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Sunday
Jul262009

Sony sound overload

With its 12 speakers and 390 watts, you'd think the Ford Fusion Hybrid's optional Sony audio system would sound fantastic - and initially it really impresses with its powerful bass and ability to pump out the volume. 

I had not heard it before ordering my FFH because I ordered the car sight unseen to get under the wire for the $3400 tax credit on March 31.  A week or so later I was able to test drive a FFH at the dealer.  A big smile crossed my face as I hooked up my BlackBerry Pearl to the USB port and played some electronica with deep bass.

Nine weeks later my FFH was delivered.  The Sony continued to impress, but I didn't really focus on it because there was so much to learn about the new car.  Yet a sneaking disappointment was forming - the Sony just didn't sound clean and crystal clear like my old Audi Bose system.  It was tiring to listen to at anything over about 1/2 volume.

I tried fiddling with the settings.  I had hoped it would have a graphic equalizer but it only has bass and treble.  It also has left to right balance, front to rear fade, and "stereo" or "surround" modes.  The "surround" mode is selected automatically when playing a DVD with Dolby 5.1 surround sound - the Sony has 6 discrete channels of amplification for surround sound.  When playing stereo ( from the radio, via stereo bluetooth, from a CD or the Jukebox, or from the USB port), the surround mode simulates surround sound from the stereo signal using Dolby Pro Logic II. 

I couldn't decide between "stereo" and "surround" modes.  In "stereo" mode, the Sony sounds full and punchy with lots of bass and a solid, centered stereo image; yet it often sounds distorted and overblown in the bass, and overly bright in the highs.  In surround mode using Dolby Pro Logic II, it was easier to listen to but often sounded thin and diffuse, as if the mid bass had been sucked out; and the sound stage was ill-defined.

I listened to lots of music and decided that surround mode was doing odd things to the music and that stereo mode provided the rock solid sound I was looking for.  But stereo mode sounded too forward in the car, too bassy, and too bright - it made me tired to listen to it.  After lots of fiddling with the controls and comparing the sound to good headphones, I've decided on the following settings which seem more balanced and accurate:

"Stereo" mode - for a solid sound stage

Fader at "-1" - pulls the sound a little further back in the car and envelopes you more

Treble at "-1" - reduces listening fatigue while maintaining extended treble response

Bass at "-2" - reduces the overblown, distorted bass while maintaining good deep bass

Volume at "3/4" or less - too much volume and its tiring to listen to for any length of time

These settings are much easier on the ears and still sound great.  My guess is that Sony felt compelled to exaggerate the lows and highs to make the system sound impressive.  Too bad they couldn't have just gone for great, accurate sound!

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Reader Comments (15)

Wow, I have the same system in my Fusion SEL and while I'm not blown away by it I've got to say that I've never found the need to approach 1/2 volume, much less 3/4 or more! At those volume levels I imagine that the fatigue would be from my body telling me to stop doing it permanent damage. Seriously, though, it would be nice if the same settings could be used at all volumes without affecting the intensity and quality of the music.

July 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

Yeah, 3/4 is pretty loud! Just saying, that's generally the max for good listening. If you don't turn the bass & treble down the way I did, you would be way too loud before 3/4. These settings are for good listening at all levels.

July 27, 2009 | Registered CommenterBill Wood

Well I use Stereo Mode with Bass at +3 and Terble at +5 and it sounds perfect. It does sound a bit forward like you mentioned. Bass is crip and clean, but not overpowering. Much cleaner and crisper than the Harmon Kardon system in my old Land Rover.

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamooche

The FFH has power and range to spare, so it sounds better than most manufacturer systems out there. Just saying, for more accurate and less fatiguing sound, you've got to turn down bass and treble a bit. For "exciting" sound, turn them up!

July 29, 2009 | Registered CommenterBill Wood

I have the same system in the Fusion Sport model, with the navigation. I notice some weird EQ going on, some songs the bass is punchy and some not. Also, when the volume gets to about 3/4, it cuts most of the dynamic out of the EQ and it goes flat. Overall, one of the best factory systems I have experienced, and I appreciate the clarity in the highs.

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersvtenthusiast

That bass will punch you out! ;-) I find the bass gets distorted when played loud, also it is too prominent and punchy; turning it down helps a lot and keeps the deep bass too.

July 29, 2009 | Registered CommenterBill Wood

Hi, i am currently deciding between the Fusio Hybrid and the Camry Hybrid...both 2010 models. I have listened to the Camry's JBL system and found it to be pretty darn good. Has anyone listened and compared the two? How does the Camry JBL compare to the Fusion Sony??

Thanks in advance.

August 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThai

I've compared it to the Prius JBL system and the Sony is much better. The Prius is a hatchback though so there is no rear deck to put the subwoofer(s) on.

Generally the FFH is getting better reviews than the Camry, because of its better mileage, looks, driveability, and MS Sync system.

August 31, 2009 | Registered CommenterBill Wood

Here's a video showing the location of the 12 speakers in the Sony premium audio system.

September 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterBill Wood

Yeah, the JBL in the Prius sucks really bad...the JBL in the Camry is much better than Prius.

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThai

Wow I totally agree with the initial post. I am only on day two with the Fusion and on the default settings the sound simply wasn't there even compared to my seven year old Honda. There is just something thin about the music with the stereo setting on. I tried lowering the treble and fading to rear but that only helped a little. I decided that with the surround sound you lose some of the edge but that overall it sounds a little fuller. It's odd, on my old system I just put it at treble +1 and bass +2 and it was always great. I'm a little disappointed so far but I'll try the settings listed above for another shot.

March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLarge

Wow, that's a nice post. There are number of music systems in the market but sony is the the number one brand no one can defeat sony.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshutosh Ranjan

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September 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterreplica watches

I have a 2011 SEL with the Sony system. I also have an audiophile ear. I felt the same way. The system is muddy and lacks detail in the sound. So, I decided to try upgrading the speakers. I kept the Sony 6x9 subwoofers in the back deck and the Sony tweeters in the door. However, I replaced the 5x7 speakers in all 4 doors with Polk Audio MM570 coax speakers. These speakers use a neodymium magnet and have a separate crossover. I also replaced the 3.5" dash speaker with a Polk EX351a dual cone speaker (only thing that I could get to fit) and the rear center 3.5" with a Polk dB351 coax speaker. I put bass blocker capacitors on both 3.5" speakers (with hindsight I should have just used the other EX351a on the rear deck). Results: Very nice and detailed sound. The head unit that Ford packs with the car has plenty of quality. You just need a decent set of speakers to make it work. The Polk lines are more efficient so the sound is actually louder than with the Sony speakers. I did have to make a few modifications for the 3.5" to fit (drilled a hole on the speaker to fit the mounting pin. I would say that surprisingly the 3.5" speakers were the icing on the cake in rounding out the clarity of the sound. The stock speakers hardly put out any sound but the replacements really filled in the missing frequencies. If you want a system that sounds great without replacing the head unit, this is the way to go.

January 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrad C

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