The stages of Car Audio upgrades

When a customer comes in for advice about an upgrade to their audio system we go to great lengths to ensure we get a good understanding of what they want. What sort of music they listen to, how they like to listen to it, what sort of staging they like and so on. Once we feel we have enough information then we will start to design a system for that particular customer and vehicle. We will probably suggest two or three options of varying performance levels but almost all will contain the same fundamental setup of processor, amplifiers, speakers and subwoofer.

Of course we have to make sure that everything will fit and be as discreet as the customer wants but that is something where our experience and knowledge of different vehicles comes to play. Depending upon the level of performance required we will design the appropriate interconnect system and recommend the amounts of sound deadening and acoustic treatment to make sure we achieve the best possible sound.

What about costs?

Only after all the system has been designed will we start to discuss costs as we will have a very good idea of how long the install will take and exactly what components are needed. In my opinion it would be very bad to start a system only to find out we need to add something and inform the customer of the extra cost during the installation, much better to know from the start.

The final figure can be quite high as you can imagine and sometimes the ideal system for our customer may be too much to afford all at once. So now there are two choices, either compromise the desired performance and settle for a simpler system or split the ideal installation into manageable stages. We would almost always advocate the latter. It might take a little longer to achieve the final result but the when you do it will be exactly what you want.

So how do we split it up?

To a certain extent this will depend on the system and the car but what we want to aim for is a huge leap in performance with every stage. We like to see a big smile after every upgrade!

Let’s take a recent customer who has just had the last piece of his design installed. His car is a 1 series BMW which came with the basic audio system installed. He is a younger customer who likes a wide range of music but particularly enjoys dance music and to play it at a fair volume. He is critical in his tastes and really appreciates good sound. When he first came to us nearly a year ago he had just got the car and hated the sound system but wanted to retain the looks of the dash. After the initial discussions we recommended the following upgrades; Audison Bit 10 processor, Hertz HDP5 amplifier, Rainbow BMW specific speakers and Audison slimline sub enclosure. Total installed cost was a little over £2000.

Unfortunately the owner was not in a position to upgrade the whole car audio system in one go so we suggested the split route. The obvious first step would be the speakers and even here we can break it down into two separate parts, the doors and the under seat bass speakers. We suggested the doors should be first which was what he did which improved the front sound stage immensely.

As I recall it was only a month or two before he came back to have the under seat bass speakers replaced as he could hear that they were letting the sound down. Once again the improvement was marked with tighter bass response.

So what next?

Well the customer really wanted more bass and since that would need the amplifier we recommended that he add the sub and amp at the same time, quite a large investment. The additional benefit though was that the amplifier would be driving the speakers as well as the sub so there would be a massive improvement for all the sound. This must have been about 8 months ago so the initial expense of the car had been forgotten and our customer went ahead. You should have seen the smile on his face when he turned it on for the first time! The sound had been completely transformed now that it wasn’t dependant on the BMW head unit.

Added Extras:

For many people this would be enough but we knew it could be even better so last week we fitted the last part of the plan, the Audison Bit 10. This required tuning and we could really set this up properly as all the speakers were well run in. Adding the processor and tuning really lifted the sound stage and brought the bass response right into the cabin by careful use of the time alignment function. Again there was a huge smile from the customer, he could hardly believe it was the same equipment the change was so pronounced.

So it took nearly a year to achieve but by sticking to the original plan this BMW sounds absolutely amazing. It would be so easy to compromise the performance by getting cheaper equipment installed all in one go but with a little patience you can have the car audio system of your dreams.

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the audio in your car please call me on 01625 432707 or better still pop into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield. I hope to see you soon.

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.

Latest Products from Bose.

Sorry to bring up the ‘C’ word but that time of year is fast approaching. Of course, if you’re anything like me then gift shopping might not start until December 24th but for the better organised of you, it is worth a look at the Bose range of audio systems now.

There some new additions to the range this season and they always seem to fly off the shelves so getting in early will ensure you are not disappointed.

The first of the new products is the super cute Soundlink Micro Bluetooth speaker.


Just released, the Micro is part of the Colour range and this one is truly rugged. The integral flexible strap means it can be attached to just about anything and the weatherproof design means not having to worry about getting it wet. With built-in Siri and Google assist compatibility you can control your music without picking up your phone and of course for taking calls on the go the Bose Soundlink Micro has speakerphone capability.

Like all Bose sound systems, this one sounds fantastic and is designed to give a rich, powerful performance even when outside while still delivering impressive battery life. This is all the more impressive when you consider the price of only £99.99. Available in black, red and blue we carry stocks of all three but hurry, I’m sure these are going to be extremely popular.

The original Soundlink colour was incredibly successful because of its performance, rugged build and long battery life, the Mk2 version takes all of that and improves upon it. Now with Siri and Google assist compatibility control is even easier while the voice prompts mean pairing and setting up is a breeze. Control can be further enhanced with the Bose Connect app for Apple and Android devices.

All this for £129.99 makes the Bose Soundlink Colour incredibly good value for money.

Soundlink Revolve & Revolve Plus:

The original Bose Soundlink Mini redefined how good a Bluetooth speaker could be and was the biggest selling portable Bluetooth device for a long time. That unit has now been retired and has been replaced with the Soundlink Revolve and Revolve Plus.

The Mini was unbeatable indoors but a little less so outside so the engineers at Bose set out to improve this. The result was a completely new design and the most striking feature is the full 360 degree sound delivery. This technology has come straight from the top of the range Bose Lifestyle system where a fully immersive surround sound performance was required.

 

 

Bose

By placing the driver vertically there is no directionality to the sound meaning everyone around the unit gets the full experience. I can vouch for this personally as my Revolve + in the garden is astonishingly good.

Battery life is equally impressive with up to 12 hours available from a single charge. Again they are rugged with shower resistance and of course full compatibility with Siri and Google Now. Control convenience is further enhanced with voice prompts from the unit and compatibility with the Bose Connect app.

The Revolve comes in at £199.99 while the Revolve+ is under £300 at only £279.99. Both are available in silver or black.

 

That concludes the Bose Soundlink line up, all of them are mightily impressive but which one is right for you? If you would like to know more then please call us on 01625 432707 or call in for a demonstration at our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield and remember we will always try to match any genuine price.

 

Volkswagen Passat Car Audio Upgrade.

A modern car typically comes with a fully integrated multi-function entertainment system. This will usually provide satellite navigation, full Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming along with a comprehensive vehicle information display. It is quite unlikely that you would want to change this system as it provides all the functionality and is aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, the sound reproduction from these units and installed speakers can range from mediocre to downright poor, so what do you do to improve it?

A perfect example of how we set about improving a car audio system is demonstrated by this Volkswagen Passat Alltrack we had in recently. The owner was extremely happy with the car, his job meant he spent a lot of time commuting and as he lived off the beaten track the 4 wheel drive was essential. However, he was less enthusiastic about the fitted audio but since he had been to us with several cars in the past he knew we could help.

As a returning customer I already knew his musical tastes, I also knew about his hearing. He loved music in all its forms from hard rock to opera; country to jazz; hip-hop to soul and everything in between, unfortunately, his ex-military background had left him with a reasonably severe high-frequency hearing loss from weapons fire. I had to design a system that was capable of delivering a powerful performance whatever the demand and make sure that it could be tuned to compensate for his particular needs.

The design process;

The first consideration has to be the customer and since I knew that this car would need careful tuning there would have to be a digital signal processor. The standard audio in the Passat is only a simple 4 channel system and I knew we would be installing a subwoofer so again a signal processor could be used to develop the subchannel. My choice would be the Audison Bit 10.

This versatile device is able to connect to any non-digital car audio head unit. With up to six input channels, five output channels and a very powerful DSP suite on board it is the perfect solution for a simple system.

The software allows me to create a map of the system installation and most importantly tune every single speaker to perfectly balance the sound. Then I can start to add the specific requirements for the individual customer’s requirements.

Of course, before we get to the tuning stage we have to choose the amplifier and speakers. Again knowing my customer helped as I knew what I would have to get from the speakers. His particular requirements meant that I would need a tweeter that could deliver a higher than normal performance without getting harsh or shrill and I knew that he would like to play the whole system loud. Initially, I thought about the Audison Voce K6 which is one of my favourites. This is a fantastic speaker set and is incredibly smooth however I felt the tweeter may not quite suit the way I would need to set this system up. I also wanted a door speaker that would be happy with an extended low-frequency response to again suit my customer’s requirements.

I finally settled on the Hertz Mille Pro MPK165 for the front doors.

This speaker set was ideal; the main driver has a large over roll allowing a great excursion while the sensitivity ensures that no detail is lost in the midrange. The tweeter is a gem that loves to deliver and has no problems at higher power levels. Of course, I treated the door to a generous coating of sound deadening to further improve the acoustics. We also make sure that there can be no moisture ingress by sealing the custom collars and speaker basket with silicone.

While the Passat has a large load area the owner did not want too much space taken up as it was a working vehicle. Of course, we still needed to deliver an exciting bass performance and we quickly decided on the Audison APBX 8.

This compact unit is an absolute powerhouse delivering tight and punchy bass at up to 500W. This can be seen from the installation photograph it really is discreet.

Now that the processor and speakers had been decided upon we just needed to choose the amplification. Fortunately, there is a good space under the boot floor in front of the spare wheel; we opted for the JL Audio RD 900/5.

This five-channel amplifier can provide ample power for the whole system; and also allows for a cabin mounted bass control which is essential as the VW head unit has no sub control.

How did it sound?

Initially, I tuned the system to my standard reference for the vehicle. Although the speakers would need a good few hours to run in the initial performance was excellent. My reference Michael Jackson CD sounded fantastic with punchy bass and very clear mid and top. Next, I started to add the modifications required for my customer. I enhanced the power above 3 kHz to compensate for his hearing loss and extended the low frequency in the main drivers to deliver the extra punch he preferred. Because of the extra high frequency, I carefully adjusted the time correction so that it didn’t all appear to be coming from the driver’s side tweeter.

The final sound still needs to be adjusted to taste once the speakers have run in but the initial reaction of the owner was one of delight. It would probably sound over-bright to must people but it worked beautifully for this customer. That’s the beauty of adding a sound processor in that we can tune it to precisely your exact tastes and requirements.

We love to get this right and it gives us great satisfaction to see that big smile from our customers when they hear it for the first time. If you would like to know more about how or have any questions please feel free to give us a call on 01625 432707. Better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat.

We hope to hear from you soon.

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