You cars security matters

Modern cars are awash with incredible security and comfort systems. Automatic lights, wipers, radar distance detection and auto braking to name only a few. One feature that has become very commonplace is keyless entry and starting. To unlock the car all that is required is to have the keyfob in your pocket as you pull the door handle. The same applies when you push the start button as the car detects the key‘s proximity. Surely this is secure? Maybe not as much as we would like to believe.

 

Obviously the car and the fob are in communication so that they recognise each other but this has thrown up a worrying security breach as the video below demonstrates.

The released footage shows two car thieves (now thankfully caught) stealing a Mercedes in less than 60 seconds. No keys and no damage to the vehicle. They use a ‘relay box’ that can electronically find the key from outside the house and transmit its code to a receiver near the car. This code will unlock the car and allow it to start. What you may not be aware of is that the car will remain running without the fob even when out of range.

So unfortunately all the sophisticated security systems fitted by the car manufacturers are useless. The police are now suggesting we go back to the ‘90s and start fitting ugly steering wheel locks (which are relatively easy to overcome) as a deterrent. There are much better options.

 Ghost immobiliser.

This really is the ultimate protection for modern cars. This extremely high spec. security device can be hidden completely. It radiates no signal and cannot be detected on the vehicle diagnostic port (OBD). It requires the user to enter a code of their choice using existing vehicle buttons before the car can be driven. Since there are no flashing lights or touch key ports there are no cables to follow. Thus making the unit virtually impossible to find and defeat. It acts on the vehicle data network so there are no relay clicks or cut wires to give it away. So whether the thief is armed with a scanner, a relay box or even the genuine key the vehicle will not be able to be driven.

See here for compatible vehicles, if yours is on the list then it is at risk. The development of this unit requires rigorous testing so new vehicles may take a little time to appear.

Installation can only be done by trained, high quality technicians and we are proud to be included as approved installers.

RAC Trackstar tracking unit.

If the car cannot be started then the only option is to physically tow it away and unfortunately this is what is happening. There are even anecdotal reports of brazen thieves turning up with liveried tow trucks in the middle of the day and helping themselves.

While no security device is going to stop this, if there is a good tracking system installed then the action of moving the car at all will alert the tracking station. The movements of the vehicle can then be monitored and the police informed of the location. This usually leads to a speedy and more likely recovery.

We recommend and install the RAC Trackstar tracker. This covertly fitted unit is category 6 insurance approved and is fully automatic. If the vehicle is moved without the key then it immediately reports to base station. They will then contact you to ask if you know if it is moving (for example during service), if it is unauthorised then the vehicle is tracked. If the car were stolen with the key then you would call the emergency number to report a theft and again the vehicle is tracked.

There is an app that allows the user to personally monitor your vehicle’s location.
It even enables you to set a ‘ringfence’ around it to alert you if the vehicle is driven without authorisation.

Recent journeys are also logged providing real information about location and speed.

For many insurance companies these are a required fit for high risk vehicles. However, the peace of mind they offer is priceless even if the installation is not mandatory.

Clifford Concept 650 alarm immobiliser.

We have been fitting the Clifford range of alarms for over 20 years; in all that time they have proved extremely reliable. It is true that they must be installed to a very high standard and that does cost a little more but the protection offered is peerless.

While more modern cars suit the Ghost immobiliser, the Concept 650 is ideal for earlier vehicles and classic cars. As classic vehicle values soar it makes sense to protect them properly and the Clifford is ideal. It is often joked about but the very presence of the distinctive blue LED flashing in the car is enough to deter a potential thief.

As a hard wired system with a high parts count installation is necessarily complex. We go to great lengths to make sure it is discreet and reliable. The basic system offers multi point immobilisation, perimeter protection at all points of entry, internal movement sensor and close external movement warn away sensor. In addition there is a secure PIN coded override button as well as the famous blue LED inside the car. Meanwhile, you get two high range multi-channel remote controls. On top of this, there are further systems that can be installed or enabled. These include anti-hijack, remote start as well as extra sensors such as break glass, tilt or shock. All of these allow us to customise the security to your needs.

If you would like to know more about how we can protect your vehicle; please feel free to call us on 01625 432707 or call into our shop on Sunderland Street, Macclesfield.

The stages of Car Audio upgrades

When a customer comes in for advice about an upgrade to their audio system we go to great lengths to ensure we get a good understanding of what they want. What sort of music they listen to, how they like to listen to it, what sort of staging they like and so on. Once we feel we have enough information then we will start to design a system for that particular customer and vehicle. We will probably suggest two or three options of varying performance levels but almost all will contain the same fundamental setup of processor, amplifiers, speakers and subwoofer.

Of course we have to make sure that everything will fit and be as discreet as the customer wants but that is something where our experience and knowledge of different vehicles comes to play. Depending upon the level of performance required we will design the appropriate interconnect system and recommend the amounts of sound deadening and acoustic treatment to make sure we achieve the best possible sound.

What about costs?

Only after all the system has been designed will we start to discuss costs as we will have a very good idea of how long the install will take and exactly what components are needed. In my opinion it would be very bad to start a system only to find out we need to add something and inform the customer of the extra cost during the installation, much better to know from the start.

The final figure can be quite high as you can imagine and sometimes the ideal system for our customer may be too much to afford all at once. So now there are two choices, either compromise the desired performance and settle for a simpler system or split the ideal installation into manageable stages. We would almost always advocate the latter. It might take a little longer to achieve the final result but the when you do it will be exactly what you want.

So how do we split it up?

To a certain extent this will depend on the system and the car but what we want to aim for is a huge leap in performance with every stage. We like to see a big smile after every upgrade!

Let’s take a recent customer who has just had the last piece of his design installed. His car is a 1 series BMW which came with the basic audio system installed. He is a younger customer who likes a wide range of music but particularly enjoys dance music and to play it at a fair volume. He is critical in his tastes and really appreciates good sound. When he first came to us nearly a year ago he had just got the car and hated the sound system but wanted to retain the looks of the dash. After the initial discussions we recommended the following upgrades; Audison Bit 10 processor, Hertz HDP5 amplifier, Rainbow BMW specific speakers and Audison slimline sub enclosure. Total installed cost was a little over £2000.

Unfortunately the owner was not in a position to upgrade the whole car audio system in one go so we suggested the split route. The obvious first step would be the speakers and even here we can break it down into two separate parts, the doors and the under seat bass speakers. We suggested the doors should be first which was what he did which improved the front sound stage immensely.

As I recall it was only a month or two before he came back to have the under seat bass speakers replaced as he could hear that they were letting the sound down. Once again the improvement was marked with tighter bass response.

So what next?

Well the customer really wanted more bass and since that would need the amplifier we recommended that he add the sub and amp at the same time, quite a large investment. The additional benefit though was that the amplifier would be driving the speakers as well as the sub so there would be a massive improvement for all the sound. This must have been about 8 months ago so the initial expense of the car had been forgotten and our customer went ahead. You should have seen the smile on his face when he turned it on for the first time! The sound had been completely transformed now that it wasn’t dependant on the BMW head unit.

Added Extras:

For many people this would be enough but we knew it could be even better so last week we fitted the last part of the plan, the Audison Bit 10. This required tuning and we could really set this up properly as all the speakers were well run in. Adding the processor and tuning really lifted the sound stage and brought the bass response right into the cabin by careful use of the time alignment function. Again there was a huge smile from the customer, he could hardly believe it was the same equipment the change was so pronounced.

So it took nearly a year to achieve but by sticking to the original plan this BMW sounds absolutely amazing. It would be so easy to compromise the performance by getting cheaper equipment installed all in one go but with a little patience you can have the car audio system of your dreams.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the audio in your car please call me on 01625 432707 or better still pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield. I hope to see you soon.

Digital Audio – BMW 1 Series

It used to be so easy if we wanted a better sound in our car. Change the factory fitted radio, upgrade the speakers and maybe add an amplifier and sub.

I can’t remember how many of these Audi A3s I’ve done over the years, it must be hundreds.
But what about the modern version?

This car infotainment system has satellite navigation and integration with the vehicle systems; not to mention a full fibre optic audio path with multi-channel amplification and 11 speakers. The specification is very impressive but unfortunately the audio performance is less than satisfactory. The Bose and B&O ‘upgrades’ are particularly poor with weak bass and a flat sounding front end.

The same applies to BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Mini, Jaguar and others. It is just not possible to change the front end systems and all these manufacturers use a sophisticated fibre optic system or MOST ring for audio. This system is not compatible with aftermarket amplifiers so what do we do to improve the audio in these cars?

Let’s take the BMW 1 Series with Harman Kardon audio as an example.

The BMW 1 Series is a great car, but in my opinion has one of the worst sounding audio systems out there. Naturally we can replace the speakers with the likes of Eton or Rainbow; that will make it sound better but we haven’t addressed the real problem of the HK amplifier. This amplifier has been designed for a specific purpose; to make the stock BMW speakers sound OK while protecting them from overzealous use of the bass control. You may have noticed that when you try to turn up the bass the sound gets muddy sounding. This is because the amplifier is not turning up the bass, but instead is turning down the treble.

No, if we want a great sounding audio system this amplifier has to go. But what about the MOST ring and all the chimes, tones and announcements generated by the car, won’t we lose them? What we need is a device that can read the signals on the MOST ring and interpret the different information streams separating out the audio from the vehicle data. This device must be able to play the different vehicle announcements exactly as the makers intended while providing a clean digital audio signal. Ideally it should be programmable so that updates and even different vehicle configurations can be accommodated without the need to change the interface. It should also be capable of being invisible to diagnostic tools to prevent device errors.

So all in all we need a pretty sophisticated device; step forward the Audison Bit DMI.

This unassuming little box is our saviour as it converts the MOST signal to standard digital optical. The really clever part is that it can be reprogrammed indefinitely. The clever engineers at Audison have cracked the code for different car manufacturers which means that we can connect this and be confident that all the original systems will be played perfectly.

Now we have a digital optical signal that contains the audio signal as well as all the chimes and announcements from the vehicle park assist, satellite navigation and bluetooth modules. Now we can start adding the amplifiers that will complement the upgraded speakers confident that they can perform as intended.

In fact this is one of my most common system packages for the BMW 1 and 3 series. The Bit DMI replaces the factory amplifier and converts the MOST signal. The optical stream is then fed to the Audison AP8.9 Bit amplifier. This amp features up to 8 channels of high power output as well as a full spectrum digital audio processor allowing total control over every speaker. I configure it as a 6 channel to drive the door and under seat speakers as a fully active component set. My favourite choice of speaker is the Eton Upgrade system. These German built speakers are fabulous and offer a performance level well above anything else on the market currently. The AP 1D slave amplifier is to run the Audison APBX8 slim sub enclosure in the boot.

The Result?

The difference between the BMW ‘upgrade’ audio and the Audison/Eton one is incredible. The bass has far better definition while the front sound stage is clear and totally immersive. Gone are the harsh high frequencies of the Harman Kardon speakers to be replaced with a smooth and sensitive full range sound. Of course a lot of it is down to how I tune the car but that just means that every customer can get exactly what they want.

The same or similar systems can be applied to Porsche, Audi, Aston Martin, Mercedes and others; with just a change of speakers to suit the car. That is not to say that we have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. On the contrary, we look at each installation individually to make sure that each customer gets a bespoke solution. After all, everyone is different; that is where my tuning skills come into play to make sure every car is optimised for the biggest smile!

If you would like to know more about how we can upgrade your car audio system then please give us a call on 01625 432707. Better still, pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat, you’ll be glad you did.

Looking at Volkswagen systems

I am often asked what system I would recommend for a certain type of car. My answer is usually that it depends on the type of sound and performance you are after. That is certainly true but there are some constants and I think it will be useful to discuss these over a few installments.

For the first one, I will choose the latest VW Golf.

 

The Volkswagen Golf Mk7 is a fabulous car but the audio system leaves a lot to be desired. Even the so called upgrade packs are disappointing and certainly not worth the premium charged. The large screen infotainment system in the dash is certainly smart but does not have a particularly good audio performance while the speakers deliver a lackluster sound at best.

So what are the options?

If you choose to replace the head unit (and we highly recommend it) then the absolute best choice is the Alpine X901D G7.

This exceptionally high-end unit is specifically designed for the VW Golf 7. It is a perfect fit and will support all the existing VW systems such as reverse images, steering wheel controls, and vehicle information displays. The performance leap of this machine over the standard system is amazing and is the perfect base to add an upgrade audio package.

However, you may not wish to change the head unit and we would completely understand this. If your car is leased or on a purchase plan it may be best to not change the look of the vehicle at all.

Fortunately, we have developed several audio packages that can be invisibly added to your car that will massively improve the sound.

The Audison Prima pack:

This specific kit is a true plug and play solution from the masters of OEM integration, Audison. The kit comprises their DSP amplifier with built in EQ presets for the Golf, replacement front door speakers, discreet subwoofer for the boot cavity and all interconnecting cables meaning that nothing needs to be cut or changed. At a little over £1000, this is amazing value for money and sounds far better than the VW dealer upgrade options. Although we would strongly recommend it the sub is optional and if you choose not to have this then the price is even lower!

As soon as you hear this you will notice the massively improved clarity, the sound stage will be higher, wider and more surrounding. The bass will be stronger with a much better punch without being ‘boomy’. Of course, all of this can be removed when you come to change the car and with a little reprogramming can be made to suit whatever car you purchase next making this a much better investment than the dealer options.

At Car and Home Stereo, we have also developed our own upgrade options drawing from the best products from around the world. For convenience, we describe these as Stage 1, 2 and 3 but of course, there are variations to take account of personal tastes and requirements.

Stage 1:

This is full speaker upgrade pack based on the 5 door Golf. While the choice of speakers could change the acoustic improvement products do not. These are as important as the speakers themselves in maximising the performance of the upgrade.

The full kit comprises Hertz MPK 165 front component speakers, Audison Prima APK rear component speakers, 4 sheets of Dynamat Extreme sound deadening, 2 sets of F.A.S.T. acoustic foam sealing rings and 2 sets of speaker mounting collars.

The cost of the stage 1 upgrade is only £650 with an installed price of £900. Even on the standard VW head unit this sounds amazing with improved clarity and bass performance. The performance detail is also improved thanks to the far more sensitive speakers and the acoustic treatment in the doors.

Stage 2:

This is a stand-alone sub and amplifier package. As you can imagine there are many to choose from but there are two that we have found to be highly suited to the Golf as they are powerful but take up a relatively small space in the boot.

Stage 2a is the Audison APBX 8R slim sub enclosure and the small but powerful Hertz DPower 1 amplifier.

This offers 600W output and will tuck into one side of the boot taking up almost no space at all and at only £479 for the two it represents great value for money.

Stage 2b is the same amplifier but married to the fantastic JL Audio 10TW3 sub in a slim enclosure. This sub is exquisitely musical, a real hi-fi experience and this package adds up to £650.

This amazing, compact sub can also handle a lot more power if you are a real bass nut!

Stage 3:

This brings everything from before and adds amplification and processing to the entire system. There are again two recommended packages here.

Stage 3a uses the Audison AP Bit amplifier. This incredible amp with built in processor is tiny and powerful, quite capable of driving the entire car system. The on board processor allows for perfect tuning of the sound stage to suit anybody’s taste. The phase and time alignment controls mean the sound can be focused to wherever it is needed making for a wide and spacious soundstage. These amplifiers start at only £600 so represent tremendous value for money.

Stage 3b is a combination of the JL Audio FiX 82 processor with the JL Audio XD400/4v2 amplifier. The processor is specifically designed to automatically compensate for original head unit anomalies. It will take out any spurious EQ that has been added by the factory radio as well as eliminating any unwanted phase changes. It also allows for personal tuning via PC to really dial a system in. Once the processor has cleaned the signal up the XD 400/4 amplifier delivers the power. This amplifier has become one of my firm favourites offering tremendous, clean power from a very compact chassis.

This package is slightly more expensive at £750 but does offer a higher level of performance.

As I mentioned earlier these packages are extremely flexible to suit individual requirements but I can heartily recommend any one of the above. We have installed many of these systems and know that they perform brilliantly.

If you would like to know more about any of our bespoke systems or a specific audio system for your car please call me on 01625 432707 or even better call into Car and Home Stereo on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat.

Bose SoundTouch – Bringing Music Everywhere

It is true to say that music has never been more accessible. Anything you might want to listen to is only a click away. You can choose to purchase it via a download site but more and more of us choose to subscribe to a streaming service such as Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music.  For a small monthly fee the whole world of music is at our fingertips like a vast lending library and as a true on demand service, we no longer need huge collections of CDs cluttering up the place.

All well and good you say but what are we supposed to play all this music on; our phone’s headphones, computer or tablet?

That’s not going to sound very good, is it?

No, we want a high-quality hi-fi system and that surely is why we need our CD players? Well maybe, but there is a fantastic alternative from Bose; the SoundTouch system.

The Bose SoundTouch wireless music players are easy to use, sound amazing and look superb. They are feature packed and there is a solution for any situation where high-quality music is required.

So how does it work?

The Bose SoundTouch system is designed to connect to your home wi-fi network. This allows it to connect to any music libraries you may have on a computer as well as being able to connect to your broadband link to play internet radio from around the world. On top of this, the SoundTouch system is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity; so you can connect any portable device, phone or tablet and stream your music. If you do subscribe to a music streaming service such as Spotify you can play this directly from the Bose control app on your device. It doesn’t stop there either because this is a fully networked system you can wirelessly connect multiple devices; these can be independent in each room or grouped together to play the same music throughout the house.

The simple control app can be downloaded to as many devices as you want which means you should always have a controller nearby but just to add another level of simplicity all the stand alone SoundTouch players have volume, source and radio pre-set buttons on the top to allow quick operation.

Let’s look at the SoundTouch family.

SoundTouch 10,20 and 30.

These compact and versatile units just need a mains power supply and your wi-fi network to play all your favourite music. The smallest unit, the Soundtouch 10 is ideally suited to smaller rooms such as the bedroom or study while the SoundTouch 20 and 30 are completely at home in larger spaces. The SoundTouch 30 with its integrated woofer produces a magnificent sound that will fill any space with rich, powerful music. All are available in black or white to suit any décor.

SoundTouch 300 and optional Acoustimass sub and surround speakers.

The SoundTouch 300 is a soundbar of course but unlike any other. Of course, as part of the SoundTouch family, it has all the convenience and power of the network but adds connectivity for your TV. It carries the proprietary Bose AdaptiQ system to learn the layout of your room and seating positions; ensuring you always get the best possible sound. Even on its own, this bar can generate a very impressive surround effect but if you add the optional sub and wireless surround speakers you will have a true 5.1 surround system that will delight. Again, very easy to use and even the remote control can be programmed to emulate any other meaning your Bose remote can control all your other devices such as Sky, Virgin, and TV.

SoundTouch Lifestyle 650 and 600.

If you want the absolute best for your TV and living room then look no further than the Bose Lifestyle 650. This powerful and elegant system with its virtually invisible speakers is beyond compare. The feature list is almost endless but what really matters is the sound. This surround system offers a level of audio immersion that is simply incredible. From the deepest rumbles to the lightest detail this system plays it all with precision. Since it also contains the full Soundtouch system for your music the Lifestyle 650 and 600 are truly total entertainment systems.

SoundTouch SA5 amplifier.

You may have a great pair of speakers already or may want ceiling speakers to keep it neat. You may want speakers outside or in other wet places where it would be impossible to take a mains powered device. In these cases the Bose SoundTouch SA5 amplifier is perfect. This can be installed inside the house and speaker wires run to wherever they are needed. Full control is via the control app and there is an AUX input for connection of external devices (e.g. TV).

SoundTouch wireless link.

This unassuming little unit is brilliant. It has all the power of the SoundTouch network and Bluetooth connectivity. That means you can stream your music, access internet radio or Bluetooth link your mobile device. This can then be connected to any hi-fi unit, Bose or otherwise; giving you the full range of SoundTouch features on any entertainment system with an external input.

If you would like to learn more about the amazing Bose SoundTouch system and how it would work for you please feel free to call us on 01625 432707. Better still why not call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield; where we can treat you to a demonstration and you can take advantage of our special in store deals.

 

 

car and home stereo inside shop macclesfield

What We Do at Car and Home Stereo

I was asked the other day how long I had been installing car audio at Car and Home Stereo. A common question (the answer is over 30 years). What surprised me was their reaction to the question of whether I still enjoyed it; they couldn’t believe I still loved my job. So let’s talk about what we do, why we do it and why I really do love it.

Anyone who knows me will know of my passion for music and sound almost equaled by my enthusiasm for technology. As a working musician, I always strive for the best sound I can achieve, one that allows me to be heard but just as importantly blends with the rest of the band. This translates well into audio installation and particularly the tuning of a system where all the parts need to blend to produce a perfect sound stage exactly where I want it.

Car audio means different things to different people of course. For some, it is just a CD or MP3 player with a radio and maybe Bluetooth, merely a companion for the journey to work and back. Whereas for others, it is a chance to install and use some serious technology like Apple Car Play or Android Auto, satellite navigation or even sophisticated computer systems. For these customers, it is usually just hardware installation, maybe with better speakers but not a lot more. However for some, the car is the place where they can really enjoy their music and for these people, we have some of the best solutions in the world.

 

Products like the Rainbow Profi range are simply exceptional. These speakers have a level of detail that can take your breath away. We recently installed a set in a Mercedes CLS, the amplifier powering them was the stunning Audison Voce Quattro. From the very first note played you could tell you were in the presence of something special with a clarity and detail that was amazing.

Another recent exceptional installation was in a Nissan GTR. The front speakers for this were the Focal Utopia Beryllium components and this time powered by the Audison Thesis amplifiers.

 

An interesting challenge in the GTR was the customer’s request that sufficient boot space was left for golf clubs! Now the Nissan’s boot is not large to start with and as you can see those amplifiers are not small plus we had to install a JL Audio 10w6 sub! The sub box design was complex but the results speak for themselves.

We do like a challenge at Car and Home Stereo and when we had to install a mind blowing system to a Porsche 997 which incorporated two Audison Voce amplifiers we had to think hard about location. In the end, we came up with a neat design that retained the majority of the bonnet space.

car and home stereo custom fitting bonnet space

Sometimes stealth is the priority. Many customers want everything hidden from view but accessible as required. We often install processors that allow the user to access audio equalisation pre-sets or allow remote bass level control and we will often hide these behind original panels like the ash tray.

 

We work really hard to ensure the best equipment for the job is installed to the highest standard which always means a lot of hidden details like cables loomed with cloth tape, all soldered joints, separated audio and power cables, custom made wooden speaker collars, sound deadening and best quality audio cables. Sometimes I think my best work is hidden! However, there always comes the moment when the owner gets to listen for the first time. This is when you realise all that attention to detail was worth it when you see the smile on their face. We always try to exceed expectations at Car and Home Stereo and provide the best value for money whether you spend £100 or £10,000.

I suppose that sums up why I still really enjoy this job after so many years.

It’s the job satisfaction knowing that I have improved somebody’s life by providing a high-quality audio system that will give years of pleasure and, who knows, reduced their stress levels while driving.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the audio in your life please give Tim a call on 01625 432707 or better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.

Range Rover Recovery

The Range Rover Vogue or L322 as it’s known. A British classic with world beating all terrain capability that will take you anywhere in leather trimmed luxury.

Now anyone who has owned one of these will know that there are a few niggles with this vehicle and one of the common problems is the audio. One day the stereo will not make a sound or the screen will just show the Land Rover logo while the red light just flashes on the volume control. This usually means the main amplifier has failed in the rear of the car. It could also be a failure of one of the other components in the audio chain but the amplifier is most common.

The cost of a replacement from Land Rover will leave you shocked, an eBay one will set you back a few hundred pounds with no guarantee and you may be no further forward if that is not the problem. Even if it is you will only have the same performance as before. Wouldn’t it be nice to properly improve the system while you have the chance?

This was the situation our customer recently had and after a short discussion and a budget decided upon we set to work overhauling the whole system.

The vehicle owner had specified the Pioneer Avic F88DAB head unit.

The rest was up to us.

The first job was to strip out all the unnecessary kit in the rear of the vehicle and from the dash.

stripped dashboard range rover car and home stereo macclesfield

stripped range rover dashboard macclesfield car home stereo

Not for the feint hearted but reasonably straight forward when you know where all the hidden screws are! We will, of course, be rewiring the system so there will inevitably be many unused plugs on the original looms. These cannot be left to rattle around the back of the dash so we make sure that each unused end is padded and secured. There is also a reasonable amount of modification required behind the dash to allow the double din unit to fit. We have done quite a few of these and are used to it but again great care is needed.

Once the car was stripped it was time to install the new cabling. We had already decided on the system components and so we produced a custom loom for this. The Range Rover is a big vehicle and it still surprises me how long these looms need to be. All the service accessories need to be installed for the head unit; such as the Bluetooth microphone, dual USB ports, DAB and GPS aerials. We usually fit one USB to the centre arm rest bin and one to the glove box while the other items are discreetly fitted for optimum performance. I also replaced the original rear view camera that had failed. Car & Home Stereo can install a new camera into the original housing keeping the OE look.

Now the head unit can be installed and the dash rebuilt.

rebuilt dashboard rangerover

I think you will agree that this now looks far better!

The next task was to upgrade all the speakers and we decided on Audison all round. These Italian speakers are superb and so much better than the fitted Harmon Kardon units. A component set was installed in each door.

audison speakers custom fitting

Now for the fun part!

Knowing the tastes of the customer we knew that he would want plenty of power. Space is a little limited so we needed an amplifier with high performance but compact size and the perfect candidate was the fabulous JL Audio RD 400/4.

This compact power house is a gem of an amplifier boasting 100W per channel. The sound quality from these is amazing. It shares a lot of the design features of the award winning JL Audio XD amplifiers but at a lower price.

This amplifier will fit perfectly in the metal rack assembly in the boot cavity. It is hidden but easily available for any adjustments required.

The results are astonishing. The improvement over the factory system is huge; the detail at the front is crisp and the bass performance feels solid with no distortion. I would recommend this system to anyone with a failing factory audio.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the system in your Range Rover (or any vehicle) please give me a call; on 01625 432707 or better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.

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.