Amplifiers: The heart of the car audio system.

In its basic form an amplifier has one job, to take a small signal and make it bigger.

amplifier

This would be so easy if music looked like the above sin wave but of course music is much more complex.

Music is a complex mix of multiple frequencies with varying levels and shapes. Sin waves, square waves, saw tooth waves all layered to create sophisticated patterns of vibrations in the air. Astonishingly our ears can pick up these complex and subtle vibrations and our brains can interpret these signals at a very precise level and let us experience music. Consider listening to a large orchestra. Even when all the instruments are playing it is possible for our ears to detect just one small part rather than a wall of noise. Composers know this and carefully layer instruments to create symphonic masterpieces.

How a speaker can reproduce this is for another discussion but let us consider the amplifier.

The signal coming from the CD player should contain an accurate version of the music at a very low level. I say ‘should’ because a lot of standard fit head units actually do not have a clean signal and this has to be dealt with before it gets to the amplifier but again that is for another discussion. So let’s assume there is an accurate signal leaving the CD player which contains all the subtle nuances of the music.

What happens inside that big box?

As I said earlier, the small signals from the CD player have to be made larger so the speakers can play them but as I also mentioned these signals are extremely complex. Recreating these complex signals requires some very sophisticated circuitry but above all very high quality electronic components.

So what is it you get when buying a better amplifier?

I like to use the analogy of standard, high, and ultra high definition TV. If you have experienced all three types then you know the difference. Standard definition is OK and is, for most purposes good enough. However high definition is sharper and clearer so no fuzziness around the edges making it easier to watch. Ultra high definition takes it to another level and quite honestly it’s pretty much like looking through a window with vibrant and subtle colours, crystal clear images with no flicker or artefacts. You could describe it as just like the real thing and this makes it much less fatiguing to watch as your brain does not have to compensate for the poor image.

Music is exactly the same, the more accurately it is reproduced the less your brain has to compensate for distortion or missing information. This compensation is what causes listening fatigue and can lead to headaches and the desire to turn the system off!

A better amplifier will be able to reproduce every last nuance and detail of the music and you can quickly tell the difference when you hear it. You will notice things in the music that you have never heard before; instruments will be clear and well defined without any muddiness when there is a lot of information playing. Vocals will be lifelike even allowing you to hear the space they were recorded in exactly as the artist intended. This is what a really good amplifier can do for you and why it is always worth spending more to get a better sound.

Someone once told me a good way to describe better and better sound was to think of the artist playing behind layers of curtains, each time you improve the system you remove a curtain until eventually you are standing in front of them.

So what does it take to get right to the front?

The Audison Thesis Venti amplifier. Over £8000 of sonic perfection for two channels. If you want the best then here it is.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the sound in your car please call us on 01625 432707 or pop into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.

 

Digital Signal Processing

Well summer is fast approaching (hopefully) and that means we can finally get the car windows down and open the convertible hoods. While the fresh air and wind in the hair is nice, the open plan car has a dramatic effect on the sound quality from the stereo system. Even stationary, opening a convertible roof completely devastates the way your music sounds leading to a very disappointing performance.

What is going on of course is that certain frequencies are being lost to the outside world while some are retained inside the cabin. The result is usually a great loss of bass and mid-range while the treble stays fairly constant. This results in a very unbalanced sound that simple bass and treble controls cannot fix. However you do not need to suffer as we have the tools to make sure you can enjoy the same performance whatever the configuration of your car.

What we need are two audio systems, one for top up and one for top down. The top down system would need more bass and mid-range speakers with a less efficient tweeter. It would need more power than the top closed system to compensate for the losses and of course we would need to be able to switch between the two systems.

Of course the idea of fitting two different systems for different configurations is not practical but nevertheless it is what we need. So if we can’t do that what can we do to ensure great sound at all times?

The answer lies with signal processing and careful tuning for different car configurations.

Digital signal processing allows us to shape the sound to suit the environment. This is different to simply adjusting the bass and treble controls to suit the music as we are working to produce an accurate sound for the given equipment and vehicle. In addition most processors are equipped with two or more memory pre-sets that can be retrieved at the touch of a button. This effectively means we can have two (or more) different audio systems in one car.

There are many processors available today but which one is best? Well the truth is it’s the one that suits your particular system. It will depend on how many inputs and outputs are required as well as where those inputs are coming from. Are we integrating with a standard head unit or a vehicle’s factory amplifier? Are we to use analogue or digital signals? How many amplifiers are we connecting to? All these questions and more need to be addressed before we choose.

Of course the real power of any processor is its tuning capability and that can only be as good as the tuner!

Even a relatively simple system such as this in my Discovery can look daunting. All crossover points, slopes, levels, time correction and phase are accessible with the software and without a thorough understanding of what is going on it is very easy to end up with a terrible sound or at worst damaged speakers.

In the right hands these tools are extremely powerful. When I tune a system I can bring all my years of musical experience to the project. This means I can give you exactly the sound you want; regardless of how you use it or the configuration of your car.

If you would like a practical demonstration of what a well-tuned processor can do; please call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield where I would be delighted to demonstrate our Discovery. It really is a revelation.

Skyzack Guest Blog: What to consider when buying your first car

This week at Car & Home Stereo, we’ve got a guest blog from Skyzack LTD.

Skyzack LTD is a business support club based in Macclesfield. Their mission is to ‘help small and medium sized businesses become more visible while providing opportunities to young people interested in getting into business for the first time.’ This in mind, one of their team members, Aaron, would like to share a young persons perspective on buying your very first car.

What to consider when buying your first car:

When it comes to passing your driving test, the next big, exciting part is buying your first car! We would all love to jump straight into a brand new Mercedes, but let’s think realistically, there are many things we have to consider. From running costs to reliability, here are some of the most important things to consider when buying your first car as a young person.

Finance:

Many young people won’t be able to afford a Mercedes, so when it comes to choosing the right car for you; we have to think about the price, what is your budget? Are you buying the car out right or are you considering finance and spreading the cost over a few years? With finance there are many options you can take to suit your needs. For all finance types you will need some kind of deposit; the more deposit you have to lower your monthly payment will be.

Below is a list of the different types of finance you can get:

  • HP: Higher purchase is where you spread the cost over so many years and you own the car at the end of the finance. The monthly payments are likely to be higher depending on how many years you spread the cost over. For example, you can spread to cost from 1 year to 5 years.
  • PCP: Personal contract purchase is where you can suit the payments around your budget. When it comes to the end of the finance agreement, there are 3 ways you can go about it. 1: You can give the car back, 2: You can give that car back as a deposit for a new car, or 3: Pay the lump sum of what’s left to pay for the car.
  • PL: Personal lease is something perhaps not many young people will consider using. This is because a personal lease vehicle has to be returned in the same condition you brought the car in; otherwise you’ll be hit with a massive bill to pay for the damages and as a new/young driver it probably isn’t the best option.

Depending on how much you pay for the car, the year of the car and how long you want the finance the car for, each finance option is different. When it comes to buying a car from a well-established dealership, they will talk you through the best options depending on the car you want to buy.

If you are over the age of 18 years old, many car dealerships will have good deals on brand new cars on finance. There are even some schemes in place where you get the car, insurance, tax & car servicing is all included within the price of the finance and you just pay for fuel. For most young people this is a great idea as we don’t tend to think about road tax and having ours cars serviced often.

Overall, finance is a great way to be able to get an up-to-date car as long as you can afford the repayments!

Insurance:

If you decide against going for one of the many free insurance finance deals, you need to think about how you are going to insure your car. Insurance for young drivers has sky rocketed throughout the years. With an average of £2,700 for a young driver, this is certainly going to be one of the most important things to consider. How are you going to pay? There are 2/3 options.

Paying in full: This would definitely be recommended when paying insurance as it is the cheapest way to paying your insurance.

Paying monthly: Paying monthly is more expensive than annual as you are essentially loaning the money from your insurance company. This means you have to pay a percentage of APR on top of the insurance price. This is usually broken into a deposit and 10/11 monthly instalments.

Family/friends help: If you don’t have enough money to pay the full annual payments but don’t want to pay extra when paying monthly you could always ask a family member or close friend to pay the insurance in full then you pay them back using monthly instalments, that way you don’t have to pay the APR on top but you can still pay monthly.

How to get the price down:

Avoiding comparison sites is our recommendation; they do make the insurance search a lot easier, but more expensive. If you would like to get a general price you may end up paying then use a comparison site. However, insurers have to pay comparison sites commission, so it will bump up the price a bit. Most insurers will offer you a lower price if you get a quote by calling them. Adrian Flux states that 75% of their customers can receive a cheaper quote over the phone.

Buying new or second hand:

When it comes to buying a car, you’ll have to decide if you want to buy a second hand car either from a dealership or a private seller. Or you can buy a brand new car with the spec & colour of your choice. Buying a new car is great. You get a fresh car completely of your styling and choice to show off to your friends, but in the long run it may not be worth it.

As of 2014; 40% of 17 year old male drivers crash within their first 6 months of driving – itv.com. So if you are one of them, you would ruin your new pride and joy. And if you don’t have the correct insurance, you may be in for a hefty bill.

Gap Insurance:

You should definitely consider adding Gap insurance to your policy if you are going to finance a new car.

What is it? Gap insurance (Guaranteed Auto Protection) is the difference between the actual cash price of a vehicle and the balance still owed on the financing. When you take out finance, you pay more over the finance period than what the car is worth. For example, if you bought a car for £10,000 with a monthly interest of 6%, after 3 years you would have to pay £11,910 back through monthly payments. In the event of a crash, your insurance company would pay you £10,000 for the car value. Gap insurance would pay £1,910 for the remaining balance. Without gap insurance, you would have a written off car and still be paying £1,910 for it.

Used Cars:

Buying a used car, however, still has similar risks involved. Purchasing a used car will not give you the choice to have your own personal touch, unless you modify it and it may not be as reliable. Another issue involved is if you don’t receive a warranty, is the chance of your car breaking, potentially even 5 minutes from leaving the garage. If this happens and you have no warranty, there isn’t much that can be done. However if you manage to purchase a reliable used car, you will have a car that you can change to your taste and love like a new car, then in a few years’ time, you can go ahead and buy your dream car.

These are just a few of the main things you need to consider when buying your car and each choice is personal to you. Some of you may prefer a new car, some may just want a cheap run around. Either way, your car is your pride and joy. So go out there, find your dream car and be safe!

Whatever choice you make, remember that you can upgrade your car with Car & Home Stereo. Contact them today on 01625 432707. Or pop into the shop on Sunderland Street, Macclesfield.

 

Written by Aaron Cavanagh of Skyzack LTD.

Let’s talk about bass.

Music, like all sound, is made up of multiple frequencies. Think about a typical piece of music; there are high frequencies for cymbals and high voices; mid frequencies for most vocals, drums and guitar and then there are the low frequencies for bass drum, bass guitar, low organ or piano, synth and low register voice.

As you know almost all hi-fi speakers are made of several separate drivers; small tweeters for high frequencies, one or two dedicated mid-range drivers for the mid frequencies and a dedicated bass driver for low frequencies. There may even be a separate sub-woofer for very low frequencies. This separation of the speaker drivers is so that no one unit has to deliver too wide a frequency range which would lower the overall performance of that driver. This is most apparent if we try to get one speaker driver to deliver very low bass and mid frequencies at the same time, that is why we always see a dedicated bass driver or sub-woofer.

Sub-woofers:

So if we want a true and accurate reproduction of music it is obvious that we need a sub-woofer. This is just as true for the car as well as the home and in some respects it is more important in the car as we have to allow for road noise and low frequency absorption of the interior.

The first thing I need to say is that a subwoofer is not just there to rattle the windows, it is an essential part of the audio system and has to have a true hi-fi performance to accurately reproduce the lower notes. I have often said that if you can hear where the subwoofer is then it is too loud. Its sound should blend with the rest of the music to create a complete sound stage that envelops the listener. These systems are often described as SQ or sound quality systems. The subwoofers do not need to be huge and do not need to dominate the boot, a lot of modern SQ subs are designed to work in small air spaces meaning I can build discreet enclosures taking up very little space.

In this car I constructed an enclosure that sat in a recess of the boot. We used the JL Audio 10TW3 as it is optimised for a small space but can still deliver a truly musical performance.

This car was a BMW Z4 with a custom enclosure behind the passenger seat using the JL Audio 6w3 driver.

Even when there are no hiding places to use we have subwoofers that are extremely discreet like the Audison Prima 8.

At only 4 inches deep this tremendous unit will not dominate the boot space but deliver excellent performance.

However…….

What if you do want that earth shaking, window rattling, feel it in your bones experience?
Often known as SPL (sound pressure level) performance; we are experts in delivering this as well.

Of course this does mean taking up space but usually that is never a problem! Here the emphasis is on power and lots of it.

These speakers need to be built to withstand epic amounts of power. They also have the ability to move huge amounts of air. That means they need a massive cone excursion capability and be strong enough to not flex under pressure.

Our new range of XFire subwoofers and amplifiers are built to deliver and then some! Designed by a European champion car audio competitor these subs are engineered to take anything you can throw at them. The 12 inch is rated to 4500W with an excursion (xmax) capability of 30mm one way (that’s 6cm front to back!). This monster can satisfy any requirement for ground shaking bass.

So whether you want sublime, discreet bass to complement the front speaker stage or the kind of low frequency you can really feel; we can design and install the perfect system for you.

If you would like to discuss how we can really improve your car audio please give us a call on 01625 432707. Or even better, pop into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.

Car audio upgrades, sometimes simple is best.

It is common when searching for ideas about car audio upgrades to find images and blogs about out of this world systems. Earth shaking bass installs and custom built fiberglass and Alcatara door pods. At Car and Home Stereo we can do all of this and more and of course they are beautiful to behold. Inevitably these sorts of installs come with a pretty high price tag as well, what if you just want to improve the audio in your car at a sensible budget? Well let’s look at a typical upgrade that provides a very big ‘bang for your buck’!

A recent install of ours was to a Renault Megane RS. This fabulous car is at home on road or track especially when ‘tweaked’ to over 400 BHP as this one was.

Unfortunately the stock audio system is quite frankly dire. The dreadful speakers are mostly to blame but the low power of the head unit certainly does not help as any attempt to squeeze out a decent bass response just results in hideous distortion.

This was what the owner had experienced and indeed had already replaced two of the speakers as they had failed. He realised they were never going to sound good so popped into the shop to discuss options.

Usually I get carried away when designing a system but fortunately the customer told me straight away that his budget was £1000, certainly for the first part but he would consider future upgrades. He also told me that his preference was for dance music, high energy and plenty of bass. However he was very keen to keep the look of the interior unchanged and did not want to lose the boot to a mass of amplifiers and subwoofers.

So what should we choose?

The front speakers are a 5 inch mid in the door and 1 inch tweeter on the dash. Space is an issue in the doors so nothing too deep but we needed something that would deliver a good mid bass performance from only 5 inch. I knew there would be an amplifier so power was not an issue. In the end it was an easy choice; the JL Audio C2 525 component set. JL Audio are the masters of bass, their subwoofers are legendary and they know how to engineer a speaker to get the best bass performance possible.

In addition the C2 tweeter is very lively and I felt would suit the dash location of the Renault Megane perfectly. Of course we would be installing Dynamat sound deadening to the doors to further enhance the speaker performance. The sophisticated crossover has a range of adjustments to allow fine tuning of the sound which is of great benefit as the factory head unit has very limited EQ controls.

Choices, choices…what amplifier to choose?

Budget and space was tight and I wanted the best possible sound for this car, I had to work with the factory head unit so needed something that could deliver a big punch from a compact unit. It had to be a 4 channel as it was also going to drive the subwoofer in the boot. I wanted a unit that could take a high level in and had plenty of control; step up the brilliant JL Audio JX 400/4D.

This powerful D class amplifier boasts 400W output with a host of EQ and filter controls allowing fine tuning of the sound output. It will take high or low level inputs with up to 10V capability on the high level, perfect. Another benefit is the size; the compact dimensions of this amplifier mean I can install it under one of the front seats out of sight. Channels 1 and 2 will drive the front speakers while channels 3 and 4 will be bridged to provide a huge mono output for the sub.

But what subwoofer should we fit?

Well as we knew the customer’s preferences and requirements it had to be compact but still deliver hard hitting bass. After checking that he was happy with the size in the boot we settled on the JL Audio CP108 microsub.

This is a high output, slot ported enclosure houses the 8w3 subwoofer and can punch far above its weight. The subwoofer itself is extremely good but when married to the JL Audio designed enclosure it is astonishing. When set up correctly you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a 10 or even 12 inch woofer.

So a simple system at under £1000 but one that plays loud and clear with no distortion and offers plenty of scope for future upgrades like Bi amplification and DSP signal processing.

The test was always going to be when the owner of the car heard it for the first time, I knew it was good but would he like it? At first listen he played the same CD that was playing when he dropped the car off at our workshop. After a second or two a huge smile spread across his face and remained there for about half an hour while he tried other tracks. ‘Absolutely awesome, exactly what I wanted’ as he stepped out of the car. He mentioned that he was taking the car down to the Nurburgring, Germany was going to sound good!

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

Find your way with Pioneer navigation.

The popularity of the motorhome has never been higher; the convenience of just being able to load up and drive away with all the comforts of home is priceless. One of the most popular vehicles for conversion is the Fiat Ducato. It sports a great chassis and a powerful, efficient engine. The only drawback is the fact that the Ducato starts life as a van, meaning a very basic audio system.

Perhaps the most useful feature to the driver of a motorhome is navigation; over the years we have added this feature to many vehicles.  As the dashboards have changed we have sourced installation kits to allow fitment of aftermarket units and this has proved more than acceptable. We have frequently used Pioneer products as they offer the best performance and although powerful and feature rich are exceptionally easy to use.

Fiat Ducato:

Well now Pioneer have extended their magnificent Evo range of bespoke navigation/entertainment systems to include the Fiat Ducato.

The first thing you notice is the perfect fit as this has been designed to integrate seamlessly with the Ducato dash. The large 7 inch touchscreen is bright and clear and is angled forward to reduce reflection and glare which was always a problem when a conversion kit was used. The controls themselves are clearly laid out while the touchscreen icons are large and easy to read at a glance. All the original vehicle features are retained such as steering wheel controls.

Pioneer’s acclaimed Navgate software is a joy to use with simple controls but extremely powerful and accurate navigation. The internal, high speed navigation covers 46 countries with more than eleven million points of interest. Powerful algorithms ensure the best route is chosen. Since this system is designed for motorhomes the software allows you to input the vehicle’s weight, height, width and length to make sure you will only be directed to appropriate routes and avoid any restrictions.

Connectivity:

Since almost everyone now uses a smartphone of some sort the Pioneer Evo is equipped with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto ensuring perfect integration with your device. Once connected it allows voice commands to control your system for enhanced safety while driving. Of course it also allows you access to all your stored music and streaming services for the complete entertainment experience.

To further enhance your listening the Pioneer Navgate Evo is equipped with a DAB+ digital radio tuner, full Bluetooth streaming and dual USB inputs. For safety an optional reverse camera is available to assist manoeuvring. There is even a hideaway CD/DVD player available if you still use CDs and of course movies for when stationary.

This unit has all the power and performance you would expect from Pioneer. Therefore we would highly recommend a speaker upgrade to take advantage of this. We have a vast range of speaker systems available; one of the most common popular is the Audison Prima APX165.

This speaker set is ideally sized to replace the front door speakers in the Fiat Ducato and will offer vastly better sound over the standard units. All changes are completely invisible as they fit behind the original trim.

While we are in the doors we would also recommend adding a full treatment of sound deadening. This improves the sound from the speakers and also to reduce road noise. This comprises a layer of sound deadening applied to the metal panel of the door followed by a closed cell foam sheet applied behind the door card. The difference to how quiet the vehicle is has to be experienced to believe it.

Final Touches:

Finally, for those looking for the best possible sound we would add a discreet subwoofer. Usually located under one of the front seats this really lifts the audio performance to home hi-fi standards.

We have the magnificent Pioneer Navgate Evo for Ducato on demonstration in store. If you would like to pop in we are on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield; where we can install any of the above upgrades. If you have any questions or would like to know more about upgrading your motorhome please call us on 01625 432707.

Improving the Mustang

The Ford Mustang GT, 5 litres of good honest, V8 muscle car.

The Mustang looks great from any angle and the rumble from that big lump up front is wonderful. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the sound inside the car; the performance from the audio system is very weak. We recently worked on just such a car equipped with the Shaker audio system which, although fitted with an amplifier and subwoofer in the boot as standard, was distinctly lacking in performance.

As you may know I am an advocate of simple systems. The simpler they are the easier they are to control. Dozens of speakers does not automatically mean better performance where sound quality is concerned. A lower part count but of a better quality is much to be preferred.

The owner of the Mustang felt the same about the sound. After a discussion regarding his musical preferences he left the car with us for three days.

Choosing the system:

The first job was to assess the interior of the car for speaker and hardware locations and to listen to it to get a feel for the general acoustics both stationary and with the engine running. Try to work out where extraneous noise was coming from and gauge the sound stage from the seating position. The Mustang has six speaker locations in the front and two more on the rear deck; with an 8 inch sub in the boot. There is no spare wheel and the empty wheel well is spacious so ideal for amplifiers. There was also quite a lot of road noise in the cabin so we knew that a complete sound deadening treatment was required.

The audio performance for this car had to be spectacular, for me that meant A and AB class amplifiers for the main speakers with full active EQ control. I wanted detail and power in the front but also an all-encompassing performance from the whole cabin. I was instructed not to change any part of the car so that it could all be returned to standard so I knew I could only use an eight inch sub.

My choice of amplifiers had to be from the magnificent Audison Voce range.

I needed seven channels for a fully active system so that meant an AV5.1K and a Due. The beauty of the 5.1K is that channels 1 and 2 are full class A which is perfect to drive the tweeters. Channels 3 and 4 are class AB and ideal for the mid drivers. I had settled on the staggeringly accurate Rainbow Profi series for the front speakers and the Voce 5.1K would be the perfect partner. I opted not to install tweeters in the front A pillars as I felt they were too far forward to be of use and I knew I could tune the sound stage with the Audison Bit 1. This way all front speakers would be in the doors for the optimal imaging.

For the rear deck I chose the Hertz Mille Pro 165.3 coax. These are tight and punchy, perfect to complement the front detail. The Voce Due amplifier is very dynamic and again suits the performance I was looking for.

Since I was restricted to an 8 inch sub in the original enclosure I opted for the Hertz Mille Legend ML 2000.3. I have the same sub in my Discovery and know how much punch and performance this speaker can deliver. The 1000W from the sub stage of the Voce 5.1K amplifier will help as well!

Once the system had been decided upon it’s time to start work.

Initially we need to strip the car down to allow for cable runs and sound deadening treatment. This in itself can take a full day; as it is imperative that cable runs are safe and cannot cause rattles. A job like this requires a significant amount of cabling so we have to ensure that there is room under all the trim and all looms are protected and supported. Power cabling should be separate from any audio cabling where possible and of course carefully fed through grommets and sealed where passing through bulkheads.

Once I knew all the amplifiers and processor would fit in the wheel well I set about sound deadening the area.

This is made easier with all the trim panels out and will really help to reduce noise but will also improve the sub performance as no acoustic energy will be wasted into the resonant panels. Although the picture does not show it the treatment goes right up the side of the boot area onto the rear wing panels.

I also treated the rear deck as this can easily resonate with the extra energy we are generating in the speakers. I also built new wooden speaker collars to replace the standard plastic ones. This helps to isolate the speaker from the resonant metal deck.

Next Steps:

Once the rear treatment is complete I could start to manufacture the panels to support the hardware. Even though this can’t be seen I like to make this a perfect fit and trim it to look like the original.

This shot shows the initial setting up of the processor and amplifiers. This process tells the system where the input signal is coming from, what speakers are installed and allows me to set up the initial crossover points for the speakers, fine tuning will take place at the end of the install.

Now my attention turns to the front doors.

The Rainbow Profi speakers are quite simply stunning, their accuracy is very close to perfect so careful installation is essential. This of course means a full sound deadening treatment inside the doors as well as making wooden speaker collars and supports. Although not shown we also apply foam speaker rings around the mid and tweeter drivers. This helps to ensure an acoustic seal to the door card.

Great care is taken to ensure everything is moisture sealed to prevent any damp getting to the door card.

As I mentioned earlier, we were to use the original subwoofer enclosure to keep the car looking standard. This enclosure was manufactured from plastic so needed significant treatment to improve its acoustic properties. This was accomplished by lining the interior with copious amounts of sound deadening and adjusting the internal volume to suit the Hertz Mille Legend driver.

With all the trim panels back in place and a grille on the subwoofer the car looked almost standard. We did install the Bit 1 controller in the centre dash below the radio for convenience but even here the chrome finish and blue illumination looked perfect.

So how did it sound after tuning?

Well words can hardly do it justice. The image was high but surrounding with everything placing exactly where it should be. The sub was powerful without being obtrusive and a perfect blend with the front speakers. The Profi speakers benefit from an extended run in period but even initial performance was stunning. Playing my usual suite of test tracks demonstrated amazing clarity and detail; I use Eva Cassidy’s Fields Of Gold as a test piece and in this system her voice is sublime. This is one system I could listen to forever without any stress.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the audio in your car please feel free to contact us on 01625 432707. Better still, call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield. You’ll be glad you did!

 

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.

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.