Range Rover Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

The rest was up to us.

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

stripped dashboard range rover car and home stereo macclesfield

stripped range rover dashboard macclesfield car home stereo

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

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

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

rebuilt dashboard rangerover

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

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

audison speakers custom fitting

Now for the fun part!

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

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

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

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

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

blue audi s3 car and home stereo macclesfield

Awesome Audi

We have recently completed the audio system for this magnificent Audi S3. If you have read the previous instalment you will already be familiar with the car but it has developed considerably since then! This piece is a perfect example of how we work with our customers to achieve their audio dreams.

This has been a developing project in the quest for the best performance. What started as a simple bass upgrade has turned into a monster!

First things first:

When the car left the factory it was equipped with the B&O audio system and was quite frankly appalling. The front end detail was reasonable but the bass response was dire. The ‘sub’ that was fitted in the boot was a flimsy plastic chamber with a low quality, 6-inch paper and plastic speaker. Any attempt to push the bass resulted in a feeble burp, it had to go.

During the discussion with the owner it quickly became apparent that he was a true music addict and a simple upgrade was not going to be on the cards, he also admitted to being a JL Audio fan which we definitely approve of. We applied the simple motto that you can never have too much, only too little and recommended a JL Audio 12w6 subwoofer and an XD 1000/1 amplifier to drive it. Now we already knew that the signal from the factory amplifier was poor so we also recommended a JL Audio FiX processor to clean the response up.

The 12w6 sub is one of my all-time favourites and the results were very impressive but it wasn’t long before the bug bit again and our customer returned for more. Another 12w6 and XD1000/1 later the bass performance was doubled. Brilliant, but now the front end was starting to sound really bad in comparison, so a speaker upgrade was discussed.

dynamat lining on audi s3 car home stereo macc

Copious amounts of Dynamat inside and out kept the noise and vibration down while a set of JL Audio C5 650 components went in the front. This was all powered by a JL XD 400/4 in active mode while the awesome TwK processor allowed me to carefully tune the system.

 

The sound was amazing and that could have been where it ended, or so we thought.

Next Steps:

The owner of the car felt that there was a slight gap in the low mid frequency performance, and knew that there was room for an extra speaker in the middle of the door. That speaker can only be a 4-inch shallow unit so we knew it could not add the desired low mid. However the main door speaker location can accommodate an 8-inch driver and it just so happens that JL Audio produces a fantastic eight inch, free air mid bass unit, the ZR 800 CW.

This is a big driver but with a carefully designed spacer collar, it just fitted into the lower speaker position.

So what should we use for the high-mid and tweeter? Unfortunately JL Audio does not currently have a slim 4-inch but there is one company that has the perfect solution. The Focal 100KRS is a magnificent small speaker we use it a lot in Land Rover Defenders and know its potential so this was what we recommended. Again we produced mounting collars and the fit was perfect.

Of course, this extra speaker needed driving and there was really only one option for us and that was the JL Audio XD 800/8.

This allowed us to drive the tweeters and 4-inch mids at 100W while delivering a full 200W into each ZR mid-bass driver. Another cool feature is that the 800/8 shares the same chassis with the 1000/1 so now we had three identical looking amps in the boot!

What a sound we had now. The low mid gap was gone and the punch was quite something to experience. Thanks to the TwK processor the sound stage was crystal clear and right in front of the driver.

Was this finally the end? Oh no!

One thing still had to be addressed, the boot build. “Oh and while you do that since we can’t get a third sub in the boot can we squeeze any more performance from the existing two?” Challenge duly set we opted to refit the subs into slot ported enclosures giving us a realistic increase of up to 9dB from the same amplifiers. The owner wanted blue Alcantara to match the car with a raised JL motif on the box. Well, how could we refuse!

sound system in back of audi s3 car and home stereo macclesfield custom fitting

There’s definitely no room for golf clubs but that hardly matters when you hear this. There is, of course, a bass control at the front of the car and when wound up to full this system leaves you breathless.

This install has turned into one of my favourites and complements this gorgeous car perfectly. Look out for it at a show near you and you might just get to hear it.

If you would like to know more about custom installation for your car then please feel free to drop us a line by email or call on 01625 432707.

Factory ‘upgrade’ systems

Recently I have been working on two cars that had factory upgrade audio options fitted. A Nissan GTR with the Bose system and an Aston Martin with the Linn option. My customers were both complaining of poor sound and were wondering how it could sound so bad when the car had the upgraded audio. Now both Bose and Linn are respected hi fi manufacturers who produce excellent products, at Car and Home Stereo we sell the full range of Bose home audio and have supplied Linn audio in the past. I know it well and have a lot of respect for them.

Clearly, both these manufacturers know how to make great audio so what goes wrong when they try to create a car audio system? And I’m not singling out these two, the Harmon Kardon, B&O, Meridian and Mark Levinson are little if any better especially when you consider the cost of ticking that upgrade option box. In my opinion, the short answer is money and marketing while the longer answer is a fundamental misunderstanding of the car environment.

Xcar:

Let’s take a fictitious, generic car manufacturer, Xcar. Let’s assume they are successful and respected producing a high-quality product with flashy showrooms and huge marketing budgets. They need to keep their cars selling and beating their competitors. This competition is excellent for the consumer as it forces the car manufacturers to constantly improve their vehicles. More power, more fuel economy, more safety, more features. More is always better, isn’t it? Of course, at the same time, they need to balance this innovation with costs so that they can turn a profit.

Now Xcar have a mid-priced car that sells very well but is in close competition with its rivals. How to make it more attractive while making more money? This is where the option list comes into play and right up there near the top will be the audio upgrade.

Remember that to marketing people more is always better so obviously, more speakers have to be better right? Wrong! At Car and Home Stereo we design audio systems with one goal; to sound great. What we use to achieve this is almost not relevant, there will be speakers, amplifiers and sound processors but the type and quantity will be decided by the customer’s requirements and personal preferences.

Some of the best sounding audio systems I have ever designed have used only four speakers and a subwoofer. The four speakers would typically be a two way component set comprising a mid and tweeter in each door so could be considered a single pair. A multitude of speakers means that there will be a lot of competing pressure waves in the cabin not to mention multiple reflections causing phase cancellations and ruining the sound stage. Manufacturers often put yet another speaker in the middle of the dashboard, perfect if it is to watch DVDs in 5.1 surround but terrible for stereo delivery.

But Xcar listens to the marketing department and offer a speaker upgrade package that takes the speaker count from six to fifteen. Of course, this many speakers are going to need an amplifier. They could go to a company that designs and builds car audio amplifiers for this but most people have never heard of Audison or JL Audio or Rainbow and Pioneer and Alpine are not considered up market enough. Marketing do their research and find that most of their customers have a house with some decent hi fi so why not get these hi-fi companies to build them an amplifier?

There are two major problems here.

The first is that the car manufacturer has gone to a home audio company. There are fundamental differences between your car and your living room, too many to mention here and most home audio companies simply do not understand them. At Car and Home Stereo we of course use amplifiers from the best car audio manufacturers and while these can be expensive they are ideally suited to the vehicle environment to ensure the best possible sound.

However, the biggest problem can be laid at the feet of the accountants. Remember they need to make more profit without increasing costs too much well putting a big brand hi fi badge on your speaker grille and installing the lowest cost amplifier can do that. The badge might even convince customers that this is great car audio.

amplifier upgrade Nissan GTR Skyline

This is the upgrade amplifier option for the Nissan GTR Skyline. Designed to drive seven speakers even the simplest offering from Hertz would outperform it. And there is the problem, Bose are completely capable of designing and building a tremendous amplifier but car manufacturers will not pay the price for this and go with the least expensive option. That doesn’t stop them from charging a hefty premium when you tick the upgrade box though.

You might assume that you are getting better speakers designed by that hi-fi manufacturer wouldn’t you?
Well more often than not you actually only get the standard speakers with a few more thrown in.

So what have we learned?

My advice is to never tick the upgrade audio box. You will most likely be disappointed and when it comes here to be improved I will usually have to remove it all anyway. Any changes I make will be completely reversible and invisible to any inspection but the difference to your listening experience will be astonishing. You will start to relish the long drive and hold ups will be almost a pleasure as you will have your favourite music in stunning clarity to keep you company.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve your car audio or would like to listen to our stunning Land Rover Discovery demonstration vehicle please feel free to pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, Cheshire or give me a call on 01625 432707

 

car audio speaker music

Simple Car Audio Upgrades

It is quite common for me to be asked how we keep busy. The next comment is usually that surely all modern cars have a great audio system. Well, the short answer is no they don’t but in truth, they are adequate for a lot of drivers because they have never experienced a great in-car audio system. Car manufacturers know this and exploit what we perceive to be good audio by over compensating one aspect of the sound to create an initial impression of quality. Porsche are a prime example with audio that is way too bass biased, initially impressive but very wearing after extended listening. The new Audi systems seem to be mid-range biased and now lack a real usable bass response and that is even worse for the B&O equipped cars.

In my opinion, very few factory standard audio systems offer an acceptable performance and almost all the so called upgrade options are a complete waste of money. One piece of advice I would offer is to never tick the audio upgrade option when buying a new car. Save your money, bring the car here and let me upgrade it properly. My system will be far better, guaranteed and may even be less expensive.

If you follow the Car and Home Stereo Facebook feed then you will have seen the picture of the Peugeot 208 speaker I posted but I must share it here also;

Peugeot 208 speaker

This is what Peugeot feel is acceptable; I think it is one of the worst things I have heard. The only reason this sounds reasonable is that the audio system keeps control of the bass so that you cannot push it too hard leaving you with a weak sounding system.

The speaker next to it is the Audison Prima APX6.5 which fits perfectly and with the addition of a generous amount of Skinz sound deadening treatment inside the door the immediate improvement is amazing.

Skinz around speaker mount

We also apply Skinz around the speaker mount to absorb any resonance in the mounting panel.

As mentioned, this simple speaker upgrade really improves the sound but the power available from the factory audio is a bit feeble. To overcome this we recommend an amplifier to boost the power and improve the dynamic range, an ideal solution is the new Hertz DPower 4. This compact amplifier is easy to tuck away and is fully D class which reduces the amount of waste heat while maximising power.

Hertz DPower 4.

As a four channel amp, this could be configured to just drive the front speakers but we wanted a better bass response and that meant adding a subwoofer. Therefore the amplifier was configured for three channel operation with 60W going to each speaker and the bridged 150W output being sent to the ever popular JL Audio CP108 microsub in the boot.JL Audio CP108 microsub

This sub was chosen as a perfect combination of compact size and high performance. The Peugeot 208 boot is not huge and we did not want to take it over. The client wanted deep, powerful bass that would complement his music choice. So the CP108 was the perfect choice with its 8w3 speaker and specially designed slot ported, high output enclosure this would tuck neatly to one side of the boot leaving nearly all the load space.

This was shaping up to be a great sounding install but there was one more sticking point; the factory head unit. If you know the 208 then you will know that like many new cars today there is no CD player and a touchscreen infotainment display is your interface to both the car systems and the audio. Changing this is not an option but as previously mentioned it has some undesirable characteristics as far as the audio is concerned. The lack of CD player is not unusual but this means we are reliant on either BlueTooth streaming, USB or iPod source none of which are the best quality. If we just fed this signal directly to the amplifier then it would be improved yes but not to the standard to which the equipment is capable.

There are two products that we considered for this installation; the JL Audio FiX82 and the Audison Bit 10. The JL Audio FiX82 is a brilliant device that connects to the factory head unit and corrects all the anomalous EQ and time correction issues fully automatically. It will provide a clean response from just about any head unit out there so is an obvious choice for almost every installation that uses the original head unit.

However, for this installation, we opted for the Audison Bit 10 as we wanted the capacity to manually tune the system. While both products offer tuning capability via a laptop the Bit 10 has a deeper level of control and we felt that this would benefit our client.Audison Bit 10 compact unit

This compact unit was able to disappear under the driver’s seat with the amplifier so the only visible part of this installation was the subwoofer in the boot. As this was his first car there was a chance he would not keep it too long so we made sure that everything could be removed and the original system reinstated without any marks.

The audio performance from this was excellent and the big smile from the owner said it all. Quite honestly this simple system would easily outperform anything Audi or BMW could offer whether it standard, Bose or Harman Kardon.

But what is the cost you ask?

Well the installation took a full day as we made custom installation parts, sound deadened the doors and of course carefully tuned it to our client’s personal tastes. The total was still under £1500. That’s much less than most factory audio upgrade options and ours sounded so much better.

If you would like to know more about how we could improve your car audio please feel free to call in at the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, Cheshire or call me for a chat on 01625 432707.

orange ranger

Rocking Ranger

The Ford Ranger is a beast of a utility vehicle.  The 3.2 litre V6 will tow three and a half tonnes while you luxuriate in leather-trimmed comfort. The feature list is as impressive as the stats but one thing that really lets it down is the audio. The head unit is fine as it boasts Bluetooth, USB, AUX, CD and DAB tuner but the output is weak and the speakers are quite frankly poor. Let me share how we put this right.

Initially, we like to have a good chat with the client to determine what his preferences are and how he likes to listen to his music. It is quite rare that we start off talking about specific equipment until we get this information. We know how different products have different characteristics and are better suited to specific requirements and vehicles.

For this job, the brief was for a high-quality sound that would be fine when played loud with plenty of bass. Not just fill in bass from a simple under seat sub but something impressive. Now if you know the Ranger then you will know that there is precious little spare space and certainly no useful boot for a sub. Fortunately, we had already provided a solution in a previous vehicle by extending our passenger footwell build for a single JL Audio 6w3 to a twin and this appealed to our client.

Once the car was in we started on the enclosure build. Our intention was to minimise the space taken up in the footwell and this meant creating an enclosure that takes advantage of all the angles available.

Fortunately, each JL Audio 6w3 only requires 0.125 cu ft of space but even so it’s tight. The finished article sits neatly in the passenger footwell leaving plenty of room for passenger’s feet.

The only useable space in the Ford Ranger is behind the rear bench seat and this is where we opted to install the Audison Bit 10D processor and the JL Audio RD900/5 amplifier. The Bit 10 has been available for quite some time now and is one of my favourite pieces of kit. It allows me to connect to any audio system out there whether factory or aftermarket. The powerful digital signal processor means I can carefully configure and tune the system to my exact requirements while the elegant DRC allows the customer access to various parameters at the touch of a button. We sited the DRC to the right of the steering wheel for easy access.

Because of the limited space, we only wanted to use one amplifier but did not want to compromise performance. We knew we were only going to replace the front door speakers and add the subs, the rear door speakers were superfluous for this system. We could just use a three or four channel amplifier but that would not be taking advantage of the power of the Bit 10D, instead, we opted for the JL Audio RD900/5 which as implied by the name is a five channel amp.

These five channels meant that I could drive the tweeters, mids and subs directly from the amplifier without passive crossovers. This allows me total control over every speaker directly from the Bit 10D, a huge benefit when tuning.

By relocating the tools attached to the wall behind the rear seat we created enough space for the equipment board. Again space was tighter than you might think but there is still access to the scissor jack just below.

With the seat upright everything is invisible but there is still plenty of ventilation for the amplifier. By carefully balancing the sensitivity of the Bit 10D we were able to keep the amplifier gains at minimum for maximum dynamic range with bags of power.

Based on our client’s wishes we chose the fantastic Hertz MPK165P.3 component speaker set. A great advantage of this speaker set is its 3 Ohm load. Slightly lower than the normal 4 Ohms this speaker set can draw more power from the amplifier without harming the damping factor too much. This coupled with the sensitivity of the speaker makes for a very punchy performance and excellent high volume control.

However, before anything was mounted in the door we needed to apply a complete sound deadening treatment. There is absolutely no deadening in the door as standard which makes for a potentially rattle filled experience when we put more power in. By preference, we always use Dynamat application to the door interior and Dynaliner under the door card. The Dynamat absorbs any stray vibrations from inside and outside the door while the Dynaliner creates a thermal and acoustic barrier helping to significantly reduce road noise.

 

The main speakers need to be mounted on collars and we custom manufacture MDF rings to provide support. All doors are wet inside so it is imperative that all parts are sealed with silicone to prevent water ingress.

The tweeters sit perfectly inside the original mounts at the top of the door.

Of course, all the cabling was renewed as required to a higher standard.

Overall:

When it came to tuning the system we were delighted to find that only small corrections were required once all the phase and time correction had been applied. The speakers all need some running in time but the sound stage was nice and high and the bass performance was everything our client wanted and more!

So a difficult vehicle dealt with and a big smile from the owner, that’s what we do it for. If you would like to know more about how we can improve the sound in your car please call us on 01625 432707 or better still call in for a coffee and a chat at the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, we look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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.