Digital Signal Processing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improving the BMW audio

We have had a lot of calls recently from owners of newer BMW 1, 3 and 5 series vehicles complaining about the very poor sound quality of the factory audio system; even those with the Harman Kardon upgrade option. Some have described it as the worst sounding system they have ever heard! We have carefully listened to lots of these cars and can definitely agree. The bass is weak, the midrange is very confused and even where the optional tweeters are installed the treble is dull and lifeless.

Standard BMW speaker.

As if the poor speakers were not enough the problems are compounded by the head unit itself. Since BMW know that their installed speakers are of low performance the head unit is pre-equalised to prevent the user damaging them. This manifests itself as a roll off of bass as the volume increases; amongst other tricks such as reducing the treble when you think you are turning up the bass. All this adds up to a very disappointing performance with poor definition and a dreadful sound-stage.

But help is at hand. At Car and Home Stereo we have developed a 3 stage plan to improve any BMW audio system. All upgrades are specifically designed for the BMW and fit seamlessly with no changes to the vehicle interior. Each stage is a significant improvement and can be performed over time to spread the cost.

Stage 1; upgrading the speakers.

There are 6 speaker locations in the front of the BMW; tweeters either in the door or wing mirror position, mid speakers in the front doors and  bass units under the front seats. There will also be two speaker locations in the back of the car.

A stage one system replaces the front speaker set as we are always most concerned with the sound for the front of the car. If your vehicle is not equipped with tweeter locations then the appropriate parts can be obtained from BMW spares. While we can just replace the mid speakers, the tweeters add a tremendous performance boost.

There are quite a few manufacturers producing a BMW speaker replacement kit and we take great care to match the speaker set to our customer’s preferences. Not all the sets have the same characteristics and choosing the right one is important to make sure it suits the application.

We can install the speaker set in as little as 3 hours; we guarantee you will be very impressed. This upgrade may be all you need to satisfy your tastes, but in case you want even better, read on.

Stage 2; amplification.

This is where we can make staggering improvements. It is not enough to just add a simple amplifier because if we did then we would just get a more powerful version of the original signal. This is fairly pointless as we know the signal from the factory head unit is poor with all the problems mentioned above. What we need is a way to overcome those problems and that means we need a DSP, a digital signal processor. These are powerful equalisers that allow us to adjust the head unit output to correct the built in problems.

Ideally the processor and amplifier should be the same unit and fortunately there are a range of very high quality units available from Audison, JL Audio and others. Like choosing the right speakers it is imperative that we choose the right amplifier to ensure we can realise the perfect sound for our customer.

One of our favourites is the Audison AP8.9. This compact 8 channel amplifier/processor is capable of providing power to the whole car system. It can even be enhanced with the addition of dedicated slave amplifiers to increase the system power. The real strength of these amplifiers lies with the DSP. It allows me to carefully tune the sound output to perfectly match the acoustic requirements of the vehicle and the musical tastes of the customer.

A stage 2 system is worlds better than the original and is often enough of an improvement to satisfy; but of course there is an obvious final step…

Stage 3; adding a sub-woofer.

Although the under seat speakers are 8 inch drivers they should not be considered sub-woofers, they are really bass speakers, an attempt to get too much low frequency will drive them to distortion. If you want plenty of deep bass then there is no alternative except to add a boot mounted sub-woofer. That does not mean there has to be a boot full of large speakers. On the contrary, we have many solutions that are extremely compact. Again we will choose the best solution for your needs from Hertz, JL Audio and Audison to name a few.

So there we have it, three simple stages to audio heaven in your BMW. Don’t forget that all of this is removable and can be reused in your next car; try doing that with a factory upgrade!

If you would like to know more about how we can improve the audio in your BMW or indeed any other car, please get in touch. Call us on 01625 432707 or better still call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield. We look forward to speaking to you.

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

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

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

What to consider when buying your first car:

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

Finance:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insurance:

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

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

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

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

How to get the price down:

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

Buying new or second hand:

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

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

Gap Insurance:

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

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

Used Cars:

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

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

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

 

Written by Aaron Cavanagh of Skyzack LTD.

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.

Connectivity:

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

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

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

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

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

Final Touches:

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

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

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.