I See You, Jane!
Jane Watana is a front-line healthcare professional. She works in the ICU and operating theatre departments of the Royal Surrey County Hospital. A music lover since childhood, she had a tumultuous three years during COVID. Jane felt she deserved a treat and decided to upgrade the audio in her BMW Mini.
Jane has a Thai mother and a Japanese father and cites her father’s influence on her taste for acoustic music. She left Japan for America and attended High School there for a while. A chance phone call with an uncle working for the NHS trust in London resulted in Jane coming to Nottingham University, where she gained a BSc in nursing. Jane is now 25 years into a busy nursing career.
Jane has always enjoyed music and especially when training in Nottingham. She purchased a second-hand NAD system which outshined anything she had heard in a car. It became clear to Jane that any car purchase would have to go hand-in-hand with an upgraded audio system.
Having opted to upgrade her previous car at the dealer she purchased it from, she soon became very disenchanted with the Harmon Kardon upgrade. She was keen to avoid making the same mistake again.
She consulted a colleague she knew to be a bit of an audiophile. He recommended Audison as being an excellent upgrade for Jane’s requirements. His advice was based on Jane’s musical preferences as much as anything. His knowledge and advice led her to delete the audio upgrade option when ordering her latest car. Jane’s BMW Mini arrived with no position for tweeters, so her installer, Toby at Shocks Away in Ash Vale, had to order a fresh pair of A-pillar covers with the Harmon Kardon-badged tweeter mountings included.
She wanted the car to remain in showroom condition as much as possible, so Audison’s BMW Mini-specific upgrade equipment was the obvious choice. These speakers are ready to drop into the factory positions with all the hardware included to complete the installation quickly and efficiently.
BMWs include speakers under the front seats. These run full range as standard, which is not ideal, so Toby installed the highly versatile Audison Prima AP8.9bit, 8-channel amplifier. Built-in DSP allows each speaker to be tuned and time-aligned to give a perfectly balanced sound across the audio spectrum – Essential in this car. He mounted the amplifier behind a removable hatch in the boot space.
The front door speakers have a 4” diameter. They are significantly underpowered and cheap, and nasty. The Audison Prima APBMW K4E 2-way component speakers have a far-extended frequency response and can handle peaks of up to 100 watts. The tweeters have a 1” cone and a wide dispersion characteristic, which makes them far more suitable for off-axis listening. The standard Harmon Kardon tweeter positions have the speakers firing across the dashboard rather than pointing directly towards the listener, compromising the stereo image. A wide dispersion characteristic counteracts this to great effect.
Jane was keen to upgrade the speakers in the rear doors too. She felt that adding high-quality rear-fill would offer a more immersive experience. Toby selected a pair of Audison Prima APBMW X4E coaxial speakers to replace the dreadful standard speakers. Prima’s are delivered as drop-in replacements requiring little work to install. However, Toby did treat the doors with Skinz sound treatment to get the most out of the speakers and reduce road and wind noise.
A pair of Audison Prima APBMW S8-4, 8” speakers replaced the substandard BMW originals. Replacing these is critical to establishing a good balance in this car. Jane was keen to experience the warmth and drama of the orchestral music she likes to listen to and was, therefore, eager to include a subwoofer. Installing a subwoofer can be tricky to achieve discretely. Fortunately, there was enough space to fit an Audison Prima APBX 8 AS2 under the boot floor.
There are no visual clues to the sound upgrade Jane has had done to her vehicle. A good listen was required to establish whether the effort had paid off.
Jane had given me some clues as to her musical preferences. I wanted to discover more, so I asked her how she was drawn to the music she likes. She explains, “I am more drawn towards the structural complexity of music like classical and jazz or world music.”
“Jazz and classical music are perceived to require and, in some ways, do require a level of attention and knowledge to fully appreciate them that most people aren’t willing or able to give to music. Pop music doesn’t make many demands on its audience; it’s catchy, easy to digest, and thus more appealing. Particularly to people who work hard all day and want to use their precious free time to achieve the easiest dopamine rush. The music industry has been heavily pushing pop and rap songs for a while now. However, plenty of alternative material is available, and the rise of streaming services such as Tidal allows access to the material I know and like and offers up new suggestions.”
Jane spoke to me about her love of orchestral music, especially film soundtracks and, specifically, the work of John Barry. She is also a big fan of smooth jazz. However, the first track she chose for us to listen to was the 2022 remastered Phil Collins hit, “In The Air Tonight.” Most will be familiar with this track, but I strongly recommend this remastered version. The bass is much more robust, and the famous drum break at around 2 mins is thunderous. The track is sparse, with some lovely reverb and echo on the vocal, which the system showed. At 2:20, there seemed to be many more vocal repeats than on other versions I have listened to. If I were being very critical, I would say the bass guitar and kick drum were just a little boomy.
Next, we listened to an American Jazz ensemble called Fourplay and a track named “Chant”. There are loads of interesting percussive sounds over the intro that zoom across the sound stage. The recording has lots of powerful low-end going on. The bass pushes the track along and certainly adds a lot of drama. However, the understated drum kit is still distinct, and the snare and hi-hat are easy to pick out. The drum kit plays very wide, suggesting the Prima tweeters are doing a great job. The acoustic guitar solo was a particular high point for me.
By contrast, a track by piano virtuoso Emile Pandolfi, “An Affair to Remember,” demonstrated an outstanding balance in frequency and dynamics and offered a pleasing piano tone.
Across the contrasting styles we listened to it was easy to tell that the amplifier had been set up expertly. Lee Preston had done this from Audison’s UK distributor, FOUR UK. He was ably assisted by the co-founder of FOUR, Brian Parton. They have set up hundreds of cars between them, including plenty containing Audison Prima equipment.
Jane’s car demonstrates how easy it is to dramatically improve the audio in a BMW Mini, especially when replacing the factory equipment with Audison Prima. Jane is delighted with the result and considers the cost to be very much in line with the improvement to her driving experience. Her trips to and from work have become a therapeutic experience. ICU can be a very challenging environment, and as we all know, music is a great healer.
Thanks go to Toby at Shocks Away for the installation, to Lee and Brian from FOUR and especially to Jane, who was incredibly generous with her time on the day and with whom I enjoyed sharing views on music.
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