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.

car audio speaker music

Simple Car Audio Upgrades

It is quite common for me to be asked how we keep busy. The next comment is usually that surely all modern cars have a great audio system. Well, the short answer is no they don’t but in truth, they are adequate for a lot of drivers because they have never experienced a great in-car audio system. Car manufacturers know this and exploit what we perceive to be good audio by over compensating one aspect of the sound to create an initial impression of quality. Porsche are a prime example with audio that is way too bass biased, initially impressive but very wearing after extended listening. The new Audi systems seem to be mid-range biased and now lack a real usable bass response and that is even worse for the B&O equipped cars.

In my opinion, very few factory standard audio systems offer an acceptable performance and almost all the so called upgrade options are a complete waste of money. One piece of advice I would offer is to never tick the audio upgrade option when buying a new car. Save your money, bring the car here and let me upgrade it properly. My system will be far better, guaranteed and may even be less expensive.

If you follow the Car and Home Stereo Facebook feed then you will have seen the picture of the Peugeot 208 speaker I posted but I must share it here also;

Peugeot 208 speaker

This is what Peugeot feel is acceptable; I think it is one of the worst things I have heard. The only reason this sounds reasonable is that the audio system keeps control of the bass so that you cannot push it too hard leaving you with a weak sounding system.

The speaker next to it is the Audison Prima APX6.5 which fits perfectly and with the addition of a generous amount of Skinz sound deadening treatment inside the door the immediate improvement is amazing.

Skinz around speaker mount

We also apply Skinz around the speaker mount to absorb any resonance in the mounting panel.

As mentioned, this simple speaker upgrade really improves the sound but the power available from the factory audio is a bit feeble. To overcome this we recommend an amplifier to boost the power and improve the dynamic range, an ideal solution is the new Hertz DPower 4. This compact amplifier is easy to tuck away and is fully D class which reduces the amount of waste heat while maximising power.

Hertz DPower 4.

As a four channel amp, this could be configured to just drive the front speakers but we wanted a better bass response and that meant adding a subwoofer. Therefore the amplifier was configured for three channel operation with 60W going to each speaker and the bridged 150W output being sent to the ever popular JL Audio CP108 microsub in the boot.JL Audio CP108 microsub

This sub was chosen as a perfect combination of compact size and high performance. The Peugeot 208 boot is not huge and we did not want to take it over. The client wanted deep, powerful bass that would complement his music choice. So the CP108 was the perfect choice with its 8w3 speaker and specially designed slot ported, high output enclosure this would tuck neatly to one side of the boot leaving nearly all the load space.

This was shaping up to be a great sounding install but there was one more sticking point; the factory head unit. If you know the 208 then you will know that like many new cars today there is no CD player and a touchscreen infotainment display is your interface to both the car systems and the audio. Changing this is not an option but as previously mentioned it has some undesirable characteristics as far as the audio is concerned. The lack of CD player is not unusual but this means we are reliant on either BlueTooth streaming, USB or iPod source none of which are the best quality. If we just fed this signal directly to the amplifier then it would be improved yes but not to the standard to which the equipment is capable.

There are two products that we considered for this installation; the JL Audio FiX82 and the Audison Bit 10. The JL Audio FiX82 is a brilliant device that connects to the factory head unit and corrects all the anomalous EQ and time correction issues fully automatically. It will provide a clean response from just about any head unit out there so is an obvious choice for almost every installation that uses the original head unit.

However, for this installation, we opted for the Audison Bit 10 as we wanted the capacity to manually tune the system. While both products offer tuning capability via a laptop the Bit 10 has a deeper level of control and we felt that this would benefit our client.Audison Bit 10 compact unit

This compact unit was able to disappear under the driver’s seat with the amplifier so the only visible part of this installation was the subwoofer in the boot. As this was his first car there was a chance he would not keep it too long so we made sure that everything could be removed and the original system reinstated without any marks.

The audio performance from this was excellent and the big smile from the owner said it all. Quite honestly this simple system would easily outperform anything Audi or BMW could offer whether it standard, Bose or Harman Kardon.

But what is the cost you ask?

Well the installation took a full day as we made custom installation parts, sound deadened the doors and of course carefully tuned it to our client’s personal tastes. The total was still under £1500. That’s much less than most factory audio upgrade options and ours sounded so much better.

If you would like to know more about how we could improve your car audio please feel free to call in at the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, Cheshire or call me for a chat on 01625 432707.

hertz speaker subwoofer advert car and home stereo macclesfield

Hertz Speakers

If you know our installer Tim at Car and Home Stereo you will know he is passionate about sound. His love of music extends beyond the shop into regular playing with his band and it is this passion that is reflected in everything we do as we strive to get the best possible sound for you. We are constantly looking for and testing the latest equipment available to help achieve that result.

We stock high-end equipment from JL Audio, MTX, Audison, Rainbow, Eton and many others but today I would like to highlight one of my favourites, Hertz Car Audio.

Hertz car audio is part of the Italian Elettromedia group, a company dedicated to producing the best possible audio systems. From the outset the Hertz brand has stood for excellent quality at an affordable price. Their bright orange packaging has become synonymous with performance and value for money. It is no coincidence that we chose Hertz speakers and subwoofers for our Land Rover Discovery demonstrator. The Hertz Mille Legend components fitted in the front doors never fail to impress.

Speakers:

The Hertz car audio speaker range has something for everyone. Sometimes we just need to replace a failing set of factory fitted speakers or provide an inexpensive upgrade to improve the sound. The perfect solution here is the Hertz Deici range. There is a perfect fit speaker for any car in this series and with prices starting at only £59.99 per pair they won’t break the bank. In reality, these sound really good and outperform anything else I can think of at this price point. As well as the speakers there are subs and ready-made enclosures in the Deici range and they all perform brilliantly.

Hertz DBA 200.3 self contained speaker uni

For example, the Hertz DBA 200.3 is a self-contained twin 8-inch sub with a 140W amplifier. The compact size means it will fit in any car boot and it is designed to work with any car radio head unit meaning adding bass is simple.

If you were looking for more performance I would immediately recommend the Mille Pro range. These speakers have it all; precision, power and loads of energy. The 6.5 inch mid and tweeter sets start at under £300 and represent amazing value for money.

mille pro 6.5 inch mid and tweeter

As you can see the build quality is astonishing. The main driver boasts a large over rolled hinge to allow an extended excursion; this means much punchier bass performance while the relatively large tweeter has a respectfully low Fs allowing a seamless blend with the mid. In fact, this tweeter shares a lot of technology with the higher spec. Legend tweeter which is incredible at this price.

Legendary:

But of course, if you want the best then that means installing the Mille Legend 1650.3.

This is what I listen to every day and every day they amaze me with new detail. I love this tweeter and in fact the whole set up is seamless with a truly accurate frequency response over the entire audio spectrum. With a good amplifier essential to extract the best from these speakers you will be rewarded with a smooth enveloping sound that is easy to listen to with no fatigue.

Of course, there are matching subwoofers and all I can say is please come down to the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield to audition the 8 inch Mille sub in our Discovery, you will not believe it is so small when you hear it!

As if the above were not enough Hertz have other speaker lines to fill specific niches. There will be a full range of marine grade speakers soon which to be fair we will probably not stock, Car and Home Stereo not being near the sea! However, a range we do supply is the awesome SPL Show range, specifically designed for the competition scene these are a no compromise power product where loud is everything.

So as you can see there is something for everyone within the Hertz car audio speaker range and if you are thinking of an upgrade then please call us so that we can match the right system to you.

Special Offer.

In fact, we have put together a superb package for a limited time which would grace any car.

car and home stereo special offer soundsystem

The system comprises the fabulous Hertz MPK 165P.3 component speakers, the brand new Hertz DPower 4 amplifier and the Audison ultra compact APBX 8R sub enclosure. Normally this system would be £810 but we have a limited number of kits for only £600! An amazing saving for such a high-end system and of course we can fit it for you if you wish. Don’t forget that all this comes with a three-year warranty if we install it.

We hope to hear from you soon.

apple play car setup pixabay

Apple Car Play

With the spectacular rise of the Smartphone, integration into the car has always been an obvious way forward. Once they started holding music and had access to the web the need to carry bulky CDs around was over. One small hand held device could provide all your music as well as communication needs.

Over time storage capacities have dramatically increased and access to streaming services like Spotify have put the world’s music at our fingertips. Most now have navigation apps that are updated in real time making them accurate and up to date. All this makes the smartphone an ideal addition to the vehicle environment; the trick is how to integrate it safely.

At Car and Home Stereo, we have been installing hands-free Bluetooth telephone kits for many years. A popular choice is still the Parrot CK3100. This simple device allows for hands-free telephone calls and the neat screen lets you see who is calling and also to allow access to your contacts list.

I can’t begin to imagine how many of these we have fitted over the years! With the new penalties for picking up a mobile phone in a car, this should be a minimum requirement if you do not already have Bluetooth capability.

Another highly desirable facility in the car is satellite navigation and smartphones are usually equipped with this capability. There are many companies supplying brackets and cradles for smartphones that can stick to the windscreen or attach to the dash. These are quite legal as long as they do not obstruct the driver’s vision, I have seen them stuck to the middle of the windscreen before now and that is a definite no-no!

installation of sat nav with smartphone car home and stereo macclesfield

This is a better installation but it does mean the screen is quite low.

Of course, all these solutions require something attached to the dash and associated wires to connect. It can get quite untidy and may still mean you have to operate some functions from your ‘phone. A much better solution would be if your car audio system could perform all the functions you need without the need for multiple external devices. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to do this over the years all with good intentions but ultimately let down by poor software and terrible compatibility issues. Unfortunately, open source development means systems cannot be tested for all configurations and operational incompatibilities are inevitable.

Step up Apple Car Play. Only available for iPhone 5 and above this system is the best system we have seen so far.

apple play iphone 5 car setup

I don’t want to get into the iPhone versus Android debate, I know that each system has its pros and cons but for vehicle integration Apple Car play is definitely the most stable. This is simply because Apple have developed it specifically for one operating system and it can be thoroughly tested before release, it may not be perfect but it works every time without the need for the user to download and install drivers and patches.

So what does it do?

Put simply, it puts all of the relevant iPhone apps on your new car radio touch screen and works exactly like your ‘phone so you already know how to use it. There are several units available that offer Apple Car Play but let’s look at one of my favourites the Pioneer SPH DA120.

Even without an iPhone connected the DA120 is a powerful machine with full Bluetooth streaming and hands-free, dual USB, AUX, AM/FM tuner, HDMI and multiple connections for amplifiers, reverse camera and other AV devices. The 6.2-inch capacitive touchscreen is a joy to use and of course, the quality of sound from this unit is superb as you would expect from Pioneer.

However, the full power of the DA120 is unleashed as soon as you connect your iPhone and Car Play is launched. Immediately the screen changes to mimic the ‘phone screen and displays the relevant icons and this is the beauty of Car Play, you already know how to use it. Tapping the phone icon launches SIRI and you can speak the name of whoever you wish to call. Alternatively, all your ‘phone contacts are available exactly as stored. Incoming messages are read out to you and you can dictate a reply or create a new message from the messages icon. The quality of the voice calling using the supplied external mic is extremely clear even in convertible cars.

The music icon, of course, launches your media player and if you subscribe to Spotify then that icon would be available as well. Although the DA120 has an FM/AM tuner, if you want to use internet radio then one of the radio player apps like Tune In Radio can be enabled.

The icing on the cake:

So far so good but the icing on the cake is the navigation icon. This launches Apple Maps and turns your unit into a full satellite navigation system. You may have noticed from the picture of the rear of the SPH DA120 that it is equipped with a GPS aerial. This means it is not reliant on the ‘phone’s receiver and hence allows for more accurate positioning. Since Apple Maps traffic information is updated in real time getting stuck in jams could be avoided.

All of this can be accessed using SIRI, so with just a touch of a button you can access your contacts, dictate messages, request music or get directions. This makes a complex system very easy and safe to use.

This system can be fitted to any car that permits a double din fitting and we have all the necessary installation kits to allow a neat and seamless integration to your dashboard. If your car has controls on the steering wheel for volume and other functions we can ensure that these remain active, we will also ensure that any changes we make can be reversed if the car is sold to return it to standard.

If you would like to know more about Apple Car Play or any other aspect of improving your existing car audio system please give us a call on 01625 432707 or better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street, Macclesfield, Cheshire we would love to see you.

pixabay campervan desert drive

Campervans: Upgrades and Audio Systems

Day vans, campervans, motorhomes; whatever you call them, they have never been so popular. Two of the most familiar conversions are the Fiat Ducato / Peugeot Boxer / Citroen Relay and the evergreen VW Transporter. Whatever you drive, at Car and Home Stereo we have a vast range of products to improve your enjoyment when out and about.

Keeping it quiet:

If we can get to the vehicle before it is converted we recommend a comprehensive sound deadening treatment. This involves using a combination of Dynamat Xtreme and Dynaliner foam sheet to remove vibration, dramatically reduce road noise and to thermally insulate the vehicle.

dynamat car sound system

campervan interior sound system car and home stereo macclesfield

Dynamat is a thin and light sheet that is applied to the metal panels and prevents any vibration from being transmitted. This means an enormous reduction in road noise. It is applied to floor, sides, doors, and roof for optimum effect.  Dynaliner sheets are then applied over the Dynamat in varying thicknesses to create a thermal and acoustic barrier.

dynamat sound insulation installation car and home stereo macclesfield

This insulation retains heat and again reduces external noise even further. When done properly the van will be significantly quieter and warmer. If the van has already been converted then it is still advisable to treat any panels that can be accessed as any amount will be beneficial. The Dynamat advantage is that as the patented market leader it is lighter and more efficient than any other product meaning you can use less.

Finding your way:

The joys of the open road are many and the ability to just start up and go are what make camper vans so appealing but really knowing where you are going and how to get there can definitely reduce the stress. Of course, I’m talking about navigation and we have a wide range of solutions available to be fitted. One of my favourites is made by Pioneer; whilst there are many great units out there I think the Pioneer AVIC F980DAB-C camper version is one of the best.

sat nav pioneer car and home stereo macclesfield

The feature list for this unit is extremely impressive as it boasts CD, DVD, FM/AM/DAB tuner, Bluetooth, Apple Car Play, dual USB, reverse camera input and of course class leading satellite navigation. All this performance, however, is not complex to use and that is one of the main reasons for its success. Pioneer have put a lot of effort into keeping the user interface simple meaning you can keep your eyes on the road, navigation instructions are clear and given in plenty of time for a safer drive. As this is the camper version the software is specifically designed for larger vehicles to ensure a safe route is calculated. It also contains a massive ten million points of interest database for the whole of the European continent to make sure you are completely informed.

Alpine:

Another fantastic unit is by Alpine and offers a massive 8-inch touchscreen. This unit is custom designed for the VW T5 / T6 and is quite simply stunning.

alpine unit 8 inch touch screen campervan T5 T6 car and home stereo macclesfield

With a feature list as long as your arm this unit is unbeatable and as it has been designed from the ground up for the VW it blends seamlessly with all the vehicle systems.

To get the best out of these sophisticated systems it is imperative that they are correctly fitted. At Car and Home Stereo we have been installing audio systems in Cheshire for over 40 years and in fact were one of the first to install navigation in the UK. We have vast experience with these products and of course have all the ancillary parts to ensure a seamless fit in your dashboard.

Reverse with confidence:

One of the downsides of a camper or in fact any larger vehicle is the rear view. It can range from difficult to impossible to see backwards. Many newer vehicles are fitted with reverse sensors and that is certainly something we can fit your camper but there is no substitute to actually seeing what is there. We would always recommend a reverse camera. If you do not have a screen already we can install one discreetly and reversing will no longer be a chore. If you use the vehicle to tow then the camera can be angled to view the tow bar; making hitching up so much easier.

reverse camera vehicle campervan tow bar car and home stereo macclesfield

Using a combination of mirrors, camera and sensors reversing into the tightest of spots will be a breeze.

Sounds fantastic:

Your camper is a true “home from home” but as they are often based on commercial vans, unfortunately, the audio performance can leave a lot to be desired. As one of the leading audio installers in the UK, we are ideally placed to make this better for you. In fact, this is an area where we excel as our experience with leisure vehicles is extremely broad.

If you already have an upgraded head unit or are happy with the one you have then we would recommend a speaker upgrade for the front doors and while we’re at it why not add some speakers to the rear of the vehicle? One of our favourites is by Italian manufacturer Audison. The Voce K6 is a component set for the doors or dash and offers a true HiFi performance when correctly installed.

We also have custom designed subwoofer enclosures that can be completely hidden meaning you can have a full sound without losing any useful space.  We often use the JL Audio 6w3 subwoofer as its compact size and stunning performance make it ideal when space is at a premium.

JL audio subwoofer car sound system car and home stereo macclesfield

speaker box car sound system installation campervan car and home stereo macclesfield

Here’s one we built into the rear of a Land Rover Defender showing how small the speaker box can be while still producing a tremendous bass performance.

Don’t wait:

With summer almost upon us, it’s definitely time to get these jobs done. Whether you want a complete upgrade to your leisure vehicle audio or maybe just want a bit better sound we can help. We are the car audio experts in Cheshire and are here to help. If you are local to Macclesfield please call into our shop on Sunderland Street or simply give us a call on 01625 432707 our advice is free. If you do choose to upgrade we can offer up to a three-year warranty on products as well as a lifetime warranty on all installation for peace of mind, heck we’ll even throw in a cup of coffee!

 

Summer Is Here!

Summer is here (at least for the next few days). So what could be better than driving your convertible with the roof down at last? So good to feel the wind in your hair, not so good if you want to listen to your music. What used to sound great with the roof up is now hollow sounding with a weak bass response and turning the bass up just makes everything muddy sounding. This phenomenon also occurs with the windows wound down on a conventional car to a slightly lesser extent. So what’s going on and how can we fix it?

As we know sound waves are just compression ripples in the air, in a car these waves are generated by the speakers and when the air is still and contained in a small cabin we do not need much energy to get a decent sound level. However, if we create large holes in the structure by opening the windows or taking the roof off we have opened the speakers up to the outside world. Suddenly your small speakers are trying to fill the world with sound; on top of that, they have to compete with more road and wind noise as well as all the air turbulence.

mini cooper diagram showing sound contained inside the car mini cooper diagram showing sound lost to the outside world

It would be OK if all frequencies were affected evenly and all that was needed was more power but unfortunately, this is not the case. Without getting into the technical reasons what we find is that the higher frequencies tend to be less affected but the mid-range clarity is lost and the bass is severely reduced. Try it for yourself, listen to a piece of music you know well while driving and then open the windows. It is obvious from the pictures above that far less sound is going to reach your ears.

What we need is to be able to adjust the sound to compensate for the changes brought about by opening the car. Certainly we need more power by adding an amplifier but more importantly, we need to be able to adjust the sound for the different configurations of the car so that it always sounds the same.

To achieve this we have a range of digital signal processors at Car and Home Stereo that we can configure and program to solve the problem. The two leading units are the JL Audio TwK88 and the Audison Bit family of processor/amplifiers. These powerful processors can be programmed to allow precise tuning of the vehicle acoustics and most importantly have multiple pre-set capabilities which allow the user to switch between different tunings for different conditions.

So how do we do it?

The process requires taking acoustic measurements with the vehicle roof up and down. The same can be done for a non-convertible car with windows closed and open.  We use a combination of spectrum analysers and FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) measurements to map the acoustic signature of the vehicle interior. By playing a test signal (usually pink noise) we can see what the placement of the speakers and vehicle interior is doing to the sound and of course, we can do the same with the car open.

setting up car stereo system

Once we have the measurements we can start to tune the system. We start the process by adjusting time delays and phase controls to see if there are any cancellations being brought about by speaker positioning, we will also adjust speaker crossover points for the same reason. We do this first because no amount of EQ tuning would compensate for a phase issue and in fact, would probably make the sound worse. It also means less work for the processor which will ultimately give me more control. The goal is a clean, flat response to the test signal which we can use as a starting point for the real world tuning for the customer.

What’s Next?

Once we have the desired response for the car in the closed condition we look at the measurements for the converted configuration. The difference in the original measurements can now be compensated for by re-tuning the system and saving to a second pre-set. Once again we start with phase adjustments as with the top off there will be far less reflected sound and the speaker phase conditions will be different.

The result is the same audio performance for both configurations of the vehicle and at the touch of a button, you can switch between the two presets meaning great sound regardless of hood position.

audison controller in mercedes ashtray

We mounted the Audison controller for this Mercedes in the ash tray making it quick and easy to change presets but invisible when the cover was closed.

audison controller in mercedes ashtray closed

This tuning process is not simple and many different factors have to be considered as the adjustments are made. It also requires accurate and quite sophisticated measurement tools and at Car and Home Stereo we have invested in these to ensure we can achieve the best possible performance for our customers. We can also use these tools to identify acoustic problems in audio systems and we are more than happy to run a diagnostic on your car to help you choose the right way forward to better sound.

If you would like to take advantage of our test equipment or wish to discuss any aspect of tuning please feel free to call me on 01625 432707 or even better call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat and a listen to our demonstrator.

Life In The Loud Lane

At Car and Home Stereo we are dedicated to getting the best possible sound in your car. We will carefully match your needs to the best equipment and electronics to achieve that goal. We have access to a vast range of products so that we can tailor a system that is perfectly suited to you and your car. Of course what everyone wants is different and two extremes were both in the workshop at the same time recently.

If you have read the Lotus Evora blog you will know that the emphasis was on a stealthy install with the aim to produce a highly detailed soundstage. This was achieved with a full Audison system using the amazing AP8.9 Bit amplifier, Voce speakers and Prima sub, a simple system boasting 520W, more than enough power for the small cabin of the Evora. The final tuned sound of this car was fantastic. The music was surrounding with detail and punch where it needed it.

In the adjacent workshop bay at the same time was a Vauxhall Astra van and the brief for this one was very different. This had to sound good but most importantly it needed the ability to crush you with bass! Being a van we had plenty of space to work with but on the down side all that metal was a prime candidate for epic vibration. Power supply was always going to be an issue from the standard battery and of course with the power we were going to need, the standard wiring would not be adequate.

How we did it:

The first job would be to strip the vehicle for acoustic treatment. Every panel had to be coated to make sure all the enormous energy of the subs was retained inside. There’s no point in installing a 3000W system if 1000W gets out, it might sound good to passers-by but if you’ve paid for all that power, you want to hear it all. Once treated, tapping on any metal panel sounded like tapping on wood. There was no resonance and as a bonus road noise was reduced to almost nothing. The doors were treated with more Dynamat Xtreme to improve the acoustic response of the front speakers and again reduce road noise.

What next?:

The power supply was upgraded with two auxiliary Optima yellow top, deep cycle batteries with a split charge system. Even though the MTX bass amps are ‘D’ class they still draw a significant current and it was important to make sure this would not drain the vehicle battery. This kind of power has to be made safe and that means fuses on each battery and on each supply to the amplifiers, there may only be 12 Volts but the current capacity on the Optima batteries is more than enough to melt any cable and incorrect fusing could cause a fire if short circuited.

Once the power supply was installed we could mount the amps on the forward bulkhead. As this was destined for the show scene we made sure that everything was as neat as could be.

The eagle eyed of you will spot the cut outs for the MTX 6×9 speakers below the amps. This is an unconventional position for speakers as they are behind the seats but they will add a much needed boost to the low mid-range to complement the component speakers in the doors.

The three main amps are MTX RT1000.1Ds, These develop 1000W each at 2 Ohms which is why they need 50mm sq. power cable! The rest of the speakers are powered by a JL Audio XD400/4 and everything is kept under control by the Audison Bit 10. The front speakers were mounted in the standard location on custom collars and the tweeters were mounted into custom ‘A’ pillar pods.

This improved the staging for the front and solved the problem of the size of the tweeter being too large for the factory location.

So what about the subs I hear you cry!

Well this had to be the show stopper so we knew we would have to build something a bit special. The MTX TX612 is a beast of a sub.

With its awesome power handling capability we knew we could really push this speaker. It has incredible excursion and that red, double stitched hinge is not just for show. We wanted to get the most from this driver so we opted for an optimised slot ported enclosure, one for each sub. As you can imagine there is a significant amount of weight here so we also had to make sure that there was no possibility that any of this structure could move. Safety is always prominent in our minds when designing any system.

This is the finished enclosure although there will be trimmed wheel arch boxes either side for storage.

The auxiliary batteries and fuses are located behind the enclosure and are accessible by removing the top trim panel. There will be a voltage display mounted in the right hand arch box so battery condition can be monitored. The main fuse and Stinger 500A peak split charge relay are mounted in the bonnet with the vehicle battery.

Did we fulfil our brief?

And then some! With the tailgate open the bass completely dominates and you can feel the sound waves pushing your chest. If you dare to put your head inside the boot you’re immediately disorientated by the sound pressure level. When sat in the front you can hear the rest of the music as well and now that awesome bass complements rather than overpowers. Of course there is a level control for the bass but the temptation is to turn it up for the biggest smiles!

At Car and Home Stereo we know that this sort of system is not for everyone and we always ensure you get exactly what you need so regardless of what vehicle please give us a call and we can start your journey to a better sound.

 

A, AB, D or All Three? Pick Your Amp!

Amplifiers, such a range but which is right for you? I’d like to discuss amplifier types and applications.

As a Four Master, Car and Home Stereo are recognised as one of the leading car audio installers in the country. Our knowledge and experience mean that we are ideally placed to choose the right equipment and install it to the highest standard.  We offer a no pressure approach and are happy to offer advice on choosing the right equipment; just recently I had a great conversation over Facebook with an enthusiast in Australia over the benefits of the magnificent Rainbow Profi speakers.

Commonly I am asked “how many Watts is it?” but there is so much more to an amplifier than that. In reality, the Watts figure is often not the most useful specification when choosing between amplifiers. True it gives a simple indication of power but all too often that figure is heavily massaged to look higher. I have tested some so-called 3000W amplifiers to discover that they only made 200W at the terminals into a speaker load. Still an impressive output but certainly not 3000W as claimed.

But I digress; we are looking today at amplifier types and their uses. There are three types of amplifiers in main use today they are classed as A, AB and D. Although they all have the same purpose there are some fundamental differences between them that make them suit different applications.

At the heart of an amplifier are the power transistors, these are responsible for taking a small signal and making it larger, the classification describes how the transistors are used. Of course, there is a massive range of qualities and performance variations related to each type but we will stick to classes.

Class A, a typical sound wave.

As we know, Sound is an oscillating wave. This wave has a positive and a negative component but is symmetrical about the ‘t’ axis. So all we need is one big transistor that can amplify the whole signal to whatever power we want right? Well yes and this is the ideal solution for sonic accuracy; the high output signal is an exact copy of the small input signal. The best amplifiers I have ever heard have all been A class with a sound that is open, transparent and simply a joy to listen to.

The magnificent Audison Thesis Venti

However, all this purity comes at a price; huge power consumption. Those massive transistors are switched on all the time regardless of whether there is a signal there or not or how loud it’s playing. This means heat and lots of it which has to be dissipated. So we need massive power supplies and large heatsinks which make the amplifier large and somewhat inefficient, typically around 20%. That’s why we need to use such large power cable!

So how do we get better efficiency? Class AB.

 

There are many considerations here but in very simplistic terms it is possible to use one transistor to amplify the top half of the wave and another matched transistor to amplify the bottom half. This means that smaller transistors can be used and they are only on for half the time leading to efficiencies of 50 to 70%. This means less heat and smaller power supplies which help to keep the cost down.

The JL Audio JX360, a mainstay of many audio systems

There are some drawbacks to class AB, principally of which is crossover distortion.

As a matched pair of transistors has to amplify the whole wave it is essential that they turn off and on at exactly the right moment (the class B part). Imagine two people writing the letter S where one person only writes one-half and the other person completes it, there is bound to be a little error. The same is true in the amplifier leading to a very slight distortion of the output wave but in truth, modern design can almost eliminate this meaning we can have a really great sounding amp that is pretty efficient. This has meant that AB design has dominated the market for decades.

The highest efficiency is class D.
Let’s get something straight, D does not stand for digital. Class D is just another design type, a really clever one. This design uses pulse width modulation to generate the amplified output which involves switching the output transistors on and off at a very high rate typically around 300 kHz. This High switching frequency means any noise is well above our audible range and the PWM leads to astonishing efficiencies of around 95% or higher. So, at last, we have a very high power, high quality and very efficient amplifier. It is fair to say that most mainstream car amplifiers today are D class as they are smaller, lighter and generate less heat than their A or AB counterparts.

The JL Audio XD400.4, small but powerful

As with almost everything, there has to be a downside and with D class their Achilles heel is radio interference. The switching frequency mentioned might not be audible but it can do a fine job of broadcasting in the FM radio range. This can lead to reduced radio reception at certain frequencies, of course, modern design does mitigate the problem but nevertheless, it can still be an issue.

So to sum up, Class A for the best possible sound (ideal for tweeters), Class AB for improved efficiency (ideal for midrange) and Class D for maximum power from the smallest chassis (ideal for subwoofers). Wouldn’t it be great if there was an amplifier with all three? Well, there is and it is called the 5.1K from Audison.

 

The superb and versatile Audison 5.1K

This is one of my all-time favourite amplifiers and it is the amp that powers my own personal system. The detail of the class A front stage is phenomenal while the AB class mid-stage offers an amazing amount of punch. The D class sub stage has enough power to rattle the windows but offers a fidelity that allows a seamless blend with the rest of the audio stage. This unit never fails to impress and is not too big to make it impossible to fit. It does get hot if driven hard but does not require special cooling if mounted sensibly.

 

If you would like to hear what the 5.1K can do then please feel free to call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield and I would be pleased to demonstrate it in our Discovery or on the demonstration stand in store. If you would like any more information on amplifiers in general please call me on 01625 432707.

 

 

Gain An Advantage: Amplifier

Anyone who has dabbled in car audio will have come across an amplifier at some point. They come in many shapes, sizes, and outputs but from the cheapest eBay special to eye wateringly expensive European exotica they all have one purpose, to get the musical signal to the speakers. The amplifier is, therefore, sat between the CD player and the speakers accepting the low-level input signal and converting it to a high power speaker output. I don’t want to get too bogged down in technicalities but let’s discuss the different types available and the controls we are given.

The JL Audio RD900.5 is a perfect example. This 5 channel, D class amplifier is capable of running a complete car audio system with front speakers, rear speakers, and a subwoofer. Alternatively, it could run a pair of front speakers bridged for enormous power plus a subwoofer once again. So, the RD900.5 is a very high performance, a flexible amplifier with a pretty small footprint making it easy to install.

The input stage is on the far left of this amplifier and comprises the usual red and white RCA connectors. There are 3 pairs that equate to the front, rear and sub input. Above these are three switches that allow for hi or low-level input, auto turn on mode and input channel selection (2, 4 or 6). Not all amplifiers are equipped with these selectors but these add to the RD900.5 flexibility.

The next stage is what interests us here, the frequency filter and the gain controls. The RD 900.5 is nonsymmetrical meaning that all channels are not identical. Channels 1 to 4 are for main speakers while 5 and 6 are for subwoofers. Therefore there is a variable high pass filter for 1 to 4 and a low pass filter for 5 and 6.

What is the filter for you ask? It is used to remove frequencies that are not required by the speaker on that channel. If we know we have a subwoofer fitted then it makes no sense to send the very low frequencies to the door speakers. Sub frequencies require a speaker cone to move a great distance and most door speakers simply cannot achieve this without distortion, I’m sure you have all heard a speaker trying too hard causing the classic ‘burping’ sound. In extreme cases, the speaker coil can be heard crashing into the back plate creating a clapping noise. Either situation is undesirable so to prevent these from occurring the frequency filter is applied to restrict the low tones.

The cutoff frequency is variable to suit different speakers and installations and setting it correctly requires the use of a signal generator. If you do not have access to one of these then it is possible to do roughly by ear, simply play music and slowly raise the filter frequency until there are no very low sounds in the speaker. The result will be a much clearer sound with no distortion. The mid definition should be greatly improved meaning vocals will cut through better. Typically the filter control is graduated and a very rough initial setting for a typical door speaker would be around 80Hz but you should experiment either side of this to find the best setting.

The subwoofer (low-pass) filter is the opposite of the high pass filter as it removes the higher frequencies sent to the sub. This ensures it only gets useful frequencies and we do not waste amplifier energy trying to make it play the higher tones.

Again the cutoff frequency is variable but what we want is to blend the sub with the main speakers so it is important to find a filter point that complements the high pass filter for the speakers.

So now we come to the input sensitivity, perhaps one of the most misunderstood controls. First and foremost it is not a volume control. Sure, it does increase the volume as you turn it but that does not mean it is increasing the amplifier power. Let’s consider what an amplifier is doing, it is taking a small signal and making it bigger. That signal is very dynamic meaning it is made up of loud and quiet parts, an extreme example could be Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Not something we listen to every day but it serves our example very well. If you are not familiar with the piece it starts very quietly and builds to a crescendo of orchestra and cannons. A more modern piece would be Warriors Dance by Prodigy but with fewer cannons!

The most important thing to consider when setting the sensitivity is that the amplifier only has a finite amount of power, let’s say 100Watts. That is represented by the upper dotted line on the graphs above. Our goal is to get the maximum, undistorted output.

If we look at a typical input sound wave it is obvious that there are loud and quiet parts. As we stated the amplifier is there to make this signal louder. Now let’s add the maximum amplifier power to the input signal graph.

As we increase the sensitivity we increase the size of the input signal at the input stage to the amplifier and remember there is a finite amount of power available. So what happens if we go too far?

As can be seen the nice smooth curves at the top and bottom of the loud spikes have been flattened which is clipped distortion. So yes we have a loud sound but it will be fuzzy and unpleasant. It will also damage speakers as the flat tops of the wave are a DC signal that will only induce heat into the voice coils. So if we take our example, the 1812 Overture, with the sensitivity set as above the quiet passages will sound good but the loud sections will be badly distorted and this will get worse the louder we play it.

For the best sound and maximum output, it is imperative that the loudest sounds are not clipped. Normally this would be set up with an oscilloscope but it can also be done with a voltmeter by measuring the output for maximum unclipped voltage as long as you know the true output power.

Fortunately, the JL Audio RD amplifiers have a brilliant feature, a clip indicator. This will light up if the signal is distorted by over ambitious sensitivity meaning setting up is made much easier.

At Car and Home Stereo, we want all our installations to give the best possible sound and that is why we carefully set up each and every one.

If you would like to have your system checked for any problems and to find solutions to these we would love to measure your car using our state of the art test equipment. These can highlight deficiencies in the sound stage that are difficult to locate just by listening.

As usual, I have run out of space so I’ll leave amplifier types and their best application for another time. But please don’t hesitate to call on 01625 432707 if you have any questions.