Life In The Loud Lane

At Car and Home Stereo we are dedicated to getting the best possible sound in your car. We will carefully match your needs to the best equipment and electronics to achieve that goal. We have access to a vast range of products so that we can tailor a system that is perfectly suited to you and your car. Of course what everyone wants is different and two extremes were both in the workshop at the same time recently.

If you have read the Lotus Evora blog you will know that the emphasis was on a stealthy install with the aim to produce a highly detailed soundstage. This was achieved with a full Audison system using the amazing AP8.9 Bit amplifier, Voce speakers and Prima sub, a simple system boasting 520W, more than enough power for the small cabin of the Evora. The final tuned sound of this car was fantastic. The music was surrounding with detail and punch where it needed it.

In the adjacent workshop bay at the same time was a Vauxhall Astra van and the brief for this one was very different. This had to sound good but most importantly it needed the ability to crush you with bass! Being a van we had plenty of space to work with but on the down side all that metal was a prime candidate for epic vibration. Power supply was always going to be an issue from the standard battery and of course with the power we were going to need, the standard wiring would not be adequate.

How we did it:

The first job would be to strip the vehicle for acoustic treatment. Every panel had to be coated to make sure all the enormous energy of the subs was retained inside. There’s no point in installing a 3000W system if 1000W gets out, it might sound good to passers-by but if you’ve paid for all that power, you want to hear it all. Once treated, tapping on any metal panel sounded like tapping on wood. There was no resonance and as a bonus road noise was reduced to almost nothing. The doors were treated with more Dynamat Xtreme to improve the acoustic response of the front speakers and again reduce road noise.

What next?:

The power supply was upgraded with two auxiliary Optima yellow top, deep cycle batteries with a split charge system. Even though the MTX bass amps are ‘D’ class they still draw a significant current and it was important to make sure this would not drain the vehicle battery. This kind of power has to be made safe and that means fuses on each battery and on each supply to the amplifiers, there may only be 12 Volts but the current capacity on the Optima batteries is more than enough to melt any cable and incorrect fusing could cause a fire if short circuited.

Once the power supply was installed we could mount the amps on the forward bulkhead. As this was destined for the show scene we made sure that everything was as neat as could be.

The eagle eyed of you will spot the cut outs for the MTX 6×9 speakers below the amps. This is an unconventional position for speakers as they are behind the seats but they will add a much needed boost to the low mid-range to complement the component speakers in the doors.

The three main amps are MTX RT1000.1Ds, These develop 1000W each at 2 Ohms which is why they need 50mm sq. power cable! The rest of the speakers are powered by a JL Audio XD400/4 and everything is kept under control by the Audison Bit 10. The front speakers were mounted in the standard location on custom collars and the tweeters were mounted into custom ‘A’ pillar pods.

This improved the staging for the front and solved the problem of the size of the tweeter being too large for the factory location.

So what about the subs I hear you cry!

Well this had to be the show stopper so we knew we would have to build something a bit special. The MTX TX612 is a beast of a sub.

With its awesome power handling capability we knew we could really push this speaker. It has incredible excursion and that red, double stitched hinge is not just for show. We wanted to get the most from this driver so we opted for an optimised slot ported enclosure, one for each sub. As you can imagine there is a significant amount of weight here so we also had to make sure that there was no possibility that any of this structure could move. Safety is always prominent in our minds when designing any system.

This is the finished enclosure although there will be trimmed wheel arch boxes either side for storage.

The auxiliary batteries and fuses are located behind the enclosure and are accessible by removing the top trim panel. There will be a voltage display mounted in the right hand arch box so battery condition can be monitored. The main fuse and Stinger 500A peak split charge relay are mounted in the bonnet with the vehicle battery.

Did we fulfil our brief?

And then some! With the tailgate open the bass completely dominates and you can feel the sound waves pushing your chest. If you dare to put your head inside the boot you’re immediately disorientated by the sound pressure level. When sat in the front you can hear the rest of the music as well and now that awesome bass complements rather than overpowers. Of course there is a level control for the bass but the temptation is to turn it up for the biggest smiles!

At Car and Home Stereo we know that this sort of system is not for everyone and we always ensure you get exactly what you need so regardless of what vehicle please give us a call and we can start your journey to a better sound.

 

Exotic Evora


The Lotus Evora 400 is a true super car. A fire breathing 3.5litre V6 will propel this rocket to 60 in under 4 seconds and on to a top speed of over 180 mph. But, when you have finished playing with the race controls, stopped grinning at the insane acceleration and started to use the car every day you will probably start to notice something. The audio system is quite frankly awful. The infotainment head unit is an Alpine 990 navigation multi media player and as such is really quite a performer but after that it’s not so good.

There are a pair of Clarion 5 inch speakers in the doors and a pair of unbranded tweeters on the ‘A’ pillars. There is even an 8 inch sub powered by a small Alpine amp just behind the driver seat but you’d hardly know it. Of course the audio system was low on the priority list when designing this car but the sound quality for a £70K+ car is not good at all.

So what should we do to improve it?

We don’t want to add a lot of weight and I think it’s important to keep it discreet. There is no real need to change the Alpine head unit unless more features are required but everything else will go. The car’s owner agreed and was most interested in a high quality sound at all levels. He did not need it to be extremely loud but of course it has to be able to compete with the exhaust! From our previous experience with the Lotus Evora we know that the low mid-range gets lost in the road noise so we need to fit a speaker that can cope with this and also EQ the car appropriately.

We opted for the super flexible Audison Prima AP8.9 Bit amplifier as the heart of the system.


This is an 8 channel, multi input amplifier with a full digital signal processor on board. This allows me to configure the amplifier outputs as required and then to tune the system to the exact requirements of the installation. It is also very compact for the output and will fit neatly in place of the Alpine sub amp.

The speaker set would be the wonderful Audison Voce K5. I would not use the passive crossovers as I can set all the frequency slopes and cut offs in the amplifier.

The choice for the sub was easy, the Audison APS8R.

This slim 8 inch sub is perfect for the existing enclosure once it has been acoustically treated with sound deadening.

The first job after carefully stripping the vehicle interior are the tweeters. I must confess that I have done this on a few times now and know they are a great fit. A very slight modification is required to the ‘A’ pillar but the original tweeters could still be replaced if required.

 I absolutely love this tweeter. It is smooth and very detailed without any harsh edges at the very high end. It is quite large but that allows it to be blended seamlessly with the mid-range.

 

The door speakers in the Lotus are in a good location high up at the front of the door but they are mounted in flimsy plastic collars. The K5 mid driver is somewhat deeper than the Clarion unit so a set of wooden spacers are made to increase the depth available.

                             
Naturally we apply sound deadening to the door both inside and out to improve the acoustic properties of the space. Since we will run this as a fully active system from the amplifier we have to rewire the speakers, tweeters and sub. This is a significant amount of cable and in such a compact car can be a challenge to lay but of course we are will ensure nothing can be seen.

Moving to the back we mount the amp in place of the Alpine unit. The first job is to construct an amplifier plate and trust me when I say that even with the compact AP8.9 Bit that space is tight!

A new power supply is taken to the boot mounted battery and everything is loomed and tied down tight to make sure nothing can move. Once the amp is in place we apply appropriate sound deadening to the area where the sub will mount and when the panel goes back into place there is absolutely nothing to show that any changes have been made (although if you look closely you can just see the Audison logo through the grille).

With everything built back up we can turn our attention to tuning the system. Of course we can only partially tune any new system as the speakers need time to run in so we will definitely want the car back in a week or so. However we can set up the time correction, phasing and crossover frequencies at this point.

As I mentioned the Audison AP8.9 Bit is an 8 channel amplifier so with 5 speakers it is configured as a 5 channel with a bridged output to the sub and mids ensuring full power is delivered where it is needed and because it has multi input capability the Alpine sub level control continues to operate.

With the time correction, initial EQ and phase adjustments done the sound stage is right in front of the driver and appears to come from just above the dashboard! There is now a sparkle and liveliness to the sound with a beautifully blended sub and mid response. Playing Michael Jackson’s Thriller is a great test and this does not disappoint, the sound is crisp and punchy with really wide stereo separation, the footsteps at the start seem to walk right across the dash and the door slam is epic. The bass is smooth and can be adjusted from off to ‘back massage’. Time will tell if the mid-range needs to come up more to compensate for the driving noise but right now with the engine running the music sounds spectacular.

At Car and Home Stereo we are experts at creating wonderful sound for your car. We are members of the Four Masters group of independent car audio specialists which means we can offer a national three year warrantee on selected products we install as well as offering a lifetime warrantee on all installation. If you would like to know more about how we can help you achieve your dream sound then please get in contact via the website, Facebook or call me om 01625 432707.

 

Stealth Installation: Audi Edition

At Car and Home Stereo, we have been installing high-performance audio for over 40 years now. As I’ve said before we have seen a continuous change in vehicles, equipment, and technology but one very noticeable change has been the drive to take up less space. Amplifiers have shrunk in size and subwoofers can operate in smaller enclosures, the ‘stealth’ install if you like.

I can clearly remember the 1990s when there were queues of Golf GTis waiting for subs and amps. One of our popular installs would be a Phoenix Gold Ti 600 amp and a pair of JL Audio 15w3 subs, what a sound! Of course, it filled the boot space and you couldn’t lift the sub box to get to the spare wheel but who cared when you could feel the bass right through to your bones.

It is true to say that these days our customers are more reluctant to sacrifice all their boot to amplifiers and speakers and as I said earlier, manufacturers have been working hard to reduce sizes without compromising performance but sometimes it’s nice to install a proper ‘muscle’ system and recently  I did just that in an Audi, let me take you through it.

The vehicle is an Audi S3 with the B&O sound system. The owner was reasonably happy with the front speakers but was completely disappointed with the bass performance. When we sat in it together the first thing I noticed was the huge gap in the midrange, quite an achievement considering there are 10 speakers, and of course, the sub bass was nonexistent. Looking in the boot we found the B&O ‘sub’ which was no more than a 6-inch paper cone speaker in a plastic box, awful! The Audi speakers are heavy, low sensitivity drivers which is why the midrange was so poor. So what should we do?

We wanted bass, lots of bass, so the obvious choice was the magnificent JL Audio 12w6 or rather two of them.

This is easily one of my favourite speakers of all time with masses of punch but with a sensitivity to play the fastest of bass lines cleanly.

Of course a sub like that wants lots of power and the perfect match is the JL Audio XD1000/1v2, one for each sub.

With 1000W on tap, this amplifier certainly has the drive but it also boasts a high damping factor to help keep control over that 12-inch cone. When a speaker is played loud the cone has to move a large distance, the 12w6 has a peak to peak maximum excursion of nearly 40mm! That cone builds up a lot of inertia and it is down to the amplifier to keep that under control. Damping factor could be considered to be the brakes of the system and without good brakes, the cone is just going to flop forwards and backward leading to a loose bass performance. It is the damping factor that helps keep everything tight and punchy.

I couldn’t allow this level of bass performance to be added to the car without dealing with the front end which I felt was completely inadequate. Nothing crazy. Just a simple front speaker upgrade with a 4 channel XD amplifier to power it. We settled on the super smooth JL Audio C5 650 component set and the XD 400/4v2 to power them. By using a 4 channel amp I could run the mids and tweeters fully active to eliminate the passive crossovers.

The next challenge is how to connect our system to the factory head unit. The Audi, like many other modern cars, uses the fiber optic MOST system to deliver audio from the entertainment and vehicle alerts to the amplifier. In order to retain this audio feed, we have to retain the B&O amplifier. The trouble, of course, is that the amplifier performance is hopeless. If  I connected my new amplifiers to the audio output of the B&O the sound would be almost as bad as before. Fortunately, we now have an arsenal of tools from JL Audio to remedy this. The simple but powerful FiX automatic processors and the incredible TwK audio processor.

The FiX processor is designed to connect directly to the factory amplifier speaker outputs. It can determine the issues in that speaker feed and automatically correct them. It is capable of accepting multi channel inputs and creating a pair of high quality pre amp outputs, it can even detect phase and time delayed signals and correct them.

With this connected to the B&O we now had a very clean audio feed that retained all of the vehicle and entertainment information and in reality we could have just connected this feed to our new system, but we weren’t finished yet! This system needed to be amazing so step up the JL Audio TwK88. This small but powerful device allows me to create virtually any system configuration I want. I have full control over every aspect of the the audio spectrum, I can control frequency, phase, time correction, equalisation and level. Every output can be fine tuned for the absolute best sound possible so I can take account of annomolies in the sound stage.

Although we left the rear speakers as standard they are faded almost completely off but they are adding a small amount of presence to the rear seats. The small mids in the door and the centre dash speaker have been disconnected as they only muddied the sound which is now wonderful. The sound stage is high and clear, right across the dashboard, the mid range has returned and the bass can go from subtle to armageddon!

So what does all this look like?

Even Henry looks impressed!

Once the boot floor cover goes back none of the electronics are on show, the sub box moves into the load space and surprisingly there is quite a lot of room left. Certainly enough for the shopping.

This system is massively impressive, it might not suit everyone from a size point of view but the sound quality would blow you away.

If you would like to know more about how Car and Home Stereo can improve the sound in your car please call me on 01625 432707 or better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.

 

Improving one of Germany’s Finest

BMW have a long and illustrious history as manufacturers of engines and vehicles. Their market share in the UK is typically around 5% and one of their most popular products is the 3 series. There is a version for everyone from a sedate family saloon to a barely tamed rocket ship but they all have one thing in common, a terrible audio system.

I know that’s my opinion but believe me when I say I’ve yet to hear a good one regardless of whether it is the standard audio or one of the ‘premium’ upgrades. They all lack presence, dynamic range or any real sparkle. When I listen to my music I want to be carried away with the whole experience, I don’t just want some background noise.

The BMW designers did a fine job of the car, they cleverly engineered the body panels to absorb low-frequency road noise. Unfortunately, this has the effect of removing those same frequencies from the music system. So they thought let’s put some extra bass speakers in there. These reside under the front seats and even though they are unfiltered this means that only the lower frequencies get through. In the doors there are a set of 12cm mid drivers and if you are very lucky a pair of cheap plastic tweeters. The result is a real lack of high-frequency definition and a HUGE gap in the lower midrange.

I’ve lost count of the number of BMW E and F series I have improved but they all start the same way, with better speakers. For some customers, this is enough and for others, it is just the start of a complete refit but it is the one thing that makes a huge difference and it doesn’t need to cost the earth.

There are quite a few speaker manufacturers producing BMW specific upgrade sets but one of my favorites has to be by Eton.

Their German designed units are superb, the fit is absolutely perfect and the sound is excellent.

As can be seen from the pictures the structure is much more substantial, this allows a much greater linear excursion of the cone which means far better lower midrange. That means a better blend with the under seat subs can be achieved even if they are left as standard.

 

The Eton tweeters are really smooth sounding with none of the harsh highlights of the BMW fitted option.

 

Even with the basic, unamplified BMW audio system, the difference in clarity and dynamic range is amazing and at only £299 for the set, they are incredibly good value.

If you would like to know more about how to improve the sound in your car, whether it’s a BMW or not, please give me a call on 01625 432707.