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.