In certain circles, your car is only as good as its audio system, and while we would suggest that anyone who would poke fun at your busted, 30-year-old Blaupunkt tape deck is most certainly not your friend, there’s something to be said for a premium aural experience. That’s why Ford Motor Company started partnering with Harman’s B&O PLAY brand – an offshoot of premium Danish electronics company Bang & Olufsen – in order to deliver top-notch audio quality in certain newer models.
If you read this site regularly, you probably already knew about that. What you may not have known is the great lengths to which Ford and Harman are going to craft audio systems custom-tailored to each specific vehicle model, devoting up to 1,200 hours of work over the course of 24 months to refine the placement and calibration of speakers until everything is just so.
To tune a B&O PLAY audio system for a given Ford vehicle, a selection of expert, Harman-trained listeners prepare by undergoing a five-minute loop experiencing 30-second clips of music from all genres in an acoustically-isolated reference room. They keep an ear out for things like high-frequency, midrange, and bass presence; how well musical instruments are reproduced; vocal tone qualities; image location; and plenty more. Then, they hop into the development vehicle and experience the same loop, grading the system on the same criteria and relaying their scores to Ford.
At the same time, these expert listeners are also keeping watch for any unseemly abnormalities like buzzing or distortion from a particular interior piece, reporting that back to vehicle engineers.
Based on this information, engineers from Ford and Harman figure out the ideal arrangement and tuning of speakers to provide a premium listening experience.
“You can look at speaker measurements and architecture details to try and determine how best to tune a car’s audio system, but that doesn’t tell the full story,” says Ford SUV Marketing Manager Michael O’Brien. “Using trained human listeners is what makes the EcoSport and Expedition audio systems deliver tailored but consistently high-quality audio that can help customers look forward to every drive.”