I’m convinced one of the best places to listen to music is in a car. Granted, some people have a listening room in their home, and a concert has superior sound quality. However, there’s nothing quite like the cocoon of a moving vehicle, watching the sun dip below the trees in fall, and cranking up a new album by your favorite artist.
That’s exactly what happened in the 2023 Lincoln Navigator recently. I tested the Reserve model which has 28 speakers all around the cab. The system uses Revel Ultima 3D Audio and QuantumLogic Surround 3D to make you feel like you are surrounded by audio.
3D audio is similar to surround sound in a home theater system. The idea is to put the music in every corner of the vehicle, so you can sometimes hear drums from one speaker or the strumming acoustic guitar on an alt-rock song behind you. It’s amazing to hear because the 3D separates out the audio in such a distinct way that you can hear things that you normally would never hear on familiar songs.
I put this to the test, all for the sake of this review. It’s a cross to bear. I cranked up Maggie Rogers and her latest album, listening closely for finer audio details and vocal touches. It’s transportative in a way that even being at a concert doesn’t quite match, because you are in a personal bubble listening to music by yourself or with friends/family.
I also queued up the band The National, who released two albums so far this year. On the song Deep end, there’s an alien abduction sound in the background that is heard to hear on earbuds. In the 2023 Lincoln Navigator, it was like the aliens were in the car. There’s a wavering, ethereal quality to the ringing guitars echoing off into the distance, and given the size of the Navigator, it felt cavernous and joyous. “Oh, that’s the experience they intended me to have” was a common thought as I listened to their latest album, called Laugh Track.
One thing that is pretty interesting about the 2023 Lincoln Navigator is that you don’t always know which speaker is playing which sounds, and that is part of the fun. I think that’s what the engineers intended, to be transported in a way that the audio just floats around and it’s not always obvious where the sound is coming from. I played several tracks for friends and family and they all said the same thing — it felt like the sound was everywhere.
There are a few tweaks you can make to the audio, going beyond just basic treble and bass adjustments. You can disable the 3D audio altogether which gives you more of a typical stereo audio experience.
One last test involved some slightly harder rock, including my go-to band to really blast the speakers. I was in my garage and played the band Bleach Lab, which has some tracks that envelope you in lush synth and drums. It’s like an epiphany of sound. The song “Everything at Once” really sounded like a personal concert in 3D surround audio.
These are the times when, after a week of testing, that ending my test is hard. I drive a BMW with an older sound system — not the same. I’m eager to test the Navigator again!