JBL MS-8 Sound Processor Overview
When someone says to me, “Come check out my awesome sound system!” Deep down I sigh to myself knowing that they will have two subwoofers in the trunk powered by a no name amplifier as well as a cheap head unit. Sure enough, it’s just bass… sloppy and inaccurate but loud bass. If only they knew what amazing sound lay just on the horizon. They can have loud, deep bass but obtain quality with their current setup. Where are the mids and highs? How about accurate, punchy bass? Does no one want that live concert, movie theater type sound? I bought a new 2008+ Mitsubishi Lancer and wanted to get the best possible sound from my factory amplified sound system, I had decided to hold off on an entire system until the vehicle was paid off. The JBL MS-8 was rumored to rock socks off, so I pulled the trigger and purchased one. It would integrate with my factory amplified navigation and sound system nicely. The system is made up of the following:
- Navigation Headunit
- 8-Channel DSP Amplifier
- Front 6.5″ Component Speakers
- Rear Coaxial Speakers
- Trunk Mounted 10″ Subwoofer
I had to do quite a bit of research before the installation of the MS-8 because I wanted to be absolutely sure I was cutting into the correct wires of my factory amplified sound system, which looked like rainbow spaghetti. If I had a basic, non-amplified or aftermarket sound system, the installation would have been very easy and straightforward. I used the hi-level input and output of the MS-8, which were two wiring harnesses. The clearly labeled harnesses made it easy to crimp all of the wires together once I had the colors figured out. I connected the MS-8 to the output side of the factory amplifier between the amp and speakers themselves, it would utilize it’s own high quality built-in amplifier from now on. Installation was slightly more difficult than a regular amplifier, but only because of the factory wiring.
The included LCD display and bi-aural microphone are used for setup, calibration, and tuning of the MS-8. It can be mounted anywhere within the vehicle or simply used once and then unplugged and stored. I opted to store the display once I finished using it, however I connect it often to make adjustments to the 31-band EQ or the listening position. You must tell the MS-8 what speakers are connected to each channel, so make sure to write them down ahead of time. I then had to set the crossover points for each speaker and was delighted that I had this kind of control of my system. However, I had no idea what crossover points the factory system’s speakers were set at and Rockford Fosgate wouldn’t reveal that information to me, trust me I asked. This was a big pain in my side, but crucial to getting the best sound. The first x-over points I selected made the MS-8 sound awful and muddy, so keep that in mind if you are un-happy with the outcome, just re-calibrate with new x-over points. Finally, I donned the bi-aural microphone headset like a champion and started the sound calibrations. The measurements will take about 5 minutes to complete at which point the unit will calculate the frequency response, level and arrival time for each of the 8 output channels. Finally, it auto-tunes the car using 48 measurements per seat, up to 4 seats total (driver, passenger, two rear seats). Impressive isn’t it? Just make sure no one sees you during calibration. Looking in all directions with the headset on and the car making tons of awkward beeping noises will leave people wondering.
THE DEFINING MOMENT:
When completed, the MS-8 was ready to output the optimized tune from all of its calibrations. I was immediately impressed. I could no longer pinpoint the individual speakers in my car, all I knew was that the sound was coming from the front dashboard and all around me. More than just raising the center stage, the MS-8’s quality amplifier brought out the little nuances in my music that I was never able to hear before from the stock amplifier. Cymbals sounded like they were crashing, the bass drum was punchy and even vocals were more human and sibilant. I turned the calibrations off to revert back to the factory sound output and felt disgusted that I had ever thought it was good, at which point I immediately turned the MS-8 back on. Had I spent the same amount of money on just upgrading my speakers and radio, I would have better quality sound from the individual speakers but without time alignment and staging, it’s almost pointless. Now that I have the MS-8, adding upgraded components will be a breeze and they will sound significantly better with the additional calibrations.