blue audi s3 car and home stereo macclesfield

Awesome Audi

We have recently completed the audio system for this magnificent Audi S3. If you have read the previous instalment you will already be familiar with the car but it has developed considerably since then! This piece is a perfect example of how we work with our customers to achieve their audio dreams.

This has been a developing project in the quest for the best performance. What started as a simple bass upgrade has turned into a monster!

First things first:

When the car left the factory it was equipped with the B&O audio system and was quite frankly appalling. The front end detail was reasonable but the bass response was dire. The ‘sub’ that was fitted in the boot was a flimsy plastic chamber with a low quality, 6-inch paper and plastic speaker. Any attempt to push the bass resulted in a feeble burp, it had to go.

During the discussion with the owner it quickly became apparent that he was a true music addict and a simple upgrade was not going to be on the cards, he also admitted to being a JL Audio fan which we definitely approve of. We applied the simple motto that you can never have too much, only too little and recommended a JL Audio 12w6 subwoofer and an XD 1000/1 amplifier to drive it. Now we already knew that the signal from the factory amplifier was poor so we also recommended a JL Audio FiX processor to clean the response up.

The 12w6 sub is one of my all-time favourites and the results were very impressive but it wasn’t long before the bug bit again and our customer returned for more. Another 12w6 and XD1000/1 later the bass performance was doubled. Brilliant, but now the front end was starting to sound really bad in comparison, so a speaker upgrade was discussed.

dynamat lining on audi s3 car home stereo macc

Copious amounts of Dynamat inside and out kept the noise and vibration down while a set of JL Audio C5 650 components went in the front. This was all powered by a JL XD 400/4 in active mode while the awesome TwK processor allowed me to carefully tune the system.

 

The sound was amazing and that could have been where it ended, or so we thought.

Next Steps:

The owner of the car felt that there was a slight gap in the low mid frequency performance, and knew that there was room for an extra speaker in the middle of the door. That speaker can only be a 4-inch shallow unit so we knew it could not add the desired low mid. However the main door speaker location can accommodate an 8-inch driver and it just so happens that JL Audio produces a fantastic eight inch, free air mid bass unit, the ZR 800 CW.

This is a big driver but with a carefully designed spacer collar, it just fitted into the lower speaker position.

So what should we use for the high-mid and tweeter? Unfortunately JL Audio does not currently have a slim 4-inch but there is one company that has the perfect solution. The Focal 100KRS is a magnificent small speaker we use it a lot in Land Rover Defenders and know its potential so this was what we recommended. Again we produced mounting collars and the fit was perfect.

Of course, this extra speaker needed driving and there was really only one option for us and that was the JL Audio XD 800/8.

This allowed us to drive the tweeters and 4-inch mids at 100W while delivering a full 200W into each ZR mid-bass driver. Another cool feature is that the 800/8 shares the same chassis with the 1000/1 so now we had three identical looking amps in the boot!

What a sound we had now. The low mid gap was gone and the punch was quite something to experience. Thanks to the TwK processor the sound stage was crystal clear and right in front of the driver.

Was this finally the end? Oh no!

One thing still had to be addressed, the boot build. “Oh and while you do that since we can’t get a third sub in the boot can we squeeze any more performance from the existing two?” Challenge duly set we opted to refit the subs into slot ported enclosures giving us a realistic increase of up to 9dB from the same amplifiers. The owner wanted blue Alcantara to match the car with a raised JL motif on the box. Well, how could we refuse!

sound system in back of audi s3 car and home stereo macclesfield custom fitting

There’s definitely no room for golf clubs but that hardly matters when you hear this. There is, of course, a bass control at the front of the car and when wound up to full this system leaves you breathless.

This install has turned into one of my favourites and complements this gorgeous car perfectly. Look out for it at a show near you and you might just get to hear it.

If you would like to know more about custom installation for your car then please feel free to drop us a line by email or call on 01625 432707.

Factory ‘upgrade’ systems

Recently I have been working on two cars that had factory upgrade audio options fitted. A Nissan GTR with the Bose system and an Aston Martin with the Linn option. My customers were both complaining of poor sound and were wondering how it could sound so bad when the car had the upgraded audio. Now both Bose and Linn are respected hi fi manufacturers who produce excellent products, at Car and Home Stereo we sell the full range of Bose home audio and have supplied Linn audio in the past. I know it well and have a lot of respect for them.

Clearly, both these manufacturers know how to make great audio so what goes wrong when they try to create a car audio system? And I’m not singling out these two, the Harmon Kardon, B&O, Meridian and Mark Levinson are little if any better especially when you consider the cost of ticking that upgrade option box. In my opinion, the short answer is money and marketing while the longer answer is a fundamental misunderstanding of the car environment.

Xcar:

Let’s take a fictitious, generic car manufacturer, Xcar. Let’s assume they are successful and respected producing a high-quality product with flashy showrooms and huge marketing budgets. They need to keep their cars selling and beating their competitors. This competition is excellent for the consumer as it forces the car manufacturers to constantly improve their vehicles. More power, more fuel economy, more safety, more features. More is always better, isn’t it? Of course, at the same time, they need to balance this innovation with costs so that they can turn a profit.

Now Xcar have a mid-priced car that sells very well but is in close competition with its rivals. How to make it more attractive while making more money? This is where the option list comes into play and right up there near the top will be the audio upgrade.

Remember that to marketing people more is always better so obviously, more speakers have to be better right? Wrong! At Car and Home Stereo we design audio systems with one goal; to sound great. What we use to achieve this is almost not relevant, there will be speakers, amplifiers and sound processors but the type and quantity will be decided by the customer’s requirements and personal preferences.

Some of the best sounding audio systems I have ever designed have used only four speakers and a subwoofer. The four speakers would typically be a two way component set comprising a mid and tweeter in each door so could be considered a single pair. A multitude of speakers means that there will be a lot of competing pressure waves in the cabin not to mention multiple reflections causing phase cancellations and ruining the sound stage. Manufacturers often put yet another speaker in the middle of the dashboard, perfect if it is to watch DVDs in 5.1 surround but terrible for stereo delivery.

But Xcar listens to the marketing department and offer a speaker upgrade package that takes the speaker count from six to fifteen. Of course, this many speakers are going to need an amplifier. They could go to a company that designs and builds car audio amplifiers for this but most people have never heard of Audison or JL Audio or Rainbow and Pioneer and Alpine are not considered up market enough. Marketing do their research and find that most of their customers have a house with some decent hi fi so why not get these hi-fi companies to build them an amplifier?

There are two major problems here.

The first is that the car manufacturer has gone to a home audio company. There are fundamental differences between your car and your living room, too many to mention here and most home audio companies simply do not understand them. At Car and Home Stereo we of course use amplifiers from the best car audio manufacturers and while these can be expensive they are ideally suited to the vehicle environment to ensure the best possible sound.

However, the biggest problem can be laid at the feet of the accountants. Remember they need to make more profit without increasing costs too much well putting a big brand hi fi badge on your speaker grille and installing the lowest cost amplifier can do that. The badge might even convince customers that this is great car audio.

amplifier upgrade Nissan GTR Skyline

This is the upgrade amplifier option for the Nissan GTR Skyline. Designed to drive seven speakers even the simplest offering from Hertz would outperform it. And there is the problem, Bose are completely capable of designing and building a tremendous amplifier but car manufacturers will not pay the price for this and go with the least expensive option. That doesn’t stop them from charging a hefty premium when you tick the upgrade box though.

You might assume that you are getting better speakers designed by that hi-fi manufacturer wouldn’t you?
Well more often than not you actually only get the standard speakers with a few more thrown in.

So what have we learned?

My advice is to never tick the upgrade audio box. You will most likely be disappointed and when it comes here to be improved I will usually have to remove it all anyway. Any changes I make will be completely reversible and invisible to any inspection but the difference to your listening experience will be astonishing. You will start to relish the long drive and hold ups will be almost a pleasure as you will have your favourite music in stunning clarity to keep you company.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve your car audio or would like to listen to our stunning Land Rover Discovery demonstration vehicle please feel free to pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, Cheshire or give me a call on 01625 432707

 

car audio speaker music

Simple Car Audio Upgrades

It is quite common for me to be asked how we keep busy. The next comment is usually that surely all modern cars have a great audio system. Well, the short answer is no they don’t but in truth, they are adequate for a lot of drivers because they have never experienced a great in-car audio system. Car manufacturers know this and exploit what we perceive to be good audio by over compensating one aspect of the sound to create an initial impression of quality. Porsche are a prime example with audio that is way too bass biased, initially impressive but very wearing after extended listening. The new Audi systems seem to be mid-range biased and now lack a real usable bass response and that is even worse for the B&O equipped cars.

In my opinion, very few factory standard audio systems offer an acceptable performance and almost all the so called upgrade options are a complete waste of money. One piece of advice I would offer is to never tick the audio upgrade option when buying a new car. Save your money, bring the car here and let me upgrade it properly. My system will be far better, guaranteed and may even be less expensive.

If you follow the Car and Home Stereo Facebook feed then you will have seen the picture of the Peugeot 208 speaker I posted but I must share it here also;

Peugeot 208 speaker

This is what Peugeot feel is acceptable; I think it is one of the worst things I have heard. The only reason this sounds reasonable is that the audio system keeps control of the bass so that you cannot push it too hard leaving you with a weak sounding system.

The speaker next to it is the Audison Prima APX6.5 which fits perfectly and with the addition of a generous amount of Skinz sound deadening treatment inside the door the immediate improvement is amazing.

Skinz around speaker mount

We also apply Skinz around the speaker mount to absorb any resonance in the mounting panel.

As mentioned, this simple speaker upgrade really improves the sound but the power available from the factory audio is a bit feeble. To overcome this we recommend an amplifier to boost the power and improve the dynamic range, an ideal solution is the new Hertz DPower 4. This compact amplifier is easy to tuck away and is fully D class which reduces the amount of waste heat while maximising power.

Hertz DPower 4.

As a four channel amp, this could be configured to just drive the front speakers but we wanted a better bass response and that meant adding a subwoofer. Therefore the amplifier was configured for three channel operation with 60W going to each speaker and the bridged 150W output being sent to the ever popular JL Audio CP108 microsub in the boot.JL Audio CP108 microsub

This sub was chosen as a perfect combination of compact size and high performance. The Peugeot 208 boot is not huge and we did not want to take it over. The client wanted deep, powerful bass that would complement his music choice. So the CP108 was the perfect choice with its 8w3 speaker and specially designed slot ported, high output enclosure this would tuck neatly to one side of the boot leaving nearly all the load space.

This was shaping up to be a great sounding install but there was one more sticking point; the factory head unit. If you know the 208 then you will know that like many new cars today there is no CD player and a touchscreen infotainment display is your interface to both the car systems and the audio. Changing this is not an option but as previously mentioned it has some undesirable characteristics as far as the audio is concerned. The lack of CD player is not unusual but this means we are reliant on either BlueTooth streaming, USB or iPod source none of which are the best quality. If we just fed this signal directly to the amplifier then it would be improved yes but not to the standard to which the equipment is capable.

There are two products that we considered for this installation; the JL Audio FiX82 and the Audison Bit 10. The JL Audio FiX82 is a brilliant device that connects to the factory head unit and corrects all the anomalous EQ and time correction issues fully automatically. It will provide a clean response from just about any head unit out there so is an obvious choice for almost every installation that uses the original head unit.

However, for this installation, we opted for the Audison Bit 10 as we wanted the capacity to manually tune the system. While both products offer tuning capability via a laptop the Bit 10 has a deeper level of control and we felt that this would benefit our client.Audison Bit 10 compact unit

This compact unit was able to disappear under the driver’s seat with the amplifier so the only visible part of this installation was the subwoofer in the boot. As this was his first car there was a chance he would not keep it too long so we made sure that everything could be removed and the original system reinstated without any marks.

The audio performance from this was excellent and the big smile from the owner said it all. Quite honestly this simple system would easily outperform anything Audi or BMW could offer whether it standard, Bose or Harman Kardon.

But what is the cost you ask?

Well the installation took a full day as we made custom installation parts, sound deadened the doors and of course carefully tuned it to our client’s personal tastes. The total was still under £1500. That’s much less than most factory audio upgrade options and ours sounded so much better.

If you would like to know more about how we could improve your car audio please feel free to call in at the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, Cheshire or call me for a chat on 01625 432707.