Stealth Installation: Audi Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does all this look like?

Even Henry looks impressed!

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

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

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

 

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