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Upgrading the Defender

The Land Rover Defender is a true British classic design. Although, now sadly out of production, the longevity of the Defender means that they will be on (and off) our roads for a great many years to come.

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It’s design hasn’t changed much in its 70 years and, despite continuous improvements to comfort the audio, performance has always been poor. A relatively noisy environment coupled with small speakers has always meant the sound in the Defender has a lot left to be desired!

As Macclesfield in Cheshire is a fairly rural community there are a lot of these vehicles about as you can imagine and over the years I have developed an audio upgrade package which is powerful and discreet.

The first challenge is the speaker size. Being only 10 cm without modification means that the bass performance is limited. Step forward JL Audio! As the undisputed leaders in subwoofer design, JL Audio are perfectly placed to design speakers that have a much better bass response. This is not to say that a 4 inch speaker can replace a subwoofer but JL Audio’s expertise means that you will get a massive improvement over the stock speaker.

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To bring the bass response up to the required standard we need to fit in a subwoofer. The irony is that although the Defender is a large utility vehicle, there is almost nowhere to discreetly install a sub box without compromising useful space. JL Audio is here to the rescue, again, with their amazing sub, the 6w3.

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This astonishing unit is a true 6 inch subwoofer. It is optimized for a tiny enclosure of just 0.125 cu ft. I have developed a carpet trimmed speaker box that will fit just under the roll cage bar behind the front seat. One can be used but for best results we recommend one either side to create an effective 12 inch sub. This allows for a much smoother performance and really blends with the music.

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So now we have a sub we are going to need an amplifier. Again, space is limited but fortunately there is room under the driver’s seat for a compact unit. It makes no sense to just amplify the sub so we always install a multi-channel unit to power sub and speakers.

Here we must address the acoustic issues in the vehicle because of the speaker layout and the rather boxy interior of the Defender the sound staging is challenging to say the least. It is essential to install some sort of signal processor or regardless of the quality of the installed equipment, the sound stage will be poor.

I now always use the Audison Prima AP9Bit amplifier. This amazing unit has a full digital signal processor coupled to a powerful 8 channel amplifier in a very compact chassis.

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This amplifier can be configured in any way I need depending on the complexity of the installed system. In the Defender it can be a 5 or 6 way for one or two subs. I can then configure the signal processor for the car acoustics and the personal musical tastes of the owner. The software is very powerful, providing  full spectrum equalization on every channel with very fine time alignment available to place the sound stage where it needs to be.

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As a musician I can appreciate the subtleties of sound and this software allows me to bring out the finer details of the music even in a challenging environment like the Land Rover Defender. I am often challenged by owners who say you can’t get a good sound in a Defender but I guarantee that I can. I have installed many of these systems now, both for private individuals and for local dealerships, the feedback is always the same, that they just can’t believe how good this sounds. One customer even came back to tell me that the sound was better than in his Bentley GT!

It is true that the kit described above is extremely good but without the ability to carefully tune it the results would be arable at best. That is where I can make the biggest difference, my experience and exacting standards mean that this great equipment can be enjoyed to its true potential and I feel that this is true value.

 

Whatever you own, Land Rover, Lamborghini, Lotus or any other car with a challenging audio performance I can make it better, give Tim a call on 01625 432707 or email sales@carhomestereo.co.uk to start your journey to better sound.

 

The Unsung Heroes of Radio

Aerials, the unsung heroes of radio!

They may not be glamorous or sexy but your aerial is arguably the most important part of any radio system. It is the link between the station transmitter and your car radio and without it the best radio receiver in the world is going to be silent.

This is particularly true for modern DAB receivers. Digital radio is still broadcast on the FM waveband but the signal is now just a string of 1s and 0s instead of a modulated analogue signal. This transmission method means more stations, more data, better sound and clarity. There has been an explosion of content providers keen to use this digital media rather like we saw when digital TV started.

Despite the many advantages of digital transmission, there is one major drawback, the fact that it is either fully available or not at all. That is to say that if reception quality falls then the signal completely disappears. With an analogue FM signal if the signal strength dipped then all that happened was a slight interference or a drop to mono, DAB on the other hand will ‘bubble’ and disappear, usually just when things are interesting!

So let’s concentrate on DAB aerials as they are crucial to good reception. Most DAB radios are sold with an in windscreen aerial.

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Let me say now that these are the least desirable type. They work but at a very low gain which means that in weaker signal conditions they will fail. Of course, a lot of modern cars have no external aerial and you may not wish to install one so these stick on aerials are your only option. Some are better than others and at Car and Home Stereo I have tested as many as I can find. The one I use is the most successful one to date offering reasonable reception under most conditions. This is not to say it is faultless and it still suffers from directional issues which are to say a station can be clear when travelling to work but poor in the opposite direction.

For best reception there is nothing better than an external aerial. Since DAB radio is broadcast on the FM waveband it is perfectly possible to use a standard aerial as fitted to the roof of some Fords and wing mount on Land Rover Defenders. All that is needed is a modulator to separate the two signals.

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These can offer up to 10 dB of gain for both FM and DAB which means a great reception for both.

Unfortunately the modulator cannot be used with existing amplified aerials as fitted to many cars.

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These vehicle aerials strip off the higher frequency signals before sending to the radio so no DAB. In these cases I always prefer to fit a replacement combined FM/DAB aerial.

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These can again offer up to 10dB of gain and of course suffer no directional issues. If your car has navigation then there is a version of this aerial that also contains a GPS receiver. The mast is removable and the look of the car is unchanged. I have often fitted this aerial to cars with no external mast like the Volkswagen T5 and the reception is dramatically improved.

As I said at the start, aerials are not glamorous but getting it right will mean trouble free reception and less annoying drop outs.

 

Call Tim on 01625 432707 if you wish to discuss options to improve your radio enjoyment.

 

Simon Says? Speakers Please!

For this instalment let’s look at speaker installation. The speaker is the last piece of hardware between your music and your ears and as such has an awful lot to do with the sound you hear.

The science behind the speaker is extremely simple; pass an electric current through a wire that sits inside a magnetic field and the wire experiences a force, vary that current and you vary the force. Of course this demonstration produces no sound but if we attach the wire (or coil) to a diaphragm (or cone) we have the nucleus of a working speaker. The electronics in the amplifier produce the varying electrical current and the speaker responds, creating the highly complex vibrations in the air that we hear as music.

The above description is of course highly simplified and in reality there are many more aspects to speaker design. We have to consider the weight of the moving parts, the resistance to movement within the materials themselves, the linearity of the magnetic field, the quality of the coil wire, the damping to prevent uncontrolled excursion, stability of the frame and so on and so on! Fortunately all of these considerations are engineering problems and this means that better engineering will lead to a better product.

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When Mr. Ford or Mr. Audi or even Mr. Porsche are told that they have to put speakers in their cars their first consideration is not about quality even when they enlist the help of respected Hi-Fi companies. Their overriding concern is one of reliability. A blown speaker is a warrantee issue and that costs money. The trouble is that a speaker that can survive heavy metal hard core country rap at full volume has to be made super resilient. This speaker is not going to be able to respond to the subtle nuances of any quality musical performance.

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At Car and Home Stereo we are always going to install a high quality speaker, carefully selected to match the vehicle and musical tastes of the customer. This is where our installation skills are needed. The average car door is a challenging place for a speaker. It is a steel box that is often wet inside, can be freezing one day and very hot the next. There are moving parts within it and it is subject to a large amount of vibration and noise. Let’s look at a typical installation addressing each point.

First of all we carefully remove the inner trim making sure that all clips and seals are retained. After this the next job is to treat the metal skin with sound deadening material which will absorb road noise and any vibrations within the door.

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Particular attention is paid to directly behind the speaker as this will absorb the sound generated by the back of the cone and prevent reflection back into the door panel.

Once the outer skin has been treated we apply a foam barrier to the inner skin. This forms a watertight seal and acts as a thermal and acoustic barrier. This keeps the car warmer in winter, cooler in summer and again reduces road noise. The difference these treatments make to a car is astonishing.

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Now we come to installing the speaker. The factory units are often built to fit so we must make panels and collars to allow a perfect fit to the door.

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It is very important that no moisture gaps are left as it may come as a surprise to know that doors are designed to let rain flow through them. Any gaps could lead to a wet floor so we make sure everything is sealed with high quality silicone, both the collar and the speaker, this also ensures no air gaps to compromise the speaker performance.

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Quite a lot of work but absolutely worth it. These Audison APK speakers sound great anyway but by treating the door they are at least 30% better.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the sound in your car please call Tim on 01625 432707.

Cutting Edge! with JL Audio

Today let’s look at the range of fantastic high performance products from JL Audio.

Formed in 1975, JL Audio are based in Florida USA and from the very start, their passion has always been to produce the best possible products. Originally they concentrated on sub-woofers and they quickly earned an enviable reputation for amazing power and performance. More recently JL Audio have expanded their range to include speakers and amplifiers with the emphasis once again firmly on quality and performance.

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It’s true to say that the JL Audio range of subs has something for everyone. From small, discreet custom enclosures to high output monsters to true Hi-Fi quality audiophile drivers. The engineering expertise at JL Audio means that even their least expensive sub still sounds amazing and will work in a relatively small enclosure.

Every in car system will benefit from the installation of the dedicated bass speaker and at Car and Home Stereo we will make sure that it is fitted and set up correctly.

 

 

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Of course a sub-woofer always needs an amplifier and so the logical step for JL Audio was to produce their own range. Car and Home Stereo is proud to be a JL Audio Signature dealer which means we carry a wide range of products. The XD range of amplifiers is a particular favourite of mine. They only take up a small amount of space but deliver an amazing performance! From the compact XD 200.2 to the immensely powerful XD 1000.1 they offer a level of flexibility and performance unparalleled to anything else.

Never a company to stand still, JL Audio have just upped their game and released a new range of amplifiers designated the RD series.

 

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These units are extremely good value for money and sound amazing as they are based on JL Audio’s NexD D class technology. Multiple input configurations are available making for pretty much universal compatibility while the small footprint means installation is straight forward.

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JL Audio speakers are some of the best around. Even the entry level TR series have a detail and clarity many other more expensive speakers cannot compete with. Taking a step up to the C2 series and we are well on the way to a true Hi-Fi performance. Where space is tight the C2 400 (a 10cm speaker) punches far above its weight for low frequency. This has become my first choice for the Land Rover Defender and is more than capable of overcoming the road noise while still producing a full range performance.

One speaker range stands out though, the C5. This speaker range has a natural and transparent sound that is simply breathtaking. OK they are not cheap but that is not the point, where high fidelity is the goal you have to go a long way to beat this speaker. The tweeter alone is one of the smoothest speakers I have heard with vocal and piano pieces a joy to experience.

And of course there are many more products in the JL Audio line up. There are processors that allow seamless integration with factory standard audio systems. These units can repair the poor performance of the standard head units found in BMW, Audi,  VW and others that can not be changed meaning you do not have to put up with the stock audio.

There is also a range of very high performance marine speakers used on the like of Sunseeker power boats. However at Car and Home Stereo we are land locked and there has never been a big demand for these here!

The most important point is that, with JL Audio, we have a range of products that can suit any application and any performance requirement. We have the experience and resources to make sure we offer and install the best possible sound at any budget.

 

Give Tim a call to discuss your requirements or, better still, call in to the shop in Macclesfield for a coffee and a chat.

Don’t Sacrifice Quality Today featuring Bose

Here at Car & Home Stereo, we don’t just stock speakers we also have a great variety of Bose accessories.

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We don’t think you should have to sacrifice quality if you don’t have a high tech set up so we have some incredible Bose headphones in store. It is an ideal birthday or Christmas present for just about anyone.

 

Pop into Car & Home Stereo on Sunderland Street for more information.

Sharp and Sleek Bose Soundtouch Speakers

We are proud to introduce the latest addition to the Bose Soundtouch family, the Soundtouch 300.
This innovative sound bar offers a level of flexibility and performance that has never been seen before.

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Bose has always been a technology led company and over the years have developed a range of home audio systems that have revolutionised the way we see, and use Hi-Fi.

The Bose Soundtouch platform has taken the wireless, networked audio market to new heights of performance which, coupled with its elegance and simplicity of use has made it the market leader.
The Soundtouch 300 is the first in a new range of home theatre systems that feature amazing performance, stunning looks and an unrivaled feature set.
The new black glass top has been engineered by one of the most famous automotive glass producers in the world while the sleek design draws from years of in house development.

At the heart of the system  is the new sound bar.

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This can connect to your TV via HDMI or optical ensuring complete compatibility.
It contains the now famous Bose AdaptIQ software to ensure the best possible sound in any room regardless of size or shape and once connected to your home internet network you can stream all your music to it via WiFi or Bluetooth.

But of course it doesn’t end there as there are also a couple of optional upgrades.

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If you enjoy the power and performance of modern films you should add the incredible Acoustimass 300 sub. This relatively small unit can be mounted anywhere in the room as it utilises a wireless connection to the sound bar. All it requires is a mains connection. The AdaptIQ software can perfectly integrate the sub into the acoustic environment.

The second optional upgrade is the Acoustimass 300 rear speakers.

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Again these use a wireless connection to the sound bar so no more trailing cables to the back of the room. These will add a true surround sound experience to your movies and music!

This is the first of a whole new range of amazing products from Bose that will once again place it firmly at the top of everyone’s must have list.

At Car and Home Stereo we will be stocking the full range of these systems and we would welcome you for an audition at our showroom on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

 

 

If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to call us on 01625 432707.

Audio Installation with Full Instrumentation!

Over the 40 years that Car and Home Stereo has been installing audio systems to cars we have seen enormous changes. Changes to the source units available (who else remembers 8 track cartridges?!), changes to the playback systems and of course changes to the vehicles themselves. While a 1970’s Ford Escort shares a common purpose with a 2016 Audi TT, they share very little under the skin.

Most vehicle systems now are completely controlled by the on-board computers, true Drive by Wire. These systems have meant much greater reliability, higher efficiency and flexibility. However it has also led to a much lower tolerance of interference with respect to changes. Even the slightest change to a vehicle system can generate fault codes and even lead to vehicle malfunction.

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This, coupled with fully integrated entertainment systems would appear to spell the end of audio upgrades, leaving you stuck with the dull factory installed system but help is at hand!

Fortunately our industry has risen to the challenge and developed systems that can be seamlessly integrated with any factory system regardless of complexity.

If you have a Bose or Infinity audio system in your car then the speakers may well be of a lower impedance than standard. This would mean a blown speaker could not be replaced with an alternative to the factory part but we now have speakers that are specifically designed to be added to factory systems meaning perfect fit and far better sound.

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You may want to change the basic radio in your VW Golf to something with DAB radio or satellite navigation. The standard VW radio also displays parking information and climate control settings, there are controls on the steering wheel for volume and track search. These are features you would not want to lose and we can supply units that have all the facilities you may want as well as supporting all the standard vehicle displays.

With the advent of computer controlled systems there are also hazards to changing the head unit to one that is not compatible with the vehicle wiring. The results can be from your new unit not working to damage to the electrical system. At Car and Home Stereo we take safety very seriously and have a wide range of specialist interfaces to ensure that any new system integrates perfectly with your car.

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Of course you may want a complete upgrade to your system but do not want to alter the look of your dashboard. This is an area in which we excel. Whichever car you drive with whatever audio system we can improve and add to it. Regardless of complexity we have the tools and skills to seamlessly upgrade your listening experience. With the products from Audison, Hertz, JL Audio, Pioneer, Alpine and many others we can create your perfect sound system.

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From Beetles to Bentlys we have worked on just about every vehicle out there and every one gets the same level of care and attention. Our goal is to give you a powerful audio experience whatever your budget and we will work very hard to make sure you get exactly what you want.

So remember, whatever the car, we can help. Contact us now to start your journey to better audio.

Installation Spotlight : An Engineer’s Perspective

This week at Car Home Stereo, we’re joining resident audio expert Tim on his mission to make the Land Rover Discovery 4 sound great. Tim has kindly taking the time to talk us through the process from his perspective, giving us audio enthusiasts an opportunity for rare insight into the sound engineer’s process!

 

The Process

This is the latest demonstrator for car and home stereo, the Discovery 4 commercial.

The challenge in this vehicle is the basic Harman Kardon system installed by the factory, the sound is flat and dull with poor separation and awful bass performance.

While we could have left the standard head unit in, I wanted the benefits of Apple Car Play. That meant mounting a unit discreetly into the dash screen location. There is very limited depth available, but fortunately the Alpine ILX-700 is perfect at just over 75mm deep. An original Discovery screen surround was purchased and modified to accept the Alpine unit.

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The original screen and controls had to be retained as the date and time adjustments are accessed from these. The answer was to relocate them to under the passenger seat.

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The original control button location proved an ideal position for the Audison Bit controller so an Alcatara trimmed panel was constructed. This allows quick access to all the amplifier settings as well as equaliser presets.

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I knew I was going to use the Audison Voce 5.1K amplifier and Bit 1 DSP and wanted to install them on show but without losing boot space. The solution to this was to mount the two units in a carpet trimmed panel in the existing boot panel recess.

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The same solution was applied for the sub on the opposite side, this time creating an enclosure in the storage pocket for the Hertz Mille 8 inch sub.

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Our speaker choice was the magnificent Hertz Mille 1650.3 two way components. These are absolutely amazing, offering a detail and clarity at any power level that is breathtaking. These were sited in the original door locations on custom built mountings. The door panel had full deadening treatment of course.

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It is difficult to describe how good this system sounds,it has to be heard. We love to show it off and would welcome you down for a demonstration.

Coming Home to Great Sound

Here at Car & Home Stereo Macclesfield, we love talking about our cars and how good they sound. This week, though, we wanted to take a look at the other side of what we do – bringing great sound to your home.

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Enjoying your favourite music at home has never been easier. The latest home sound systems let you feed through music from your favourite steaming apps, internet radio and your personal library collection – all from your phone or smart device. Car & Home Stereo’s resident connoisseur of sound technology, Tim Campling, has settled on the Bose SoundTouch as our brand of choice. First and foremost, this is because the Bose SoundTouch offers uncompromisingly brilliant sound quality.

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10 reasons why the Bose SoundTouch is a system we love!

  1. Bose SoundTouch connects you to an internet radio search system that lets you explore and discover music from around the world, Ecuadorian Jazz anyone?
  2. Stream music from your favourite apps, like Spotify, directly into any room of your house, all at the touch of a button. Planning a dramatic entrance? Que your favourite chorus to announce your arrival!
  3. The Bose SoundTouch is fully scalable. You can start small with a standalone unit, and work your way up to a full system.
  4. Installation sound daunting? We’ll send our very own sound system maestro Tim Campling round to help you get set up.
  5. Looking for something to sing along to in the bath? You can add Bose amps to bring great quality sound to your wet-rooms and outdoor spaces.
  6. Bose are constantly updating their SoundTouch software, meaning the app is increasingly easy to use and always getting neat new features – all included completely free.
  7. Planning a party? You can set different volumes or even different songs for each of your rooms, all from the same smart device.
  8. Fully compatible with your home cinema system.
  9. Sleek and slight, the Bose SoundTouch won’t interfere with your home decor.
  10. Uncompromisingly fantastic sound quality, crystal clear and richly textured.

As you can tell, we are huge fans of the Bose SoundTouch. You can get your hands on your first standalone unit for less than £200. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy new songs and old favourites alike, anywhere in the home, without routing around for old CDs.

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Sound good? Pop into our Car & Home Stereo Showrooms on Sunderland Street, in the Heart of Macclesfield, and we’d be happy to chat more about it. We look forward to seeing you!

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Instrumental Interlude

This week, an instrumental interlude to our weekly blogs on the world of car & home audio engineering, as we pause for breath and take a look our passion for making music.

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Tim is a keen musician and plays guitar for a local band in his spare time. Being active on the creative side of music allows Tim to better appreciate the aims and results of sound engineering. There’s nothing quite like hearing your own sound back in crystal clear quality!

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Here at Car Home Stereo Macclesfield, in the Heart of Cheshire, we take pride in our passion for all sides of music and sound. If you get excited for all things music & sound, make sure to get in touch – we love a good natter!

We look forward to seeing you.