Mark Holterman is a home Hi-Fi enthusiast. His home system has been developed over 30 years. He rediscovered car Hi-Fi at The North West Audio Show at Cranage and took the plunge.
Mark’s musical story starts as a child. His father was a Hi-Fi enthusiast who collected and played classical music on vinyl. Although not a huge fan of the genre, his early listening experiences clearly had a lasting effect on him. He became obsessed with Hi-Fi magazines as an early teen.
On leaving college in Manchester where he studied 3D design, he managed a high-end Hi-Fi shop. He ran this for seven years before moving into his current line of work.
Today, Mark works freelance designing and developing turntables, tone arms and associated peripherals for high-end products. This explains his presence at the Cranage show which he has supported since its inception. A few years ago, we supported FOUR MASTER Source Sounds of Sheffield with their display just outside of the venue. This was first done so that we could test the attitude amongst Hi-Fi fans to upgraded audio in the car. It was mixed as expected although, once sitting in a car and listening, even the most cynical warmed to it somewhat.
Source Sounds is one of the finest installers in the land and we go along with a demo car or so, to help out and speak with show visitors. It was on one of these occasions that Mark got to hear what is now possible in a car and meet with Paul Ellis, proprietor of Source Sounds, Sheffield.
It always takes a while for those we demonstrate to, to finally visit a reseller. Reasons can range from a car being due to be replaced, saving up for the investment required or just getting around to following up initial interest.
Mark has just purchased a Hyundai i20 N. This is a red-hot supermini with a 1.6 turbo charged motor developing 201 bhp. I don’t know what it is like to drive, but I do know that it is an exciting ride in the passenger seat!
The standard audio equipment shares the same inherent issues of all stock systems, including many “dealer upgrades”. It is not up to critical listening delivering bland, unbalanced, uninteresting, near mono reproduction. This was not at all in keeping with Mark’s requirement. He wanted the car to sound as exciting as it is to drive.
Mark had previously dabbled with car audio including some good stuff that he installed himself but gave up on it when it became, in his words; “full of bollocks marketing”. Mark tells us that he bought into Source as much as into the equipment that he had been demonstrated; “Paul was so enthusiastic and clearly extremely well-versed in his specialist field. We spoke about DSP and the way he described its use, made it feel like a must have for me. However, throughout all of our conversations, he has never pushed me to buy anything and instead always offered three alternatives, leaving the final choice to me.”
“After much deliberation and a number of demonstrations, I eventually decided on Hertz Mille Pro MPK 165.3. These suited my needs and listening habits a bit better than the higher priced Legends. I decided early on that DSP was a pre requisite, but rather than adding separate boxes to the system, I went for an Audison Prima AP 4.9bit. This compact class D amp has a DSP of incredible sophistication built in. At home we tend only to use class D for subwoofers due to a reputation for sounding a little harsh/brittle when handling full range. The Prima handles the whole spectrum really well with none of that supposed harshness evident at all.
I supplemented this pleasing front-end with an Audison Prima APBX 8 AS. This 8” active subwoofer is again contained in a surprisingly compact box which fits neatly in the redundant spare wheel well along with the amplifier. Of course, first principles were observed, so the first task undertaken was to load the doors with sound deadening material. This helps to keep wind and road noise out, but also does a very effective job of keeping sound in. Although I decided not to replace the rear speakers, I wanted to be able to use them for a bit of ambience so, had the rear doors sound-proofed too.”
As with most Car owners these days, Mark wanted his install to be hidden away as much as possible. This is a standard requirement these days and most specialists are capable of doing this.
Car speakers are designed with a wider dispersion characteristic than home Hi-Fi speakers. This makes them more suited to many crazy speaker positions offered by car manufacturers. In fact, Mark did return to Paul shortly after his installation was complete to enquire about some tweeter builds to put his tweeters on axis. As most directional information happens at this end of the frequency range, it makes perfect sense to do this, especially when the stock positions have tweeters firing directly on to the windscreen, or across the vehicle facing each other.
Mark told me that the difference to imaging was outstanding and he would recommend others to do this. In fact, Mark is effusive in his praise for the whole system; “This is proper Hi-Fi. I do come across a bit of snobbery amongst those obsessed with high-end home Hi-Fi. This is home to ageing males with very set views on how Hi-Fi should perform.” He continues; “I would have no qualms about having some of these folk sit in my car. I consider myself very lucky to have had the experience I have. In comparison to other vehicle modifications. A good system like mine is not expensive and whereas updated suspension or some pretty wheels makes a difference, my audio has completely transformed my driving experience and I am not sure those other things necessarily would.”
Mark drove us a short distance to a leafy lane for photography and on the way back, played me one of his Top Five tunes, “Polaris” by Deadmau5. This track appears on Black Gummy’s “We Are Friends Vol 6” and is an electro epic. The rendering was from Mark’s Spotify Premium account via his iPhone. As a first listen to Mark’s car, I was extremely impressed. Everything played very accurately and the image was so wide it seemed to travel outside the boundaries of the car. At this point, I was listening from the passenger seat, but it sounded great despite the fact that Source had set it up for one seat listening. The bass hooked up brilliantly with the front-end which is some achievement given that the sub is in the rear luggage compartment! I was very excited to listen sat in the driving seat.
Mark chose not to sit next to me during my audition of the system so I was alone in the car. I have recently abandoned my iPhone due to the restricted capability of the on-board DAC, Instead I have a Samsung S 20 which uses the Hi-Res capable LDAC and sounds much better even when connected to the totally stock system in my Renault Zoe EV.
I tend to stream from Qobuz as I find the renderings to be far more precise and higher resolution than rival streaming services. The downside is that you need a good solid internet connection. This is not guaranteed on our roads.
The Deadmau5 track had demonstrated very well and I was eager to throw something a bit less electronic at the system. I warmed up with Gabriels “Bloodlines”. The system reproduced the full drama of the track with the full emotion of the vocal delivery intact. I have listened to this track on many systems now so I chose to go with something that was fairly new to me.
I have been enjoying the latest album by Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler, “For All Our Days That Tear the Heart”. I chose the track “We Haven’t Spoke About the Weather”
Jessie Buckley is the half-sister of Jeff Buckley and Bernard Butler was the guitarist with Suede. This album is very different to either of those but interesting none-the-less.
When auditioning and to get my bearings, I tend to listen initially with the subwoofer turned off. This tells me how hard the woofers are working at the low end. After about 30 seconds I returned to the beginning of the track and this time set the sub to about 50%. This is done via a sub level control hidden away in the centre arm rest storage compartment.
The track begins quietly with an acoustic guitar quickly joined by another two and a figure on what sounds like a harmonium or similar. Bass guitar wakes everything up at around 27 seconds. After this the beautifully sung melody soars and is beautifully harmonised during verse two.
At the end of verse two, strings come to the fore and lift the track even higher. There is a lot happening in this track but everything seems to belong exactly where it is placed.
This time through the track literally exploded at the bass entry point but crucially, nothing in the busy mid-range was swamped or masked at all. The balance of the system was impeccable and I have genuinely never heard Mille Pro speakers sound so good tonally. This is by no means a thundering track but it does demonstrate the clarity and separation of the system to great effect.
I threw various other tracks at the system and it proved itself to reproduce all genres with great alacrity. I don’t know if the Hi-Fi world would consider this a flat earth or round earth system but as a musician with a pro audio background. I find it very pleasing.
Home H-Fi fanatics puzzle me sometimes with their attitude to car audio. I would have thought that any improvement over standard factory equipment would be welcomed and applauded. However, as with the majority of the population, most have absolutely no idea what a good installer is capable of creating. It was therefore an absolute joy to meet Mark and get his thoughts. I think he has spent sensibly and has an install that will easily out live his car and bring him hours of listening pleasure.
Mark trades under the company name 8CH and runs the forum Audioflat.co.uk with a friend.
We have added full details of his home system to our website for those who want to see the extraordinary levels of adjustment and improvements he has made to the base equipment it features. You can find it listed under Issue X in an article called “Mark Holterman - A Car Audio Fan at Home” although at this stage, we are uncertain as to whether we will be able to get it into the printed copy.
Thanks also go to Source Sounds Sheffield - 0114 257 1550 for bringing this car to our attention.
Mark’s Top Five
Teardrop - Massive Attack
Oman - Dead Can Dance
What He Wrote - Laura Marling
Polaris - Deadmau5
Killing In The Name - Rage Against the Machine
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