A professional panel of sound system evaluators has named the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze's optional Pioneer nine-speaker system as the mobile entertainment of choice against the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.
The competition was held by the Mobile Electronics Competition Association, which compared the Cruze's sound system against its two major rivals. Three tests -- a sound-pressure test to measure sound volume, a real-time analysis to measure audio fidelity, and the judges' evaluation of the listening experience -- determined the three vehicles' fates. Both the Civic and Corolla used the available six-speaker systems.
"Audiophiles believe that rating audio performance requires critical listening as well as measuring output," said Steve Stern, MECA president. "Sound provides a baseline rating of the potential of a sound system, but does not necessarily equate to a great-sounding system. Only the human ear can gauge how natural and believable the listening experience is."
Specifically, the Cruze's Pioneer system was capable of 112.9 decibels without distortion. The Civic and Corolla were measured at 105.2 and 105.6 dB, respectively, and the difference represents nearly twice the volume.
In the subjective test, judges awarded scores to the three competitors based on system noise, tonality, realism, staging, and placement. Here, the Cruze averaged 74.83 points out of a possible 100, putting the Cobalt's replacement within the luxury vehicle range. The Corolla tallied 69.75 points and the Civic garnered 58.83 points.
The lone area where the Cruze fell behind was the audio fidelity measurement. The test gauges sound system accuracy in recreating preset frequency tones and the Cruze managed just 14 points out of 40. The Civic took 22 points while the Corolla topped the score sheet with 24.
"The most important measure of an audio system is how well it recreates the experience of listening to a live performance," continued Stern. "From that perspective, the Cruze was clearly the best of the group, delivering more presence, more realistic sub-bass, and silky smooth midrange."
Matt Kirsch, the Cruze's lead audio engineer, recommends the following 10 songs for a complete sound system evaluation:
"Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones -- Listen for Norah's voice to sound natural, and centered in front of you
"Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez -- Listen for strong vocals, and for the instruments to be set across a wide sound stage
"No One" by Alicia Keys -- Listen for clarity in Alicia's vocals and spacious background sound
"Hotel California" by the Eagles -- Listen for the clarity and dynamic range during the opening guitar solo, and of course the powerful drum beat
"Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas -- Listen for powerful, accurate bass beats, even at full volume
"Rock that Body" by the Black Eyed Peas -- Listen for clear, intelligible lyrics over the powerful, persistent bass beat
"Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap -- Listen for the enveloping ambience of the song, building on the openness and dynamic vocals
"He Mele No Lilo" by Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu from "Lilo and Stitch" -- Listen for the ambience and staging as the children's chorus is offset by powerful bass
"Bird on a Wire" by Johnny Cash -- Listen for the clarity in Johnny's distinctive voice, and his guitar to sound natural and free of any coloration
"Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" by Radiohead -- Listen for the punch from the percussive bass, and the ring of the steel drums