Digital Audio – BMW 1 Series

It used to be so easy if we wanted a better sound in our car. Change the factory fitted radio, upgrade the speakers and maybe add an amplifier and sub.

I can’t remember how many of these Audi A3s I’ve done over the years, it must be hundreds.
But what about the modern version?

This car infotainment system has satellite navigation and integration with the vehicle systems; not to mention a full fibre optic audio path with multi-channel amplification and 11 speakers. The specification is very impressive but unfortunately the audio performance is less than satisfactory. The Bose and B&O ‘upgrades’ are particularly poor with weak bass and a flat sounding front end.

The same applies to BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Mini, Jaguar and others. It is just not possible to change the front end systems and all these manufacturers use a sophisticated fibre optic system or MOST ring for audio. This system is not compatible with aftermarket amplifiers so what do we do to improve the audio in these cars?

Let’s take the BMW 1 Series with Harman Kardon audio as an example.

The BMW 1 Series is a great car, but in my opinion has one of the worst sounding audio systems out there. Naturally we can replace the speakers with the likes of Eton or Rainbow; that will make it sound better but we haven’t addressed the real problem of the HK amplifier. This amplifier has been designed for a specific purpose; to make the stock BMW speakers sound OK while protecting them from overzealous use of the bass control. You may have noticed that when you try to turn up the bass the sound gets muddy sounding. This is because the amplifier is not turning up the bass, but instead is turning down the treble.

No, if we want a great sounding audio system this amplifier has to go. But what about the MOST ring and all the chimes, tones and announcements generated by the car, won’t we lose them? What we need is a device that can read the signals on the MOST ring and interpret the different information streams separating out the audio from the vehicle data. This device must be able to play the different vehicle announcements exactly as the makers intended while providing a clean digital audio signal. Ideally it should be programmable so that updates and even different vehicle configurations can be accommodated without the need to change the interface. It should also be capable of being invisible to diagnostic tools to prevent device errors.

So all in all we need a pretty sophisticated device; step forward the Audison Bit DMI.

This unassuming little box is our saviour as it converts the MOST signal to standard digital optical. The really clever part is that it can be reprogrammed indefinitely. The clever engineers at Audison have cracked the code for different car manufacturers which means that we can connect this and be confident that all the original systems will be played perfectly.

Now we have a digital optical signal that contains the audio signal as well as all the chimes and announcements from the vehicle park assist, satellite navigation and bluetooth modules. Now we can start adding the amplifiers that will complement the upgraded speakers confident that they can perform as intended.

In fact this is one of my most common system packages for the BMW 1 and 3 series. The Bit DMI replaces the factory amplifier and converts the MOST signal. The optical stream is then fed to the Audison AP8.9 Bit amplifier. This amp features up to 8 channels of high power output as well as a full spectrum digital audio processor allowing total control over every speaker. I configure it as a 6 channel to drive the door and under seat speakers as a fully active component set. My favourite choice of speaker is the Eton Upgrade system. These German built speakers are fabulous and offer a performance level well above anything else on the market currently. The AP 1D slave amplifier is to run the Audison APBX8 slim sub enclosure in the boot.

The Result?

The difference between the BMW ‘upgrade’ audio and the Audison/Eton one is incredible. The bass has far better definition while the front sound stage is clear and totally immersive. Gone are the harsh high frequencies of the Harman Kardon speakers to be replaced with a smooth and sensitive full range sound. Of course a lot of it is down to how I tune the car but that just means that every customer can get exactly what they want.

The same or similar systems can be applied to Porsche, Audi, Aston Martin, Mercedes and others; with just a change of speakers to suit the car. That is not to say that we have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. On the contrary, we look at each installation individually to make sure that each customer gets a bespoke solution. After all, everyone is different; that is where my tuning skills come into play to make sure every car is optimised for the biggest smile!

If you would like to know more about how we can upgrade your car audio system then please give us a call on 01625 432707. Better still, pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat, you’ll be glad you did.

porsche boxster car and home stereo macclesfield

Porsche Boxster Audio Upgrade.

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

porsche boxster speakers

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

Step One:

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

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

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

porsche boxster audio upgrade install car and home stereo macclesfield

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

What next?

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

Hertz D Power 4 amplifier.

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

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

This speaker really is surprisingly good.

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

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

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

porsche carpet passenger footwell upgrade refurb

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

Pioneer AVIC F88DAB:

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

Pioneer AVIC F88DAB porsche refurbish upgrade

I really enjoyed this installation;

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

dash mounted dashboard stormtrooper in porsche

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

VW Golf 7 Audio Upgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

So to the installation.

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

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

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

Important note.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Looking at Volkswagen systems

I am often asked what system I would recommend for a certain type of car. My answer is usually that it depends on the type of sound and performance you are after. That is certainly true but there are some constants and I think it will be useful to discuss these over a few installments.

For the first one, I will choose the latest VW Golf.

 

The Volkswagen Golf Mk7 is a fabulous car but the audio system leaves a lot to be desired. Even the so called upgrade packs are disappointing and certainly not worth the premium charged. The large screen infotainment system in the dash is certainly smart but does not have a particularly good audio performance while the speakers deliver a lackluster sound at best.

So what are the options?

If you choose to replace the head unit (and we highly recommend it) then the absolute best choice is the Alpine X901D G7.

This exceptionally high-end unit is specifically designed for the VW Golf 7. It is a perfect fit and will support all the existing VW systems such as reverse images, steering wheel controls, and vehicle information displays. The performance leap of this machine over the standard system is amazing and is the perfect base to add an upgrade audio package.

However, you may not wish to change the head unit and we would completely understand this. If your car is leased or on a purchase plan it may be best to not change the look of the vehicle at all.

Fortunately, we have developed several audio packages that can be invisibly added to your car that will massively improve the sound.

The Audison Prima pack:

This specific kit is a true plug and play solution from the masters of OEM integration, Audison. The kit comprises their DSP amplifier with built in EQ presets for the Golf, replacement front door speakers, discreet subwoofer for the boot cavity and all interconnecting cables meaning that nothing needs to be cut or changed. At a little over £1000, this is amazing value for money and sounds far better than the VW dealer upgrade options. Although we would strongly recommend it the sub is optional and if you choose not to have this then the price is even lower!

As soon as you hear this you will notice the massively improved clarity, the sound stage will be higher, wider and more surrounding. The bass will be stronger with a much better punch without being ‘boomy’. Of course, all of this can be removed when you come to change the car and with a little reprogramming can be made to suit whatever car you purchase next making this a much better investment than the dealer options.

At Car and Home Stereo, we have also developed our own upgrade options drawing from the best products from around the world. For convenience, we describe these as Stage 1, 2 and 3 but of course, there are variations to take account of personal tastes and requirements.

Stage 1:

This is full speaker upgrade pack based on the 5 door Golf. While the choice of speakers could change the acoustic improvement products do not. These are as important as the speakers themselves in maximising the performance of the upgrade.

The full kit comprises Hertz MPK 165 front component speakers, Audison Prima APK rear component speakers, 4 sheets of Dynamat Extreme sound deadening, 2 sets of F.A.S.T. acoustic foam sealing rings and 2 sets of speaker mounting collars.

The cost of the stage 1 upgrade is only £650 with an installed price of £900. Even on the standard VW head unit this sounds amazing with improved clarity and bass performance. The performance detail is also improved thanks to the far more sensitive speakers and the acoustic treatment in the doors.

Stage 2:

This is a stand-alone sub and amplifier package. As you can imagine there are many to choose from but there are two that we have found to be highly suited to the Golf as they are powerful but take up a relatively small space in the boot.

Stage 2a is the Audison APBX 8R slim sub enclosure and the small but powerful Hertz DPower 1 amplifier.

This offers 600W output and will tuck into one side of the boot taking up almost no space at all and at only £479 for the two it represents great value for money.

Stage 2b is the same amplifier but married to the fantastic JL Audio 10TW3 sub in a slim enclosure. This sub is exquisitely musical, a real hi-fi experience and this package adds up to £650.

This amazing, compact sub can also handle a lot more power if you are a real bass nut!

Stage 3:

This brings everything from before and adds amplification and processing to the entire system. There are again two recommended packages here.

Stage 3a uses the Audison AP Bit amplifier. This incredible amp with built in processor is tiny and powerful, quite capable of driving the entire car system. The on board processor allows for perfect tuning of the sound stage to suit anybody’s taste. The phase and time alignment controls mean the sound can be focused to wherever it is needed making for a wide and spacious soundstage. These amplifiers start at only £600 so represent tremendous value for money.

Stage 3b is a combination of the JL Audio FiX 82 processor with the JL Audio XD400/4v2 amplifier. The processor is specifically designed to automatically compensate for original head unit anomalies. It will take out any spurious EQ that has been added by the factory radio as well as eliminating any unwanted phase changes. It also allows for personal tuning via PC to really dial a system in. Once the processor has cleaned the signal up the XD 400/4 amplifier delivers the power. This amplifier has become one of my firm favourites offering tremendous, clean power from a very compact chassis.

This package is slightly more expensive at £750 but does offer a higher level of performance.

As I mentioned earlier these packages are extremely flexible to suit individual requirements but I can heartily recommend any one of the above. We have installed many of these systems and know that they perform brilliantly.

If you would like to know more about any of our bespoke systems or a specific audio system for your car please call me on 01625 432707 or even better call into Car and Home Stereo on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat.

Bose SoundTouch – Bringing Music Everywhere

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

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

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

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

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

So how does it work?

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

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

Let’s look at the SoundTouch family.

SoundTouch 10,20 and 30.

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

SoundTouch 300 and optional Acoustimass sub and surround speakers.

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

SoundTouch Lifestyle 650 and 600.

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

SoundTouch SA5 amplifier.

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

SoundTouch wireless link.

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

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

 

 

Range Rover Recovery

The Range Rover Vogue or L322 as it’s known. A British classic with world beating all terrain capability that will take you anywhere in leather trimmed luxury.

Now anyone who has owned one of these will know that there are a few niggles with this vehicle and one of the common problems is the audio. One day the stereo will not make a sound or the screen will just show the Land Rover logo while the red light just flashes on the volume control. This usually means the main amplifier has failed in the rear of the car. It could also be a failure of one of the other components in the audio chain but the amplifier is most common.

The cost of a replacement from Land Rover will leave you shocked, an eBay one will set you back a few hundred pounds with no guarantee and you may be no further forward if that is not the problem. Even if it is you will only have the same performance as before. Wouldn’t it be nice to properly improve the system while you have the chance?

This was the situation our customer recently had and after a short discussion and a budget decided upon we set to work overhauling the whole system.

The vehicle owner had specified the Pioneer Avic F88DAB head unit.

The rest was up to us.

The first job was to strip out all the unnecessary kit in the rear of the vehicle and from the dash.

stripped dashboard range rover car and home stereo macclesfield

stripped range rover dashboard macclesfield car home stereo

Not for the feint hearted but reasonably straight forward when you know where all the hidden screws are! We will, of course, be rewiring the system so there will inevitably be many unused plugs on the original looms. These cannot be left to rattle around the back of the dash so we make sure that each unused end is padded and secured. There is also a reasonable amount of modification required behind the dash to allow the double din unit to fit. We have done quite a few of these and are used to it but again great care is needed.

Once the car was stripped it was time to install the new cabling. We had already decided on the system components and so we produced a custom loom for this. The Range Rover is a big vehicle and it still surprises me how long these looms need to be. All the service accessories need to be installed for the head unit; such as the Bluetooth microphone, dual USB ports, DAB and GPS aerials. We usually fit one USB to the centre arm rest bin and one to the glove box while the other items are discreetly fitted for optimum performance. I also replaced the original rear view camera that had failed. Car & Home Stereo can install a new camera into the original housing keeping the OE look.

Now the head unit can be installed and the dash rebuilt.

rebuilt dashboard rangerover

I think you will agree that this now looks far better!

The next task was to upgrade all the speakers and we decided on Audison all round. These Italian speakers are superb and so much better than the fitted Harmon Kardon units. A component set was installed in each door.

audison speakers custom fitting

Now for the fun part!

Knowing the tastes of the customer we knew that he would want plenty of power. Space is a little limited so we needed an amplifier with high performance but compact size and the perfect candidate was the fabulous JL Audio RD 400/4.

This compact power house is a gem of an amplifier boasting 100W per channel. The sound quality from these is amazing. It shares a lot of the design features of the award winning JL Audio XD amplifiers but at a lower price.

This amplifier will fit perfectly in the metal rack assembly in the boot cavity. It is hidden but easily available for any adjustments required.

The results are astonishing. The improvement over the factory system is huge; the detail at the front is crisp and the bass performance feels solid with no distortion. I would recommend this system to anyone with a failing factory audio.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the system in your Range Rover (or any vehicle) please give me a call; on 01625 432707 or better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.

blue audi s3 car and home stereo macclesfield

Awesome Audi

We have recently completed the audio system for this magnificent Audi S3. If you have read the previous instalment you will already be familiar with the car but it has developed considerably since then! This piece is a perfect example of how we work with our customers to achieve their audio dreams.

This has been a developing project in the quest for the best performance. What started as a simple bass upgrade has turned into a monster!

First things first:

When the car left the factory it was equipped with the B&O audio system and was quite frankly appalling. The front end detail was reasonable but the bass response was dire. The ‘sub’ that was fitted in the boot was a flimsy plastic chamber with a low quality, 6-inch paper and plastic speaker. Any attempt to push the bass resulted in a feeble burp, it had to go.

During the discussion with the owner it quickly became apparent that he was a true music addict and a simple upgrade was not going to be on the cards, he also admitted to being a JL Audio fan which we definitely approve of. We applied the simple motto that you can never have too much, only too little and recommended a JL Audio 12w6 subwoofer and an XD 1000/1 amplifier to drive it. Now we already knew that the signal from the factory amplifier was poor so we also recommended a JL Audio FiX processor to clean the response up.

The 12w6 sub is one of my all-time favourites and the results were very impressive but it wasn’t long before the bug bit again and our customer returned for more. Another 12w6 and XD1000/1 later the bass performance was doubled. Brilliant, but now the front end was starting to sound really bad in comparison, so a speaker upgrade was discussed.

dynamat lining on audi s3 car home stereo macc

Copious amounts of Dynamat inside and out kept the noise and vibration down while a set of JL Audio C5 650 components went in the front. This was all powered by a JL XD 400/4 in active mode while the awesome TwK processor allowed me to carefully tune the system.

 

The sound was amazing and that could have been where it ended, or so we thought.

Next Steps:

The owner of the car felt that there was a slight gap in the low mid frequency performance, and knew that there was room for an extra speaker in the middle of the door. That speaker can only be a 4-inch shallow unit so we knew it could not add the desired low mid. However the main door speaker location can accommodate an 8-inch driver and it just so happens that JL Audio produces a fantastic eight inch, free air mid bass unit, the ZR 800 CW.

This is a big driver but with a carefully designed spacer collar, it just fitted into the lower speaker position.

So what should we use for the high-mid and tweeter? Unfortunately JL Audio does not currently have a slim 4-inch but there is one company that has the perfect solution. The Focal 100KRS is a magnificent small speaker we use it a lot in Land Rover Defenders and know its potential so this was what we recommended. Again we produced mounting collars and the fit was perfect.

Of course, this extra speaker needed driving and there was really only one option for us and that was the JL Audio XD 800/8.

This allowed us to drive the tweeters and 4-inch mids at 100W while delivering a full 200W into each ZR mid-bass driver. Another cool feature is that the 800/8 shares the same chassis with the 1000/1 so now we had three identical looking amps in the boot!

What a sound we had now. The low mid gap was gone and the punch was quite something to experience. Thanks to the TwK processor the sound stage was crystal clear and right in front of the driver.

Was this finally the end? Oh no!

One thing still had to be addressed, the boot build. “Oh and while you do that since we can’t get a third sub in the boot can we squeeze any more performance from the existing two?” Challenge duly set we opted to refit the subs into slot ported enclosures giving us a realistic increase of up to 9dB from the same amplifiers. The owner wanted blue Alcantara to match the car with a raised JL motif on the box. Well, how could we refuse!

sound system in back of audi s3 car and home stereo macclesfield custom fitting

There’s definitely no room for golf clubs but that hardly matters when you hear this. There is, of course, a bass control at the front of the car and when wound up to full this system leaves you breathless.

This install has turned into one of my favourites and complements this gorgeous car perfectly. Look out for it at a show near you and you might just get to hear it.

If you would like to know more about custom installation for your car then please feel free to drop us a line by email or call on 01625 432707.

Factory ‘upgrade’ systems

Recently I have been working on two cars that had factory upgrade audio options fitted. A Nissan GTR with the Bose system and an Aston Martin with the Linn option. My customers were both complaining of poor sound and were wondering how it could sound so bad when the car had the upgraded audio. Now both Bose and Linn are respected hi fi manufacturers who produce excellent products, at Car and Home Stereo we sell the full range of Bose home audio and have supplied Linn audio in the past. I know it well and have a lot of respect for them.

Clearly, both these manufacturers know how to make great audio so what goes wrong when they try to create a car audio system? And I’m not singling out these two, the Harmon Kardon, B&O, Meridian and Mark Levinson are little if any better especially when you consider the cost of ticking that upgrade option box. In my opinion, the short answer is money and marketing while the longer answer is a fundamental misunderstanding of the car environment.

Xcar:

Let’s take a fictitious, generic car manufacturer, Xcar. Let’s assume they are successful and respected producing a high-quality product with flashy showrooms and huge marketing budgets. They need to keep their cars selling and beating their competitors. This competition is excellent for the consumer as it forces the car manufacturers to constantly improve their vehicles. More power, more fuel economy, more safety, more features. More is always better, isn’t it? Of course, at the same time, they need to balance this innovation with costs so that they can turn a profit.

Now Xcar have a mid-priced car that sells very well but is in close competition with its rivals. How to make it more attractive while making more money? This is where the option list comes into play and right up there near the top will be the audio upgrade.

Remember that to marketing people more is always better so obviously, more speakers have to be better right? Wrong! At Car and Home Stereo we design audio systems with one goal; to sound great. What we use to achieve this is almost not relevant, there will be speakers, amplifiers and sound processors but the type and quantity will be decided by the customer’s requirements and personal preferences.

Some of the best sounding audio systems I have ever designed have used only four speakers and a subwoofer. The four speakers would typically be a two way component set comprising a mid and tweeter in each door so could be considered a single pair. A multitude of speakers means that there will be a lot of competing pressure waves in the cabin not to mention multiple reflections causing phase cancellations and ruining the sound stage. Manufacturers often put yet another speaker in the middle of the dashboard, perfect if it is to watch DVDs in 5.1 surround but terrible for stereo delivery.

But Xcar listens to the marketing department and offer a speaker upgrade package that takes the speaker count from six to fifteen. Of course, this many speakers are going to need an amplifier. They could go to a company that designs and builds car audio amplifiers for this but most people have never heard of Audison or JL Audio or Rainbow and Pioneer and Alpine are not considered up market enough. Marketing do their research and find that most of their customers have a house with some decent hi fi so why not get these hi-fi companies to build them an amplifier?

There are two major problems here.

The first is that the car manufacturer has gone to a home audio company. There are fundamental differences between your car and your living room, too many to mention here and most home audio companies simply do not understand them. At Car and Home Stereo we of course use amplifiers from the best car audio manufacturers and while these can be expensive they are ideally suited to the vehicle environment to ensure the best possible sound.

However, the biggest problem can be laid at the feet of the accountants. Remember they need to make more profit without increasing costs too much well putting a big brand hi fi badge on your speaker grille and installing the lowest cost amplifier can do that. The badge might even convince customers that this is great car audio.

amplifier upgrade Nissan GTR Skyline

This is the upgrade amplifier option for the Nissan GTR Skyline. Designed to drive seven speakers even the simplest offering from Hertz would outperform it. And there is the problem, Bose are completely capable of designing and building a tremendous amplifier but car manufacturers will not pay the price for this and go with the least expensive option. That doesn’t stop them from charging a hefty premium when you tick the upgrade box though.

You might assume that you are getting better speakers designed by that hi-fi manufacturer wouldn’t you?
Well more often than not you actually only get the standard speakers with a few more thrown in.

So what have we learned?

My advice is to never tick the upgrade audio box. You will most likely be disappointed and when it comes here to be improved I will usually have to remove it all anyway. Any changes I make will be completely reversible and invisible to any inspection but the difference to your listening experience will be astonishing. You will start to relish the long drive and hold ups will be almost a pleasure as you will have your favourite music in stunning clarity to keep you company.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve your car audio or would like to listen to our stunning Land Rover Discovery demonstration vehicle please feel free to pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, Cheshire or give me a call on 01625 432707

 

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!