2013 Ford Focus ST comes with Active Sound Symposer

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 14, 2012

When the new Ford Focus ST accelerates, it’s nowhere near as noisy as expected due largely to the device called the “active sound symposer.” Automakers always aim find the balance between sound and sight, just like what the Ford Focus ST has achieved. The symposer has the appearance of a sound tube that was formerly used on cars like the Mustang.

It’s more advanced but it works the same way of pumping sound from the engine to the interior. It is directly attached to the intake manifold and pipes in a particular frequency range (200 to 450 Hz) into the cabin. The symposer comes with an electronically-controlled valve that opens and closes according to several factors such as the engine speed, throttle position, and gear selection.

The valve is intended to be more aggressive in lower gears and more passive in higher gears for quieter freeway cruising, which means that it celebrates the best of both worlds. The Focus ST has a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo-four, which produces 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque.

But even with this high performance, it offers a pleasant muscular baritone soundtrack due partly to the symposer. “For ST drivers, it’s not enough to have a car that is fast or feels fast. It also has to sound fast,” says Christopher Myers, Air Induction System engineer.

“Part of this is the design of the exhaust, but we went further and engineered the symposer both to dial up the nice sounds the EcoBoost delivers under the hood but dial back the interior sound volumes at part throttle."

Press Release

Ford amplifies engine’s low-frequency sounds to Focus ST passenger compartment

Discerning sports compact drivers not only want their engines to sing, they want them to roar. Ford engineers made sure the new Focus ST does both, with the help of a new twist on an existing technology.

Ford engineers added a special sound tube – called a sound symposer – to amplify the throaty frequencies enthusiasts crave in performance cars. Engineers worked to naturally amplify the specific lower range of engine frequencies found between 200 and 450 Hz that are most pleasing to performance enthusiasts through the use of a composite “paddle” that vibrates with intake air pulses.

While the sound tube concept has been used on Mustang in the past, the sound symposer used in Focus ST is unique because of its electronically controlled valve that opens and closes based on driver inputs – engine speed, accelerator pedal position and gear selection. In lower gears, the valve is mapped more aggressively, while in higher gears the effect is dialed back to enable quieter cruising. This isn’t possible with conventional, passive sound tubes. Part of the reason Ford made these changes is that on Focus ST, for the first time, the symposer is attached directly to the intake manifold (as opposed to between the manifold and air intake).

“The turbo gives us great power across the rev range, but it presents a special challenge from a sound perspective as it absorbs much of the beautiful engine music,” Myers adds. “The symposer helps us bring the throaty sounds that drivers love.”

The secret to getting this right was developing the perfect paddle to naturally amplify the ST’s great engine sound. Ford engineers tested several different paddles. Eventually, the supplier developed a paddle with the correct stiffness that yielded the best acoustic response and ultimately, the best “flutter” and low-end frequency sound.

An international team from suppliers of the intake manifold, battery tray, electrical hardware and software, and electrical connectors came together with Ford to accelerate development of the symposer. All in all, 30 engineers from five countries had to balance NVH, materials, manufacturing and assembly considerations to bring the symposer to life.

“The sound symposer gives the Focus ST an aural split personality,” says Lisa Schoder, Ford Focus ST Marketing manager. “In everyday driving, the car is composed and refined. But under full throttle, we unleash the sonic hounds. It’s a beauty and a beast.”

Among the more visible options will be the Tangerine Scream metallic color that will be offered exclusively on Focus ST as well as race-inspired Recaro seats with matching color accents.

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