Mercedes E Class
The latest Mercedes E class or W213 is fabulous in almost every respect except (you guessed it) the audio performance. The dash sports a large, colour display screen for the infotainment system; features include Smartphone connectivity, navigation, DAB radio and Wi-Fi connectivity. It would be great if the whole thing wasn’t let down by an awful speaker system.
Let’s Improve It
You have to pay a big premium for the upgraded audio packages from Mercedes, far more than they are probably worth. A much better option is to opt for the basic audio pack and allow us at Car and Home Stereo to improve it.
As a musician it is important to me that the final sound is as lifelike as possible with a full soundstage across the front. As an engineer I want everything to be a perfect fit and in sympathy with the vehicle. Of course there are many options and components that could be chosen but there are some fundamental principles I tend to follow. The front speakers are the most important, it is vital that there is the capacity to play low frequencies and I must have some way to accurately tune the audio output to the acoustic performance of the car.
So How To Make It Better?
As I mentioned, it is important that everything we install has to be a perfect fit as well as sound great. To that end we are constantly researching products as they become available to determine suitability and for the Mercedes we have found a tremendous speaker product that will satisfy the most critical listener. They are from German manufacturer Eton, the build quality is second to none and will deliver a performance to satisfy the most discerning audiophile.
As you can see, once installed there are no visible changes to the car and we could even replace the original speakers if the car was sold.
Since the door speakers are only 10 cm and tweeter even an upgraded set will not accurately deliver low frequencies. So we need a bass speaker to complement the doors. Mercedes provide a space for a 20 cm speaker in each front foot well behind the carpet.
Accessing this requires the removal of the front seats and carpet and that also reveals the main cable route. The Mercedes base audio system only provides for one bass speaker on the passenger side but we always add a pair in custom designed mounting collars.
Our choice is the Audison AP8. This slim bass unit is a perfect fit and is more than capable of providing all the low end punch required.
More Power Required
So now we have two of the elements required for a great sound but we need the third. The standard Mercedes audio unit has quite a weak output that certainly cannot do justice to the upgraded front speakers. We need an amplifier and ideally one that can be tuned to provide the best possible sound. Since we only needed to amplify the front door speakers and Bass units we opted for the Brilliant Audison AP4.9Bit. This high power and compact amplifier will install in the tightest of spaces and contains a powerful digital signal processor which allows me very fine control over every aspect of the sound.
There is ample room in the Mercedes under the boot floor so no precious load space is taken up. With a remote USB cable routed to the side panel we can plug in for tuning without dismantling the car trim.
Tuning the system is a huge part of getting the car to sound perfect. I use a mixture of test tones and well known musical tracks as well as careful signal path measurement to set the correct time alignment and equalisation.
There are tools within the software that can help but I prefer to fall back on my musical training to really set a system up properly. This can be time consuming but the results are like night and day over the un-tuned results.
The finished car now has a bright and lively front end sound with loads of punch and authority in the mid-range and low frequencies. There is now a wide stereo performance across the dashboard that is nicely focused in the middle without the need for a terrible centre speaker. Adding a small subwoofer in the boot would enhance the system further. That was impractical in this car as the owner needed every inch of space available.
For a system costing around £2000 installed I think this offers tremendous value for money and transforms the enjoyment of the car. Long commutes and traffic jams can become a source of pleasure not frustration.
If you would like to know more about how we can improve the sound in your car please call us on 01625 432707 or 07971 928881. Better still pop into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield for a chat and to audition our two demonstration vehicles.