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Practicing Safe Sound

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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burnt copper coil

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

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

 

Perfect Timing

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What To Look Forward To In 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping It Simple with Bose

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas ’16: In Retrospect

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

phoenix gold equaliser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting Edge! with JL Audio

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Don’t Sacrifice Quality Today featuring Bose

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

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

 

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

Audio Installation with Full Instrumentation!

Over the 40 years that Car and Home Stereo has been installing audio systems to cars we have seen enormous changes. Changes to the source units available (who else remembers 8 track cartridges?!), changes to the playback systems and of course changes to the vehicles themselves. While a 1970’s Ford Escort shares a common purpose with a 2016 Audi TT, they share very little under the skin.

Most vehicle systems now are completely controlled by the on-board computers, true Drive by Wire. These systems have meant much greater reliability, higher efficiency and flexibility. However it has also led to a much lower tolerance of interference with respect to changes. Even the slightest change to a vehicle system can generate fault codes and even lead to vehicle malfunction.

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This, coupled with fully integrated entertainment systems would appear to spell the end of audio upgrades, leaving you stuck with the dull factory installed system but help is at hand!

Fortunately our industry has risen to the challenge and developed systems that can be seamlessly integrated with any factory system regardless of complexity.

If you have a Bose or Infinity audio system in your car then the speakers may well be of a lower impedance than standard. This would mean a blown speaker could not be replaced with an alternative to the factory part but we now have speakers that are specifically designed to be added to factory systems meaning perfect fit and far better sound.

landrover-speakers-side-by-side

You may want to change the basic radio in your VW Golf to something with DAB radio or satellite navigation. The standard VW radio also displays parking information and climate control settings, there are controls on the steering wheel for volume and track search. These are features you would not want to lose and we can supply units that have all the facilities you may want as well as supporting all the standard vehicle displays.

With the advent of computer controlled systems there are also hazards to changing the head unit to one that is not compatible with the vehicle wiring. The results can be from your new unit not working to damage to the electrical system. At Car and Home Stereo we take safety very seriously and have a wide range of specialist interfaces to ensure that any new system integrates perfectly with your car.

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Of course you may want a complete upgrade to your system but do not want to alter the look of your dashboard. This is an area in which we excel. Whichever car you drive with whatever audio system we can improve and add to it. Regardless of complexity we have the tools and skills to seamlessly upgrade your listening experience. With the products from Audison, Hertz, JL Audio, Pioneer, Alpine and many others we can create your perfect sound system.

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From Beetles to Bentlys we have worked on just about every vehicle out there and every one gets the same level of care and attention. Our goal is to give you a powerful audio experience whatever your budget and we will work very hard to make sure you get exactly what you want.

So remember, whatever the car, we can help. Contact us now to start your journey to better audio.

Installation Spotlight : An Engineer’s Perspective

This week at Car Home Stereo, we’re joining resident audio expert Tim on his mission to make the Land Rover Discovery 4 sound great. Tim has kindly taking the time to talk us through the process from his perspective, giving us audio enthusiasts an opportunity for rare insight into the sound engineer’s process!

 

The Process

This is the latest demonstrator for car and home stereo, the Discovery 4 commercial.

The challenge in this vehicle is the basic Harman Kardon system installed by the factory, the sound is flat and dull with poor separation and awful bass performance.

While we could have left the standard head unit in, I wanted the benefits of Apple Car Play. That meant mounting a unit discreetly into the dash screen location. There is very limited depth available, but fortunately the Alpine ILX-700 is perfect at just over 75mm deep. An original Discovery screen surround was purchased and modified to accept the Alpine unit.

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The original screen and controls had to be retained as the date and time adjustments are accessed from these. The answer was to relocate them to under the passenger seat.

screen-under-seat

The original control button location proved an ideal position for the Audison Bit controller so an Alcatara trimmed panel was constructed. This allows quick access to all the amplifier settings as well as equaliser presets.

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I knew I was going to use the Audison Voce 5.1K amplifier and Bit 1 DSP and wanted to install them on show but without losing boot space. The solution to this was to mount the two units in a carpet trimmed panel in the existing boot panel recess.

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The same solution was applied for the sub on the opposite side, this time creating an enclosure in the storage pocket for the Hertz Mille 8 inch sub.

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Our speaker choice was the magnificent Hertz Mille 1650.3 two way components. These are absolutely amazing, offering a detail and clarity at any power level that is breathtaking. These were sited in the original door locations on custom built mountings. The door panel had full deadening treatment of course.

speaker-fitting

It is difficult to describe how good this system sounds,it has to be heard. We love to show it off and would welcome you down for a demonstration.

Instrumental Interlude

This week, an instrumental interlude to our weekly blogs on the world of car & home audio engineering, as we pause for breath and take a look our passion for making music.

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Tim is a keen musician and plays guitar for a local band in his spare time. Being active on the creative side of music allows Tim to better appreciate the aims and results of sound engineering. There’s nothing quite like hearing your own sound back in crystal clear quality!

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Here at Car Home Stereo Macclesfield, in the Heart of Cheshire, we take pride in our passion for all sides of music and sound. If you get excited for all things music & sound, make sure to get in touch – we love a good natter!

We look forward to seeing you.