on high-quality results. Lincoln was looking for a partner that was obsessed, as we are, with quality—with sound quality.”
It was a perfect match.
Lincoln was looking for a partner that was obsessed, as we are, with sound quality.
The Revel audio system is so deeply integrated into the design of the 2016 Lincoln MKX that Voecks has been stationed in the same room with the vehicle designers since the clay modeling stage, making sure that everything from the interior, to the doors, and even the grille was crafted with acoustics in mind.
He’s the best person to talk to about the groundbreaking sound system, and he walked us through some of the challenges that he worked to overcome with Revel’s most noteworthy features.
The Problem: Car audio systems have major design constraints.
In most car sound systems, the part of the speaker that produces high frequencies like drum cymbals (known as the tweeter), and the part of the speaker that produces middle frequencies like most vocals (known as the mid-range) are too far apart from each other. This muddies the quality and, as Voecks so eloquently explains, “squashes any hopes of good sound right there.”
Revel’s point-source technology places the tweeter and mid-range right next to each other, creating a much crisper sound. That’s a rare attribute in automotive: typically the cabin design requires that these speakers be spaced further apart.
“Getting that right was an essential thing,” Voecks says, “I guess other automakers won’t bend to do that, but Lincoln was willing to do exactly what we needed.”
In fact, the cabin design was taken back to square one, and was rebuilt from the ground-up to accommodate the new audio system.
The Problem: Your surround sound doesn’t surround you very well.
Surround sound systems produce a more engaging listening experience because they encircle the listener with speakers and enable sound imaging, but most of your modern digital music wasn’t compressed with the intent to be played on systems that enable this.
Quantum Logic Surround:
Listeners rejoice. The Revel and Revel Ultima systems have 12 and 19-speaker systems, respectively. Both systems come equipped with an exciting feature called Quantum Logic Surround—a sci-fi sounding name that simply refers to Revel’s ability to take standard compressed records and make them sound gorgeous on a surround system.
In the past, this has only been possible by sacrificing sound quality.
“QLS is the first technology that actually extracts things like reverb, or echo, from the original music and places it where it belongs, in the cabin. (This is a) big difference from just adding some reverb and sending it to the back.”
Both Revel systems offer three unique listening experiences:
1. Surround Sound
2. Audience Mode
3. On-Stage Mode
“You have a choice of traditional stereo, the audiophile standard; or what we call ‘Audience Mode,’ that does a very effective job in making you feel as if you’re in the best seat. There’s also a fun mode called ‘On-Stage’ where you feel like you’re on stage and the singer is very intimate with you.”
The Problem: Your MP3’s sound flat.
When audio is compressed—most commonly in mp3 files or satellite radio—quality is lost. The dimension of sound that you’d hear in the recording studio takes a hit.
Clari-fi, Revel Ultima’s patented new feature, detects this compression and brings the audio back from the dead.
“It’s completely automatic for the user. So when there’s a lower quality source like satellite radio or lower bitrate MP3’s, it engages and is able to really, dramatically improve the sound quality. It can’t make it perfect, but it’s a very, very nice improvement.”
Voecks is incredibly humble for a man who has achieved the unimaginable: successfully integrating better sonic quality than most audiophiles have ever experienced into a highway-commuting, family-transporting, four-wheeled enclosure. If you’re not an audiophile already, you’re about to be.
Translated—your music is going to sound really, really good.
We exist to preserve the intent of the artist, to recreate the performance as purely as it was recorded
“We exist to preserve the intent of the artist, to recreate the performance as purely as it was recorded.”
When pressed, he said, simply, “It’s really worth experiencing.”