Jerry Villa, Alex Mendez, and Alejandro Caballero

Showtime Audio, Chicago, IL

We recently had a longtime client bring us this Jaguar. We hadn’t seen this particular vehicle before, and the Meridian audio system was definitely complicated. We knew our client, though, and we knew he would want lots of output, and lots of bass.

We found some information on the Educar Integration group, and spoke with Ken Ward a bit. This system is very similar to the Meridian system found in some Range Rovers. It uses an automotive Ethernet network, using a digital network protocol called AVB. No external preamps were available for this car at the time, and we don’t know if any are available now. That forced us to only consider plans which used the outputs of the Meridian amplifier.

There is an active 2-way center, and active 3-ways in all 4 corners. There are 2 rear D-pillar effects speakers, and a subwoofer. That adds up to a 17-channel fully-active system. The front dash mids and tweeters are combination units, with a midrange and a tweeter wired separately but in a common frame.

It has four stereo presentation settings in the audio menu – Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS, Stereo, and Meridian.

Now, none of those settings sounded good to us – or, more importantly, to our client. Our research told us that the Dolby and DTS modes were multichannel upmixed modes with two-seat stereo. If we pursued a typical one-seat system design, we’d “break” two of the four modes (and Meridian sounded the worst of the four, so we’d only have Stereo left). Ken assured us that he’d heard great results with upmixer retention in a Range Rover with this Meridian system, so we decided to go that route. That would allow any of the four modes to function as intended, but we planned on tuning primarily for two-seat listening.

The first question was, what do we do with 17 channels? We decided to go down a 1-1 route, without any summing, and relying on the crossovers used in the Meridian system. We used JL Audio VX amplifiers – 2 VX800/8i, for a total of 16 channels, and a VX1000/1i for the subwoofer. The Vxi hub from JL tied it all together.

For our cabin speakers, we used Focal K2 Power ES KX3 3-way components front and rear. For the front, Alex machined tweeter mounts to fit onto the 3” midranges, emulating the OEM approach (but with much higher-quality equipment!)

The center used a matching Focal K2 Power ES100K.

The 12” subwoofers were Audiomobile GTS 2112.

We treated the doors with Soundmat damping material.

We used Connection power distribution and a Stinger 300A circuit breaker.

When it came to planning out the system, there weren’t many places to hide equipment – it’s not a huge SUV. We decided to go with an amp rack featuring the three amplifiers over the subwoofer enclosure. We designed the subwoofer enclosure so that it didn’t impair access to the spare.

The design of the enclosure trim emulates the rear bumper and exhaust tips, to integrate the enclosure into the overall look of the vehicle.

The original proposal included 62 hours of shop labor – integration, installation, fabrication, and tuning. We ended up at 70 hours, but that wasn’t due to the complexity of the upmixed system. That was additional fabrication we decided to include for a good customer.

This was the first time we’d retained an OEM upmixed system (and we hope it’s the most complicated OEM system we ever come across!) We’re used to overruns happening at the end of the project, as we make everything work together. That’s not how this project went. We spent more time at the beginning planning out the inputs and outputs. but very little work was required at the end. When we tuned it, we didn’t have to use many of our typical tools. No crossovers, no delay – all we did was use levels and EQ,  and we got this car sounding awesome!

The results were better than we expected, and we are definitely looking forward to more upmixer retention projects in the future. We’re confident that they can be done without running over on time.

The client loves it, it differentiates our shop from our competition, and it requires more product dollars in the sale – everybody wins.

Time Estimated:

62 hours

Time Spent:

70 hours (12% over)