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I sat in a car with nineteen speakers, and it was awesome

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Revel's high-end audio makes its debut in cars with the upcoming Lincoln MKX

How many speakers does your car have? If you've opted for an upgraded audio package, you might have six or eight speakers plus a subwoofer. In Lincoln's new MKX crossover, you can have up to 19 speakers, powered by two amplifiers.

The MKX's sound system has been built and designed by Harman's Revel brand, and marks the first time that Revel audio has been available in a car. There are two levels of Revel audio options available in the MKX: a standard 13-speaker, single amp setup and the Revel Ultima package, which offers 19 speakers and hybrid Class D and Class A/B amplifier equipped with 20 channels. If you're going to opt for upgraded audio, you might as well go all the way.

Lincoln MKX Revel Audio

Revel is a brand that's well known among audiophiles for its high-end home audio systems, but it's not exactly a household name. Owned by Harman, Revel systems can easily cost many thousands of dollars and employ a lot of fancy technology in the pursuit of ultimate sound quality. The MKX's custom system is no different — the hybrid amplifier was designed to provide clarity for high frequencies in the tweeters and power for the lower frequencies driven by the mid-range speakers and subs. Revel says it built the audio system around the specific dimensions of the car and dictated certain design decisions, such as the pattern of holes on the speaker grilles and how the larger speakers were mounted in the doors. The 2016 MKX is the first Lincoln vehicle to benefit from the Revel partnership, and future models will each have their own specially designed systems.

The end result is a sound system that sounds pretty great

The system also incorporates Harman's software technology such as Clari-Fi, which enhances low-quality streams, and QuantumLogic Surround, which can simulate different seating arrangements in a theater. Revel isn't saying exactly how much power the Ultima system puts out, but it says it's "capable of upwards of 1,200 watts." That's a lot of power for a system that only has to provide audio inside of a vehicle.

Lincoln MKX Revel Audio
Lincoln MKX with Revel Audio

The end result of all of those speakers and amps and software algorithms is a sound system that, well, sounds pretty great. I sat in an MKX kitted out with the Revel Ultima package, and I can't deny that I walked away impressed. Highs are clear and distinct, without being harsh or overly sibilant, while mids are rich and warm. The power from the Class D amp pushes the lows enough that they can be felt, but they don't rattle the vehicle or overwhelm the rest of the sound. Details are still clear at low volumes, and unsurprisingly, the audio doesn't break up when pushed. It's also incredibly immersive, but not overbearing — I was able to have a conversation with Revel product manager Kevin Voecks while the system was playing at volume. Revel says the MKX's system was tuned to sound great across all genres of music, but given the MKX's likely buyer, it's probably going to be used for a lot of jazz, classical, and talk radio. All three sound flawless in the car.

High-end audio systems in luxury cars are nothing new — you've been able to drop thousands of dollars on systems from Bose, JBL, Bang & Olufsen, and even Harman Kardon for years. For a brand like Revel, which only plays in the upper stratosphere of audiophile equipment, building their system into a mainstream vehicle such as the MKX will expose them to many more people than before. But don't be fooled, the Revel audio systems in the MKX won't come cheap, and for most of us, sitting in a demo at a trade show like the New York International Auto Show will probably be the only way we experience them. Chances are, putting 19 Jamboxes in my Corolla won't give the same effect.