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!

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.

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.
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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!

Something Special

Know someone who’s obsessed with music? Want to surprise them with a new set up? Know absolutely nothing about audio systems?

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Why not pop in to Car & Home Stereo? Tim would love to be of service! No one knows sound like Tim and as a musician he understands the importance of it.

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That’s why we are bringing you the best from Audison, Alpine, Bose, JL Audio, and many more!

Listening to music with quality speakers is just an extraordinary feeling and there are so many options to choose from in our incredible selection of audio systems, radios and even headphones. We are sure we have something suited for everyone’s taste and we are ready to help you find something be it for you, or a loved one.

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Don’t be stranger this Christmas! We’re here on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield and we would be delighted to help you. Please don’t hesitate to call us on 01625 432707.

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!