coil

Practicing Safe Sound

There are many ways to upgrade your car audio system and let’s face it, most cars need it. I’m looking at you BMW, VW and Porsche in particular! It is not always possible to upgrade the head unit but it is always possible to improve the speakers. At Car and Home Stereo, we carry speakers by JL Audio, Audison, Hertz, Rainbow and others. This means we can choose the right speaker to suit the car and the customer. We will carefully install your speakers with custom built collars and fittings as well as add sound deadening in the door to improve its acoustic properties. The end result will be a vastly better sound without any cosmetic changes to your car.

And that is where we are finished but before you leave, a word of warning. Please take the time to run your new speakers in. The running in period varies for different speakers but generally, we recommend around 10 hours play time. Running in means keeping the volume at a sensible level without any large bass settings and we will always advise what should be the maximum volume for this period.

If this procedure is not followed your speakers may not fail but they will not reach their full potential, let me explain why.

A speaker is a transducer that converts electrical energy into sound and at the heart of the speaker is a coil of wire sitting inside a magnet. It is bright, shiny copper.

coil speakers good copper

It’s not necessary to know how it works but the important point is that when you pass electricity through a wire heat is generated and the higher the electrical current the more heat is generated. Now, this coil of wire is crucial to the accuracy of the speaker and it is protected by a thin coating of lacquer. This lacquer is quite soft when new and easily damaged by heat but if it is gently warmed over a number of hours the lacquer will harden.

I bet you can see where this is going! If a new speaker is subjected to a lot of power and played loud the voice coil lacquer will boil causing short circuits. Now while this will not necessarily cause the speaker to fail it will mean that the voice coil is not a single continuous wire which leads to a ‘lumpy’ effect within the magnetic gap. This, of course, means that the reproduction of sound is not linear and your investment will not reach its true performance capability. In extreme circumstances, the lacquer is burnt and expands into the magnetic gap which will cause a scratchy sound. These failures are non-reversible, cannot be repaired and are not covered under any warrantee.

 

coil bad burnt copper

burnt copper coil

So that is why we advise the running in period, to gently warm the voice coil lacquer causing it to cure. This hardened lacquer can now stand the heat of high power and your speakers will really perform as the designers intended.

I cannot overstate the importance of running in, a speaker is more likely to be damaged in the first few hours of use rather than over the rest of its life. At Car and Home Stereo, we want you to get the best possible sound from our expert installation so just hold back on the volume for a few hours, you’ll be glad you did.

 

Vehicle Specific Systems: BMW E90

This car is a firm favourite of ours especially in the M Sport however, the stock audio is nothing short of terrible. There is a distinct lack of any real bass and even with the optional stock tweeters there is no sparkle or liveliness in the sound. A lot of owners are unaware that there are bass speakers are located under the front seats as the low-frequency performance is so bad. There are of course many options to improve the audio but perhaps the simplest is to replace the speakers. The BMW speakers are a unique size and fitting a standard set can be difficult, fortunately, there are several companies now making BMW specific replacement speakers. Foremost amongst these are Rainbow, a German company specialising in some very high-end speakers.

The Il-c8.3 kit is suitable for all BMW E9x and F series and comes complete with all OE style connectors. All speakers will fit in the standard location with the minimum of modification. What’s more, all the original speakers can be re-installed when the car is sold or returned.

The difference between the Rainbow and the stock speakers is astonishing even without fitting an upgraded amplifier. The sound stage is better with vocals being presented cleanly, the mid range is much less confused and at last, there is a decent bass response. It is possible to just change the door speakers but I would highly recommend replacing the whole set.

Another popular vehicle with an underwhelming audio system is the VW Golf. Like the BMW the stock system has no sparkle and again a poor bass response. Once again Rainbow step in to provide a direct replacement speaker set, one for the VW Golf Mk5 and one for the Mk6. Available in three and two-way, this upgrade immediately lifts the whole audio soundstage to a new level. The kit comes with all fittings and collars required so it is possible to fit yourself if you wish.

Of course, you may be looking for a complete upgrade for your Golf Mk6 or 7 and here we can turn to the masters of car audio Audison. They have designed a specific system for this car that replaces the speakers as well as adding a custom tuned amplifier and a  super slim sub enclosure designed to seamlessly fit the car.

 

This system brings a whole new dimension to the audio system with a full digital signal processor that is built into the compact amplifier that sits discreetly under the seat. It has been developed from painstaking testing and tweaking to make sure that it both integrates perfectly with the stock car and provides the best possible sound. Again this kit comes complete with everything you will need to install it but unless you are comfortable removing the trim and panels from your car we would recommend letting us install it.

Of course, not all cars are covered with a ready made upgrade kit and this is where Car and Home Stereo can really help. Over the last thirty years, we have seen almost every type of vehicle and our comprehensive knowledge allows us to design and install audio systems that will delight. We strive to design systems that will blend perfectly with your car whatever your requirements may be. From the simplest speaker upgrade to a complete multimedia systems our aim is to put a big smile on your face every time you listen to it and that is what music should be about.

 

If you are ready to start your journey to better sound then please call Tim on 01625 432707 or better still call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat and a demonstration of the best that car audio can be.

Tim on Driving Sounds Magazine

As the UK’s only specialist car audio magazine, Driving Sounds aims to bring this niche industry to the attention of a wider public by promoting good sound in cars.

Good car audio is not only about equipment but also about the way it is installed which makes the industry unique. In most cases a system is sold complete with installation expertise, which is required to ensure that a vehicle’s standard functions and systems are not adversely affected.

Driving Sounds Magazine presents readers with reviews of vehicles that drivers have had audio installs fitted to. There are product reviews, installer features and also simplified explanations of what bits of a technical specification and features list are important to the final sound and which are simply marketing noise.

Read the full article here!

Simplicity Wins

At Car and Home Stereo we regularly install very high performance, in-car audio systems. It is intensely satisfying to build these systems as the musical performance they deliver is breathtaking. These systems do of course come with quite a high price tag so what can we do if the budget is a little more modest?

Let’s meet ‘James’. He’s 22 and just bought his first new car, a Ford Fiesta ST.

ford fiesta st

He loves music and thinks the standard sound system is OK especially since the car is equipped with Bluetooth so he can stream from his phone. After owning it for a while he starts to think about improving the sound but after lease payments and insurance he’s not got a lot to play with.

The first thing we will ask when he calls in to the shop is what type of music he listens to and what sort of sound he likes. The next step is to sit in his car and listen to the sound, often we will find the tone controls have been set to max bass and treble in an attempt to get a better sound. This usually just has the effect of making the sound muddy as the speakers cannot cope.

Now we know he would like a better bass performance for his music and more clarity from the main speakers. We need to add a subwoofer and better speakers to achieve a complete improvement. James has a limited budget and wants to get the best performance boost for the money.

We have a wide range of products available to suit all requirements but in this case an ideal solution would be the Rainbow Intellisub 8 and a set of JL Audio TR650 CSI components for the front doors. Total cost installed of £500. This very simple system would transform the performance of the audio and give years of pleasure.

But what if the budget will not stretch to £500, should we find cheaper products? The answer is always no. It is never worth compromising performance for price. There are cheaper products out there but they are always inferior and will not stand the test of time. The best option is to split the installation and have one part now and the next when funds allow. So which part first?

Simple, the sub. By adding the extra bass system there are two immediate benefits. First and most obvious is the bass improvement with greater depth and punch. The second improvement is more subtle, as there is no need for the main speakers to produce bass they start to sound a lot better. Certainly good enough while you save for the speakers!

I give this advice on an almost daily basis and it’s worth has been proved time and again with customers who have simple audio systems that far exceed their expectations. We have an in store demonstration stand that shows this off beautifully so please feel free to call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield and we can start your journey to a better sound.

Demonstration of Distortion

An interesting situation occurred at Car and Home Stereo recently that I would like to share. It highlighted a phenomenon that is quite counter intuitive and led to some interesting discussions.

We have a demonstration Land Rover Discovery that has a simple, high quality audio system installed that is tuned to perfectly suit the interior acoustics. We always encourage our customers to sit in and experience it as it shows what can really be done with car audio. The amplifier that powers the system is the magnificent Audison 5.1K which develops a true 1650 Watts.

There is one pair of component Hertz Mille Legend speakers in the front doors and a Hertz Mille subwoofer in the rear.

A customer recently auditioned the system and we spent a good hour playing different types of music with a view to producing something similar in his car. He was completely blown away with the sound, couldn’t believe the clarity and how the sub blended perfectly with the whole system. And then he said ‘I love it, but it’s not very loud is it?’. In fact he reckoned his standard Ford system was louder!

Now I know just how loud our system is and the odd thing is that the cleaner the sound the less we perceive volume. Since we had some time I decided to run a little proof experiment with my customer’s car.

As part of our equipment set we have an industry standard spectrum analyser which is also equipped with an SPL meter. It was a simple task to set this up in the Discovery first and then the Ford to compare. As expected our Discovery hit 126dB easily, the Ford however struggled to hit 110dB. In real world terms this equates to a perceived doubling of power (a true doubling is 3dB but we don’t really hear it that way). The next test was the distortion level. By plugging an oscilloscope into the amplifier output we can measure the clipping levels. Unsurprisingly the Discovery registered less than 5 percent distortion at full volume as this was how it was set up. However the Ford reached 5 percent at a little over half volume and climbed to over 25 percent.

There is no arguing with the figures so what is going on? Simply that the higher  distortion levels were being registered as unpleasantly loud and our brains are trying to get us to turn it down! Distortion is the quickest way to destroy a speaker or indeed your hearing.

At Car an Home Stereo we value our customers and hope to be providing high quality audio systems for many years. A distorted sound system will very quickly do serious harm to our hearing and that is why we only choose the best equipment and like to carefully set these up to give the best possible sound. Brands such as JL Audio, Audison, Hertz and Dynamat may not be the cheapest but certainly are amongst the best. The fact that when installed correctly they can deliver an amazing sound makes them excellent value for money.

As to my customer with the Ford, he now has a fabulous system based around a JL Audio amp and speakers with a Rainbow active sub. He loves to play it loud and I know it will give him years of pleasure without doing any harm.

If you want to experience the Discovery sound system or would like to discuss how we can improve your car please all us on 01625 432707.

What To Look Forward To In 2017

It’s good to be back after the festive break and there is a lot to look forward to in 2017.

World renowned audio manufacturer Audison have just announced their new Thesis speaker range. The Thesis amplifier represents the absolute pinnacle of performance without compromise and now there is a speaker set available to match. If you are looking for the absolute best possible sound then this is it.

adison speakers

Staying with Audison, the new slimline Prima subwoofers and enclosures offer stunning bass performance from a very compact form. These will appeal to anyone who does not want to sacrifice much boot space but still demands a Hi-Fi response.

audison prima subwoofers

 

There will also be a new Prima Pack custom installation kit for the BMW 1 series. This car has always had a very disappointing standard audio system and the Prima Pack is a tailored solution comprising the stunning AP amplifier, a custom Prima speaker pack and compact subwoofer. As with all the Prima Pack systems the factory head unit remains unchanged but the audio performance is greatly enhanced by the AP amplifier. The speakers fit perfectly into the factory locations and the sub is designed to blend seamlessly with the factory trim.

bmw1 car

On the other side of the Atlantic, JL Audio have released their amazing new processors, the new Fix and TwK.

jl audio

The FiX range is simplicity itself to use and automatically deals with all the anomalies inherent in vehicle factory head units. Building on the success of the CleanSweep processor, the FiX can automatically de-equalise audio streams and can even remove spurious time alignment errors giving  a flatter, more open sound from which we can build a better audio system.

The new TwK processors take this a huge step further by allowing access to a vast range of processors via the JL Audio software. From input/output configuration to full spectrum equalisation, this product means that every installation can be tuned to perfection.

Over the break we have been busy building new demonstration stands to showcase some of our best car audio equipment as well as tweaking our Land Rover Discovery demonstrator. This simple car audio system still astonishes me with its clarity and power showing what can be achieved with just one pair of speakers, a subwoofer and amplifier. If you haven’t heard it and can come down to our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield I would encourage you to do so, it is sure to impress.

Our focus, as ever is on installation of the highest quality whether it is a simple dash cam or a full blown custom audio system. We are proud to be a part of the national FourMasters group offering the highest installation standards and a three year warranty on installations.

Please feel free to pop in or give me a call on 01625 432707 to discuss ideas and start your journey towards better sound!

Wishing you a happy new year!

We hope your 2017 has got off to a good start!

Here, at Car and Home Stereo we already have some exciting, new products coming through the door. Come to our shop on Sunderland Street, Macclesfield, and see what we can do for you.

Keeping It Simple with Bose

For many years Car and Home Stereo has been synonymous with Bose Hi-Fi. Over the years we have installed hundreds of sophisticated and powerful home theatre, multi room systems. It’s true to say that most of them are still providing their owners with daily pleasure, such is the reliability of Bose audio.

While every system was designed to our clients needs they all had one thing in common, cables, and lots of them! We had to spend as much time installing cables as installing the system not to mention the in depth design process to determine where everything needed to be. All this hidden detail could amount to a sizable cost. Now the whole process has become an awful lot simpler thanks to WiFi!

Wireless streaming of your music is not a new idea of course but most solutions have been of average quality often with clunky user interfaces. What is really important, apart from high quality sound of course, is that it is easy to use. The Bose SoundTouch wireless music system is just such a perfect blend of quality and simplicity.

The SoundTouch system can communicate with any WiFi connected device in your home be it Apple or Android, PC or Mac. It will search for any music you have stored and allow you to play it anywhere in your house. If you use a streaming service such as Spotify or Deezer you can seamlessly call up your favourite music directly from the Bose control app. There is even a smart Bluetooth capability to allow direct streaming to multiple devices around your home and of course there is access to the whole world of radio via the Internet.

Now you can have a whole house, high quality solution without all the complex cabling. Whatever your needs there is a SoundTouch wireless system available. From a full 5 speaker surround sound home theatre system for the living room to a simple stand alone music player for the kitchen. There is even a wireless amplifier that can be used for outside or as bathroom speakers. The amazing SoundTouch 300 sound bar is extremely popular as is the Sound Touch 20 free standing unit.

The possibilities are endless and I would urge you to contact me at Car and Home Stereo on 01625 432707 to discuss the ideal system for you.

Christmas ’16: In Retrospect

As we come to the end of another trading year it seems fitting to look back at what has changed for us. Personally I think the development of affordable and powerful Digital Signal Processing by Audison has been a complete game changer. At Car and Home Stereo we have always embraced any new technology that will improve the in car audio experience. I can remember fitting Phoenix Gold analogue graphic equalisers in the 90s and spending ages carefully setting them up for the vehicle acoustics. Then the customer’s ‘expert’ mate would have a go, dial in the ‘smiley face’ EQ curve and ruin the sound.

phoenix gold equaliser

When digital systems started to appear I was delighted as there were no more sliders to get fiddled with. I was one of the first to install the Phoenix Gold TiDEQ and it was brilliant if not tearfully expensive. Inevitably, cheaper systems appeared from other manufacturers but they were short on processing power and were distinctly underwhelming.

Fortunately Audison picked up the baton of digital signal processing and ran with it.
audison bit ten d
With powerful software and a host of automatic and manual signal conditioners on board, the Bit range of products now allow me to take any car and be confident of a stunning audio result, regardless of system installed and at a more than reasonable cost.

Another one of my favourite company is JL Audio. Their range of subwoofers and amplifiers are almost unmatched for performance and fidelity. Ten or more years ago we were installing plenty of subs but they were large and needed large enclosures for the best sound. This meant eating up lots of boot space, many customers just did not want that and so compromised on the bass performance. JL Audio, already masters of subwoofer design, set out to help everyone get the best bass performance regardless of available space. In the last couple of years they have produced some spectacular speakers that will operate in almost ridiculously small enclosures. Their TW range particularly so. At Car and Home Stereo sound quality is our first consideration and adding a subwoofer is to my mind essential, now we have the products to allow this regardless of space.

Another product that has really impressed me this year is the SoundTouch 300 soundbar from Bose.
bose sound bar
This very stylish soundbar not only looks fantastic with its black glass top and minimal design but it has a sound that will quite simply amaze. As one of the undisputed leaders in sound reproduction technology Bose have delivered a product that defies reality. Although it is only a single bar it manages to create sound from places far beyond its size. Close your eyes and you will be convinced that there are speakers all round you! If that is not enough then you can also add the optional powerful subwoofer and even wireless rear speakers for a true surround sound experience. Of course it also contains the Bose SoundTouch technology which is just about the best music streaming system available today as the icing on the cake!

And if you are stuck for a last minute Christmas gift, the Bose SoundLink Mini is perfect.
bose mini speaker
Don’t be fooled by the diminutive size of this little Bluetooth player, the sound is amazing. Full portability thanks to its long life rechargeable battery and a rich, full sound whether on its charging cradle or taken on an outing.

All that remains is for us to wish you a happy Christmas and New Year. Here’s looking forward to 2017 and all the exciting developments that are on their way for car and home audio.

Please note that we will be shut for the Christmas holiday from December 25th until January 3rd. Have a happy and musical Christmas!

landrover defender stock

Upgrading the Defender

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

landrover defender stock

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

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

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

c2 400 subwoofer

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

jl subwoofer

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

installation

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

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

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

Audison

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

audison speaker amplifier

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

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

 

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