Scoring Philosophy

The MASQ scoresheet has two primary sections, installation and sound. We include installation because we feel that basic install judging should be geared towards system knowledge and system safety.

On to the sound section. All sound quality competitors know that judging sound is a subjective task. As a general rule of thumb however, we try to put as much detail into what makes a given score in a given category so that we can help eliminate as much ambiguity as possible from that score. What does a 15 mean vs a 16? Anybody know? or a 5.5 from a 5.75? Bueller?

Let us look at tonality first. At first glance it would appear there is far too few points for tonality, but we disagree. The philosophy behind our tonality section is to divide up tonality into smaller sections, much like imaging and staging are, so that they can be scored independently of each other, giving the judge more area of the scoresheet to convey what they are hearing. While it may seem that we have less points than other formats, we feel this is misleading. The reasoning is that we have more effect points. By this take a tonality category like mids. Another format may offer 10 or 20 points, but their effective points is more like less than half that.

On these scoresheets it is extremely rare to score less than half the points, and somewhat rare to score the top two points, so the effect points is really 6-7. In that 6-7 a judge has to score balance, detail, transparency, dynamics, and sometimes attack, decay and realism. That is a lot to cram into a 6-7 effective point range. By breaking these up into smaller sections the judge has more room to judge the finer points of the vehicle’s sound and also give the competitor a more detailed breakdown.

Imaging and Staging. Why are there so many points here? The answer is quite simple really, because this is an area where great cars can separate themselves from really good cars and is also really easy to screw up. Modern vehicle sound systems have been able to achieve great strides in the technical aspects of sound reproduction that could only be dreamed up a decade or more ago. However, most scoring systems can’t account for these achievements, or outright leave out things that lead to a less than stellar playback experience because there is no reason to push the boundaries as there is no place to score them.

There is also a very good argument to be made that imaging plays a role in good tonality. If your images are smeared, wander around and so forth, then the overall tonality is likely going to suffer as well. On the flip side it is relatively easy to get really good imaging and in doing so completely screw up your tonality. A good example of this is over equalizing which can cause phase issues that make your tonality just mediocre.

With that in mind, we feel we have created a scoresheet that encompasses all the capabilities a modern system can achieve and thus give more room to separate vehicles on the scoresheet. Along with that, it provides the competitor with more details about where their system can be improved by providing more categories to gain points in.

Many of the sections are broken down into 5 points. Where appropriate, a score of 3 is seen as the average vehicle that competes today. Most of the staging sections are good examples of this, where the half point mark is where the average vehicle fits in. While that leaves 2 points to excel, one must remember that adding up all the two point sections leaves quite a few points available for the truly exceptional vehicles to shine.

200 Total points

Basic Installation (16 Points)

Proper fusing will be demonstrated in all locations

  1. Fuse values are incorrect for application
  2. Fusing is correct

Equipment secured (not loose) and will be reasonably tested by the judge(s)

  1. Point
    • Amps laying unsecured
    • Speaker enclosures not secured
    • Basically a good case for a safety hazard
  2. Most but not all equipment is secured. Does not move with light pressure
  3. Every piece of equipment is secured in its location. Nothing moved without requiring enough force to move/shake the vehicle

System operation shown to judges

  1. Did not inform judge how to operate any of the controls of the system.
  2. Some control items were not described or there were multiple options and judge was not informed on which to use
  3. Very explicit in the functionality and controls they want the judge to use


Power and ground wire of sufficient size for amp power. No bare wires visible at wire termination points. Secured enough so it shouldn’t move during vehicle operation

  1. Rats nest. Probably incorrect wire gauges used. No attempt at being tidy or secure
  2. Appears tidy. Close inspection might reveal a couple fray wires here or there at termination points, but nothing outwardly dangerous
  3. Wiring is neat and orderly. Removing beauty panels reveals wiring to be secure enough to not move around during vehicle operation

System Finishing

When presented (doors/trunk open, etc.) does it look ‘finished’? i.e. are panels covered, is the equipment mounted to bare surfaces, etc. Does not have to be fancy in any way. Aesthetics are not being judged here, only that it appears to not still be in the fabrication stage.

  1. Let’s face it, you just got it powered up and still have sawdust and fiberglass on your clothes
  2. Attempts have been made for areas of the vehicle to be complete, but some areas are not.
  3. The vehicle is visually complete.

System Knowledge

Is the competitor aware of how the system was put together? Does the competitor know the ins and outs of the system?

  1. They know how to turn it on and turn it up, that’s about it
  2. They know where all the equipment is and what it does. May have even helped with the install. Isn’t aware of where the power and signal wires are run in the vehicle.
  3. Can describe every aspect of the install. Not to be confused with a “presentation”, but can tell you how the wiring was run in the vehicle, the signal path, where all the equipment is, how and why any “special” equipment was used and why (e.g. PAC units, LOCs, non-standard processing such as APL-1, ESP3 or other similar equipment)

System evaluation begins with using pink noise to set the system loudness to a sustained 85-87db.

Tonality (58 Points)

Balance (25 Points)

These sections are scored with a sweeping pink noise track. This may be controversial, but the reasoning behind this as opposed to using music is unless you were the recording engineer you don’t know how the track was mixed and the levels at which the entire frequency range were recorded. Pink noise, being of equal volume at all levels, eliminates this discrepancy and can more easily highlight areas of imbalance.

You may think of this section as a combination of a detailed spectral balance as well as an overall system balance.

Presentation (33 Points)

Attack (5 points)

The snap of a drum. The instant hit of a cymbal. Does that trumpet make you jump?

  1. Is this system dead? I almost fell asleep.
  2. Yawn.
  3. Average. Nothing special, nothing to complain about.
  4. Is this live or is it…
  5. Felt like I was getting slapped around and want more of it.

Decay (3 points)

  1. Midbass is muddy, highs don’t seem to stop. everything just “drags”
  2. Average
  3. Subs and midbass is tight and stops immediately. No ringing of the highs.

Resolution (5 points)

Can you hear all the little subtle details in the recording that would normally be missed?

  1. Details? There are details to be heard?
  2. I hear things I’m supposed to hear, but not every fine detail that is actually there.
  3. More subtle details are appearing, but I know there is more to be had.
  4. I can hear the drummer fart, the guitarist drag his cig, I can tell that vocalist is smiling when she sings.

Realism (5 points)

  1. Is this a stock system from the 60’s?
  2. Needs a lot of work. Has potential though.
  3. Quite good. The average non-enthusiast would say wow.
  4. Getting there, some things are very believable, but other things aren’t quite right.
  5. The realism is so palpable I almost shit myself.

Transparency (5 points)

Do the speakers just disappear? Does the car just disappear? That’s transparency.

  1. I can pinpoint every single driver in this system. Try again.
  2. Some drivers localize.
  3. Drivers don’t localize directly but you can still tell where things are.
  4. Almost there, drivers disappear but I’m well aware of the boundaries are tied to the vehicle.
  5. Holy smokes, I can stare at that speaker and not tell the sound is coming from it. The vehicle is not constraining at all.

Dynamics (5 points)

Note that dynamics does NOT mean it gets loud. That is a misconception. Dynamics means the the system can reproduce the softest portions of the recording equally as well as the loudest portions of the recording.

  1. Sounds so compressed it would make a modern pop CD jealous.
  2. You must like the loudness wars…
  3. Average. Nothing to complain about, nothing to write home about
  4. Now we are getting there. I’m starting to jam with this bad boy.
  5. There is that soft touch of a brush on the cymbal…then BAM that horn blew out my ears.

Ambience (5 Points)

  1. The vehicle sounds dead.
  2. There is a hint of ambience but you really have to try to hear it
  3. Average. The vehicle doesn’t excel here but is good
  4. There is some ambience but it doesn’t bring you in
  5. You can almost ‘see’ the size of the venue. You feel like you are there.

Composure (5 Points)

Measures how the system performs as the volume rises. Does it start distorting? Can it actually get loud cleanly? The judging of this is used with a meter and while watching the meter the peaks are noted while listening for distortion. The moment distortion is detected the judging of this is stopped.

  1. Barely peaks 93 or can sustain 93 but has distortion
  2. Can sustain 93 - 99db, no distortion
  3. May hit 100db, but has distortion
  4. Peaks 103db or less, no distortion 5

Imaging (75 points)

Placement (12 Points)

Placement is determined as equal distant from one point to the next, such as left center and center. For LC and RC, if the placement is barely discernible from the edge, that would score a 1. If the placement is half way to where it should be, that would be a 2. For center placement, a score of 1 means the center is where the LC or RC should be.

If a given location is quite out of focus (such as a center than wanders around), the most correct position is used to determine the score.

Why is Left and Right placement not scored? Because they are what they are. There is no “correct” placement for these, short of being swapped completely. Their location is used to determine width however.

4 Points each

Focus (63 Points)

Each placement focus is divided into 3 frequency ranges. Left and Right each score a max of 3 points. Center, Left Center and Right Center score a max of 5 points in each range. This reflects the difficultly of making these various placements focus correctly in relation to the others. Values of the points is determined much like placement is. Take the scoring of Left as en example. If a given frequency range of the left bleeds or moves to where the Left Center, that scores a 1.

Staging (43 Points)

Stage Width (5 Points)

Width is referenced from the cabin width. What this means is that the cabin width (side glass to side glass) is the standard for which the vehicle should be able to obtain. Those that do score a 3, which is average. However, this does not mean that the stage’s left and right need to be exactly the sides of the cabin. For example, if the stage is shifted to the left so that it is a few inches outside the left glass AND a few inches INSIDE the right glass, that is still the width of the cabin and scores a 3.

  1. More than 6" smaller than cabin width
  2. Cabin width to 6" less than
  3. Width of cabin
  4. Outside the cabin, but not exceeding ~16" total
  5. More than 8" outside the vehicle on each side

Stage Top Location (3 Points)

The top of the stage should be at the horizon (actual, not where your head is) when sitting in a normal driving position. In other words, if the seats are reclined, the horizon doesn’t change because your head is lower than normal. This also means it doesn’t change depending on different judge’s heights as they sit in the car. Ambience may extend the top to above the horizon and this is ok as long as the actual top is at the horizon.

  1. Above the horizon, or below the horizon by more than the top of the dash.
  2. Slightly below the horizon. Top of dash, but not below the dash.
  3. At horizon

Stage Height (5 Points)

Stage height is a measure of how large the stage is from the bottom to the top. The average car will score a 3 here as most vehicles have a stage height that goes from the dash top to the horizon. Very good cars can achieve a height that extends below the dash and the very best vehicles give a stage height that is almost the height of the interior of the vehicle.

Dash top here references the bottom of the windshield.

  1. Essentially a thin line across the horizon. No discernible height within the stage.
  2. The height is less that the horizon to the dash top.
  3. From horizon to dash top
  4. From middle of dash to horizon
  5. From horizon to more than the dash

Stage Height Stability (4 Points)

  1. Rainbows heavily, such as kick panel to kick panel. This also applies to vehicles which, at the edges, go from horizon to kick, but the center of the stage is above the dash. Picture the shape of old school police sunglasses and you got it.
  2. Rainbows slightly on both sides, but doesn’t extend to the kick area
  3. Rainbows slightly on only one side, while the other side is stable
  4. Perfectly stable across the whole stage

Depth of Soundstage (6 Points)

Defines the distance from the front of the stage to the rear of it. The definitions below are based on the typical vehicle’s ability to have the front of the stage at the base of the windshield. If the vehicle being scored has the front of the stage inboard or outboard of that location, then adjust the scoring appropriately. For example, if a vehicle’s front of stage is 1/4 of the way out on the hood, then a score of 4 would mean the depth got to at least half of the hood. On the flip side, if a vehicle’s front of stage is middle of the dash, in a typical modern vehcile with deep dashes, then a score of 4 would be less than 1/4 of the hood.

  1. No layers
  2. Very shallow. 3-4" of depth
  3. not beyond 1/4 of the hood
  4. 1/4 to 1/2 of the hood
  5. out to half mark of the hood
  6. beyond midway of the hood

Image Sizing (In proportion to the stage, 5 Points)

Image sizing is included in the staging section because it is relative to the size of the stage. The bigger the stage, the larger the images should be proportionally.

  1. Imaging is so bad you can’t really tell what size they are. No focus at all
  2. You have GI Joe singing across your dash, or Godzilla, take your pick
  3. Images appear to change size or fluctuate in a given track. It’s cool, but wrong
  4. Slightly larger or smaller or not all images are proportional
  5. Images are proportional to the stage. If the stage is big, so should the images

Spatial Realism (5 Points)

Defines the relationship between the imaging and the soundstage. Are the images properly placed within that stage? Does the ambiance from the recording come through?

  1. No ambiance. Images are not clearly defined within the soundstage.
  2. Ambiance from the environment, but images are not well defined.
  3. Images are somewhat placed, but not clearly distinct in the soundstage. May lack ambience.
  4. Images are well placed. Lacking ambiance. It’s there, but doesn’t make you feel like you are in the room or front seat.
  5. Every image in the recording is properly placed and the recordings ambiance comes through. You feel like you are there.

Stage Shape (5 Points)

What is the perceived shape of the stage? Is it even? square? Or does it horseshoe or look like a trapezoid.

  1. Stage shape is not consistent in any dimension
  2. Stage front and back is not square, but sides are consistent
  3. Front of stage is not square (example it horseshoes) but the back of the stage is square. stage is square to the car
  4. The shape of the stage is square but is not square to the car
  5. The shape of the stage from front to back is square and square to the car. It doesn’t horseshoe, or collapse on one side, etc.

Stage Front (5 Points)

Perceived physical location of the front of the stage. This is determined in relation to the windshield and the closet distinct image (not any ambience). Because some vehicles will have a sub that pulls the rear, if this happens start with the determining the front without that taken into account. Once that is established, deduct a point.

  1. more than 6" inboard of windshield
  2. up to 6" inboard of windshield
  3. at windshield (as defined at the base of the windshield)
  4. up to 6" beyond windshield
  5. beyond 12" from windshield

. Can sustain 103db+. Peaks over that with no distortion. This is the “Hell yeah, brother!” moment…

Bonus Section

Up to 3 points are allowed here at judge’s discretion.

What does this mean? These points are designed to give a judge the ability to award a car that just does something special for which there is no place on the scoresheet to otherwise mark it. Maybe it is the car you want to drive off with. Maybe it gives you goose bumps, makes you want to cry (in a a good way) or whatever the case may be. We realize this is highly subjective, but the criteria should be really high as in very hard to get these points. The vehicle has to be extraordinary in some aspect and the judge should fully qualify why the points were given, in writing.