Colin, Andrea and Adam
Rocking All Over The World?
There are a number of things I learnt when meeting Colin and Andrea and their excellent specimen of a Vauxhall Adam. One of the key things was that choosing a potentially dramatic location for a photoshoot is not as simple as a google search!
I had hoped to feature a dramatic picture of The Uffington White Horse within this feature. However, due to an oversight by its Bronze Age creators, it turns out to be impossible to photograph from close up! If only they had a customer helpline, I would surely be driven to drop them a stern comment or two.
However, the official car park is pleasant enough and the burning sunshine made us grateful for both the shade afforded by the mature trees and also the ice cream van (thank you Andrea!).
I was alerted to the creation of the installation in Colin and Andrea’s Adam S (1.4 L turbo) by the audio system’s creators, John Kleis Car Audio. Following a short email exchange, Colin and Andrea agreed to meet me at a conveniently placed location.
The couple are based in Swindon, having met 16 years ago while both working at the Honda Factory. Andrea had relocated from Stoke-on-Trent while Colin is Wiltshire born and bred.
It is fair to say that Colin has always liked Vauxhall’s “hot” offerings. As well as the Adam, they also own an Astra VXR and a Corsa EVXR. All of their vehicles receive the John Kleis treatment to a lesser or greater degree, but none have been taken quite so far as the Adam.
The car itself is small. It is also noisy and fast and so any system would have to be good enough to be heard over plenty of road and engine noise. There are a number of ways to achieve this and it would be tempting to try and simply over-power sound with louder sounds. However, this may not only make you unpopular with your neighbours, but could eventually damage your hearing!
A much more measured approach and the one followed by John Kleis, is to quieten the vehicle as much as possible with a suitable sound deadening material. In this case, ace installer at John Kleis, Simon Longmuir chose to use Skinz Pro Black 2mm. The principle of sound deadening is fairly simple, if you increase the mass of a metal panel, you keep more unwanted noise out and desired sound in! In practice, increasing mass increases weight which Is not always desirable. Another influence on sound deadening is vibration of metal panels. Skinz does both jobs at the same time therefore, massively reducing external noise and panel resonance adding the minimum of weight. Simon also chose to add Skinz Wave Diffuser. This reduces back waves reflecting from surfaces behind the speaker that can distort and cancel out cone movement. Finally, the speaker sound is directed into the car via a pair of F.A.S.T foam rings.
Once unwanted noise has been reduced as much as possible, a system can be designed to comfortably breakthrough any driving noise that remains without causing ears to bleed!
Simon is extremely competent and one of the finest installers in the country. He is also familiar with the products offered by UK car audio distributor FOUR. Audison is one of his favourite brands for versatility. Colin and Andrea have fairly diverse tastes in music. Colin likes bass-heavy club music while Andrea goes for guitar-oriented rock. This can be a tricky combination, as Andrea’s preference does not necessarily love huge amounts of bass. In rock music the important information inhabits the middle reaches of the audio spectrum. On the other hand, Colin’s appetite for bass required sating. Simon achieved this by accommodating not one but two 10” Audison Prima subwoofers. The boot is tiny and this achievement can only be marvelled at!
Up front, the factory squawkers were replaced by Audison Prima APK 165’s. In the right setting, these achieve an excellent balance between punch and clarity. They are exceedingly versatile and completely at home with rock, pop, club or even acoustic and orchestral genres. Set up was always going to be critical in this car and so the front speakers are run actively via an Audison bit TEN processor (hidden away under the amplifier) with associated remote control cunningly installed in the ceiling above the rear-view mirror. The rear speakers are also upgraded, this time with Audison Prima APX 165 coaxials.
In order to provide the required grunt to drive both subwoofers while offering control of the full-range speaker movement, Simon once more dipped into the Audison Product Portfolio and pulled out an Audison SR 5.600, 5-channel amplifier. This magnificent amplifier delivers 75 Watts RMS from four of its five channels. This is plenty to get the best from the Audison Prima speakers. The amplifier also sports a single 300watt RMS output. This is plenty for the two super-efficient APX 10 S4S subwoofers which are wired in parallel, therefore receiving 550 Watts RMS from the SR amplifier.
The boot build is extravagant enough to impress when shown at the many car shows Colin and Andrea were commonly seen at pre lockdown. They tell me they will definitely be back on the show scene again, once silly restrictions have been lifted. I particularly like the way that the amplifier seems to float above the subs when viewed from above. Some mood lighting by way of LED strips that surround the boot-build and help to emphasise the craftsmanship on show from Simon.
Andrea and Colin both agree that the system has made driving the car much more fun. More often than not they end up getting out of the car with massive smiles on their faces. Although they have distinctly different tastes, they are both happy with the other’s choices and don’t frequently argue over play lists. Colin does get his fix at home. He is often found to have sneaked out of the house to sit in the Adam just to have a private listen.
The car was splendidly turned out, which is not always the case when I go to photograph cars! Colin and Andrea explained that with the imminent closure of the Honda plant, they are having to think about new careers. Colin is determined to enter the competitive world of detailing and certainly the attention to detail he has applied to making this car look its best is a worthy endorsement of his skills in that area. Andrea is less certain as she awaits a delicate back operation and we all wish her the best with that.
It was time for a listen. I sat in the car on my own initially and was presented with a “Guitar Hero” compilation. The track currently playing is one well known to me as it was a regular on the juke box at the pubs I frequented in my youth.
Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd was written as a rebuke to Neil Young for his songs “Southern Man” and “Alabama” both of which seemed to blame the entire state for slavery and racial prejudice. He has since admitted that the lyrics were a little too accusatory and declared himself to be not a fan of his own work on these two tracks.
The track begins with a very naked guitar riff with which everyone will be familiar – I have nine-year-old guitar pupils who beg me to teach it to them! It sounds very Fendery (Strat or Tele, not sure.) A second guitar quickly blends in with a lick (sounds like a Gibson 335 to me!). The second guitar is very quickly joined by a punchy drum kit then the rest of the band (Bass and Piano). The staging was very wide. Guitars are panned hard left and hard right which helps with this illusion and make it a great demo track in the car. The ensuing space in the middle leaves plenty of room for the rest of the ensemble to be clearly picked out.
It is a bit of a cliché to say you can hear things that you hadn’t heard before when faced with listening on an unfamiliar system. It is a long, long time since I have heard this track but, I have never noticed the underlying acoustic guitar that sits low on the left channel. I even had to google it to make sure it actually existed, as shamefully, my home system didn’t pick it up initially either.
At 50 seconds the gospel-like backing vocals join in. I was of course always aware of these but the clarity on this system, particularly during the chorus, was amazing and the vocal arrangement very dynamic. The splash cymbal on the chorus also seems to have more sustain than I remember. The vocalists are really banging out the backing toward the final verse and then all through it. A truly classic rock track sounding much younger than its 45 years!
I listened to a number of other tracks, both rock and 90’s clubland and the balance was amazing. I did at times turn the subs off to see what affect they were having. They were surprisingly subtle but a tweak of the control on the DRC remote lifted bass to much more exciting levels.
Overall, this system is a fantastic demonstration of Audison equipment. I have never heard a SR amplifier before. It is a class D amplifier which sounds for all the world like a class AB. It is compact yet, extremely capable, separating the different dynamics in the mid-range incredibly well.
I do feel that using better source files would lift the system to new heights. Colin and Andrea’s WMA files are what they are used to and I get that. Converting to Tidal or something would undoubtedly improve things but then again, if it aint broke!
Huge thanks need to go to Colin and Andrea for their commitment to great sound in their cars and also for giving up a good chunk of their day off, so that I could rudely stick a lens in their faces and hog the driving seat while listening to their system. I hope this one brings them many years of pleasure. Simon also needs a big up for the sterling job he has made in the execution and set up of this amazing example of a proper car audio upgrade.
In association with our partners The FOUR MASTER Network, we are able to provide you with a no obligation custom quote on a system for your car.
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