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The New LS Luxury Sedan Introduces Mark Levinson® Reference Surround

The introduction of the LS 460 and LS 600h L afforded Mark Levinson, Lexus’ exclusive entertainment-system partner, the rare opportunity to conceive, design and engineer an all-new discrete 5.1 surround sound system. The result was Mark Levinson® Reference Surround, a 19-speaker audio system equal in both luxury and performance to the vehicle in which it resides.

Building on the foundation of “next-generation” premium surround systems that have been firmly established in the marketplace by the latest generation Lexus GS, IS and ES luxury sedans, Mark Levinson designers and engineers identified the differentiating performance objectives necessary to legitimately earn the “reference surround” moniker: timbral accuracy, timbral matching and dynamics.

Timbral accuracy required the engineering of a new four-inch midrange transducer with an extended low-frequency response. This single midrange transducer, for example, can reproduce the full fundamental bandwidth of a vocal tenor without introducing timbral colorations and time-alignment problems typically encountered when using multiple transducers.

The Reference Surround system achieved timbral matching by mating this new four-inch midrange transducer with a one-inch titanium dome tweeter to create a high-performance two-way system. Identical two-way systems are then employed in all seven channels, ensuring timbral matching. This creates a well-integrated, seamless 360-degree sound space in which the individual speaker locations seem to disappear, each performer is reproduced with full-range realism regardless of channel assignment, and the spatial intentions of the artist and engineer are made apparent.

Professional mixing engineers, endorsed by several academic acoustical organizations, have been utilizing the technique of identical speakers for all channels since the introduction of discrete surround sound.

Dynamics is the realistic contrast between the loudest and softest musical phrase or movie sound effect. This is difficult to capture and reproduce without introducing compression and distortion. Mark Levinson engineering overcame this performance obstacle by designing all-new woofers and a subwoofer for the Reference Surround system: high-power, long-excursion 6×9 woofers for the front doors, 6.5-inch metal-cone woofers for the rear doors, and a 10-inch inverted motor subwoofer for the rear deck. All utilize powerful yet lightweight neodymium magnets.
The new ML3-16 processor/amplifier, designed for the Reference Surround system, is configured to provide two bridged channels (100 watts) to each of the front-door woofers and the subwoofer. The combination of available power and custom-designed transducers for this application successfully results in effortless and complete reproduction of the low-frequency portion of dynamic passages and movie effects, with minimal levels of distortion and coloration.

Mark Levinson Reference Surround delivers the harmonic richness and superb musicality previously available only in high-end home and studio-reproduction applications. The emotional resonance and unerring clarity of your favorite musical and cinematic performances are reproduced effortlessly and faithfully, further enhancing the exceptional experience of owning and driving the Lexus LS 600hL, LS 460 or new LX 570 luxury utility vehicle.

Mark Levinson Reference Surround Highlights

Tracking Power Supply
Modern automotive electronic subsystems are advancing rapidly and demand increasing amounts of electrical current from the vehicle power supply. Generating this current requires large, heavy components and energy from the gas-powered engine. A 15-channel world-class entertainment system such as Mark Levinson Reference Surround for the all-new LS could have added to this burden if the design engineers at Mark Levinson had not developed an innovative Tracking Power Supply exclusively for the ML3-16. Current consumption is now reduced by a minimum of 40 percent without in any way compromising or degrading the accurate reproduction of the music or movie material.

The Tracking Power Supply, with large capacitive storage capability, powers the 15 power amplifier channels that drive the 19 transducers inside the passenger cabin. In an intelligent manner, the music signals entering the amplifier are analyzed and the power supply continually reconfigures itself to provide just enough power to reproduce the musical signal without alteration. Low-level signals require less power, while high-level signals demand more power, and the ML3-16 adjusts to this changing demand, conserving energy and minimizing the dissipation of unused energy in the form of heat.

19 Speakers
The LS features seven one-inch tweeters, seven four-inch midranges, two 6×9 woofers, two 6.5-inch woofers, and one 10-inch subwoofer. The midranges, woofers and subwoofers were all custom designed specifically to achieve Mark Levinson Reference Surround’s newly established rigorous performance specifications.

15 Channels/450 Watts
The all-new ML3-16 Mark Levinson Digital Signal Processor/Amplifier in the LS produces a total power output of 450 watts, all channels driven, 20-20kHz @ less than .1% Total Harmonic Distortion. Retaining the high-performance design philosophy of Mark Levinson Power Amplifiers for home use, the amplifier circuitry in the ML3-16 is discrete, utilizing individual transistors, capacitors, and resistors. This technique provides a level of electrical and sonic performance not available from the integrated power circuits typically used in automotive audio systems.

Proprietary Metal-Cone 6.5-inch Woofers, Midranges, and Tweeters
Metal-cone and dome geometries offer greater cone rigidity and lower mass. Rare earth neodymium magnet/motor structures provide higher magnetic flux levels in a smaller and lighter transducer package. The sonic benefits of both technologies are
• Lower distortion – higher resolution
• Greater sound pressure levels – natural dynamics
• Extended frequency response – harmonic richness and musicality

10-inch Inverted Motor Subwoofer
Providing the deepest bass fundamentals from the most efficient and compact package possible, the neodymium magnet subwoofer is housed in an Integral Vehicle Enclosure (IVE), which allows the subwoofer to reproduce high-energy, low-frequency effects and bass passages without taking up trunk space.

Discrete 5.1 Playback in a 7.1-Channel Surround Sound Speaker Architecture
Separate side and surround channels provide an extraordinary sense of envelopment and depth for front- and rear-seat passengers.

Mark Levinson Surround (MLS) Audio Software
This innovative software intelligently creates a large sonic “sweet spot,” positions phantom center-channel material within the soundstage as intended, and provides the full discrete 5.1 surround sound experience to the rear-seat passengers. MLS also provides a surround-sound experience for stereo-source material such as CD and FM. MLS is the only expression of surround sound that has been specifically designed and optimized to overcome the acoustic obstacles of presenting surround sound in an automotive passenger cabin.

Media Compatibility
• CD
• CD-R
• DTS 5.1 CD
• DVD video
• DVD audio discs

Format Compatibility
The system features two-channel stereo (analog and PCM), two-channel Surround Sound, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, MP3, WMA, and an auxiliary input for mobile audio products, enabling an iPod/MP3 or other device to be connected directly to the LS audio system.

All-Digital Signal Path
Fragile audio signals are often transmitted from the front to the back of the car in an analog format, subjecting them to sonic degradation from noise and magnetic interference as well as numerous conversion processes between analog and digital. To avoid noise pickup and unnecessary and potentially degrading conversion steps, Mark Levinson Reference Surround transmits digital information from the disc to the discrete-topology power amplifiers via SPDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface Format); 24-bit word lengths are supported.

The LS Voicing
Over 2,000 man-hours of laboratory and on-road voicing optimize Mark Levinson Reference Surround for the specific acoustic characteristics of the LS passenger cabin.

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