DEARBORN – What do Stevie Ray Vaughn’s tube amp, Suzanne Vega’s lip smack and Rihanna’s voice have in common? Recordings of these sounds were all used to help audio engineers set the sound stage inside the all-new Ford Escape.
The “buzz” in Stevie Ray Vaughn’s cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic “Little Wing” is from a single-coil pickup amplified by tubes. Ford audio engineers used this recording to evaluate tonal balance, ensure quality in the bass region, and to make sure there is a wide sound stage in the new Escape’s audio system. The lip smack in Suzanne Vega’s a cappella hit “Tom’s Diner” is used to check the center staging of the sound system, while Rihanna’s “S.O.S.” helps evaluate clean bass mixed with vocals and ensure there is nothing shrill in the tweeters.
“We tuned the audio system so that it sounds natural – as if you’re listening to music inside a theater rather than in your vehicle,” said Christine Templin, one of the audio engineers who tuned the Escape’s sound system.
Templin, who enjoys attending concerts in her free time, said the audio engineering team listens to everything from “rap to classical” to bring concert-like sound into Ford vehicles.
The audio engineers’ work is twofold: the objective portion, monitoring sound wave files on laptop computers hooked up to speakers within the vehicle; and the subjective portion, relying on human ears to fine-tune the quality of the system.
Templin explained how Jennifer Warnes’ recording of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” should give the listener a specific feeling.
“You should feel like you have been transported to a gloomy environment,” she said.
PJ Harvey’s “Electric Light” was used to make sure the instruments don’t modulate the vocals and the bass doesn’t shake the doors, Templin noted.
The Escape, which will be available to customers this spring, has three available audio systems: the standard six-speaker system, a nine-speaker system and a SONY®-branded 10-speaker system.
A ‘Best of’ Escape playlist
1. ZZ Top “La Grange” – Listen for the clean snare drum clicks, left and right rhythm guitars and strong bass guitar
2. Yello “The Race–Listen for a sensation of the car racing from right to left, and left to right. “It should sound spacious with transients of doors slamming,” Templin says”
3. Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side” – Listen for backup singers to move from far to near, testing image depth. Check for tonal balance and loud dynamics
4. Kenny Chesney “Summertime” – Listen for clean vocals, instruments should be clearly defined
5. Eminem “Remember Me” – Listen for loud dynamics, bass extension
6. Rihanna “S.O.S.” – Listen for tonal balance, clean bass, nothing shrill in the tweeters
7. Beyonce featuring Jay Z “Déjà Vu” – Listen for bass to be clean and even. Vocals should not break up or sound overly bright
8. Peter, Paul and Mary “I Have a Song to Sing O” – This is an old recording with vocals panned left-center-right in order to test staging and imaging. Voices should retain a natural timbre
9. Johnny Cash “Bird on a Wire” – This intimate recording (as if Cash were in his living room) tests tonal balance and spatial qualities. Vocals show a close-mike effect
10. Bruno Giuranna Mozart Piano Quartets 1 & 2,“Allegretto– Listen for a natural piano tone. Strings should be forward”