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.

Life In The Loud Lane

At Car and Home Stereo we are dedicated to getting the best possible sound in your car. We will carefully match your needs to the best equipment and electronics to achieve that goal. We have access to a vast range of products so that we can tailor a system that is perfectly suited to you and your car. Of course what everyone wants is different and two extremes were both in the workshop at the same time recently.

If you have read the Lotus Evora blog you will know that the emphasis was on a stealthy install with the aim to produce a highly detailed soundstage. This was achieved with a full Audison system using the amazing AP8.9 Bit amplifier, Voce speakers and Prima sub, a simple system boasting 520W, more than enough power for the small cabin of the Evora. The final tuned sound of this car was fantastic. The music was surrounding with detail and punch where it needed it.

In the adjacent workshop bay at the same time was a Vauxhall Astra van and the brief for this one was very different. This had to sound good but most importantly it needed the ability to crush you with bass! Being a van we had plenty of space to work with but on the down side all that metal was a prime candidate for epic vibration. Power supply was always going to be an issue from the standard battery and of course with the power we were going to need, the standard wiring would not be adequate.

How we did it:

The first job would be to strip the vehicle for acoustic treatment. Every panel had to be coated to make sure all the enormous energy of the subs was retained inside. There’s no point in installing a 3000W system if 1000W gets out, it might sound good to passers-by but if you’ve paid for all that power, you want to hear it all. Once treated, tapping on any metal panel sounded like tapping on wood. There was no resonance and as a bonus road noise was reduced to almost nothing. The doors were treated with more Dynamat Xtreme to improve the acoustic response of the front speakers and again reduce road noise.

What next?:

The power supply was upgraded with two auxiliary Optima yellow top, deep cycle batteries with a split charge system. Even though the MTX bass amps are ‘D’ class they still draw a significant current and it was important to make sure this would not drain the vehicle battery. This kind of power has to be made safe and that means fuses on each battery and on each supply to the amplifiers, there may only be 12 Volts but the current capacity on the Optima batteries is more than enough to melt any cable and incorrect fusing could cause a fire if short circuited.

Once the power supply was installed we could mount the amps on the forward bulkhead. As this was destined for the show scene we made sure that everything was as neat as could be.

The eagle eyed of you will spot the cut outs for the MTX 6×9 speakers below the amps. This is an unconventional position for speakers as they are behind the seats but they will add a much needed boost to the low mid-range to complement the component speakers in the doors.

The three main amps are MTX RT1000.1Ds, These develop 1000W each at 2 Ohms which is why they need 50mm sq. power cable! The rest of the speakers are powered by a JL Audio XD400/4 and everything is kept under control by the Audison Bit 10. The front speakers were mounted in the standard location on custom collars and the tweeters were mounted into custom ‘A’ pillar pods.

This improved the staging for the front and solved the problem of the size of the tweeter being too large for the factory location.

So what about the subs I hear you cry!

Well this had to be the show stopper so we knew we would have to build something a bit special. The MTX TX612 is a beast of a sub.

With its awesome power handling capability we knew we could really push this speaker. It has incredible excursion and that red, double stitched hinge is not just for show. We wanted to get the most from this driver so we opted for an optimised slot ported enclosure, one for each sub. As you can imagine there is a significant amount of weight here so we also had to make sure that there was no possibility that any of this structure could move. Safety is always prominent in our minds when designing any system.

This is the finished enclosure although there will be trimmed wheel arch boxes either side for storage.

The auxiliary batteries and fuses are located behind the enclosure and are accessible by removing the top trim panel. There will be a voltage display mounted in the right hand arch box so battery condition can be monitored. The main fuse and Stinger 500A peak split charge relay are mounted in the bonnet with the vehicle battery.

Did we fulfil our brief?

And then some! With the tailgate open the bass completely dominates and you can feel the sound waves pushing your chest. If you dare to put your head inside the boot you’re immediately disorientated by the sound pressure level. When sat in the front you can hear the rest of the music as well and now that awesome bass complements rather than overpowers. Of course there is a level control for the bass but the temptation is to turn it up for the biggest smiles!

At Car and Home Stereo we know that this sort of system is not for everyone and we always ensure you get exactly what you need so regardless of what vehicle please give us a call and we can start your journey to a better sound.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Time for a New Lifestyle

The amazing Bose Lifestyle 650

Car and Home Stereo have been supplying exceptional Bose music and home theatre systems for over 20 years. I still remember the first time the original Acoustimass speaker cubes were demonstrated to me. Tiny speakers that twisted with a sound that seemed to fill the room, very impressive.

From that day we have stayed with Bose as the ‘Home’ in Car and Home Stereo. Some of the most exciting products have been the Lifestyle range of home cinema systems and over the years we have seen continuous and dramatic advances in technology and performance.

The core design feature of the Lifestyle systems has always been amazing, immersive sound from almost invisible speakers. The latest version, the Sound Touch Lifestyle 650 takes this to another level. Let’s take a tour of the technology and features of this incredible home cinema system.

 

The speaker system is revolutionary. The diminutive OmniJewel speaker houses two drivers positioned at the top and bottom with the sound radiating from the central grille.

 

This allows for complete 360-degree dispersal and creates a huge image stage all around the speaker. If the speaker is wall mounted then the reflected sound adds to the widened soundstage. The result when all five speakers are connected is a truly immersive sound with exceptional image separation, perfect for movies. To make installation easier the rear speakers have a wireless connection to the control unit meaning no more wires to chase around the room.

Of course no cinema system is complete without the woofer. This is what creates the power and excitement in the soundtrack.

 

 

The Acoustimass 300 bass unit

From the cutaway, you can see how the driver is positioned under the sleek glass top for maximum dispersion without rattling the floorboards. The tuned port below the speaker enhances the truly deep tones perfect for when the star destroyer thunders across the sky! Again the woofer connection is wireless meaning it can be positioned anywhere and just needs a power point.

But what if your room is an odd shape making it difficult to install the speakers in the ideal positions? Maybe you have high ceilings and wood floors which can produce odd reflections and ruin the sound. Well, Bose has the answer in their AdaptIQ system. This learns the layout of your room and listening positions and automatically adjusts the sound to compensate for anomalies. This means that every system will sound as good as the showroom and you will not need to carefully position your speakers to optimise performance.

Finally, we come to the gorgeous console.

The sleek Sound Touch 650 console

Available in black or white this sleek, glass topped unit is the brain of the whole system and packs an amazing suite of features and technology. It is designed to be the hub of your entire audiovisual system. There are multiple HDMI ports to accept all your devices such as Sky, Virgin, Blu-Ray player and others. There is a single ARC equipped HDMI port for connection to your television but if your TV does not have ARC then there is a dedicated optical port for the TV sound. The smart Bose remote control can be programmed to operate all your other devices which means a lot less clutter on the coffee table!

That takes care of all your video needs but what about your music? Well, the Lifestyle 650 is equipped with Bluetooth for direct streaming of music from your phone or tablet but more importantly, it has the Bose Sound Touch wireless music system on board. This simple system links the Lifestyle to your wifi network and any connected devices. This means it can see your iTunes or My Music library on your computer or network drive giving you instant access to all your music. If you have a Spotify or Deezer account you can access that from the Bose control app on your smart device and play it through the Lifestyle system. There is also internet radio access giving you just about every radio station in the world in digital clarity.

All this technology is incredibly easy to control either via the Bose Sound Touch app or the system remote control which I think is important as we shouldn’t feel intimidated by an overly complex control system. You barely need to look at the instructions as it is so intuitive to use, the system even talks you through the installation making sure no mistakes are made during setup all thanks to the Unify installation process. System updates are automatic via your wifi connection meaning your system will always be up to date and upgraded as necessary.

And there is so much more to the Lifestyle system that makes it one of the best home cinema systems available today, far too much to talk about here. I would urge you to call in for a demonstration so that you can experience the full power of this magnificent range.

 

A, AB, D or All Three? Pick Your Amp!

Amplifiers, such a range but which is right for you? I’d like to discuss amplifier types and applications.

As a Four Master, Car and Home Stereo are recognised as one of the leading car audio installers in the country. Our knowledge and experience mean that we are ideally placed to choose the right equipment and install it to the highest standard.  We offer a no pressure approach and are happy to offer advice on choosing the right equipment; just recently I had a great conversation over Facebook with an enthusiast in Australia over the benefits of the magnificent Rainbow Profi speakers.

Commonly I am asked “how many Watts is it?” but there is so much more to an amplifier than that. In reality, the Watts figure is often not the most useful specification when choosing between amplifiers. True it gives a simple indication of power but all too often that figure is heavily massaged to look higher. I have tested some so-called 3000W amplifiers to discover that they only made 200W at the terminals into a speaker load. Still an impressive output but certainly not 3000W as claimed.

But I digress; we are looking today at amplifier types and their uses. There are three types of amplifiers in main use today they are classed as A, AB and D. Although they all have the same purpose there are some fundamental differences between them that make them suit different applications.

At the heart of an amplifier are the power transistors, these are responsible for taking a small signal and making it larger, the classification describes how the transistors are used. Of course, there is a massive range of qualities and performance variations related to each type but we will stick to classes.

Class A, a typical sound wave.

As we know, Sound is an oscillating wave. This wave has a positive and a negative component but is symmetrical about the ‘t’ axis. So all we need is one big transistor that can amplify the whole signal to whatever power we want right? Well yes and this is the ideal solution for sonic accuracy; the high output signal is an exact copy of the small input signal. The best amplifiers I have ever heard have all been A class with a sound that is open, transparent and simply a joy to listen to.

The magnificent Audison Thesis Venti

However, all this purity comes at a price; huge power consumption. Those massive transistors are switched on all the time regardless of whether there is a signal there or not or how loud it’s playing. This means heat and lots of it which has to be dissipated. So we need massive power supplies and large heatsinks which make the amplifier large and somewhat inefficient, typically around 20%. That’s why we need to use such large power cable!

So how do we get better efficiency? Class AB.

 

There are many considerations here but in very simplistic terms it is possible to use one transistor to amplify the top half of the wave and another matched transistor to amplify the bottom half. This means that smaller transistors can be used and they are only on for half the time leading to efficiencies of 50 to 70%. This means less heat and smaller power supplies which help to keep the cost down.

The JL Audio JX360, a mainstay of many audio systems

There are some drawbacks to class AB, principally of which is crossover distortion.

As a matched pair of transistors has to amplify the whole wave it is essential that they turn off and on at exactly the right moment (the class B part). Imagine two people writing the letter S where one person only writes one-half and the other person completes it, there is bound to be a little error. The same is true in the amplifier leading to a very slight distortion of the output wave but in truth, modern design can almost eliminate this meaning we can have a really great sounding amp that is pretty efficient. This has meant that AB design has dominated the market for decades.

The highest efficiency is class D.
Let’s get something straight, D does not stand for digital. Class D is just another design type, a really clever one. This design uses pulse width modulation to generate the amplified output which involves switching the output transistors on and off at a very high rate typically around 300 kHz. This High switching frequency means any noise is well above our audible range and the PWM leads to astonishing efficiencies of around 95% or higher. So, at last, we have a very high power, high quality and very efficient amplifier. It is fair to say that most mainstream car amplifiers today are D class as they are smaller, lighter and generate less heat than their A or AB counterparts.

The JL Audio XD400.4, small but powerful

As with almost everything, there has to be a downside and with D class their Achilles heel is radio interference. The switching frequency mentioned might not be audible but it can do a fine job of broadcasting in the FM radio range. This can lead to reduced radio reception at certain frequencies, of course, modern design does mitigate the problem but nevertheless, it can still be an issue.

So to sum up, Class A for the best possible sound (ideal for tweeters), Class AB for improved efficiency (ideal for midrange) and Class D for maximum power from the smallest chassis (ideal for subwoofers). Wouldn’t it be great if there was an amplifier with all three? Well, there is and it is called the 5.1K from Audison.

 

The superb and versatile Audison 5.1K

This is one of my all-time favourite amplifiers and it is the amp that powers my own personal system. The detail of the class A front stage is phenomenal while the AB class mid-stage offers an amazing amount of punch. The D class sub stage has enough power to rattle the windows but offers a fidelity that allows a seamless blend with the rest of the audio stage. This unit never fails to impress and is not too big to make it impossible to fit. It does get hot if driven hard but does not require special cooling if mounted sensibly.

 

If you would like to hear what the 5.1K can do then please feel free to call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield and I would be pleased to demonstrate it in our Discovery or on the demonstration stand in store. If you would like any more information on amplifiers in general please call me on 01625 432707.

 

 

Gain An Advantage: Amplifier

Anyone who has dabbled in car audio will have come across an amplifier at some point. They come in many shapes, sizes, and outputs but from the cheapest eBay special to eye wateringly expensive European exotica they all have one purpose, to get the musical signal to the speakers. The amplifier is, therefore, sat between the CD player and the speakers accepting the low-level input signal and converting it to a high power speaker output. I don’t want to get too bogged down in technicalities but let’s discuss the different types available and the controls we are given.

The JL Audio RD900.5 is a perfect example. This 5 channel, D class amplifier is capable of running a complete car audio system with front speakers, rear speakers, and a subwoofer. Alternatively, it could run a pair of front speakers bridged for enormous power plus a subwoofer once again. So, the RD900.5 is a very high performance, a flexible amplifier with a pretty small footprint making it easy to install.

The input stage is on the far left of this amplifier and comprises the usual red and white RCA connectors. There are 3 pairs that equate to the front, rear and sub input. Above these are three switches that allow for hi or low-level input, auto turn on mode and input channel selection (2, 4 or 6). Not all amplifiers are equipped with these selectors but these add to the RD900.5 flexibility.

The next stage is what interests us here, the frequency filter and the gain controls. The RD 900.5 is nonsymmetrical meaning that all channels are not identical. Channels 1 to 4 are for main speakers while 5 and 6 are for subwoofers. Therefore there is a variable high pass filter for 1 to 4 and a low pass filter for 5 and 6.

What is the filter for you ask? It is used to remove frequencies that are not required by the speaker on that channel. If we know we have a subwoofer fitted then it makes no sense to send the very low frequencies to the door speakers. Sub frequencies require a speaker cone to move a great distance and most door speakers simply cannot achieve this without distortion, I’m sure you have all heard a speaker trying too hard causing the classic ‘burping’ sound. In extreme cases, the speaker coil can be heard crashing into the back plate creating a clapping noise. Either situation is undesirable so to prevent these from occurring the frequency filter is applied to restrict the low tones.

The cutoff frequency is variable to suit different speakers and installations and setting it correctly requires the use of a signal generator. If you do not have access to one of these then it is possible to do roughly by ear, simply play music and slowly raise the filter frequency until there are no very low sounds in the speaker. The result will be a much clearer sound with no distortion. The mid definition should be greatly improved meaning vocals will cut through better. Typically the filter control is graduated and a very rough initial setting for a typical door speaker would be around 80Hz but you should experiment either side of this to find the best setting.

The subwoofer (low-pass) filter is the opposite of the high pass filter as it removes the higher frequencies sent to the sub. This ensures it only gets useful frequencies and we do not waste amplifier energy trying to make it play the higher tones.

Again the cutoff frequency is variable but what we want is to blend the sub with the main speakers so it is important to find a filter point that complements the high pass filter for the speakers.

So now we come to the input sensitivity, perhaps one of the most misunderstood controls. First and foremost it is not a volume control. Sure, it does increase the volume as you turn it but that does not mean it is increasing the amplifier power. Let’s consider what an amplifier is doing, it is taking a small signal and making it bigger. That signal is very dynamic meaning it is made up of loud and quiet parts, an extreme example could be Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Not something we listen to every day but it serves our example very well. If you are not familiar with the piece it starts very quietly and builds to a crescendo of orchestra and cannons. A more modern piece would be Warriors Dance by Prodigy but with fewer cannons!

The most important thing to consider when setting the sensitivity is that the amplifier only has a finite amount of power, let’s say 100Watts. That is represented by the upper dotted line on the graphs above. Our goal is to get the maximum, undistorted output.

If we look at a typical input sound wave it is obvious that there are loud and quiet parts. As we stated the amplifier is there to make this signal louder. Now let’s add the maximum amplifier power to the input signal graph.

As we increase the sensitivity we increase the size of the input signal at the input stage to the amplifier and remember there is a finite amount of power available. So what happens if we go too far?

As can be seen the nice smooth curves at the top and bottom of the loud spikes have been flattened which is clipped distortion. So yes we have a loud sound but it will be fuzzy and unpleasant. It will also damage speakers as the flat tops of the wave are a DC signal that will only induce heat into the voice coils. So if we take our example, the 1812 Overture, with the sensitivity set as above the quiet passages will sound good but the loud sections will be badly distorted and this will get worse the louder we play it.

For the best sound and maximum output, it is imperative that the loudest sounds are not clipped. Normally this would be set up with an oscilloscope but it can also be done with a voltmeter by measuring the output for maximum unclipped voltage as long as you know the true output power.

Fortunately, the JL Audio RD amplifiers have a brilliant feature, a clip indicator. This will light up if the signal is distorted by over ambitious sensitivity meaning setting up is made much easier.

At Car and Home Stereo, we want all our installations to give the best possible sound and that is why we carefully set up each and every one.

If you would like to have your system checked for any problems and to find solutions to these we would love to measure your car using our state of the art test equipment. These can highlight deficiencies in the sound stage that are difficult to locate just by listening.

As usual, I have run out of space so I’ll leave amplifier types and their best application for another time. But please don’t hesitate to call on 01625 432707 if you have any questions.