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.

 

Vehicle Specific Systems: BMW E90

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Tim on Driving Sounds Magazine

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

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

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

Read the full article here!

What To Look Forward To In 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a happy new year!

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

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

Cutting Edge! with JL Audio

Today let’s look at the range of fantastic high performance products from JL Audio.

Formed in 1975, JL Audio are based in Florida USA and from the very start, their passion has always been to produce the best possible products. Originally they concentrated on sub-woofers and they quickly earned an enviable reputation for amazing power and performance. More recently JL Audio have expanded their range to include speakers and amplifiers with the emphasis once again firmly on quality and performance.

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It’s true to say that the JL Audio range of subs has something for everyone. From small, discreet custom enclosures to high output monsters to true Hi-Fi quality audiophile drivers. The engineering expertise at JL Audio means that even their least expensive sub still sounds amazing and will work in a relatively small enclosure.

Every in car system will benefit from the installation of the dedicated bass speaker and at Car and Home Stereo we will make sure that it is fitted and set up correctly.

 

 

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Of course a sub-woofer always needs an amplifier and so the logical step for JL Audio was to produce their own range. Car and Home Stereo is proud to be a JL Audio Signature dealer which means we carry a wide range of products. The XD range of amplifiers is a particular favourite of mine. They only take up a small amount of space but deliver an amazing performance! From the compact XD 200.2 to the immensely powerful XD 1000.1 they offer a level of flexibility and performance unparalleled to anything else.

Never a company to stand still, JL Audio have just upped their game and released a new range of amplifiers designated the RD series.

 

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These units are extremely good value for money and sound amazing as they are based on JL Audio’s NexD D class technology. Multiple input configurations are available making for pretty much universal compatibility while the small footprint means installation is straight forward.

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JL Audio speakers are some of the best around. Even the entry level TR series have a detail and clarity many other more expensive speakers cannot compete with. Taking a step up to the C2 series and we are well on the way to a true Hi-Fi performance. Where space is tight the C2 400 (a 10cm speaker) punches far above its weight for low frequency. This has become my first choice for the Land Rover Defender and is more than capable of overcoming the road noise while still producing a full range performance.

One speaker range stands out though, the C5. This speaker range has a natural and transparent sound that is simply breathtaking. OK they are not cheap but that is not the point, where high fidelity is the goal you have to go a long way to beat this speaker. The tweeter alone is one of the smoothest speakers I have heard with vocal and piano pieces a joy to experience.

And of course there are many more products in the JL Audio line up. There are processors that allow seamless integration with factory standard audio systems. These units can repair the poor performance of the standard head units found in BMW, Audi,  VW and others that can not be changed meaning you do not have to put up with the stock audio.

There is also a range of very high performance marine speakers used on the like of Sunseeker power boats. However at Car and Home Stereo we are land locked and there has never been a big demand for these here!

The most important point is that, with JL Audio, we have a range of products that can suit any application and any performance requirement. We have the experience and resources to make sure we offer and install the best possible sound at any budget.

 

Give Tim a call to discuss your requirements or, better still, call in to the shop in Macclesfield for a coffee and a chat.

Don’t Sacrifice Quality Today featuring Bose

Here at Car & Home Stereo, we don’t just stock speakers we also have a great variety of Bose accessories.

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We don’t think you should have to sacrifice quality if you don’t have a high tech set up so we have some incredible Bose headphones in store. It is an ideal birthday or Christmas present for just about anyone.

 

Pop into Car & Home Stereo on Sunderland Street for more information.

The Art Of Tuning

We go to great lengths at Car and Home Stereo to find, test and install the best audio equipment available. Leading brands such as JL Audio, Audison, Rainbow and Hertz are all companies at the top of their game and are producing world beating equipment. An example of which is the new Profi range from German manufacturer Rainbow. Their T28 tweeter is one of the best speakers in the world right now.

 

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Car interiors have never been better, but unfortunately they are not the ideal acoustic environment. There are steps that can be taken to improve this and this should always be done before embarking on a serious upgrade. However, the (small) vehicle space still contains lots of soft and hard surfaces creating absorptions and reflections not to mention the fact that the speakers  and the listening position may not be in the ideal location.

 

Let’s imagine a fictitious “perfect” speaker. This unit has been designed to produce a perfect range of frequencies for a totally flat sound. This can be measured and verified. Now, let’s place it in a car in the typical location in the door. Allthough this is the same speaker the environment has had a dramatic effect on the sound output. To compound this our brains are very good at judging where sound comes from and the  speaker location will be very obvious. Our carefully designed and very expensive speaker has been severely compromised.

 

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So how do we fix this? We could re-engineer the speaker for the new environment but of course that is not practical. Fortunately the answer lies in digital signal processing. A modern, state of the art processor like Audison’s Bit 1 has the power to solve all the installation and acoustic problems we find in car audio. Of course, it requires a great deal of skill to set up properly but the results can be astonishing.

 

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All the issues of frequency cancellation or addition can be solved by using the powerful on board graphic equalisers. Positional issues can be solved by applying time delays to any of the speakers which will make it appear that the sound is coming from a different location. This will have the effect of making the sound stage wider and more dynamic, more like a live performance. Individual speaker level controls will ensure the sound is perfectly balanced for the driver or both front seats as required. We even have the ability to program multiple adjustments and to save them in up to four presets. This is especially useful for convertible cars so the sound can be adjusted for ‘top up’ and ‘top down’ at the touch of a button.

 

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Of course we have all the latest technology and tools to ensure the perfect sound for you.

 

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Our latest demonstration vehicle features this processor and we have built in the capacity to bypass it, it really is an ear opener to hear the difference a well set up processor makes.

 

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If you are interested and would like a demonstration of how good car audio can be, please call us on 01625 432707, we love to show it off!