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

 

hertz speaker subwoofer advert car and home stereo macclesfield

Hertz Speakers

If you know our installer Tim at Car and Home Stereo you will know he is passionate about sound. His love of music extends beyond the shop into regular playing with his band and it is this passion that is reflected in everything we do as we strive to get the best possible sound for you. We are constantly looking for and testing the latest equipment available to help achieve that result.

We stock high-end equipment from JL Audio, MTX, Audison, Rainbow, Eton and many others but today I would like to highlight one of my favourites, Hertz Car Audio.

Hertz car audio is part of the Italian Elettromedia group, a company dedicated to producing the best possible audio systems. From the outset the Hertz brand has stood for excellent quality at an affordable price. Their bright orange packaging has become synonymous with performance and value for money. It is no coincidence that we chose Hertz speakers and subwoofers for our Land Rover Discovery demonstrator. The Hertz Mille Legend components fitted in the front doors never fail to impress.

Speakers:

The Hertz car audio speaker range has something for everyone. Sometimes we just need to replace a failing set of factory fitted speakers or provide an inexpensive upgrade to improve the sound. The perfect solution here is the Hertz Deici range. There is a perfect fit speaker for any car in this series and with prices starting at only £59.99 per pair they won’t break the bank. In reality, these sound really good and outperform anything else I can think of at this price point. As well as the speakers there are subs and ready-made enclosures in the Deici range and they all perform brilliantly.

Hertz DBA 200.3 self contained speaker uni

For example, the Hertz DBA 200.3 is a self-contained twin 8-inch sub with a 140W amplifier. The compact size means it will fit in any car boot and it is designed to work with any car radio head unit meaning adding bass is simple.

If you were looking for more performance I would immediately recommend the Mille Pro range. These speakers have it all; precision, power and loads of energy. The 6.5 inch mid and tweeter sets start at under £300 and represent amazing value for money.

mille pro 6.5 inch mid and tweeter

As you can see the build quality is astonishing. The main driver boasts a large over rolled hinge to allow an extended excursion; this means much punchier bass performance while the relatively large tweeter has a respectfully low Fs allowing a seamless blend with the mid. In fact, this tweeter shares a lot of technology with the higher spec. Legend tweeter which is incredible at this price.

Legendary:

But of course, if you want the best then that means installing the Mille Legend 1650.3.

This is what I listen to every day and every day they amaze me with new detail. I love this tweeter and in fact the whole set up is seamless with a truly accurate frequency response over the entire audio spectrum. With a good amplifier essential to extract the best from these speakers you will be rewarded with a smooth enveloping sound that is easy to listen to with no fatigue.

Of course, there are matching subwoofers and all I can say is please come down to the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield to audition the 8 inch Mille sub in our Discovery, you will not believe it is so small when you hear it!

As if the above were not enough Hertz have other speaker lines to fill specific niches. There will be a full range of marine grade speakers soon which to be fair we will probably not stock, Car and Home Stereo not being near the sea! However, a range we do supply is the awesome SPL Show range, specifically designed for the competition scene these are a no compromise power product where loud is everything.

So as you can see there is something for everyone within the Hertz car audio speaker range and if you are thinking of an upgrade then please call us so that we can match the right system to you.

Special Offer.

In fact, we have put together a superb package for a limited time which would grace any car.

car and home stereo special offer soundsystem

The system comprises the fabulous Hertz MPK 165P.3 component speakers, the brand new Hertz DPower 4 amplifier and the Audison ultra compact APBX 8R sub enclosure. Normally this system would be £810 but we have a limited number of kits for only £600! An amazing saving for such a high-end system and of course we can fit it for you if you wish. Don’t forget that all this comes with a three-year warranty if we install it.

We hope to hear from you soon.

pixabay campervan desert drive

Campervans: Upgrades and Audio Systems

Day vans, campervans, motorhomes; whatever you call them, they have never been so popular. Two of the most familiar conversions are the Fiat Ducato / Peugeot Boxer / Citroen Relay and the evergreen VW Transporter. Whatever you drive, at Car and Home Stereo we have a vast range of products to improve your enjoyment when out and about.

Keeping it quiet:

If we can get to the vehicle before it is converted we recommend a comprehensive sound deadening treatment. This involves using a combination of Dynamat Xtreme and Dynaliner foam sheet to remove vibration, dramatically reduce road noise and to thermally insulate the vehicle.

dynamat car sound system

campervan interior sound system car and home stereo macclesfield

Dynamat is a thin and light sheet that is applied to the metal panels and prevents any vibration from being transmitted. This means an enormous reduction in road noise. It is applied to floor, sides, doors, and roof for optimum effect.  Dynaliner sheets are then applied over the Dynamat in varying thicknesses to create a thermal and acoustic barrier.

dynamat sound insulation installation car and home stereo macclesfield

This insulation retains heat and again reduces external noise even further. When done properly the van will be significantly quieter and warmer. If the van has already been converted then it is still advisable to treat any panels that can be accessed as any amount will be beneficial. The Dynamat advantage is that as the patented market leader it is lighter and more efficient than any other product meaning you can use less.

Finding your way:

The joys of the open road are many and the ability to just start up and go are what make camper vans so appealing but really knowing where you are going and how to get there can definitely reduce the stress. Of course, I’m talking about navigation and we have a wide range of solutions available to be fitted. One of my favourites is made by Pioneer; whilst there are many great units out there I think the Pioneer AVIC F980DAB-C camper version is one of the best.

sat nav pioneer car and home stereo macclesfield

The feature list for this unit is extremely impressive as it boasts CD, DVD, FM/AM/DAB tuner, Bluetooth, Apple Car Play, dual USB, reverse camera input and of course class leading satellite navigation. All this performance, however, is not complex to use and that is one of the main reasons for its success. Pioneer have put a lot of effort into keeping the user interface simple meaning you can keep your eyes on the road, navigation instructions are clear and given in plenty of time for a safer drive. As this is the camper version the software is specifically designed for larger vehicles to ensure a safe route is calculated. It also contains a massive ten million points of interest database for the whole of the European continent to make sure you are completely informed.

Alpine:

Another fantastic unit is by Alpine and offers a massive 8-inch touchscreen. This unit is custom designed for the VW T5 / T6 and is quite simply stunning.

alpine unit 8 inch touch screen campervan T5 T6 car and home stereo macclesfield

With a feature list as long as your arm this unit is unbeatable and as it has been designed from the ground up for the VW it blends seamlessly with all the vehicle systems.

To get the best out of these sophisticated systems it is imperative that they are correctly fitted. At Car and Home Stereo we have been installing audio systems in Cheshire for over 40 years and in fact were one of the first to install navigation in the UK. We have vast experience with these products and of course have all the ancillary parts to ensure a seamless fit in your dashboard.

Reverse with confidence:

One of the downsides of a camper or in fact any larger vehicle is the rear view. It can range from difficult to impossible to see backwards. Many newer vehicles are fitted with reverse sensors and that is certainly something we can fit your camper but there is no substitute to actually seeing what is there. We would always recommend a reverse camera. If you do not have a screen already we can install one discreetly and reversing will no longer be a chore. If you use the vehicle to tow then the camera can be angled to view the tow bar; making hitching up so much easier.

reverse camera vehicle campervan tow bar car and home stereo macclesfield

Using a combination of mirrors, camera and sensors reversing into the tightest of spots will be a breeze.

Sounds fantastic:

Your camper is a true “home from home” but as they are often based on commercial vans, unfortunately, the audio performance can leave a lot to be desired. As one of the leading audio installers in the UK, we are ideally placed to make this better for you. In fact, this is an area where we excel as our experience with leisure vehicles is extremely broad.

If you already have an upgraded head unit or are happy with the one you have then we would recommend a speaker upgrade for the front doors and while we’re at it why not add some speakers to the rear of the vehicle? One of our favourites is by Italian manufacturer Audison. The Voce K6 is a component set for the doors or dash and offers a true HiFi performance when correctly installed.

We also have custom designed subwoofer enclosures that can be completely hidden meaning you can have a full sound without losing any useful space.  We often use the JL Audio 6w3 subwoofer as its compact size and stunning performance make it ideal when space is at a premium.

JL audio subwoofer car sound system car and home stereo macclesfield

speaker box car sound system installation campervan car and home stereo macclesfield

Here’s one we built into the rear of a Land Rover Defender showing how small the speaker box can be while still producing a tremendous bass performance.

Don’t wait:

With summer almost upon us, it’s definitely time to get these jobs done. Whether you want a complete upgrade to your leisure vehicle audio or maybe just want a bit better sound we can help. We are the car audio experts in Cheshire and are here to help. If you are local to Macclesfield please call into our shop on Sunderland Street or simply give us a call on 01625 432707 our advice is free. If you do choose to upgrade we can offer up to a three-year warranty on products as well as a lifetime warranty on all installation for peace of mind, heck we’ll even throw in a cup of coffee!

 

Summer Is Here!

Summer is here (at least for the next few days). So what could be better than driving your convertible with the roof down at last? So good to feel the wind in your hair, not so good if you want to listen to your music. What used to sound great with the roof up is now hollow sounding with a weak bass response and turning the bass up just makes everything muddy sounding. This phenomenon also occurs with the windows wound down on a conventional car to a slightly lesser extent. So what’s going on and how can we fix it?

As we know sound waves are just compression ripples in the air, in a car these waves are generated by the speakers and when the air is still and contained in a small cabin we do not need much energy to get a decent sound level. However, if we create large holes in the structure by opening the windows or taking the roof off we have opened the speakers up to the outside world. Suddenly your small speakers are trying to fill the world with sound; on top of that, they have to compete with more road and wind noise as well as all the air turbulence.

mini cooper diagram showing sound contained inside the car mini cooper diagram showing sound lost to the outside world

It would be OK if all frequencies were affected evenly and all that was needed was more power but unfortunately, this is not the case. Without getting into the technical reasons what we find is that the higher frequencies tend to be less affected but the mid-range clarity is lost and the bass is severely reduced. Try it for yourself, listen to a piece of music you know well while driving and then open the windows. It is obvious from the pictures above that far less sound is going to reach your ears.

What we need is to be able to adjust the sound to compensate for the changes brought about by opening the car. Certainly we need more power by adding an amplifier but more importantly, we need to be able to adjust the sound for the different configurations of the car so that it always sounds the same.

To achieve this we have a range of digital signal processors at Car and Home Stereo that we can configure and program to solve the problem. The two leading units are the JL Audio TwK88 and the Audison Bit family of processor/amplifiers. These powerful processors can be programmed to allow precise tuning of the vehicle acoustics and most importantly have multiple pre-set capabilities which allow the user to switch between different tunings for different conditions.

So how do we do it?

The process requires taking acoustic measurements with the vehicle roof up and down. The same can be done for a non-convertible car with windows closed and open.  We use a combination of spectrum analysers and FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) measurements to map the acoustic signature of the vehicle interior. By playing a test signal (usually pink noise) we can see what the placement of the speakers and vehicle interior is doing to the sound and of course, we can do the same with the car open.

setting up car stereo system

Once we have the measurements we can start to tune the system. We start the process by adjusting time delays and phase controls to see if there are any cancellations being brought about by speaker positioning, we will also adjust speaker crossover points for the same reason. We do this first because no amount of EQ tuning would compensate for a phase issue and in fact, would probably make the sound worse. It also means less work for the processor which will ultimately give me more control. The goal is a clean, flat response to the test signal which we can use as a starting point for the real world tuning for the customer.

What’s Next?

Once we have the desired response for the car in the closed condition we look at the measurements for the converted configuration. The difference in the original measurements can now be compensated for by re-tuning the system and saving to a second pre-set. Once again we start with phase adjustments as with the top off there will be far less reflected sound and the speaker phase conditions will be different.

The result is the same audio performance for both configurations of the vehicle and at the touch of a button, you can switch between the two presets meaning great sound regardless of hood position.

audison controller in mercedes ashtray

We mounted the Audison controller for this Mercedes in the ash tray making it quick and easy to change presets but invisible when the cover was closed.

audison controller in mercedes ashtray closed

This tuning process is not simple and many different factors have to be considered as the adjustments are made. It also requires accurate and quite sophisticated measurement tools and at Car and Home Stereo we have invested in these to ensure we can achieve the best possible performance for our customers. We can also use these tools to identify acoustic problems in audio systems and we are more than happy to run a diagnostic on your car to help you choose the right way forward to better sound.

If you would like to take advantage of our test equipment or wish to discuss any aspect of tuning please feel free to call me on 01625 432707 or even better call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat and a listen to our demonstrator.

Life In The Loud Lane

At Car and Home Stereo we are dedicated to getting the best possible sound in your car. We will carefully match your needs to the best equipment and electronics to achieve that goal. We have access to a vast range of products so that we can tailor a system that is perfectly suited to you and your car. Of course what everyone wants is different and two extremes were both in the workshop at the same time recently.

If you have read the Lotus Evora blog you will know that the emphasis was on a stealthy install with the aim to produce a highly detailed soundstage. This was achieved with a full Audison system using the amazing AP8.9 Bit amplifier, Voce speakers and Prima sub, a simple system boasting 520W, more than enough power for the small cabin of the Evora. The final tuned sound of this car was fantastic. The music was surrounding with detail and punch where it needed it.

In the adjacent workshop bay at the same time was a Vauxhall Astra van and the brief for this one was very different. This had to sound good but most importantly it needed the ability to crush you with bass! Being a van we had plenty of space to work with but on the down side all that metal was a prime candidate for epic vibration. Power supply was always going to be an issue from the standard battery and of course with the power we were going to need, the standard wiring would not be adequate.

How we did it:

The first job would be to strip the vehicle for acoustic treatment. Every panel had to be coated to make sure all the enormous energy of the subs was retained inside. There’s no point in installing a 3000W system if 1000W gets out, it might sound good to passers-by but if you’ve paid for all that power, you want to hear it all. Once treated, tapping on any metal panel sounded like tapping on wood. There was no resonance and as a bonus road noise was reduced to almost nothing. The doors were treated with more Dynamat Xtreme to improve the acoustic response of the front speakers and again reduce road noise.

What next?:

The power supply was upgraded with two auxiliary Optima yellow top, deep cycle batteries with a split charge system. Even though the MTX bass amps are ‘D’ class they still draw a significant current and it was important to make sure this would not drain the vehicle battery. This kind of power has to be made safe and that means fuses on each battery and on each supply to the amplifiers, there may only be 12 Volts but the current capacity on the Optima batteries is more than enough to melt any cable and incorrect fusing could cause a fire if short circuited.

Once the power supply was installed we could mount the amps on the forward bulkhead. As this was destined for the show scene we made sure that everything was as neat as could be.

The eagle eyed of you will spot the cut outs for the MTX 6×9 speakers below the amps. This is an unconventional position for speakers as they are behind the seats but they will add a much needed boost to the low mid-range to complement the component speakers in the doors.

The three main amps are MTX RT1000.1Ds, These develop 1000W each at 2 Ohms which is why they need 50mm sq. power cable! The rest of the speakers are powered by a JL Audio XD400/4 and everything is kept under control by the Audison Bit 10. The front speakers were mounted in the standard location on custom collars and the tweeters were mounted into custom ‘A’ pillar pods.

This improved the staging for the front and solved the problem of the size of the tweeter being too large for the factory location.

So what about the subs I hear you cry!

Well this had to be the show stopper so we knew we would have to build something a bit special. The MTX TX612 is a beast of a sub.

With its awesome power handling capability we knew we could really push this speaker. It has incredible excursion and that red, double stitched hinge is not just for show. We wanted to get the most from this driver so we opted for an optimised slot ported enclosure, one for each sub. As you can imagine there is a significant amount of weight here so we also had to make sure that there was no possibility that any of this structure could move. Safety is always prominent in our minds when designing any system.

This is the finished enclosure although there will be trimmed wheel arch boxes either side for storage.

The auxiliary batteries and fuses are located behind the enclosure and are accessible by removing the top trim panel. There will be a voltage display mounted in the right hand arch box so battery condition can be monitored. The main fuse and Stinger 500A peak split charge relay are mounted in the bonnet with the vehicle battery.

Did we fulfil our brief?

And then some! With the tailgate open the bass completely dominates and you can feel the sound waves pushing your chest. If you dare to put your head inside the boot you’re immediately disorientated by the sound pressure level. When sat in the front you can hear the rest of the music as well and now that awesome bass complements rather than overpowers. Of course there is a level control for the bass but the temptation is to turn it up for the biggest smiles!

At Car and Home Stereo we know that this sort of system is not for everyone and we always ensure you get exactly what you need so regardless of what vehicle please give us a call and we can start your journey to a better sound.

 

Exotic Evora


The Lotus Evora 400 is a true super car. A fire breathing 3.5litre V6 will propel this rocket to 60 in under 4 seconds and on to a top speed of over 180 mph. But, when you have finished playing with the race controls, stopped grinning at the insane acceleration and started to use the car every day you will probably start to notice something. The audio system is quite frankly awful. The infotainment head unit is an Alpine 990 navigation multi media player and as such is really quite a performer but after that it’s not so good.

There are a pair of Clarion 5 inch speakers in the doors and a pair of unbranded tweeters on the ‘A’ pillars. There is even an 8 inch sub powered by a small Alpine amp just behind the driver seat but you’d hardly know it. Of course the audio system was low on the priority list when designing this car but the sound quality for a £70K+ car is not good at all.

So what should we do to improve it?

We don’t want to add a lot of weight and I think it’s important to keep it discreet. There is no real need to change the Alpine head unit unless more features are required but everything else will go. The car’s owner agreed and was most interested in a high quality sound at all levels. He did not need it to be extremely loud but of course it has to be able to compete with the exhaust! From our previous experience with the Lotus Evora we know that the low mid-range gets lost in the road noise so we need to fit a speaker that can cope with this and also EQ the car appropriately.

We opted for the super flexible Audison Prima AP8.9 Bit amplifier as the heart of the system.


This is an 8 channel, multi input amplifier with a full digital signal processor on board. This allows me to configure the amplifier outputs as required and then to tune the system to the exact requirements of the installation. It is also very compact for the output and will fit neatly in place of the Alpine sub amp.

The speaker set would be the wonderful Audison Voce K5. I would not use the passive crossovers as I can set all the frequency slopes and cut offs in the amplifier.

The choice for the sub was easy, the Audison APS8R.

This slim 8 inch sub is perfect for the existing enclosure once it has been acoustically treated with sound deadening.

The first job after carefully stripping the vehicle interior are the tweeters. I must confess that I have done this on a few times now and know they are a great fit. A very slight modification is required to the ‘A’ pillar but the original tweeters could still be replaced if required.

 I absolutely love this tweeter. It is smooth and very detailed without any harsh edges at the very high end. It is quite large but that allows it to be blended seamlessly with the mid-range.

 

The door speakers in the Lotus are in a good location high up at the front of the door but they are mounted in flimsy plastic collars. The K5 mid driver is somewhat deeper than the Clarion unit so a set of wooden spacers are made to increase the depth available.

                             
Naturally we apply sound deadening to the door both inside and out to improve the acoustic properties of the space. Since we will run this as a fully active system from the amplifier we have to rewire the speakers, tweeters and sub. This is a significant amount of cable and in such a compact car can be a challenge to lay but of course we are will ensure nothing can be seen.

Moving to the back we mount the amp in place of the Alpine unit. The first job is to construct an amplifier plate and trust me when I say that even with the compact AP8.9 Bit that space is tight!

A new power supply is taken to the boot mounted battery and everything is loomed and tied down tight to make sure nothing can move. Once the amp is in place we apply appropriate sound deadening to the area where the sub will mount and when the panel goes back into place there is absolutely nothing to show that any changes have been made (although if you look closely you can just see the Audison logo through the grille).

With everything built back up we can turn our attention to tuning the system. Of course we can only partially tune any new system as the speakers need time to run in so we will definitely want the car back in a week or so. However we can set up the time correction, phasing and crossover frequencies at this point.

As I mentioned the Audison AP8.9 Bit is an 8 channel amplifier so with 5 speakers it is configured as a 5 channel with a bridged output to the sub and mids ensuring full power is delivered where it is needed and because it has multi input capability the Alpine sub level control continues to operate.

With the time correction, initial EQ and phase adjustments done the sound stage is right in front of the driver and appears to come from just above the dashboard! There is now a sparkle and liveliness to the sound with a beautifully blended sub and mid response. Playing Michael Jackson’s Thriller is a great test and this does not disappoint, the sound is crisp and punchy with really wide stereo separation, the footsteps at the start seem to walk right across the dash and the door slam is epic. The bass is smooth and can be adjusted from off to ‘back massage’. Time will tell if the mid-range needs to come up more to compensate for the driving noise but right now with the engine running the music sounds spectacular.

At Car and Home Stereo we are experts at creating wonderful sound for your car. We are members of the Four Masters group of independent car audio specialists which means we can offer a national three year warrantee on selected products we install as well as offering a lifetime warrantee on all installation. If you would like to know more about how we can help you achieve your dream sound then please get in contact via the website, Facebook or call me om 01625 432707.

 

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.

 

Why Does Installation Matter?

At Car and Home Stereo we have been installing exceptional car audio for over 40 years, in fact, when we started there were barely the beginnings of in-car entertainment. Over those years we have seen a tremendous amount of change in the products we use to create outstanding audio experiences. From 8 track cartridge to CD to full digital audio, graphic equalisers to digital signal processors and all the other innovations that have come along we have embraced and utilised these to realise the best possible sound for our customers.

All these fabulous products are available to everybody, there has never been so much choice but all this technology will not guarantee a great sound. That will only be possible with the correct installation and careful setup. Many times I have had a car in that has had a lot of money spent on it yet still sounds bad. From buzzing door panels to downright dangerous wiring I’ve seen it all. Usually from DIY installations but not always. It’s not necessarily the fault of the equipment but rather a combination of poor choice and skimped installation.

It is true that the majority of my work is completely invisible but makes such a massive difference to either the finished sound or the reliability of the whole system.  Application of sound deadening material inside doors will improve the acoustic performance, soldering all connections may take longer but will improve reliability, looming cable runs with fleece tape is expensive but will eliminate any cable rattles and retain the OE look.

It is also important that equipment and wiring are installed to the highest standards to maintain vehicle warranties and safety standards. I have seen microphone cables wrapped around airbags, power cables attached to car batteries without a fuse and any amount of speaker wires dangling over brake pedals. At Car and Home Stereo, we take installation very seriously and we never rush. The best results are not achieved by racing to finish and I would rather spend an extra hour or two to get the best possible sound. After all, you would want your £1000 Rainbow speakers to sound their best.

Of course the same care and attention is applied whether we install top of the range JL Audio speakers or entry level Audison upgrades and in fact, the performance boost from proper door treatment at the lower price range is more apparent.

We will always recommend appropriate enhancements and best installation practices are rigorously followed which may take a little longer and cost a little more but will ultimately lead to a far better sound and is that not what we all really want?

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.