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

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

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

What to consider when buying your first car:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

How to get the price down:

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

Buying new or second hand:

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

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

Gap Insurance:

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

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

Used Cars:

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

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

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


Written by Aaron Cavanagh of Skyzack LTD.

Sub-woofer: bass in not much space.

There is no getting away from the fact that every good car audio system needs a sub-woofer for a full range sound. By their very nature a sub-woofer needs to be large to play the frequencies required and it will also need to be in some kind of enclosure. So we have a large speaker in a fair size box, where is it going to go? Well that’s usually the boot. While the show car installations look great they can be a little impractical.

Just about room for a packed lunch in this one we made but on the plus side it did sound amazing.

What we often do is try to take up as little space as possible.

That could be by using one of the new breed of sub-woofers that are designed to operate in very small enclosures like the Audison Prima series.

These fabulous subs are completely at home in small boxes and are extremely slim as well. That means that even the 10 inch driver can virtually disappear into the boot leaving the lion’s share of the space free.

Sometimes however placing an enclosure in the boot is just not practical.

There might be a need for the whole of the load space, there might be wet items to carry such as bikes and prams or it might simply just look out of place. For those occasions we can build bespoke enclosures using existing voids so as to impose on the load space to the smallest degree.

That usually means fabricating with a composite of fibre glass and wood. We can mould these to be a perfect fit to the vehicle and when done right can sound amazing. The steps to producing one of these are always the same.

First we need to determine that there will be enough space.

All sub-woofers work best in a specific volume of air and it is essential that we do not restrict the performance by under sizing the box. Once we know that there is enough space we need to create a mould of the vehicle trim.

When I am happy that we have enough space the appropriate piece of vehicle trim is carefully removed and masked; before the first layers of fibre glass are applied. Once set this can be trimmed to the correct dimensions and the MDF front applied. Further layers of fibre glass are applied to seal the face to the enclosure. This can then be trimmed in an appropriate finish.

As can be seen, I like to line the inside of the enclosure with Dynamat sound deadening. This dramatically reduces any possibility of resonance and increases structural integrity.

By now the vehicle trim panels are all replaced and the enclosure can be securely mounted to the car. It is vital that the mounting is solid as although the enclosure is relatively light the subwoofer is not. This extra weight must be mounted in such a way that trim cannot rattle and of course the whole thing must be secure against movement during driving.

The final result is a discreet installation that uses a minimum of useful space.

I recently produced this enclosure for a Land Rover Freelander. As you can see it blends seamlessly with the vehicle and takes up no useful space. It contains the unbelievable Hertz ML2000.3 subwoofer. This 8 inch woofer has enough punch to fill the large Freelander with tight and deep bass and has a level of sensitivity that can play the lightest of bass notes.

If you would like to know more about our bespoke building service please call us on 01625 432707 or better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.

Car audio upgrades, sometimes simple is best.

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

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

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

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

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

So what should we choose?

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

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

Choices, choices…what amplifier to choose?

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

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

But what subwoofer should we fit?

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

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

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

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

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

Find your way with Pioneer navigation.

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

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

Fiat Ducato:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Final Touches:

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

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

Drive Safer this Winter

I’m sure it has happened to most drivers; you’re happily driving along listening to your favourite music when out of nowhere you hear sirens along with flashing blue lights. You know you have to slow down or pull over but there’s nowhere to go and the panic sets in. Well maybe not everyone and not so dramatically but wouldn’t it be great if you could have advanced warning of the approach of any police or emergency vehicles? What would be most useful would be a device that could detect the approach of any marked or unmarked vehicle giving you plenty of time to react as necessary.

Introducing the Target Blueye:

This very sophisticated device monitors the Tetra radio bands that all emergency vehicles in the UK

currently use. It can simultaneously detect up to 200 channels at the same time meaning it will never miss one while scanning. Target Blueye will operate at up to 1Km range; allowing plenty of time to make sure you are not caught unawares. Because Target Blueye only monitors the Tetra carrier waves to detect proximity and in no way intercepts communications, it is entirely legal.

While we in no way endorse speeding the video below demonstrates how Target Blueye works.

As you can see from the video; the display alerts the driver to an approaching emergency vehicle in plenty of time for the driver to pull out of the way. This could be police marked or unmarked, ambulance, fire engine, motorbike or helicopter.

If you would like to know more about how this system works or would like to book in for an installation please call us on 01625 432707.

It seems almost every day we hear of another road rage event or reports of dangerous driving. Often these events have only one witness, the driver. So it makes sense to install a high quality witness recording camera. A good witness or dash cam will continuously record both front and rear of the vehicle; meaning any event will be captured and may be used as evidence. It should also have time, speed and location information as well as G shock measurement to indicate the severity of any impact.

One of our favourites at Car and Home Stereo is the…

Titan 2 from Virtus Fleet:

This powerful package is neat and fully automatic. Images are recorded to an SD card of up to 128Gb meaning a lot of information can be stored. Any significant shock events are stored in a different file that is automatically saved. All data is encrypted which means it can be used as acceptable evidence for legal purposes. Parking mode is on by default so it will wake up if there is any interference with the vehicle. It also monitors battery levels so there will be no problem with running the car battery down if the vehicle is left for an extended period. For leisure or commercial vehicles there is also a heavy duty external rear camera available.

The Titan 2 may cost a little more than some cameras out there but the high quality of these units makes them extremely good value.

Reversing cameras are brilliant as a parking assist. Warning tones are great but there is no substitute for actually seeing what is truly behind you.

Many cars these days have a screen built into the dashboard but many are not equipped with a reverse camera. At Car and Home Stereo we can often integrate a reverse cam to the factory screen; which will work just like the original equipment showing the image as soon as reverse gear is engaged. This allows for greater safety and accuracy when parking and saves a lot of strain on neck muscles!

If you would like to know more about any of the safety features we can fit to your car please feel free to contact us on 01625 432707 or pop into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield.



Your cars security matters

Modern cars are awash with incredible security and comfort systems. Automatic lights, wipers, radar distance detection and auto braking to name only a few. One feature that has become very commonplace is keyless entry and starting. To unlock the car all that is required is to have the keyfob in your pocket as you pull the door handle. The same applies when you push the start button as the car detects the key‘s proximity. Surely this is secure? Maybe not as much as we would like to believe.


Obviously the car and the fob are in communication so that they recognise each other but this has thrown up a worrying security breach as the video below demonstrates.

The released footage shows two car thieves (now thankfully caught) stealing a Mercedes in less than 60 seconds. No keys and no damage to the vehicle. They use a ‘relay box’ that can electronically find the key from outside the house and transmit its code to a receiver near the car. This code will unlock the car and allow it to start. What you may not be aware of is that the car will remain running without the fob even when out of range.

So unfortunately all the sophisticated security systems fitted by the car manufacturers are useless. The police are now suggesting we go back to the ‘90s and start fitting ugly steering wheel locks (which are relatively easy to overcome) as a deterrent. There are much better options.

 Ghost immobiliser.

This really is the ultimate protection for modern cars. This extremely high spec. security device can be hidden completely. It radiates no signal and cannot be detected on the vehicle diagnostic port (OBD). It requires the user to enter a code of their choice using existing vehicle buttons before the car can be driven. Since there are no flashing lights or touch key ports there are no cables to follow. Thus making the unit virtually impossible to find and defeat. It acts on the vehicle data network so there are no relay clicks or cut wires to give it away. So whether the thief is armed with a scanner, a relay box or even the genuine key the vehicle will not be able to be driven.

See here for compatible vehicles, if yours is on the list then it is at risk. The development of this unit requires rigorous testing so new vehicles may take a little time to appear.

Installation can only be done by trained, high quality technicians and we are proud to be included as approved installers.

RAC Trackstar tracking unit.

If the car cannot be started then the only option is to physically tow it away and unfortunately this is what is happening. There are even anecdotal reports of brazen thieves turning up with liveried tow trucks in the middle of the day and helping themselves.

While no security device is going to stop this, if there is a good tracking system installed then the action of moving the car at all will alert the tracking station. The movements of the vehicle can then be monitored and the police informed of the location. This usually leads to a speedy and more likely recovery.

We recommend and install the RAC Trackstar tracker. This covertly fitted unit is category 6 insurance approved and is fully automatic. If the vehicle is moved without the key then it immediately reports to base station. They will then contact you to ask if you know if it is moving (for example during service), if it is unauthorised then the vehicle is tracked. If the car were stolen with the key then you would call the emergency number to report a theft and again the vehicle is tracked.

There is an app that allows the user to personally monitor your vehicle’s location.
It even enables you to set a ‘ringfence’ around it to alert you if the vehicle is driven without authorisation.

Recent journeys are also logged providing real information about location and speed.

For many insurance companies these are a required fit for high risk vehicles. However, the peace of mind they offer is priceless even if the installation is not mandatory.

Clifford Concept 650 alarm immobiliser.

We have been fitting the Clifford range of alarms for over 20 years; in all that time they have proved extremely reliable. It is true that they must be installed to a very high standard and that does cost a little more but the protection offered is peerless.

While more modern cars suit the Ghost immobiliser, the Concept 650 is ideal for earlier vehicles and classic cars. As classic vehicle values soar it makes sense to protect them properly and the Clifford is ideal. It is often joked about but the very presence of the distinctive blue LED flashing in the car is enough to deter a potential thief.

As a hard wired system with a high parts count installation is necessarily complex. We go to great lengths to make sure it is discreet and reliable. The basic system offers multi point immobilisation, perimeter protection at all points of entry, internal movement sensor and close external movement warn away sensor. In addition there is a secure PIN coded override button as well as the famous blue LED inside the car. Meanwhile, you get two high range multi-channel remote controls. On top of this, there are further systems that can be installed or enabled. These include anti-hijack, remote start as well as extra sensors such as break glass, tilt or shock. All of these allow us to customise the security to your needs.

If you would like to know more about how we can protect your vehicle; please feel free to call us on 01625 432707 or call into our shop on Sunderland Street, Macclesfield.

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.




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.