The stages of Car Audio upgrades

When a customer comes in for advice about an upgrade to their audio system we go to great lengths to ensure we get a good understanding of what they want. What sort of music they listen to, how they like to listen to it, what sort of staging they like and so on. Once we feel we have enough information then we will start to design a system for that particular customer and vehicle. We will probably suggest two or three options of varying performance levels but almost all will contain the same fundamental setup of processor, amplifiers, speakers and subwoofer.

Of course we have to make sure that everything will fit and be as discreet as the customer wants but that is something where our experience and knowledge of different vehicles comes to play. Depending upon the level of performance required we will design the appropriate interconnect system and recommend the amounts of sound deadening and acoustic treatment to make sure we achieve the best possible sound.

What about costs?

Only after all the system has been designed will we start to discuss costs as we will have a very good idea of how long the install will take and exactly what components are needed. In my opinion it would be very bad to start a system only to find out we need to add something and inform the customer of the extra cost during the installation, much better to know from the start.

The final figure can be quite high as you can imagine and sometimes the ideal system for our customer may be too much to afford all at once. So now there are two choices, either compromise the desired performance and settle for a simpler system or split the ideal installation into manageable stages. We would almost always advocate the latter. It might take a little longer to achieve the final result but the when you do it will be exactly what you want.

So how do we split it up?

To a certain extent this will depend on the system and the car but what we want to aim for is a huge leap in performance with every stage. We like to see a big smile after every upgrade!

Let’s take a recent customer who has just had the last piece of his design installed. His car is a 1 series BMW which came with the basic audio system installed. He is a younger customer who likes a wide range of music but particularly enjoys dance music and to play it at a fair volume. He is critical in his tastes and really appreciates good sound. When he first came to us nearly a year ago he had just got the car and hated the sound system but wanted to retain the looks of the dash. After the initial discussions we recommended the following upgrades; Audison Bit 10 processor, Hertz HDP5 amplifier, Rainbow BMW specific speakers and Audison slimline sub enclosure. Total installed cost was a little over £2000.

Unfortunately the owner was not in a position to upgrade the whole car audio system in one go so we suggested the split route. The obvious first step would be the speakers and even here we can break it down into two separate parts, the doors and the under seat bass speakers. We suggested the doors should be first which was what he did which improved the front sound stage immensely.

As I recall it was only a month or two before he came back to have the under seat bass speakers replaced as he could hear that they were letting the sound down. Once again the improvement was marked with tighter bass response.

So what next?

Well the customer really wanted more bass and since that would need the amplifier we recommended that he add the sub and amp at the same time, quite a large investment. The additional benefit though was that the amplifier would be driving the speakers as well as the sub so there would be a massive improvement for all the sound. This must have been about 8 months ago so the initial expense of the car had been forgotten and our customer went ahead. You should have seen the smile on his face when he turned it on for the first time! The sound had been completely transformed now that it wasn’t dependant on the BMW head unit.

Added Extras:

For many people this would be enough but we knew it could be even better so last week we fitted the last part of the plan, the Audison Bit 10. This required tuning and we could really set this up properly as all the speakers were well run in. Adding the processor and tuning really lifted the sound stage and brought the bass response right into the cabin by careful use of the time alignment function. Again there was a huge smile from the customer, he could hardly believe it was the same equipment the change was so pronounced.

So it took nearly a year to achieve but by sticking to the original plan this BMW sounds absolutely amazing. It would be so easy to compromise the performance by getting cheaper equipment installed all in one go but with a little patience you can have the car audio system of your dreams.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the audio in your car please call me on 01625 432707 or better still pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield. I hope to see you soon.

Why we do it….

The answer to what we do is easy, it’s in our mission statement;” To provide exceptional audio experiences that exceed expectation”. We achieve that goal by taking the best, most appropriate kit and by drawing on our many years of experience, training and skill we install that equipment to produce an audio system that will deliver exactly what the customer wants and more.

But why do we do it?

Quite simply, passion; a passion for great sound, a passion for music in all its forms and a passion for technology.  As a musician, I truly believe in the power of music’s ability to move, exhilarate and excite. For me, designing and installing systems that can deliver these truly emotional experiences is hugely rewarding. By the same token, it pains me to think of all the terrible audio systems in cars today.

We all know that the BMW and Mini systems are awful but really the audio in VW, Audi and Vauxhall is not much better. Changing these terrible car audio systems can change your life! I mean it, having a great system to listen to will lead to less stress while driving, traffic queues will no longer be a burden as you immerse yourself in your favourite music and you might want to take a little longer getting there so you can listen to a whole album.

How we do it:

Great car audio is complex, much more complex than home audio. In a car, we do not have the luxury of being able to easily move speaker positions or change listening locations. Instead, we have a noisy metal box with lots of hard glass surfaces to reflect sound, fixed speaker and listening positions not to mention electrical and electronic limitations. Unfortunately, a frequent comment I hear is that ‘you can’t get a decent sound in a car’. Well, I would argue that you just haven’t heard one yet. Come and sit in our Land Rover Discovery and listen to what just two speakers, a small sub and amplifier is capable of. I guarantee you’ll be impressed.

But of course, if it were that simple then everyone would do it. The truth is that the final result is going to be determined by a huge number of factors. This is where my experience and training along with my passion to produce the best possible results comes into play. As mentioned previously there are many complications to installing and achieving great car audio, fortunately, there are none that I have not encountered before and certainly none that I cannot overcome. Not only do we strive for the best sound we can but we also take great care to make sure it precisely matches our customer’s needs.

Getting the sound you want may cost a little more than you anticipated but we will only ever advise correctly and ensure that you get the best.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the audio in your car then please call us on 01625 432707 or even better call into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat.

Latest Products from Bose.

Sorry to bring up the ‘C’ word but that time of year is fast approaching. Of course, if you’re anything like me then gift shopping might not start until December 24th but for the better organised of you, it is worth a look at the Bose range of audio systems now.

There some new additions to the range this season and they always seem to fly off the shelves so getting in early will ensure you are not disappointed.

The first of the new products is the super cute Soundlink Micro Bluetooth speaker.


Just released, the Micro is part of the Colour range and this one is truly rugged. The integral flexible strap means it can be attached to just about anything and the weatherproof design means not having to worry about getting it wet. With built-in Siri and Google assist compatibility you can control your music without picking up your phone and of course for taking calls on the go the Bose Soundlink Micro has speakerphone capability.

Like all Bose sound systems, this one sounds fantastic and is designed to give a rich, powerful performance even when outside while still delivering impressive battery life. This is all the more impressive when you consider the price of only £99.99. Available in black, red and blue we carry stocks of all three but hurry, I’m sure these are going to be extremely popular.

The original Soundlink colour was incredibly successful because of its performance, rugged build and long battery life, the Mk2 version takes all of that and improves upon it. Now with Siri and Google assist compatibility control is even easier while the voice prompts mean pairing and setting up is a breeze. Control can be further enhanced with the Bose Connect app for Apple and Android devices.

All this for £129.99 makes the Bose Soundlink Colour incredibly good value for money.

Soundlink Revolve & Revolve Plus:

The original Bose Soundlink Mini redefined how good a Bluetooth speaker could be and was the biggest selling portable Bluetooth device for a long time. That unit has now been retired and has been replaced with the Soundlink Revolve and Revolve Plus.

The Mini was unbeatable indoors but a little less so outside so the engineers at Bose set out to improve this. The result was a completely new design and the most striking feature is the full 360 degree sound delivery. This technology has come straight from the top of the range Bose Lifestyle system where a fully immersive surround sound performance was required.

 

 

Bose

By placing the driver vertically there is no directionality to the sound meaning everyone around the unit gets the full experience. I can vouch for this personally as my Revolve + in the garden is astonishingly good.

Battery life is equally impressive with up to 12 hours available from a single charge. Again they are rugged with shower resistance and of course full compatibility with Siri and Google Now. Control convenience is further enhanced with voice prompts from the unit and compatibility with the Bose Connect app.

The Revolve comes in at £199.99 while the Revolve+ is under £300 at only £279.99. Both are available in silver or black.

 

That concludes the Bose Soundlink line up, all of them are mightily impressive but which one is right for you? If you would like to know more then please call us on 01625 432707 or call in for a demonstration at our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield and remember we will always try to match any genuine price.

 

porsche boxster car and home stereo macclesfield

Porsche Boxster Audio Upgrade.

The Porsche Boxster S is a superb car which offers exciting top-down performance with practical everyday driving capability. Unfortunately, the audio performance leaves an awful lot to be desired especially the base version that is only equipped with dash speakers.

porsche boxster speakers

The biggest challenge, of course, is the convertible top because as soon as that is raised most of the sound and pretty much all the bass disappears. Car audio in a Porsche for some owners is not a priority but for this customer, the lack of a decent sound was spoiling the drive so an appointment was made to discuss options.

Step One:

The first choice to make was whether the original head unit was to be changed. It is completely possible for us to use any original factory unit as a base for great audio but in this case, the basic Becker unit was certainly past its best so a decision to upgrade to a top of the range Pioneer unit was made.

The Pioneer AVIC F88DAB is a full house unit boasting a 7-inch screen, full satellite navigation, DVD, CD, SD, Bluetooth, dual USB, DAB radio, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Its comprehensive external connections make it ideal for use as a high-performance head unit in a sophisticated audio system. It also boasts a very powerful set of audio controls to allow accurate tuning of the system.

Installing this double din unit means relocating the heater controls to the lower console. We use an American kit that costs a little more than others but is of a far superior quality with a factory standard fit and finish.

porsche boxster audio upgrade install car and home stereo macclesfield

Once we had relocated all the standard wiring and removed the remnants of an old ‘phone kit we could start the new wiring. When we install new looms we always wrap them in OE quality fleece tape, this ensures a factory look but most importantly eliminates any possibility of cable rattles. Where cables go through the bulkhead grommets we make sure to use silicone sealant to prevent any water ingress.

What next?

Once the looms had been installed we could start the hardware installation, first was the amplifier. Originally this Boxster had a CD changer mounted in the bonnet just behind the spare wheel; since this would be useless with the new head unit we removed it to locate the Hertz DPower 4 amplifier.

Hertz D Power 4 amplifier.

This amplifier is an absolute gem with over 100W per channel on tap it is perfect to drive the dash speakers and subwoofer. Although it is well equipped with filters to tune the system we will use the crossovers and EQ available on the Pioneer F88 to really fine tune the final sound. Again more cloth tape keeps everything neat.

Once the amplifier was in we could install the dash speakers. The dash location allows for a separate mid and tweeter under the original grille. However, as there was only to be a single channel input per side there was no advantage to splitting the drivers up and so we chose the Audison APX4 coaxial speakers.

This speaker really is surprisingly good.

At only 4 inch diameter it is capable of a really good bass response and when powered by a good amplifier it delivers a very accurate and responsive performance. This is all the more impressive when you consider its relatively low price. They are not a simple plug and play replacement though and we needed to construct a new mounting system under the grille to get a perfect fit, of course, this is no problem for us.

As good as the Audison APX4 speaker is it is only a 4 inch and cannot be expected to deliver the bass requirement for a convertible car. We have had a lot of experience with convertibles and one of our solutions where space is tight is to custom fit a JL Audio 6w3 into the passenger footwell. This magnificent speaker is capable of delivering more than enough bass from a very small enclosure.

The trick is to very carefully control the frequencies it plays to achieve a seamless blend with the mids. As we construct our own enclosures we can design each one to perfectly fit the car we are working on. For this one, we even wrapped it in genuine Porsche carpet to ensure a true factory look.

porsche carpet passenger footwell upgrade refurb

Very little space is taken up meaning there is no significant constriction of the passenger foot space. The enclosure is secured to the car using invisible fittings which means it can be removed without leaving any marks in the carpet or trim. Once the floor mat is cut to shape and trimmed it will look as if the sub had always been there.

Pioneer AVIC F88DAB:

One of the great features of the Pioneer AVIC F88DAB is its powerful equalisation controls. This luckily features two EQ pre-sets. This allows me to tune two EQ curves; one for roof closed and one for roof open ensuring the best sound regardless of the vehicle’s configuration.

Pioneer AVIC F88DAB porsche refurbish upgrade

I really enjoyed this installation;

it was relatively simple but really delivered above expectations. The sound was full and rich with as much bass as could be needed. The new head unit was feature rich and the owner fell in love with Apple Car Play instantly. The dash-mounted Stormtrooper is really going to enjoy the miles now!

dash mounted dashboard stormtrooper in porsche

If you would like to know more about any of our installations or how we could improve the audio in your car please feel free to drop me a line or call me on 01625 432707. If you are close by then it would be great to see you for a chat at our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.

VW Golf 7 Audio Upgrade

Following on from our last blog we have an example of a car audio installation to a VW Golf 7. This is a perfect example of how one of our standard systems is adapted to make sure the owner gets exactly the sound he wants.

As our customer lived a good way from our shop he decided he wanted the whole job done in one rather than splitting it up to spread the cost. Initially, we started to talk about our stage 3 upgrade.

Fortunately, our customer already owned a JL Audio HD600/4. This magnificent amplifier is one of JL’s finest boasting very impressive power figures with incredible dynamic range.

This was an ideal amplifier for a really high-end system; he liked it loud but did not want any distortion when playing his favourite dance music. Since this amp was so good we felt we should recommend an upgrade to the front speakers over the Hertz MPK 165 initially suggested. The owner wanted clarity without colouration and his preference was for a very dynamic high frequency. My recommendation was for the Audison Voce K6 component set.

These speakers are one of my favourites and offer a truly natural sound. The tweeter is larger than some but this helps to give it a remarkably low-frequency capacity meaning a better blend with the mid-range.

We opted to stay with the usual Audison APK165 components for the rear fill. These speakers are a fantastic upgrade to the factory standard at an extremely good price. However, he was happy to upgrade the sub to take advantage of the power available but did not want to lose too much boot space. The obvious choice was the JL Audio 10TW3 in a slim enclosure as this will deliver smooth, powerful bass from an enclosure only 12cm deep.

So to the installation.

Our customer did not want any more boot space taken up so we had to locate the other equipment in the cabin. We knew the amplifier would fit under the passenger seat but this left no room for the Bit10D; that would have to go under the driver’s seat. We also chose to situate the crossovers for the front speakers here as well. This of course added to the complexity of the wiring but by using high-quality speaker cable and double shielded RCA cables there was no chance of any interference or quality loss.

The doors got a complete treatment of Dynamat Extreme and Dynaliner to optimise the acoustics and eliminate any chance of rattles. We built custom collars for the speakers ensuring they were sealed to the panel to maintain moisture protection.

The rear door tweeters are in the door panels but the front ones reside in the A-pillars. We constructed custom mounts for both of these.

Important note.

When removing the VW A-pillars the retaining clips must be replaced with new items as they are an integral part of the airbag safety system and removing the clips compromises their integrity.

The final part of the installation meant mounting the Audison DRC and the location chosen by the customer was the small fold-down tray to the right of the steering wheel.

This location is convenient to use but renders the installation invisible when closed.

The next task was to tune the system. We already knew he liked a bright, dynamic sound so we programmed it for a lot of energy in the higher frequencies without getting harsh. The bass had to be tight and punchy and the TW3 does not disappoint. With so much power available we could keep the gain on the HD600/4 at almost minimum giving the highest dynamic range.

Of course, the speakers will require a week or so of running in before a retune but the owner’s initial reaction was ecstatic. It was all we could do to get him out of the car to register his three-year warrantee!

As mentioned we have standard packages that we can recommend but a great many are customised by us to make sure you get exactly what you want from your new car audio system. If you would like to know more about how we can improve the car audio in your life please call us on 01625 432707 or better still pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat.

 

 

Bose SoundTouch – Bringing Music Everywhere

It is true to say that music has never been more accessible. Anything you might want to listen to is only a click away. You can choose to purchase it via a download site but more and more of us choose to subscribe to a streaming service such as Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music.  For a small monthly fee the whole world of music is at our fingertips like a vast lending library and as a true on demand service, we no longer need huge collections of CDs cluttering up the place.

All well and good you say but what are we supposed to play all this music on; our phone’s headphones, computer or tablet?

That’s not going to sound very good, is it?

No, we want a high-quality hi-fi system and that surely is why we need our CD players? Well maybe, but there is a fantastic alternative from Bose; the SoundTouch system.

The Bose SoundTouch wireless music players are easy to use, sound amazing and look superb. They are feature packed and there is a solution for any situation where high-quality music is required.

So how does it work?

The Bose SoundTouch system is designed to connect to your home wi-fi network. This allows it to connect to any music libraries you may have on a computer as well as being able to connect to your broadband link to play internet radio from around the world. On top of this, the SoundTouch system is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity; so you can connect any portable device, phone or tablet and stream your music. If you do subscribe to a music streaming service such as Spotify you can play this directly from the Bose control app on your device. It doesn’t stop there either because this is a fully networked system you can wirelessly connect multiple devices; these can be independent in each room or grouped together to play the same music throughout the house.

The simple control app can be downloaded to as many devices as you want which means you should always have a controller nearby but just to add another level of simplicity all the stand alone SoundTouch players have volume, source and radio pre-set buttons on the top to allow quick operation.

Let’s look at the SoundTouch family.

SoundTouch 10,20 and 30.

These compact and versatile units just need a mains power supply and your wi-fi network to play all your favourite music. The smallest unit, the Soundtouch 10 is ideally suited to smaller rooms such as the bedroom or study while the SoundTouch 20 and 30 are completely at home in larger spaces. The SoundTouch 30 with its integrated woofer produces a magnificent sound that will fill any space with rich, powerful music. All are available in black or white to suit any décor.

SoundTouch 300 and optional Acoustimass sub and surround speakers.

The SoundTouch 300 is a soundbar of course but unlike any other. Of course, as part of the SoundTouch family, it has all the convenience and power of the network but adds connectivity for your TV. It carries the proprietary Bose AdaptiQ system to learn the layout of your room and seating positions; ensuring you always get the best possible sound. Even on its own, this bar can generate a very impressive surround effect but if you add the optional sub and wireless surround speakers you will have a true 5.1 surround system that will delight. Again, very easy to use and even the remote control can be programmed to emulate any other meaning your Bose remote can control all your other devices such as Sky, Virgin, and TV.

SoundTouch Lifestyle 650 and 600.

If you want the absolute best for your TV and living room then look no further than the Bose Lifestyle 650. This powerful and elegant system with its virtually invisible speakers is beyond compare. The feature list is almost endless but what really matters is the sound. This surround system offers a level of audio immersion that is simply incredible. From the deepest rumbles to the lightest detail this system plays it all with precision. Since it also contains the full Soundtouch system for your music the Lifestyle 650 and 600 are truly total entertainment systems.

SoundTouch SA5 amplifier.

You may have a great pair of speakers already or may want ceiling speakers to keep it neat. You may want speakers outside or in other wet places where it would be impossible to take a mains powered device. In these cases the Bose SoundTouch SA5 amplifier is perfect. This can be installed inside the house and speaker wires run to wherever they are needed. Full control is via the control app and there is an AUX input for connection of external devices (e.g. TV).

SoundTouch wireless link.

This unassuming little unit is brilliant. It has all the power of the SoundTouch network and Bluetooth connectivity. That means you can stream your music, access internet radio or Bluetooth link your mobile device. This can then be connected to any hi-fi unit, Bose or otherwise; giving you the full range of SoundTouch features on any entertainment system with an external input.

If you would like to learn more about the amazing Bose SoundTouch system and how it would work for you please feel free to call us on 01625 432707. Better still why not call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield; where we can treat you to a demonstration and you can take advantage of our special in store deals.

 

 

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

 

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.