Dale Melton employed his considerable engineering skills to complete a sophisticated installation into this rare version of a Jaguar F-Type. Dale invited us to have a look and a listen.
You won’t see many DIY installations in the pages of this publication. Modern-day vehicles and their onboard electronics can be very complex, and working on them can cause unexpected problems, which can be very tricky for equipment suppliers to help with. The preferred route to audio heaven is to have a specialist install the equipment.
Dale is a wise and experienced man who appreciates this. He wanted to carry out the work himself but appreciated that he would need technical support. He worked very closely with FOUR MASTER John Kleis in Reading and had them do the final set-up of the system. As a former customer, they were happy to help Dale with equipment recommendations and technical assistance.
Born and bred in Hampshire, Dale is a mature clubber. He and his wife are out most weekends busting moves at local pubs and clubs. This pastime developed in the 80s, and their keenness shows no signs of diminishing despite having successful careers and a grown-up family. They have a particular penchant for Modern Soul and Soulful House music and have naturally been exposed to a lot of music over the years. For this, we applaud them. Their clubbing dedication also helps explain why this installation became an overriding passion for Dale.
The different iterations of the system in this car have developed over two years. However, the current installation was built over the summer of 2023. Initially, Dale opted to add a Hertz ML 2500 subwoofer driven by a monoblock amplifier in a custom enclosure under the boot floor. He also replaced the front speakers with Audison Prima AP8s. The F-Type is very compact and crammed full of high-performance technology. Dale did his best to avoid having to take on the task of installing a complete system. From new, the car was fitted with Jaguar’s top-of-the-range Meridian system. Dale was unhappy with the sound and was moved to upgrade the system further with Jaguar-optioned Kevlar and Titanium speakers, which didn’t improve things much.
Dale tells us the system lacked everything. The bass was practically non-existent once the vehicle was on the move. The midrange was muddy, and high-frequency performance indistinct.
After installing an Audison Prima upgrade package into his son’s BMW M3, Dale was highly impressed. He made up his mind that the Jaguar needed a complete system rebuild.
Having been a car lover and trained as a mechanical engineer, he had naturally worked on most of his previous vehicles, including the occasional audio install. Dale decided to challenge himself to improve the original system.
The F-type features a 3-way front speaker system. Dale consulted Connor, one of the oracles at John Kleis. As he already had a Hertz Mille Legend subwoofer, they decided to stick with the highly capable matching Mille Legend speakers. A pair of ML 1800s was selected to replace the Audison woofers, with ML 700s replacing the midrange speakers and ML 280 replacing the tweeters. The tweeters were built into custom-fabricated wing mirror covers and are the only clue that anything has been done to the vehicle. In fact, the entire installation has been designed to have as little impact as possible on the look and feel of the car. Furthermore, all equipment can be removed when Dale decides to change his vehicle.
The amplifier configuration is designed to maximise the power output of the two amplifiers driving the front and rear speakers. An Audison Forza AF M8.14 bit amplifier lies at the system's heart. This is an eight-channel class D amplifier with 14 channels of signal processing built into it. The amplifier's versatility meant that Dale could run the fronts actively, bridging two pairs of channels to run the power-hungry woofers. This left four channels. Dale wanted to recreate the almost surround sound he experiences when clubbing. He installed a pair of Hertz ML 1650 woofers and ML 700 Midrange into custom-fabricated pods in the rear. A second amplifier (Audison Forza AF M4D) runs the front midrange speakers and tweeters, benefitting from spare DSP channels in the 8.14 amplifier, as does the subwoofer. In this configuration, the amplifiers output plenty of power for this vehicle, and the 14 channels of onboard processing allow for endless tweaks and adjustments to get the sound just right.
Dale discovered that his standard source unit outputs a digital audio feed to a built-in ethernet system in the vehicle. He was desperate to pick this feed up rather than feeding the new amplifiers with analogue signals from the source unit’s amplifier output. This proved to be a tricky purchase. There is currently no commercially available product built for this job in the UK. However, thanks to Connor and Dale's ingenuity and detailed research, a suitable device was discovered in China. This allows the system to run hi-res audio. Such devices are often short-lived as vehicle manufacturers constantly change software and hardware protocols, usually in pursuit of cost savings or additional “must-have” functionality. Fortunately, the innovation that exists in the aftermarket can generally keep up. As a member of many online forums and Facebook groups, Dale believes his additional interface is unique in this country.
Dale has done a terrific job of installing the equipment into this compact car. His engineering skills enabled him to make minor modifications to the car in order to accommodate the additional equipment. We would still say, “Don’t try this at home, folks”, unless you have excellent skills and a lot of time and patience.
Dale had created a playlist of his top five tunes on his phone in preparation for our visit. These were selected from Spotify’s premium service, and his phone is an Apple device.
First up was the 1994 MTV Unplugged version of Eagles Hotel California. This is incredibly well recorded. Bongos accompany a sparse classical guitar-led introduction. It is often difficult to hear the difference between a steel and nylon-strung instrument on many live recordings, especially in a car. However, the clarity was such that there was absolutely no doubt. Open chords punctuate the intro on a 12-string acoustic that sounds very alive and contrasts superbly with the nylon-strung guitar. The Bongos create an almost hypnotic tease as to where the song is going, and then the original riff kicks in, to tumultuous applause. The effect is very moving, and I can imagine many Eagles fans welling up if they ever got the chance to sit in this car and listen. The vocals are superbly balanced, and the bass guitar is lustrous! For those of you who may have tired of hearing this track back in the day, I recommend revisiting this version.
Gecko (Overdrive) by Oliver Heldens and Becky Hill notably demonstrated fine bass articulation. The synth bass is very low and would be totally lost on a standard system. The two notes would be hard to tell apart in other systems where the bass has been boosted on a budget. The ML 2500 subwoofer reproduced it perfectly. Although I didn’t get a chance to try it, I suspect it would even cut through the low-revving V8 engine.
Give Me A Sign – Lovebirds, ft. Holly Backler (Original Main Mix) was the final song from Dale’s five listed below that I listened to in detail. This is quite a synth-based production but has the feel of an 80s acid jazz tune. I have not heard of Lovebirds before. They are a German-based duo comprising Sebastian Doering and Daniel Klein. Guitars and percussion are on it, but many figures you would imagine being played on brass are played electronically. The lead vocals are soulful and dynamic, and the rhythm section provides a perfect platform for a funky guitar line. Dale has a driver-focussed setting and an alternative surround setting he can select using an Audison DRC controller. This fits precisely into the redundant cigar lighter and offers top-line control of settings, including the all-important sub-bass level and sound stage preset. To me, the front setting still seemed to have a good deal of rear-fill, but I am sure that could be balanced out. However, the focus and separation were precise, so it all worked. I think, on balance, we preferred the surround setting for this track. Dale wanted a club feel, and this track demonstrates perfectly that this has been achieved. I am glad he was able to confirm that, as my clubbing days have still yet to start!
With more than a bit of help from the guys at John Kleis, Dale has achieved a fantastic result with this car. The equipment all sounds properly connected with no discernible gaps. I am sure more tweaking will be done before perfection is achieved. This is, of course, in the ear of the beholder. Looking forward, Dale tells me he is contemplating a change to Audison Thesis tweeters! Watch this space….
Thank you to all involved in creating this incredible system, and I hope you enjoy the result as much as I did, Dale.
Dale’s Top Five Tunes
Hotel California – Eagles, MTV Unplugged 1994
Polaris – Dead Mau5
Gecko (Overdrive) – Oliver Heldens X Becky Hill
I Can Explain – Rachelle Farrell
Give Me A Sign – Lovebirds ft. Holly Backler
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