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Hello,

Below is a strong recommendation for an upgrade to the Lincoln MKZ Premium Sound System.

I purchased a wonderful 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid last year. Unfortunately neither the stock 'Premium' stereo or the $5,000 to upgrade "THX" stereo offered premium sound quality...though they were decent for stock equipment. I primarily listen to Jazz music, as such, I like good reproduction and tight sound....

......Hmm, the stock stereo was reasonably good with techno, but was ill suited for us mature types who like clean sound and tight bass. Key issues included.

1) Bass reverberating all over the car. It was overpowering
2) The bass response consisted on one note "Boom". I prefer to hear
a full range of notes in the 50 to 200 Hz category.
3) The front center speaker overpowered the left and right channels.
4) The MKZ Hybrid has a very sensitive electrical system. Incremental
power draws have a clear negative impact on gas mileage. (You don't
buy a hybrid if your are not conscience of fuel economy).
5) The Hybrid battery takes up a lot of space in the trunk. Further
reductions of space can seriously impact cargo room.
6) I didn't want to have to take apart the dashboard to pull out the head
unit or center speaker, etc.

To be fair to Ford, the Lincoln Hybrid has one gigantic advantage. It is a very, very quiet car. I have hardly any road noise to contend with.

My goal was to install an aftermarket system which had clean sound across the spectrum, without having to add 30, 50, or 80 amps of load to my electrical system. Below I have described the system I installed, and the reason for my selection of each component.

1) Replace Front Door Stock Component Woofers with JL Audio TR570-CXi 5x7 / 6x8 inch coax loud speakers.

I primarily selected these speakers because I wanted to see if I
could get good enough sound off of the stock head unit, without adding
an amp. These speakers have 90.5db sensitivity, which made them
relatively loud compared to most of the other options in the category.

2) Replace Front Door Tweeters with JL Audio C5-075ct 3/4" Silk Dome Tweeters.

After first replacing the Front Door Component Woofers, two obvious
problems showed through. The center speaker continued to be
overpowering and the sound from the stock tweeters was horrendous.
(Bad sound is never good, but when it is next to brand new woofers,
it is horrible). So I selected new tweeters with basically the same
criteria as I used for the door woofers. What is that most sensitive
speaker that fits? Fortunately, it was also a JL Audio product. These
were rated at 92db. These tweeters did the trick. They were loud
enough to drown out the center speaker and had dramatically improved
sound quality to match that of the woofers...another good pick.

3) Replace Rear Door Speakers with JL Audio TR570-CXi 5x7 / 6x8 inch coax full range loud speakers.

This was an obvious selection for they are the same ones that went into
the front doors.

All the while I replaced these speakers, I added Dynamat wherever I could to help improve the sound control. My doors are therefore filled with dynamat. I am not saying that you need to use this brand, but sound management is important with and MKZ. Lincoln uses lots of sound blocking material, but nothing to minimize the reverberations across the sheet metal.

4) Fill the cargo space in the back (trunk) with dynamat.

Due to the location of the stock speakers and the required ventilation for
the Hybrid Battery, boxing in the subwoofers is really not an option, I
therefore elected the more costly route...I think it works well.
(Of course the sky is the limit when it comes to "could it be better")

5) Replace stock subwoofers with the woofers from the Rockford Fosgate
P1652-S component system. (Yes the tweeters are still sitting in the box).

Had I known then what I do now, I'm not sure I would have made
this selection. I originally settled on these speakers because I needed
something with decent sound quality that was sensitive enough to be
powered by the stock subwoofer. (This was the third set of speakers I
tried in the back. They were by far the best). After installing these I
came to two conclusions 1) RF Speakers have good sound quality and
2) The stock subwoofer amp, isn't a subwoofer amp. The stock sub
amp was hopeless. As these were the best speakers I could
find given the constraints of the existing subwoofer amp, I left them
in as I began my search for a new rear amp.

By the way, the stock adapter plates that come with the RF system do
not work for the opening on the rear deck of the Lincoln. I custom
fabricated two adapter plates out of wood, which in hind sight, was a
really good idea. Wood is great for deadening sound vibration.

6) Add JL Audio XD200/2 Class D Amp to drive the two RF speakers

My next step was to figure out what to do with the still horrible bass
coming from the subwoofers on the rear deck. After trying out several
options, I essentially discovered that there is no way around adding an
aftermarket amp. The amp that Lincoln has in the trunk area is puny at
best. There is no way to explain how useless the stock subwoofer amp
is...but you can't take it out. With much research, I therefore decided on
adding a tiny Class D Amp. I selected this one because it only required a
20 amp fuse. This is the lowest power draw I could figure out for my
very sensitive Hybrid electrical system. For listening to jazz, 75 watts
per channel is plenty. (I have not desire to broadcast my music to the
neighborhood or the local park).

I am not going to kid you, installing this was no fun... but when I finished
I knew I had made the right decision. Outstanding choice. Very little
power used. A couple of comments on the installation: For the amp
remote turn on switch, I had to add a relay switch which was trigger by
the remote turn on switch that drove the stock subwoofer. The line has
about 6 volts and 6 milliamps so none of the stock relays you can
purchase at sound shops work. I went to Digi-Key to purchase the
necessary relay. Part number was Z752-ND. The socket was Z993-ND.
Parts need to be soldered on.

Only problem is that the Amp is a bit strong for the RF woofers. But
don't fear, this does not have a negative impact on sound except for
as noted later on. I installed it in the back. I have the gain turned just
about all the way down.
I still get a lots of good, clean bass coming from the rear. The bass
has a full range of notes in the subwoofer range with good control.
The sound is tight enough to sound very clear with most musical
compositions.


Strengths of the new system:

1) Bass does not reverberate all over the car.
2) Subwoofers play a full range of notes, not just "Boom"
3) The factory front center speaker is now irrelevant, though it is
still installed.
4) I have remarkable sound quality for a very low power draw system.
5) The new amp takes up virtually no cargo room.
6) I didn't have to take apart the dashboard.

Weaknesses and potential future upgrades.

1) With the JL Audio Amp gain turned all the way down, there isn't
quite enough power to drive the woofers when listening to music
passages that are heavy with the sound of bass instruments,
especially the Bass. When I listen to Diana Krall and a few other
artists, this weakness is noticeable. I am considering changing the
RF speakers over to two JL Audio 6" subwoofers. These higher power
speakers will likely be sufficient to get a the proper response
when listening to The Bass. I like hearing the complex sound of the
strings.

2) If I work up the courage, I will figure out how to replace the front
center speaker. This is almost irrelevant, but my ego tells me that
any factory speaker is a bad factory speaker.

3) Once in a while, I hear the need for an equalizer. I wonder how
much better my car would sound with something like a CleanSweep?
This, of course, would require opening up the dash board too. It is
a very low priority.

My total investment was somewhere around $1,000. Adding the JL Audio
subs would make it about $1,350. It was money well spent for an outstanding system. Everyone who sits in the front seat of my car, enjoys listening to my stereo.

The attached picture is the only visual difference in my car after the complete installation. This really is quite an elegant solution.
 

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Hello, I really enjoyed your post. You sound like you know what you are talking about. So I was hoping you could clarify something for me to keep me from having to do too much research on my own. I'm wanting to do basically the same thing you have done with your stereo. What I'm looking for is the location of the factory amp and subwoofers. I just took a quick glance under the rear dash and see that there are (2) 6X8/6X9s and a smaller 5"? round speaker in the center of the rear dash. Am I right in assuming that the 6Xs are the subwoofers?

Also you mentioned that the stock sub amp can't be removed. Would you please explain why?
 

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The center speaker in most systems are SUPPOSED to be louder then the L/R speaker because the center speaker is usually there to center the image; which is why many people go with the biggest and best speaker they can fit when using a center channel. It sounds like you don't want a SUBwoofer seems like you want a midbass the way you're describing the sound you want in the lower registers (50-200)...
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Your sound system is slightly different from mine. I don't have the 5" center speaker in the back. The 6 x 9's are definitely the subs. The factory amplifier is hidden in the back of the trunk. When facing the trunk, remove the grey side-carpeting on the right side of the trunk. You will see a sheet metal wall that extends half way from the back of the trunk toward the rear of the car. The factory amp is mounted on the outside of that wall, between that wall and the exterior sheet metal of the car. The bolts are easily visible and removed, the silver colored amp is hidden.

If you look at the picture of the amp in my trunk, the factory amp, is directly behind it, on the other side of the metal wall.

The reason you have to leave in the factory amp is that the input signal to the factory amp does not vary as you change the volume on the head unit. I don't understand the electronics, but the factory amp, doesn't just amplify the signal from the factory head unit, it also does some decoding. None of the stock amps on the market knew how to do this decoding. As a result, you need to get an amp that handles the output signal from the factory amp.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
MKEETS - perhaps the center speakers are supposed to be louder than the left and right to help center the sound in the vehicle....but as I primarily drive alone in my car, I prefer to have the sound centered at my nose. It think it is personal preference. (For the rare passengers who sit in suboptimal locations, I never get compliments on the sound quality). For the factory system the sound coming in my right ear was a decibel or two stronger than the sound coming in my right ear. Even at the factory head unit settings optimized for the driver, there was a strong imbalance. I chose to correct it.

Yes, yes...regarding whether I actually needed a subwoofer or a mid/bass speaker, you are perhaps correct - after all, the RF Component Speaker (not a true sub) helped tremendously over the factory speakers. Practically speaking, I needed the aftermarket amp to get reasonable sound quality, and I needed a new rear speakers. I have the high-pass filter on the amp set at about 125 Hz.....and I just ordered some 6.5" component subs. I will see if that further improves the quality. I suspect it will.
 

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MANY MANY Thanks to you bjroosevelt!! My 2011 MKZ 'Premium' sound system was driving me crazy as it sounded so horrible. I relaced the six door speakers with those you selected and WOW! It sounds so much better, I couldn't be more pleased. For about $300 and a few hours work I can now enjoy listening to my car stereo for the first time. To anyone on the fence about doing this, I promise you won't be sorry. Just upgrading the door speakers alone is well worth the effort.
 

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MANY MANY Thanks to you bjroosevelt!! My 2011 MKZ 'Premium' sound system was driving me crazy as it sounded so horrible. I relaced the six door speakers with those you selected and WOW! It sounds so much better, I couldn't be more pleased. For about $300 and a few hours work I can now enjoy listening to my car stereo for the first time. To anyone on the fence about doing this, I promise you won't be sorry. Just upgrading the door speakers alone is well worth the effort.
Just to add something else I discovered; The center speaker turns out to be a block containing two small speakers, about 2 inches in diameter and one very small tweeter, so there are 6 wires going to it. I removed it and am going to listen to the stereo for a while without it and see if I like it better. To replace it with something else looks very difficult, you would at least have to use two new speakers and custom mount them somehow.
 

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Just to add something else I discovered; The center speaker turns out to be a block containing two small speakers, about 2 inches in diameter and one very small tweeter, so there are 6 wires going to it. I removed it and am going to listen to the stereo for a while without it and see if I like it better. To replace it with something else looks very difficult, you would at least have to use two new speakers and custom mount them somehow.
I wish I knew how to edit a previous post so I wouldn't have to create new replies, but I wanted to share my continuing story so here goes;

After listening to the stereo for a while, I liked the sound 100X better without the center speaker assembly so I kept it disconnected. But fearing that I was losing out on the sound that was designed to come from it I bought a set of 'Kicker' 4" speakers, made enclosures for them, wired them to take the place of the two 2" speakers (from the center assembly) and placed them on the floor in front of the front seats. This, along with the other replaced speakers, made the system sound even better and bolstered the stereo sound separation that was not there at all before.

The system now does a fairly good job with FM sound, although not stellar. You can only go so loud before the weak tuner distortion takes over - but still miles ahead of where it was before. It does a very good job with CD's, on par with other systems I have had in the past.

Given how well this is going I might just take bjroosevelt's lead and go after the rear deck speakers next. My question to him is; have you installed your new sub's yet and if so how do they sound?
 

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if you wanted less center channel, you could always add an Lpad or a high-power resistor of a calculated impedance.
 

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if you wanted less center channel, you could always add an Lpad or a high-power resistor of a calculated impedance.
Thanks for the suggestion - but less center channel, in the end, is not what was needed. I want true stereo sound, the way it was recorded and intended to be heard, and upgrading & relocating the speakers was the way to get it in my view. Center speakers are great for watching a THX movie, but not for listening to music.
 

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One last entry to finish out my story.

To recap; I replaced all six door speakers (JL Audio), disconnected the center dash speaker assembly and replaced it with a set of 4" (Kicker) speakers that sit on the floor in front of the front seats. All that was left was to address the rear deck speakers since they provided so little sound as to be useless and I wanted more bass in the mix. The rear deck has three speakers, two 6X9 and one approx 4" in the center. Putting my ear up the the center one I could hear how badly it distorted (like all the others I replaced) so I simply disconnected it. If it is there to 'center' sound then I don't want it anyway.

To get more bass from the 6X9's I installed a Kicker DX300 amp. I chose this one as it has medium power and had the features I needed, like auto on/off, hi/low/off filters, hi/low signal inputs, etc. This was a bit of work since I had to run power from the battery to the trunk and also mount the unit, but still not all that hard. I have been told that oval speakers do not make good bass drivers but I thought I would try the factory ones before I replaced them since I can always change speakers without much effort and I am not looking for window shattering bass.

I played around a bit adjusting the settings on the amp, mostly that involved adjusting the gain level, and I have to say I am very pleased with the results. There is now a good solid low-end to the music that was never there before.

I never imagined that this factory unit, that sounded so bad I often turned it off in total disgust, could sound as good as it does now. My total cost, including all the speakers, amp, wire, etc., was about $600. The real story here is what a total failure Ford/Lincoln produced as a supposed 'Premium' sound system.


2010 2011 MKZ stereo sound bad center speaker replace upgrade premium THX poor quality
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Charlie MKZ -

I have been off line for a while. I think you did the right think by purchasing the kicker amp for the trunk. I have installed the JBL 6" subs, but had a bit of a hassle. They fit into the existing 6x9 mounting holes in the rear deck, however they sounded horrible without being boxed in. I ended up attempting to make boxes of the correct size that mounted directly under the rear deck. The boxes were easy to fabricate, but I couldn't get them to fit due to the low clearance from hybrid battery. As a result I am custom building boxes to fit in the corners of the trunk. I have incredible bass, but I have lost some very desirable trunk space.

I do have a questions for you. I want to replace the center channel speaker system in the front of the car above the head unit. I can't figure out how to pull out the unit. Does the molding on the dash board pull out in some way? If you know, please give details. Thank you.
 

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To remove the center speaker grill use a thin screwdriver and pry it up on either side as close to the top (windshield) as you can get. Do this on both sides and it will lift right up. Once you have the top up pull it up and towards the windshield as there are tabs on the bottom/lower part that fit it into the dash. You do not have to remove anything else to do this. The speaker unit will be right there and is easy to remove as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
CharlieMKZ, I've pulled out my center front speaker and discovered it is different from yours. I have a single 3.5" 8-ohm speaker, not a 4-ohm speaker. Any ideas on what to replace it with? Does anyone know if putting a 4-ohm on a Lincoln Head unit will blow it out?
 

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CharlieMKZ, I've pulled out my center front speaker and discovered it is different from yours. I have a single 3.5" 8-ohm speaker, not a 4-ohm speaker. Any ideas on what to replace it with? Does anyone know if putting a 4-ohm on a Lincoln Head unit will blow it out?
I would simply leave it disconnected if its the single speaker model. I know its there to 'center' the sound image, but thats a lot of nonsense to me. And if its like the other speakers, its giving you crap sound anyway. Stereo is in two channels and meant to be heard that way. That said, I can't see any harm, if you want to, in replacing it with a lesser resistance speaker. I paid no attention to the ohm rating of the three speaker assembly I pulled out of the center, and replaced it with the two 4ohm Kicker 4" ones.
 
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