Yet another esteemed audio brand has found its way into the
automotive market. In a press event staged Tuesday at Harman International
headquarters in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, pro/consumer audio company
Lexicon teamed up with its new partner Hyundai to introduce the new
Discrete-Surround Audio System for the new 2009 Hyundai Genesis.
Lexicon’s known for elite professional reverb units and
ultra-expensive home theater surround-sound processors. To an automotive
know-nothing like me, it came as a shock to find such a high-end audio brand
mingling with a car brand I think of as low-end. But the Genesis is a real
luxury ride; a fully loaded model costing more than $40,000.
Like the Mark Levinson system found in certain Lexus models,
the Lexicon system is the creation of Harman’s huge OEM car audio division,
which is responsible for roughly 75% of the company’s revenue. The differences
between them are that the Lexicon system focuses more on surround sound. And
each system was designed specifically for the car it inhabits.
The Lexicon system incorporates 17 drivers mounted in seven
different positions: front left, center, and right; side left and right; and
rear left and right. To make the doors work as efficient speaker cabinets,
Hyundai sealed them entirely. Lexicon further enhanced the acoustics by
mounting the drivers in solid metal baffles, rather than the usual plastic. A
six-disc DVD/CD changer and an AM/FM tuner provide the material.
There’s a basic Lexicon system that doesn’t have discrete
surround sound, and a higher-end system with discrete surround that’s part of a
$4,000 technology package. The high-end package includes a navigation system,
HD Radio, Bluetooth, an iPod dock (which lets you browse the iPod’s tunes on
the main screen), and other goodies.
The event gave the assembled journalists a chance to play
with the audio systems in a few Genesises equipped with the full-boat Lexicon
package. This may have been the most compelling car sound demo I’ve yet heard.
The various channels were beautifully integrated, delivering a satisfying
surround effect in both the front and back seats. The tonal balance sounded
even and smooth, with none of the rough (or too-smooth) edges I expect from car
audio. And the 8-inch rear subwoofer cranked out impressive impact when we
played the Minority Report DVD.
As if we needed further convincing, classic rockers Jack
Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees) and Tommy Shaw (Styx, Damn Yankees) were on
hand to confirm that the Lexicon system sounded like it was supposed to when we
played cuts from their latest Shaw-Blades CD, Influence. —Brent Butterworth
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