Is It All About The Bass?

A Case For Bassless Driving

Is It All About the Bass?


A case for bassless driving


One of the most exciting elements of car audio is bass. We love the excitement and drama it adds to our music. Many people have been persuaded to upgrade car audio as a result of hearing huge bass explosions in high-energy dance music. However, bass is also the thing that prevents many people from upgrading. We investigate why.


The image above is of the interior of one of the finest show cars currently in circulation, a Vauxhall Astra belonging to FOUR MASTER John Kleis in Reading. The build quality and sheer power of the overall system has been wowing car show visitors for three or so years now and it never fails to draw a crowd when pumping loud, full-range sound at music festival levels, but with even less distortion!

Despite the undoubted excitement that huge amounts of low bass can add to music, it is this very aspect that wholly polarises the potential car audio customer. Typically, although not exclusively, the younger generation put bass right at the top of their criteria when beginning the journey to upgraded car sound. It is the extreme excitement that they are after. For the older music lover, the very thought of having to turn over valuable boot space to a 12″ subwoofer has them running for the hills! As with all things, there is middle ground of course and we have many customers who want low, powerful bass as well as space for the weekly shop, golf clubs, family holiday luggage etc. A skilled FOUR MASTER is able to install a modern subwoofer with minimal impact on the luggage space in most cases. Furthermore, technology has advance considerably in the last 10-15 years, and there are now 8″ subwoofers that will produce rich timbre-filled lows from a very small enclosure fitted neatly under a seat. Many grown-ups remember the days when a system was judged by the number of subwoofers and amplifiers featured in it and some are convinced that without, there just isn’t going to be any fun.


Those amongst you who listen to and appreciate music and its reproduction as an art form know of course, that bass is not the be all and end all in a system. In fact an unbalanced system can be as fatiguing to listen to as a factory fitted system, and we all know how bad they can sound! A more important bandwidth for easy listening and excitement, in my opinion, is in the mid-range. This is where many people’s much-loved guitars, drums and vocals sit and nostalgia is so often in the melody line!


If you were lucky enough to sit in our two BMW 2-series cars used throughout 2015 to demonstrate great sound, you will have experienced very different systems. Our blue car was built with lots of power and a 12″ subwoofer albeit, balanced to perfection by the golden-eared Paul Ellis of FOUR MASTER Source Sounds, Sheffield. Our white car had no subwoofer and considerably less power yet 8 out of 10 cats preferred it? – Well no, not quite, but many who listened to the white car first, found the blue car a little over emphasised in the bass register. The comparison was a little unfair as both vehicles were playing 24-bit, 96kHz HD audio and were as sorted as anything we have ever heard in the mid-bass and high frequencies. Furthermore, the listening was done under static conditions and a key reason for emphasising bass in a car is to counteract the bass cancellation effect of tyres on road.

As a youth, I would probably have been tempted to focus on bass as my first priority when building a system for my car however, these days, I have taken the completely opposite approach. This enabled me to spend as much of my budget as possible on sound treatment and sorting the top and middle frequencies in my current car. Come to think of it, I still haven’t got round to adding a subwoofer and don’t feel I am missing out on bass unless I am bowling down the motorway when I admit, I could do with a bit more.


I would heartily suggest that those looking to upgrade their car sound would be best served by a similar focus on middle and high frequencies. This approach offers a low-cost introduction to car audio and bass can always be added at a later date if required. In the end, balance is everything and those who follow us regularly will know that even a 15” subwoofer driven with 1000 Watts peak power (See Mercedes ML63 piece in issue V) can be blended in with the rest of a system to add an extra dimension rather than clumsily stamping all over the important frequencies that contain much needed stereo information, attack, drive and musicality.


Car Audio Upgrades Made Easy

Find out what our partner, The FOUR MASTER Network, can do to bring Hi-Fi quality to your car. Simply put some brief details into the form below.

Not ready for that yet? You can use the same form to book a demonstration at your home, place of work or with your local FOUR MASTER