See below, this doesn’t fit into anything we’ve ever encountered before I am afraid…
PRICE +/- R500k over a few years
SUPPLIED BY Acoustic Audio 078 413-9808
What’s the fastest thing in the universe?
The speed at which an, “Oh yeah you think you’ve heard the best, now hear this!” spreads!
The Bentley review was barely warm in my mind before I was being harassed and harried to listen to a ‘proper’ car set up for ‘proper music’.
Now don’t get me wrong. I get it. The Bentley is standard – off the shelf, one size fits all – albeit pretty accommodating and a little mind altering in terms of outright capability. It’s good, really good.
But I have heard of and do know of these dark corners in the world where car audio nut jobs ply their trade and take on the challenge of a car environment in which to make their stand in the world of real hi-fi. I am not going to get into the why – other than the answer is always just simply ‘because we can’.
And so, with a great deal of reluctance because I do not want to get into a Speed and Sound shooting match, I was persuaded to listen to an Audi. 3.2 Avant with lowered suspension (thanks to the weight of the amplification as it turns out). Cars, SPL and internal hemorrhaging are synonymous with each other and hand on heart my prejudice was fully engaged. Care to guess how it all worked out?
Pretty much as you might expect. Certainly not the way I expected though.
This car is around a 4 or 5 year build with a bill approaching around the R500k mark. Give or take. And it is very much one of those where most of that bill I would imagine has gone into time, hand crafting and fabrication and more than a little ingenuity … and yet more time tweaking adjusting and improving. Whereas in a stereo system that the rest of us listen in non mobile format one can take a pair of speakers, an amp and a source and churn out pretty decent quality sound for modest budgets within an hour or two. The sheer concept of what it takes to achieve the same from a car would take an hour just to think about the lunacy of it.
First off, we don’t use wireless in these cars. Compromises the signal too much. CD (!) or wired connectivity in lossless, USB sticks and so forth are the de facto standards. Second off there are standards around imaging in competition cars.
You did read that correctly. Imaging.
In a car.
You must be joking.
And then we started to listen. Simple time alignment of the drivers (speakers) to the driving position plus a modicum of fine tuning is all the DSP unit is doing I am told. And layer by layer this car stripped off my prejudices with some extreme, ummm, prejudice. I am not easily surprised these days – jaded cynic that I am. But I can tell you that when it comes to separating BS from fine yellow clay I have become an expert. And pretty much instantly I could tell that any veneer of BS, any streak of pretence, any hint whatsoever of fakery is so absent from the scene that I had to sit up and take a second run at it.
In a car, heavily modified around one central theme only, of utter ruthless pursuit of perfect stereo sound, the results are somewhat at odds with the environment. It’s impossible to imagine a sound stage that expands to the bumper of the car in front of you and the width of three cars in front. It cannot exist, it should not exist and yet your brain is hearing it because it’s there. You cannot imagine that Clapton or Waters or that Mumford fella, never mind the token ginger, are actually able to present their voices in this tiny, cramped, aggressive, impossible to manage space. And yet, there they are. Vega, Amos, Bremnes – are EVEN better.
Bass? Okay, let’s go there. Sure there is bass. But it’s unbelievably controlled – and it’s not like in a listening room where you can find traps, holes, standing waves (this is far worse), but because it’s all been dealt with, the bass is off the charts in cleanliness of depth. I did not doef doef the system simply because the time I had with it went so fast I was hours behind schedule in what felt like we were barely even getting started.
I mentioned imaging and car competitions. I have to admit it made me a little worried about going back to my system at home so alive and in touch with a sound stage the Audi makes one. You cannot escape physics and what the car does by bringing you into the sound stage and detailing each instrument and positioning to a level of precision that you cannot avoid listening. To say that it rivals some conventional stereo systems is at the same time a throw away comment and yet one that has gravitas. You can’t really compare the two back to back because the physical environments are so different. But it is valid to compare what the car is capable of generating in terms of believability. It should not be possible, and yet, here we are.
You cannot have imaging without getting your mids and tops properly on top of each other, literally. The right frequency needs to hit your ear at the right time and with the right volume relative to all the others to build credibility. Aligning the different drivers in your speakers to get the right signal at the right time to make it hit your ear has always been and continues to be the pursuit of high end hi-fi. The source does it. Creates the signal to be fed to the amp, which then has the job to get it to your ear via a speaker – assuming no changes along the way. It’s why bad recordings have no chance, and weak components in the the process let the team down in building the illusion we know and love as our music reproduced as recorded.
And if you feed this car a bad recording, it shreds it. Utterly and ruthlessly and without mercy. I have driven many cars with many sound systems that one cannot even begin to hear the instances of a sonic problem (because there are so many problems post the recording problem that it doesn’t matter), that to say I was shocked at the contempt with which this car treated same is an understatement. There is absolutely nowhere to hide … and that’s the beast part of this beauty.
The mods on the car are extensive. Yet the system looks as if it was part of the car to begin with. Take off the dash treatment (the only hint about what is about to rip your face off) and the visual clues to the extreme performance of this car are almost invisible. It still has a boot. Rear seats. And it drives.
The reason I enjoy live music and live sport so much is because I see people doing what I cannot. I appreciate it. It impresses me that Say is able to play the piano in the way he does, or that Jenkins is able to command a choir to perform his works the way he wants them to be done. How the F1 guys do what they do with such precision.
And when it comes to art like this, and it is as much art as it is craftsmanship, engineering and a relentless pursuit for perfection, I have to stand in simple awe of what has been achieved. I could never put in the time, I could never pursue the constant chopping off of ever re-growing hydra heads at every turn. It is so not me that having now encountered it I have a new appreciation for fellow madmen that do it, if not for the reason that it is hard and difficult, but for the the fact that when they do get results they can make a believer from a jaded cynic like me.
It is a truly incredible experience to have encountered. And utterly ruinous for anything to ever follow in matters motoring!
2x XS power 60A amp per hour AGM batteries – one in engine bay and 2nd in the rear.
Sony GS9 Hi-Res audio player
Pioneer P90-II CD player
2x BRAX Graphic Edition 100×4 amplifiers
1x BRAX 100×2 SPL amplifier
1x Sony XM-GS4 Hires amplifier
Helix Competition Power stabilizers:
We use 3 – one on each BRAX amplifier, it helps to boost voltage to 14,7 even when the engine is switched off.
3x 1 farad BRAX capacitors directly mounted to amplifiers
1x 0.5 farad BRAX capacitor between rear battery and Helix power stations
Active noise cancellation for head units:
This unit specially build for us – it Cleans/ filters the DC from battery and boost voltage to 14.7
Speakers front stage:
Eon Labs Air motion super tweeter set
BRAX Matrix 1-inch tweeter set
BRAX Matrix 3-inch midrange set
BRAX Matrix 6.5-inch woofer set
Speakers rear fill:
BLAM LM80 midrange set
Alto Mobile Fallstaff 12 x2
1x Helix 10 channel DSP Pro MK2 – processing to all the front speakers and output to Gladen 8 channel
1x Gladen Pico 8 channel – processing tear fill and subwoofers
Mogammi on all speakers and subwoofers, Cat7 on Super tweeters. Rockford Fosgate Power and Earth cables as well as fuse holders.
RCA cables specially made for this car.
Pods for super tweeters, normal tweeters, midranges and woofers are all custom made.
Ported subwoofer enclosure custom made.
Car was stripped completely – roof, floor, front and rear doors and tailgate all got treated with Silent Coat antivibration material. We also used noise barriers that are 7, 15 and 35 mm thick respectively.