Volkswagen Passat Car Audio Upgrade.

A modern car typically comes with a fully integrated multi-function entertainment system. This will usually provide satellite navigation, full Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming along with a comprehensive vehicle information display. It is quite unlikely that you would want to change this system as it provides all the functionality and is aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, the sound reproduction from these units and installed speakers can range from mediocre to downright poor, so what do you do to improve it?

A perfect example of how we set about improving a car audio system is demonstrated by this Volkswagen Passat Alltrack we had in recently. The owner was extremely happy with the car, his job meant he spent a lot of time commuting and as he lived off the beaten track the 4 wheel drive was essential. However, he was less enthusiastic about the fitted audio but since he had been to us with several cars in the past he knew we could help.

As a returning customer I already knew his musical tastes, I also knew about his hearing. He loved music in all its forms from hard rock to opera; country to jazz; hip-hop to soul and everything in between, unfortunately, his ex-military background had left him with a reasonably severe high-frequency hearing loss from weapons fire. I had to design a system that was capable of delivering a powerful performance whatever the demand and make sure that it could be tuned to compensate for his particular needs.

The design process;

The first consideration has to be the customer and since I knew that this car would need careful tuning there would have to be a digital signal processor. The standard audio in the Passat is only a simple 4 channel system and I knew we would be installing a subwoofer so again a signal processor could be used to develop the subchannel. My choice would be the Audison Bit 10.

This versatile device is able to connect to any non-digital car audio head unit. With up to six input channels, five output channels and a very powerful DSP suite on board it is the perfect solution for a simple system.

The software allows me to create a map of the system installation and most importantly tune every single speaker to perfectly balance the sound. Then I can start to add the specific requirements for the individual customer’s requirements.

Of course, before we get to the tuning stage we have to choose the amplifier and speakers. Again knowing my customer helped as I knew what I would have to get from the speakers. His particular requirements meant that I would need a tweeter that could deliver a higher than normal performance without getting harsh or shrill and I knew that he would like to play the whole system loud. Initially, I thought about the Audison Voce K6 which is one of my favourites. This is a fantastic speaker set and is incredibly smooth however I felt the tweeter may not quite suit the way I would need to set this system up. I also wanted a door speaker that would be happy with an extended low-frequency response to again suit my customer’s requirements.

I finally settled on the Hertz Mille Pro MPK165 for the front doors.

This speaker set was ideal; the main driver has a large over roll allowing a great excursion while the sensitivity ensures that no detail is lost in the midrange. The tweeter is a gem that loves to deliver and has no problems at higher power levels. Of course, I treated the door to a generous coating of sound deadening to further improve the acoustics. We also make sure that there can be no moisture ingress by sealing the custom collars and speaker basket with silicone.

While the Passat has a large load area the owner did not want too much space taken up as it was a working vehicle. Of course, we still needed to deliver an exciting bass performance and we quickly decided on the Audison APBX 8.

This compact unit is an absolute powerhouse delivering tight and punchy bass at up to 500W. This can be seen from the installation photograph it really is discreet.

Now that the processor and speakers had been decided upon we just needed to choose the amplification. Fortunately, there is a good space under the boot floor in front of the spare wheel; we opted for the JL Audio RD 900/5.

This five-channel amplifier can provide ample power for the whole system; and also allows for a cabin mounted bass control which is essential as the VW head unit has no sub control.

How did it sound?

Initially, I tuned the system to my standard reference for the vehicle. Although the speakers would need a good few hours to run in the initial performance was excellent. My reference Michael Jackson CD sounded fantastic with punchy bass and very clear mid and top. Next, I started to add the modifications required for my customer. I enhanced the power above 3 kHz to compensate for his hearing loss and extended the low frequency in the main drivers to deliver the extra punch he preferred. Because of the extra high frequency, I carefully adjusted the time correction so that it didn’t all appear to be coming from the driver’s side tweeter.

The final sound still needs to be adjusted to taste once the speakers have run in but the initial reaction of the owner was one of delight. It would probably sound over-bright to must people but it worked beautifully for this customer. That’s the beauty of adding a sound processor in that we can tune it to precisely your exact tastes and requirements.

We love to get this right and it gives us great satisfaction to see that big smile from our customers when they hear it for the first time. If you would like to know more about how or have any questions please feel free to give us a call on 01625 432707. Better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat.

We hope to hear from you soon.

porsche boxster car and home stereo macclesfield

Porsche Boxster Audio Upgrade.

The Porsche Boxster S is a superb car which offers exciting top-down performance with practical everyday driving capability. Unfortunately, the audio performance leaves an awful lot to be desired especially the base version that is only equipped with dash speakers.

porsche boxster speakers

The biggest challenge, of course, is the convertible top because as soon as that is raised most of the sound and pretty much all the bass disappears. Car audio in a Porsche for some owners is not a priority but for this customer, the lack of a decent sound was spoiling the drive so an appointment was made to discuss options.

Step One:

The first choice to make was whether the original head unit was to be changed. It is completely possible for us to use any original factory unit as a base for great audio but in this case, the basic Becker unit was certainly past its best so a decision to upgrade to a top of the range Pioneer unit was made.

The Pioneer AVIC F88DAB is a full house unit boasting a 7-inch screen, full satellite navigation, DVD, CD, SD, Bluetooth, dual USB, DAB radio, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Its comprehensive external connections make it ideal for use as a high-performance head unit in a sophisticated audio system. It also boasts a very powerful set of audio controls to allow accurate tuning of the system.

Installing this double din unit means relocating the heater controls to the lower console. We use an American kit that costs a little more than others but is of a far superior quality with a factory standard fit and finish.

porsche boxster audio upgrade install car and home stereo macclesfield

Once we had relocated all the standard wiring and removed the remnants of an old ‘phone kit we could start the new wiring. When we install new looms we always wrap them in OE quality fleece tape, this ensures a factory look but most importantly eliminates any possibility of cable rattles. Where cables go through the bulkhead grommets we make sure to use silicone sealant to prevent any water ingress.

What next?

Once the looms had been installed we could start the hardware installation, first was the amplifier. Originally this Boxster had a CD changer mounted in the bonnet just behind the spare wheel; since this would be useless with the new head unit we removed it to locate the Hertz DPower 4 amplifier.

Hertz D Power 4 amplifier.

This amplifier is an absolute gem with over 100W per channel on tap it is perfect to drive the dash speakers and subwoofer. Although it is well equipped with filters to tune the system we will use the crossovers and EQ available on the Pioneer F88 to really fine tune the final sound. Again more cloth tape keeps everything neat.

Once the amplifier was in we could install the dash speakers. The dash location allows for a separate mid and tweeter under the original grille. However, as there was only to be a single channel input per side there was no advantage to splitting the drivers up and so we chose the Audison APX4 coaxial speakers.

This speaker really is surprisingly good.

At only 4 inch diameter it is capable of a really good bass response and when powered by a good amplifier it delivers a very accurate and responsive performance. This is all the more impressive when you consider its relatively low price. They are not a simple plug and play replacement though and we needed to construct a new mounting system under the grille to get a perfect fit, of course, this is no problem for us.

As good as the Audison APX4 speaker is it is only a 4 inch and cannot be expected to deliver the bass requirement for a convertible car. We have had a lot of experience with convertibles and one of our solutions where space is tight is to custom fit a JL Audio 6w3 into the passenger footwell. This magnificent speaker is capable of delivering more than enough bass from a very small enclosure.

The trick is to very carefully control the frequencies it plays to achieve a seamless blend with the mids. As we construct our own enclosures we can design each one to perfectly fit the car we are working on. For this one, we even wrapped it in genuine Porsche carpet to ensure a true factory look.

porsche carpet passenger footwell upgrade refurb

Very little space is taken up meaning there is no significant constriction of the passenger foot space. The enclosure is secured to the car using invisible fittings which means it can be removed without leaving any marks in the carpet or trim. Once the floor mat is cut to shape and trimmed it will look as if the sub had always been there.

Pioneer AVIC F88DAB:

One of the great features of the Pioneer AVIC F88DAB is its powerful equalisation controls. This luckily features two EQ pre-sets. This allows me to tune two EQ curves; one for roof closed and one for roof open ensuring the best sound regardless of the vehicle’s configuration.

Pioneer AVIC F88DAB porsche refurbish upgrade

I really enjoyed this installation;

it was relatively simple but really delivered above expectations. The sound was full and rich with as much bass as could be needed. The new head unit was feature rich and the owner fell in love with Apple Car Play instantly. The dash-mounted Stormtrooper is really going to enjoy the miles now!

dash mounted dashboard stormtrooper in porsche

If you would like to know more about any of our installations or how we could improve the audio in your car please feel free to drop me a line or call me on 01625 432707. If you are close by then it would be great to see you for a chat at our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.

VW Golf 7 Audio Upgrade

Following on from our last blog we have an example of a car audio installation to a VW Golf 7. This is a perfect example of how one of our standard systems is adapted to make sure the owner gets exactly the sound he wants.

As our customer lived a good way from our shop he decided he wanted the whole job done in one rather than splitting it up to spread the cost. Initially, we started to talk about our stage 3 upgrade.

Fortunately, our customer already owned a JL Audio HD600/4. This magnificent amplifier is one of JL’s finest boasting very impressive power figures with incredible dynamic range.

This was an ideal amplifier for a really high-end system; he liked it loud but did not want any distortion when playing his favourite dance music. Since this amp was so good we felt we should recommend an upgrade to the front speakers over the Hertz MPK 165 initially suggested. The owner wanted clarity without colouration and his preference was for a very dynamic high frequency. My recommendation was for the Audison Voce K6 component set.

These speakers are one of my favourites and offer a truly natural sound. The tweeter is larger than some but this helps to give it a remarkably low-frequency capacity meaning a better blend with the mid-range.

We opted to stay with the usual Audison APK165 components for the rear fill. These speakers are a fantastic upgrade to the factory standard at an extremely good price. However, he was happy to upgrade the sub to take advantage of the power available but did not want to lose too much boot space. The obvious choice was the JL Audio 10TW3 in a slim enclosure as this will deliver smooth, powerful bass from an enclosure only 12cm deep.

So to the installation.

Our customer did not want any more boot space taken up so we had to locate the other equipment in the cabin. We knew the amplifier would fit under the passenger seat but this left no room for the Bit10D; that would have to go under the driver’s seat. We also chose to situate the crossovers for the front speakers here as well. This of course added to the complexity of the wiring but by using high-quality speaker cable and double shielded RCA cables there was no chance of any interference or quality loss.

The doors got a complete treatment of Dynamat Extreme and Dynaliner to optimise the acoustics and eliminate any chance of rattles. We built custom collars for the speakers ensuring they were sealed to the panel to maintain moisture protection.

The rear door tweeters are in the door panels but the front ones reside in the A-pillars. We constructed custom mounts for both of these.

Important note.

When removing the VW A-pillars the retaining clips must be replaced with new items as they are an integral part of the airbag safety system and removing the clips compromises their integrity.

The final part of the installation meant mounting the Audison DRC and the location chosen by the customer was the small fold-down tray to the right of the steering wheel.

This location is convenient to use but renders the installation invisible when closed.

The next task was to tune the system. We already knew he liked a bright, dynamic sound so we programmed it for a lot of energy in the higher frequencies without getting harsh. The bass had to be tight and punchy and the TW3 does not disappoint. With so much power available we could keep the gain on the HD600/4 at almost minimum giving the highest dynamic range.

Of course, the speakers will require a week or so of running in before a retune but the owner’s initial reaction was ecstatic. It was all we could do to get him out of the car to register his three-year warrantee!

As mentioned we have standard packages that we can recommend but a great many are customised by us to make sure you get exactly what you want from your new car audio system. If you would like to know more about how we can improve the car audio in your life please call us on 01625 432707 or better still pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat.

 

 

hertz speaker subwoofer advert car and home stereo macclesfield

Hertz Speakers

If you know our installer Tim at Car and Home Stereo you will know he is passionate about sound. His love of music extends beyond the shop into regular playing with his band and it is this passion that is reflected in everything we do as we strive to get the best possible sound for you. We are constantly looking for and testing the latest equipment available to help achieve that result.

We stock high-end equipment from JL Audio, MTX, Audison, Rainbow, Eton and many others but today I would like to highlight one of my favourites, Hertz Car Audio.

Hertz car audio is part of the Italian Elettromedia group, a company dedicated to producing the best possible audio systems. From the outset the Hertz brand has stood for excellent quality at an affordable price. Their bright orange packaging has become synonymous with performance and value for money. It is no coincidence that we chose Hertz speakers and subwoofers for our Land Rover Discovery demonstrator. The Hertz Mille Legend components fitted in the front doors never fail to impress.

Speakers:

The Hertz car audio speaker range has something for everyone. Sometimes we just need to replace a failing set of factory fitted speakers or provide an inexpensive upgrade to improve the sound. The perfect solution here is the Hertz Deici range. There is a perfect fit speaker for any car in this series and with prices starting at only £59.99 per pair they won’t break the bank. In reality, these sound really good and outperform anything else I can think of at this price point. As well as the speakers there are subs and ready-made enclosures in the Deici range and they all perform brilliantly.

Hertz DBA 200.3 self contained speaker uni

For example, the Hertz DBA 200.3 is a self-contained twin 8-inch sub with a 140W amplifier. The compact size means it will fit in any car boot and it is designed to work with any car radio head unit meaning adding bass is simple.

If you were looking for more performance I would immediately recommend the Mille Pro range. These speakers have it all; precision, power and loads of energy. The 6.5 inch mid and tweeter sets start at under £300 and represent amazing value for money.

mille pro 6.5 inch mid and tweeter

As you can see the build quality is astonishing. The main driver boasts a large over rolled hinge to allow an extended excursion; this means much punchier bass performance while the relatively large tweeter has a respectfully low Fs allowing a seamless blend with the mid. In fact, this tweeter shares a lot of technology with the higher spec. Legend tweeter which is incredible at this price.

Legendary:

But of course, if you want the best then that means installing the Mille Legend 1650.3.

This is what I listen to every day and every day they amaze me with new detail. I love this tweeter and in fact the whole set up is seamless with a truly accurate frequency response over the entire audio spectrum. With a good amplifier essential to extract the best from these speakers you will be rewarded with a smooth enveloping sound that is easy to listen to with no fatigue.

Of course, there are matching subwoofers and all I can say is please come down to the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield to audition the 8 inch Mille sub in our Discovery, you will not believe it is so small when you hear it!

As if the above were not enough Hertz have other speaker lines to fill specific niches. There will be a full range of marine grade speakers soon which to be fair we will probably not stock, Car and Home Stereo not being near the sea! However, a range we do supply is the awesome SPL Show range, specifically designed for the competition scene these are a no compromise power product where loud is everything.

So as you can see there is something for everyone within the Hertz car audio speaker range and if you are thinking of an upgrade then please call us so that we can match the right system to you.

Special Offer.

In fact, we have put together a superb package for a limited time which would grace any car.

car and home stereo special offer soundsystem

The system comprises the fabulous Hertz MPK 165P.3 component speakers, the brand new Hertz DPower 4 amplifier and the Audison ultra compact APBX 8R sub enclosure. Normally this system would be £810 but we have a limited number of kits for only £600! An amazing saving for such a high-end system and of course we can fit it for you if you wish. Don’t forget that all this comes with a three-year warranty if we install it.

We hope to hear from you soon.

apple play car setup pixabay

Apple Car Play

With the spectacular rise of the Smartphone, integration into the car has always been an obvious way forward. Once they started holding music and had access to the web the need to carry bulky CDs around was over. One small hand held device could provide all your music as well as communication needs.

Over time storage capacities have dramatically increased and access to streaming services like Spotify have put the world’s music at our fingertips. Most now have navigation apps that are updated in real time making them accurate and up to date. All this makes the smartphone an ideal addition to the vehicle environment; the trick is how to integrate it safely.

At Car and Home Stereo, we have been installing hands-free Bluetooth telephone kits for many years. A popular choice is still the Parrot CK3100. This simple device allows for hands-free telephone calls and the neat screen lets you see who is calling and also to allow access to your contacts list.

I can’t begin to imagine how many of these we have fitted over the years! With the new penalties for picking up a mobile phone in a car, this should be a minimum requirement if you do not already have Bluetooth capability.

Another highly desirable facility in the car is satellite navigation and smartphones are usually equipped with this capability. There are many companies supplying brackets and cradles for smartphones that can stick to the windscreen or attach to the dash. These are quite legal as long as they do not obstruct the driver’s vision, I have seen them stuck to the middle of the windscreen before now and that is a definite no-no!

installation of sat nav with smartphone car home and stereo macclesfield

This is a better installation but it does mean the screen is quite low.

Of course, all these solutions require something attached to the dash and associated wires to connect. It can get quite untidy and may still mean you have to operate some functions from your ‘phone. A much better solution would be if your car audio system could perform all the functions you need without the need for multiple external devices. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to do this over the years all with good intentions but ultimately let down by poor software and terrible compatibility issues. Unfortunately, open source development means systems cannot be tested for all configurations and operational incompatibilities are inevitable.

Step up Apple Car Play. Only available for iPhone 5 and above this system is the best system we have seen so far.

apple play iphone 5 car setup

I don’t want to get into the iPhone versus Android debate, I know that each system has its pros and cons but for vehicle integration Apple Car play is definitely the most stable. This is simply because Apple have developed it specifically for one operating system and it can be thoroughly tested before release, it may not be perfect but it works every time without the need for the user to download and install drivers and patches.

So what does it do?

Put simply, it puts all of the relevant iPhone apps on your new car radio touch screen and works exactly like your ‘phone so you already know how to use it. There are several units available that offer Apple Car Play but let’s look at one of my favourites the Pioneer SPH DA120.

Even without an iPhone connected the DA120 is a powerful machine with full Bluetooth streaming and hands-free, dual USB, AUX, AM/FM tuner, HDMI and multiple connections for amplifiers, reverse camera and other AV devices. The 6.2-inch capacitive touchscreen is a joy to use and of course, the quality of sound from this unit is superb as you would expect from Pioneer.

However, the full power of the DA120 is unleashed as soon as you connect your iPhone and Car Play is launched. Immediately the screen changes to mimic the ‘phone screen and displays the relevant icons and this is the beauty of Car Play, you already know how to use it. Tapping the phone icon launches SIRI and you can speak the name of whoever you wish to call. Alternatively, all your ‘phone contacts are available exactly as stored. Incoming messages are read out to you and you can dictate a reply or create a new message from the messages icon. The quality of the voice calling using the supplied external mic is extremely clear even in convertible cars.

The music icon, of course, launches your media player and if you subscribe to Spotify then that icon would be available as well. Although the DA120 has an FM/AM tuner, if you want to use internet radio then one of the radio player apps like Tune In Radio can be enabled.

The icing on the cake:

So far so good but the icing on the cake is the navigation icon. This launches Apple Maps and turns your unit into a full satellite navigation system. You may have noticed from the picture of the rear of the SPH DA120 that it is equipped with a GPS aerial. This means it is not reliant on the ‘phone’s receiver and hence allows for more accurate positioning. Since Apple Maps traffic information is updated in real time getting stuck in jams could be avoided.

All of this can be accessed using SIRI, so with just a touch of a button you can access your contacts, dictate messages, request music or get directions. This makes a complex system very easy and safe to use.

This system can be fitted to any car that permits a double din fitting and we have all the necessary installation kits to allow a neat and seamless integration to your dashboard. If your car has controls on the steering wheel for volume and other functions we can ensure that these remain active, we will also ensure that any changes we make can be reversed if the car is sold to return it to standard.

If you would like to know more about Apple Car Play or any other aspect of improving your existing car audio system please give us a call on 01625 432707 or better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street, Macclesfield, Cheshire we would love to see you.

pixabay campervan desert drive

Campervans: Upgrades and Audio Systems

Day vans, campervans, motorhomes; whatever you call them, they have never been so popular. Two of the most familiar conversions are the Fiat Ducato / Peugeot Boxer / Citroen Relay and the evergreen VW Transporter. Whatever you drive, at Car and Home Stereo we have a vast range of products to improve your enjoyment when out and about.

Keeping it quiet:

If we can get to the vehicle before it is converted we recommend a comprehensive sound deadening treatment. This involves using a combination of Dynamat Xtreme and Dynaliner foam sheet to remove vibration, dramatically reduce road noise and to thermally insulate the vehicle.

dynamat car sound system

campervan interior sound system car and home stereo macclesfield

Dynamat is a thin and light sheet that is applied to the metal panels and prevents any vibration from being transmitted. This means an enormous reduction in road noise. It is applied to floor, sides, doors, and roof for optimum effect.  Dynaliner sheets are then applied over the Dynamat in varying thicknesses to create a thermal and acoustic barrier.

dynamat sound insulation installation car and home stereo macclesfield

This insulation retains heat and again reduces external noise even further. When done properly the van will be significantly quieter and warmer. If the van has already been converted then it is still advisable to treat any panels that can be accessed as any amount will be beneficial. The Dynamat advantage is that as the patented market leader it is lighter and more efficient than any other product meaning you can use less.

Finding your way:

The joys of the open road are many and the ability to just start up and go are what make camper vans so appealing but really knowing where you are going and how to get there can definitely reduce the stress. Of course, I’m talking about navigation and we have a wide range of solutions available to be fitted. One of my favourites is made by Pioneer; whilst there are many great units out there I think the Pioneer AVIC F980DAB-C camper version is one of the best.

sat nav pioneer car and home stereo macclesfield

The feature list for this unit is extremely impressive as it boasts CD, DVD, FM/AM/DAB tuner, Bluetooth, Apple Car Play, dual USB, reverse camera input and of course class leading satellite navigation. All this performance, however, is not complex to use and that is one of the main reasons for its success. Pioneer have put a lot of effort into keeping the user interface simple meaning you can keep your eyes on the road, navigation instructions are clear and given in plenty of time for a safer drive. As this is the camper version the software is specifically designed for larger vehicles to ensure a safe route is calculated. It also contains a massive ten million points of interest database for the whole of the European continent to make sure you are completely informed.

Alpine:

Another fantastic unit is by Alpine and offers a massive 8-inch touchscreen. This unit is custom designed for the VW T5 / T6 and is quite simply stunning.

alpine unit 8 inch touch screen campervan T5 T6 car and home stereo macclesfield

With a feature list as long as your arm this unit is unbeatable and as it has been designed from the ground up for the VW it blends seamlessly with all the vehicle systems.

To get the best out of these sophisticated systems it is imperative that they are correctly fitted. At Car and Home Stereo we have been installing audio systems in Cheshire for over 40 years and in fact were one of the first to install navigation in the UK. We have vast experience with these products and of course have all the ancillary parts to ensure a seamless fit in your dashboard.

Reverse with confidence:

One of the downsides of a camper or in fact any larger vehicle is the rear view. It can range from difficult to impossible to see backwards. Many newer vehicles are fitted with reverse sensors and that is certainly something we can fit your camper but there is no substitute to actually seeing what is there. We would always recommend a reverse camera. If you do not have a screen already we can install one discreetly and reversing will no longer be a chore. If you use the vehicle to tow then the camera can be angled to view the tow bar; making hitching up so much easier.

reverse camera vehicle campervan tow bar car and home stereo macclesfield

Using a combination of mirrors, camera and sensors reversing into the tightest of spots will be a breeze.

Sounds fantastic:

Your camper is a true “home from home” but as they are often based on commercial vans, unfortunately, the audio performance can leave a lot to be desired. As one of the leading audio installers in the UK, we are ideally placed to make this better for you. In fact, this is an area where we excel as our experience with leisure vehicles is extremely broad.

If you already have an upgraded head unit or are happy with the one you have then we would recommend a speaker upgrade for the front doors and while we’re at it why not add some speakers to the rear of the vehicle? One of our favourites is by Italian manufacturer Audison. The Voce K6 is a component set for the doors or dash and offers a true HiFi performance when correctly installed.

We also have custom designed subwoofer enclosures that can be completely hidden meaning you can have a full sound without losing any useful space.  We often use the JL Audio 6w3 subwoofer as its compact size and stunning performance make it ideal when space is at a premium.

JL audio subwoofer car sound system car and home stereo macclesfield

speaker box car sound system installation campervan car and home stereo macclesfield

Here’s one we built into the rear of a Land Rover Defender showing how small the speaker box can be while still producing a tremendous bass performance.

Don’t wait:

With summer almost upon us, it’s definitely time to get these jobs done. Whether you want a complete upgrade to your leisure vehicle audio or maybe just want a bit better sound we can help. We are the car audio experts in Cheshire and are here to help. If you are local to Macclesfield please call into our shop on Sunderland Street or simply give us a call on 01625 432707 our advice is free. If you do choose to upgrade we can offer up to a three-year warranty on products as well as a lifetime warranty on all installation for peace of mind, heck we’ll even throw in a cup of coffee!

 

Summer Is Here!

Summer is here (at least for the next few days). So what could be better than driving your convertible with the roof down at last? So good to feel the wind in your hair, not so good if you want to listen to your music. What used to sound great with the roof up is now hollow sounding with a weak bass response and turning the bass up just makes everything muddy sounding. This phenomenon also occurs with the windows wound down on a conventional car to a slightly lesser extent. So what’s going on and how can we fix it?

As we know sound waves are just compression ripples in the air, in a car these waves are generated by the speakers and when the air is still and contained in a small cabin we do not need much energy to get a decent sound level. However, if we create large holes in the structure by opening the windows or taking the roof off we have opened the speakers up to the outside world. Suddenly your small speakers are trying to fill the world with sound; on top of that, they have to compete with more road and wind noise as well as all the air turbulence.

mini cooper diagram showing sound contained inside the car mini cooper diagram showing sound lost to the outside world

It would be OK if all frequencies were affected evenly and all that was needed was more power but unfortunately, this is not the case. Without getting into the technical reasons what we find is that the higher frequencies tend to be less affected but the mid-range clarity is lost and the bass is severely reduced. Try it for yourself, listen to a piece of music you know well while driving and then open the windows. It is obvious from the pictures above that far less sound is going to reach your ears.

What we need is to be able to adjust the sound to compensate for the changes brought about by opening the car. Certainly we need more power by adding an amplifier but more importantly, we need to be able to adjust the sound for the different configurations of the car so that it always sounds the same.

To achieve this we have a range of digital signal processors at Car and Home Stereo that we can configure and program to solve the problem. The two leading units are the JL Audio TwK88 and the Audison Bit family of processor/amplifiers. These powerful processors can be programmed to allow precise tuning of the vehicle acoustics and most importantly have multiple pre-set capabilities which allow the user to switch between different tunings for different conditions.

So how do we do it?

The process requires taking acoustic measurements with the vehicle roof up and down. The same can be done for a non-convertible car with windows closed and open.  We use a combination of spectrum analysers and FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) measurements to map the acoustic signature of the vehicle interior. By playing a test signal (usually pink noise) we can see what the placement of the speakers and vehicle interior is doing to the sound and of course, we can do the same with the car open.

setting up car stereo system

Once we have the measurements we can start to tune the system. We start the process by adjusting time delays and phase controls to see if there are any cancellations being brought about by speaker positioning, we will also adjust speaker crossover points for the same reason. We do this first because no amount of EQ tuning would compensate for a phase issue and in fact, would probably make the sound worse. It also means less work for the processor which will ultimately give me more control. The goal is a clean, flat response to the test signal which we can use as a starting point for the real world tuning for the customer.

What’s Next?

Once we have the desired response for the car in the closed condition we look at the measurements for the converted configuration. The difference in the original measurements can now be compensated for by re-tuning the system and saving to a second pre-set. Once again we start with phase adjustments as with the top off there will be far less reflected sound and the speaker phase conditions will be different.

The result is the same audio performance for both configurations of the vehicle and at the touch of a button, you can switch between the two presets meaning great sound regardless of hood position.

audison controller in mercedes ashtray

We mounted the Audison controller for this Mercedes in the ash tray making it quick and easy to change presets but invisible when the cover was closed.

audison controller in mercedes ashtray closed

This tuning process is not simple and many different factors have to be considered as the adjustments are made. It also requires accurate and quite sophisticated measurement tools and at Car and Home Stereo we have invested in these to ensure we can achieve the best possible performance for our customers. We can also use these tools to identify acoustic problems in audio systems and we are more than happy to run a diagnostic on your car to help you choose the right way forward to better sound.

If you would like to take advantage of our test equipment or wish to discuss any aspect of tuning please feel free to call me on 01625 432707 or even better call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat and a listen to our demonstrator.

Exotic Evora


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

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

So what should we do to improve it?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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