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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Art Of Tuning

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Selecting a Subwoofer : The Nitty Gritty

Most music consists of a full range of audible frequencies, from low bass (bass guitar, cello etc) to high treble (cymbals, piccolo) although a notable exception is John Cage’ Four minutes and Thirty Three seconds. In simple terms – the lower the sound, the longer the sound wave and the more energy required to generate it. In practical terms – bigger speakers and a more powerful amplifier.

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“Bass is an essential part of music and is the part that adds the drive and excitement, try to imagine Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean or Prodigy’s Fire Starter without any bass, for example.”

“Can’t we just use a more ‘bassy’ speaker?”

To explain why this is not really the answer we need think about what a speaker is doing. In its simplest form a speaker is a vibrating membrane that is generating sound (pressure) waves and to produce lower sounds, the speaker cone has to move more slowly and further. This is no problem on its own but at the same time we need it to produce the mid and treble frequencies. These sounds require a very quick response and result in a very complex vibration pattern. Expecting a speaker to do both low and high frequencies inevitably ends in a compromise of both. The practical result of this compromise is at best a muddled, less defined sound and at worst a distortion that will lead to the destruction of the speaker. The only solution is a dedicated bass speaker, a subwoofer.

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Fortunately there are a wide range of compact, high performance woofers on the market now. Speakers that will operate in very small enclosures and take up minimal space. In a lot of cases, where I’m upgrading a factory Bose or Meridian system, I can use the existing bass speaker location for a completely stealth installation. In many cases I can use wheel wells, under seat locations or custom build enclosures in boot recesses. Even when none of this is possible there are woofers from Jl Audio and Hertz that offer spectacular performance from a unit little bigger than a couple of shoe-boxes.

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At Car and Home Stereo my system designs are always sympathetic to the vehicle but most of all it is my passion for music and great sound that drives my recommendations.

Pitch Perfect – Rainbow’s Profi Line

Here at Car & Home Stereo Macclesfield, we’ve fallen head over heels for the Profi brand.

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Uncompromisingly brilliant, these incredible pieces of equipment embody the precision and passion of real expert craftsmanship. The sound is so crystal clear, that you feel as though you’re at a live performance. Our resident car audio system expert and musician Tim described the sound as ‘utterly transparent’, and when you hear what these speakers can do when installed with precision – you understand why.

 

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We’ll be honest, Profi line is not the cheapest way to get your hands on an audio system for your car. However if you want the best possible quality of sound, we think the Profi kit is worth every single penny. In common with all high end car sound systems, proper installation is vital to getting the quality of sound that you’ve paid for. Here at Car & Home Stereo of Macclesfield, we have a trained musician and qualified sound engineer with a passion for crafting perfect audio environments. Tim Campling offers a bespoke and comprehensive instillation service, tailoring each of his creations to the requirements of your vehicle and sound system – achieving perfect harmony between the two.

 

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Our doors on Sunderland Street, in the Heart of Macclesfield, are always open – so if you’d like to come by for a chat, look or a listen – make sure to pop in!

We look forward to seeing you.