Anthony Herbert likes cars very much. His attention to detail when specifying and adding extras to his vehicles is astonishing. Here he lets us have a look at two treasures from the VAG group.
Anthony is still young and clearly lives life to the full. He works in IT and dabbles in Cryptocurrency in his spare time!
Anthony has a very fast looking Ducati Panigale V4 Speciale motorbike in his expansive kitchen but explains that it is just “house art”. His daily commute is made astride a Honda Fireblade. Anthony has been into bikes since the age of 17 and the thrill he gets from riding them shows no signs of ending soon.
On his gated driveway sit a heavily modified VTEC powered Mini and the two cars FOUR MASTER, Oxford Car Audio (OCA), has recommended I come and look at more closely. These are an Audi RS 6 with half and half two-tone black and white wrap and a blue SQ 5. Everything about the RS 6 says “top of the range”. Despite coming with a Bose upgrade, Anthony felt it lacked bass. Although Anthony has an eclectic taste, he does like bass-heavy music and the lack of bass particularly at cruising speed was annoying enough for him to have OCA take a look and recommend a solution. He chose to leave the front end alone for the time being feeling that the Bose system was good enough for his personal taste.
The install was designed to keep as much luggage space as possible. This offers a terrific challenge to an installer. However, the room underneath the boot floor is voluminous in this vehicle. Relocating the tool kit to a bespoke holder behind a removable side panel gave OCA just enough space for a tailored, sealed enclosure that only raised the boot floor a couple of centimetres. In fact, even the fancy adjustable rails for lashing straps still work.
Lem and the team at OCA are very experienced fabricators and installers of bass solutions. Often, adding bass to a vehicle is not simply a case of throwing an off-the-shelf active sub at the problem. In this vehicle along with many modern vehicles, the manufacturer has implemented an active equaliser to help preserve the (apologies Anthony) less than adequate full-range speakers. This typically removes bass frequencies as the volume is increased. If there is no bass coming from the head unit then there is absolutely nothing to gain from amplifying it!
OCA employed a very excellent AudioControl LC 2i to fix the issue. This is a small box that converts head unit signals to high quality pre-amp signals for onward processing or in this case, amplification. Within this box is a patented technology called Accubass that actually rebuilds bass signals. To get the full description of how this works, read the article; “Building From The Bass Up” elsewhere in this issue.
OCA chose to install two Mille Legend ML 2500.3, 10” subwoofers in a custom enclosure. These are wired in parallel and are driven by a mightily impressive Audison Voce Uno, single channel amplifier. The class AB amplifier will deliver up to 1500 watts RMS into 2 ohms making it almost the perfect match for the subwoofers which are rated at 700 watts continuous each.
The whole of the boot build is covered in colour-matched vinyl and very much looks part of the architecture. The removable cover is made of birch ply with carefully routed recesses and slots to allow maximum bass penetration with no danger of the cones fouling the cover even at full excursion. The cover is carpeted in fabric which is a very close match to the rest of the interior. A very difficult to photograph subwoofer level control is mounted in the glove box and offers a sometimes much needed boost during those journey’s when you just can’t help yourself!
Time for a listen. Clearly this car was calling out for some bass. The first track I reached for is “RITMO (Bad Boys For Life)” by Black Eyed Peas featuring J. Balvin. Bass articulation is very important in this track as the low bass line sits right in between a deep kick drum and Latin snare and tom lines. If there was any flabbiness in the bass, the whole track would sound a complete mess. Pleased to report that bass-wise the track worked really well. It reaches very low but remains tight and punchy even at the deepest depths. I did throw a number of other bass-heavy tracks at it and discovered that care has to be taken with sub level otherwise the middle and high frequencies can be somewhat swamped. Anthony had mentioned that on occasion he listens to less bass-oriented tracks and mentioned Ennio Morricone and Enya. I did not venture here this time, as I was really only interested in the bass improvements. I do feel that the front end would integrate far better if an upgrade was implemented. The Bose solution lacks both dynamics and linearity for me and the high frequencies are a little “strangled”.
Anthony’s SQ 5 was of particular interest to me, as it contains a complete system install incorporating four Audison VOCE amplifiers and four Mille Legend subwoofers. The front end features a Mille Legend 3-way system run actively with a 2-way set (ML 1650.3) in the rear running passively. The whole array is kept under tight control with an Audison bit ONE HD processor. A bit DMI has been utilised to pick up the digital output from the head unit via the built-in MOST bus. Anthony streams mainly hi-res content from Amazon Music but felt that the final rendering from his phone would be the weak link. We have not tested Amazon content in anger yet and in any case, he is perfectly satisfied with this choice. I can report however that Tidal streams and renders extremely well from any mobile device. In this vehicle the entire signal chain from head unit to amplifiers is digital ensuring absolutely no degradation of signal, delivering incredibly accurate reproduction of whatever source you choose to use.
OCA was able to approach this installation in a much different way to that of the RS. This is a little more like the demo systems and show cars OCA has been called upon to carry out on behalf of audio companies in the past. Everything is on show and highlighted with discrete LED lighting. As well as audio, Anthony has gone to town with internal trim highlights. I noticed a good deal of carbon fibre and OCA even replaced the headlining (which was originally beige) with a far classier dark grey Alcantara. In fact, the list of internal mods goes on and on but it is the audio that I was focussed on.
The 3-way speaker system up front features 7” woofers. These drop almost straight in to the factory position and the additional cone area offers a surprising uplift in bass compared to the 6.5” Milles fitted in the rear. Due to the four subwoofers in the rear, lack of bass was never going to be a problem. The issue was always more likely to be one of integration and balance. The bit ONE HD is invaluable in this respect as signals have been delayed and phase adjusted to ensure that sub-bass impulses arrive at the driver’s ears at exactly the same time as the deep bass from the woofers in the front and rear. This is no mean feat.
The ML 280.3 tweeters sit in freshly made panels that fit over the wing mirror gubbins at the base of the A-pillars, while the ML 700.3, 3” midrange drivers sit in custom-made carbon mounts in the factory positions up on the dash. I have to say that this arrangement of tweeter and mid-range positions offers much more coherence than in the RS where the mids are situated a bit far from the tweeters and sit almost behind the door handles. Then again, in this car the speakers are much better and are amplified and tweaked via the bit ONE so no comparison really.
Looking in from the rear hatch, the amplifiers are proudly displayed in a wraparound casement. OCA has provided a false floor, or rather a removable tray, to offer a modicum of shopping space when required. Lift this out and you see the four Mille Legend 2500.3, 10” subwoofers in a custom enclosure and a bit ONE HD. The actual bit ONE is hidden away elsewhere but Anthony was keen to have some visible evidence of its existence!
The whole install has been carried out to the highest standard. It always amazes me that utilising the skills of a top-class installer can offer a result that aesthetically improves a vehicle like this.
Anthony does not particularly think that his musical influences came much from his childhood but does acknowledge that there was music around. He also admitted to having played the violin at a young age although not for long. His musical interest came more from his student years. Many of his mates DJ’d and he did a lot of clubbing which led him toward the bass end of the audio spectrum. Once again, it was necessary for me to play some bass-heavy stuff, and I did, but impishly threw some tracks far removed from that at the system too.
Anthony had previously jokingly expressed disappointment that the RS 6 had better bass. It doesn’t, it has a poorer front end. The Q5 is beautifully balanced all through the range and offers far more versatility. Interestingly, my favourite listen on the day was a track by flamenco guitarist Vicente Amigo called “Roma”. The track itself is extremely interesting to me, as his flamenco stylings are accompanied by a Celtic band; Capercaillie. It is an intriguing combination albeit juxtaposed to Anthony’s usual listening and it really worked for me.
In the Q5, the guitar entry was pristine and the added bass and other hard to identify instruments merely hinted on what was to come later on in the track. I had set the sub level on the DRC remote fairly low as acoustic guitar often generates odd sub bass “noises” however, there was no trace of these so I gently increased the bass and continued listening. Whistle and violin joined the fray at about 2 mins 30 secs. The track, which began in Spain, took me to Ireland. The four subs behaved very politely and really added immense power to what is essentially an acoustic instrument track. This was an extremely unexpected treat and is testament to the versatility of the equipment and the excellent system tuning by OCA.
“Professor X” by Dave was another very notable track. This is definitely not my first choice of music. Most rap and hip-hop music I hear is pumped out of cars with very substandard equipment where bass is everything and swamping of all other elements seems to be the aim. I know that there are other instruments and sounds recorded, it is just hard to unpick on poor quality systems. The track starts with what sounds like a Cymbalom (look that one up young folk!), though it could as well have been a picked instrument such as a balalaika or even mandolin. At exactly 15 seconds deep bass almost blew the roof of the car off! Having heard the track before it was expected, but I did not expect to still be able to hear everything else as well. I could also hear every single word that Dave uttered, not that I understood what he was saying. I guess if I did my 18-year-old daughter would stop listening to it! As with much of this style of music, the bass line is limited to just a few notes, but unlike most of the places I have heard it, the articulation of these notes was spotless. All reproduced at the same level which is the usual giveaway of a poorly set up system or one with product not built to handle it. I found the experience unexpectedly uplifting and somehow addictive.
I listened to about 10 tracks and they all sounded that good! Apart from a little sub adjustment, the system showed incredible stability and versatility. I now have a lyric stuck in my head; “Tweaking, tweaking, 120 on the M-way speeding” No idea what it means, but I do know that the system in this car is nothing short of astonishing. Huge thanks go to Anthony for investing significant time and money in this project and also to FOUR MASTER, Oxford Car Audio for doing a proper job!
Anthony’s Top Five Driving Sounds
“Colours” – Maduk (ft. Diamond Eyes)
“Wicked Game” - Ursine Vulpine ft. Annaca
“Illuminate” - Sub Focus, Wilkinson
“Is It Love (1001)” - Above & Beyond
“Sincere” - MJ Cole
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