Invisible Installations

Following on from last week, I thought it would be good to share some images and details of the parts of an audio installation that you would not normally see.

We are a proud member of the Four Masters network. Four Masters is a national group of independent car audio installers that are committed to producing the finest audio experiences. This can only be done by adhering to the highest installation standards, offering the best equipment and having an in-depth knowledge of our systems and the cars on which we work.

At Car and Home Stereo, we constantly search out the best products that can fulfil our customer’s needs. Brands like JL Audio, Audison, Hertz and Rainbow offer amazing amplifiers, processors and speakers. Dynamat, Skinz and Stinger have sound deadening treatments and high-performance cables. Over the many years that we have been designing and installing audio systems we have developed skills and techniques that will consistently produce great results.

We are proud to have been featured in Driving Sounds, a leading industry magazine as recognition of our dedication to excellence.

So let’s say you have visited our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield and together we have designed a system that will blow you away with its power and precision, you have dropped off your car and the garage door shuts. The next time you see it, your car might not look any different yet it now sounds amazing. Other than the amplifiers and speakers what exactly happens to achieve this and why does it take so long? Well, let’s go through it.

At the first discussion, we will have to sit in your car and listen to it but then we do it all over again, that time carefully listening for any issues. Once satisfied we will start the process of stripping down the parts of the interior we need to access. The door cards will need to come off as well as possibly the ‘A’ pillar trims for tweeters. Great care has to be taken here as there are often airbags incorporated into these areas.

All clips and electrical connectors must be safely disconnected not forgetting any moisture seals that must be retained. Any clips that fail will be replaced from our stocks. There will be mechanical linkages for the door release handle that must also be disconnected taking care not to kink the exposed cable.

Side trims will need to be removed for cable runs along with the back seats if we need to run cables to the boot. If we are upgrading the front speakers of a BMW then the front seats may also need to come out.

Finally, the boot trim and carpet may need to be stripped out to allow for amplifier or processor fitment.

All the trim will need to be carefully stored along with all the removed screws, bolts and clips, don’t want to lose any!

The next step will be acoustic treatment for the doors and other exterior panels. We use a combination of Dynamat Xtreme and Skinz acoustic damping sheet for the best results without adding excess weight. Dynamat eliminates panel rattle and significantly improves speaker performance while the Skinz sheet forms a thermal and acoustic barrier in the door meaning a warmer quieter car.

Any installation is only as good as the interconnects and here at Car and Home Stereo we make sure that everything we install is safe and reliable to ensure a lifetime of great sound. This means soldered joints, careful loom routeing and attention to detail. Details like using appropriately sized and applied cloth loom tape to retain the factory look, proper loom support and separation of cables to reduce interference.


Once the cabling is in place it is time to start installing the hardware. Car speakers are usually bespoke to the specific car but our aftermarket drivers are a standard size. This usually means we have to make special mounting collars to achieve a perfect fit. It is vital that the speaker assembly is properly sealed to the door to ensure there are no sound leaks that would ruin the sound and also to prevent water leaks from rain or car washing.


We always seal our collars to the door and also seal the speaker to the collar with silicone. This seal remains flexible and still allows removal if the speaker needs to come out. Tweeters will be carefully installed into original locations unless they need to be re-sited for sound stage reasons. Once the door cards and trims go back on there will be no visible evidence of change.

The final part of hardware installation is usually the amplifiers and processors. Some customers want a completely stealthy installation while others may want something to show off, we are experts at both. If the installation is to be stealthy then we have to consider several factors and foremost are ventilation and cooling. If the amplifier is to be hidden then it is vital that it can shed the excess heat generated. If space permits then under a front seat is common, this location is convenient however care should be taken as there can be heating ducts in this area which could compromise the amplifier performance.


Other common locations are cavities in the boot area. Behind trim panels and under the boot floor trim are acceptable as they are usually cool being next to the outside of the vehicle. Fortunately, modern D class amplifiers are much more efficient now and make less heat than AB class amps but cooling must always be considered.

We also have to consider access in the event that the amplifier settings need to be altered. Again modern DSP equipped amplifiers can be altered remotely via a PC but if it is analogue then we have to be able to adjust as necessary and that cannot be done easily if the amplifier is buried. All this means that when all is closed, there is no visible evidence of the additions

If we are producing something to show off then there are no limits to what we can do. From simple flat trim rebuilds to complete boot interior remodelling, we have done them all!


These show stopping installs can take a week to build but the results speak for themselves.

Finally, it’s time to turn on the system and tune it. This in itself can take several hours and will need to be redone after the speakers and subs have had a chance to run in in a week or so.

Tuning is an art and while there are tools to aid us I still prefer to do the final fine tune by ear. As a musician and electronic engineer, I have a great understanding of sound and I know I can produce a stunning sound. However, the tools are invaluable in initial response tuning. Pink noise generators, spectrum analysers, laptops and sophisticated software mean I have a level of control that is almost mind boggling. Learning your way around these tools is a full-time job and definitely not for the feint hearted. Fortunately, I love all this technology and have spent countless hours learning how to ring every last drop of performance from it.


Hopefully, this article demonstrates how we do things and why we are able to achieve such fabulous results. Car audio is our passion at Car and Home Stereo and we like to think our installations are some of the best. Retaining our Four Master status is important to us as it reflects our commitment to excellence as well as giving our customers peace of mind that their vehicle will be looked after and all installation will be to the highest standards. That is why we can offer a three-year warranty on our installed products and a lifetime warranty on all installation.

If you would like to know more please feel free to contact me for a chat or better still call in to our shop @ 01625 432707.


Say Hello To The Future!

JL Audio are a renowned American manufacturer of the highest quality subwoofers, amplifiers and speakers. Some of our best sounding installs have been based around JL Audio products and it is true to say that there is something for everyone within the range.

I was lucky enough to attend a training day with JL Audio’s head of training, Steve Turrisi in March 2017 where, without exaggeration, I was shown the future of car audio. This year JL are launching a fabulous new range of products so let me describe what I was shown.

In June we will see a new entry level speaker range designated C1. These look set to clean up on the simple speaker upgrade market. They are robust, great sounding and very easy to fit as they come with installation collars to cater for different vehicle apertures.



I am sure I will be fitting a lot of these in the near future.

As mentioned there will also be a new ultra high-end speaker set, the C7. This speaker has been designed from the ground up to be the absolute best. Drawing from JL Audio’s many years of experience this will be a milestone in audio performance. It will not be cheap but the best never is.

Expect a price tag in excess of £2000 for these magnificent drivers but I am sure we will not be short of takers when these launch in summer 2017.

Already available are the new RD series of amplifiers which fill the gap between JX and XD. Boasting huge power output from a small chassis I have installed quite a few now and they are extremely impressive.

The RD amps are extremely well priced for the level of performance they deliver, the build quality is amazing and of course, they have the legendary JL sound. Available in mono, 2 channel, 4 channel and the incredible 5 channel every application is catered for.

As if this wasn’t enough I’ve saved the best till last. Available now are the stars of the show. JL Audio’s new line of digital processors the FiX and TwK.

With these products, we will no longer have to endure the sound supplied by factory head units that cannot be swapped out. The BMW, Ford, Audi and VW factory radios can be made to sound amazing. Couple this output to a great amp and speakers and there are no limits to how good your car could sound. This is thanks to the amazing TuN software developed by JL and an installers dream come true.

As can be seen, the software gives me complete control over every aspect of the audio system. There is nowhere near enough room here to describe all the features but trust me, this is a game changer. Car audio will now take the next great performance leap.

For details of all these great new products call me on 01625 432707 or better still call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.


Practicing Safe Sound

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

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

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

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

coil speakers good copper

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

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


coil bad burnt copper

burnt copper coil

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

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


Vehicle Specific Systems: BMW E90

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Perfect Timing

Let’s talk about sound and specifically how we perceive a sound’s location, (we’ll come back to the elephant in the room). To do this we need to understand what sound is and how it travels.

In its basic form sound is a compression wave propagating through a medium. Think of ripples in water travelling away from where the stone hit. The sound is exactly the same but travelling through air. Travelling very quickly by the way at over 700 miles an hour.

The defining characteristic of a wave is the fact that it has high and low points.


Points along this wave are known as the phase and describe whether the wave is positive or negative and by how much. Now for the clever bit. Consider a listener sat in a chair with their eyes shut, someone off to their left claps. Of course, he can tell it was to his left but how? We all have two ears so it might be true that we can detect the time difference between the sound reaching our left and right ears. But at 700 miles an hour this is a VERY short difference and if true it would mean that all frequencies could be located but as we know the lower the sound the harder it is for us to locate the source.

What we are predominantly detecting is the difference in the phase of the wave between our ears. By measuring the difference between the high and low points on the wave our brains can very accurately calculate sound location and create our spatial awareness. That is why we cannot locate very low (very long wave) sounds as the difference in the phase between our close set ears is minimal (think about thunder).

So now we know this how can we use it in the car audio environments?

One of the big problems in the car is that we are always sat closer to one speaker than the other, therefore the stereo effect is foreshortened to one side. A very crude way to combat this is to put the balance off to one side to compensate but that does not enhance the stereo performance. What we really need to do is place the speakers an equal distance from the listener. Difficult if you are not in a McLaren but we can fool our ears into thinking the sound is coming from somewhere else using phase.

By carefully manipulating the phase of the sound from the speakers we can create the effect that the close speaker is actually further away which leads to a much wider stereo field. This manipulation is very delicate as you can imagine but as a member of the FourMasters network, we are equipped with a sophisticated range of tools and software to achieve this.

The difference between a standard setup and a phase aligned one is astonishing. The whole soundstage comes alive with instruments and vocals spread across the car in a very lifelike and live performance. It is possible to compensate for difficult speaker positioning (BMW) or over separated speakers (VW).

Of course, you will need to have the products to permit this tuning and fortunately, there is a range of sophisticated processors from Audison and Hertz that offer these features. Products like the astonishing Bit family from Audison. These devices give me the capacity to completely shape the acoustic performance in your car which means you will have a completely bespoke sound that perfectly complements your car and your personal tastes.

We have a demonstration vehicle always available at our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield. In this we can demonstrate the difference between a standard and phase aligned sound, we would love to show it off if you want to pop in for an audition.

Oh and the elephant? Elephants communicate their location by stamping on the hard ground. This creates a very low-frequency sound which can travel a great distance. You or I could not locate this low sound but elephants can, why? Because their ears are much further apart and can detect the phase differences!

Simplicity Wins

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

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

ford fiesta st

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a happy new year!

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

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

Keeping It Simple with Bose

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas ’16: In Retrospect

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

phoenix gold equaliser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unsung Heroes of Radio

Aerials, the unsung heroes of radio!

They may not be glamorous or sexy but your aerial is arguably the most important part of any radio system. It is the link between the station transmitter and your car radio and without it the best radio receiver in the world is going to be silent.

This is particularly true for modern DAB receivers. Digital radio is still broadcast on the FM waveband but the signal is now just a string of 1s and 0s instead of a modulated analogue signal. This transmission method means more stations, more data, better sound and clarity. There has been an explosion of content providers keen to use this digital media rather like we saw when digital TV started.

Despite the many advantages of digital transmission, there is one major drawback, the fact that it is either fully available or not at all. That is to say that if reception quality falls then the signal completely disappears. With an analogue FM signal if the signal strength dipped then all that happened was a slight interference or a drop to mono, DAB on the other hand will ‘bubble’ and disappear, usually just when things are interesting!

So let’s concentrate on DAB aerials as they are crucial to good reception. Most DAB radios are sold with an in windscreen aerial.


Let me say now that these are the least desirable type. They work but at a very low gain which means that in weaker signal conditions they will fail. Of course, a lot of modern cars have no external aerial and you may not wish to install one so these stick on aerials are your only option. Some are better than others and at Car and Home Stereo I have tested as many as I can find. The one I use is the most successful one to date offering reasonable reception under most conditions. This is not to say it is faultless and it still suffers from directional issues which are to say a station can be clear when travelling to work but poor in the opposite direction.

For best reception there is nothing better than an external aerial. Since DAB radio is broadcast on the FM waveband it is perfectly possible to use a standard aerial as fitted to the roof of some Fords and wing mount on Land Rover Defenders. All that is needed is a modulator to separate the two signals.


These can offer up to 10 dB of gain for both FM and DAB which means a great reception for both.

Unfortunately the modulator cannot be used with existing amplified aerials as fitted to many cars.


These vehicle aerials strip off the higher frequency signals before sending to the radio so no DAB. In these cases I always prefer to fit a replacement combined FM/DAB aerial.


These can again offer up to 10dB of gain and of course suffer no directional issues. If your car has navigation then there is a version of this aerial that also contains a GPS receiver. The mast is removable and the look of the car is unchanged. I have often fitted this aerial to cars with no external mast like the Volkswagen T5 and the reception is dramatically improved.

As I said at the start, aerials are not glamorous but getting it right will mean trouble free reception and less annoying drop outs.


Call Tim on 01625 432707 if you wish to discuss options to improve your radio enjoyment.