Hurry Up, Harry!

Harry Howard's JCW Dream Wagon!

Hurry Up, Harry!


Harry Howard does not need to hurry up. I am upholding the Driving Sounds tradition to squeeze a reference to a piece of music into the headline. In fact, we get the impression that he tackles everything at 100 mph. He talks with passion and boundless enthusiasm about his car and audio system especially. We were lucky enough to be invited to meet him. Read on to find out what happened.


Harry contacted Driving Sounds in 2023 to tell us about the Audison Prima audio system installed in his JCW F56 Mini. We had a full schedule then, so we had to postpone this meeting until a slot became available. Fortunately, despite the months that passed, Harry was more than happy to have us listen to his car.


Harry is young, and I would describe him as “high-energy”. Born and bred in Lincolnshire, Harry currently lives in a small village near Spalding. He works for a BMW dealership in Peterborough, where he looks after their social media. Social media is very much Harry’s thing, and by the time we met with him, we knew quite a lot about his car as he put many posts on his personal Instagram account. By the time we left him, he had already posted a video of our social media manager and photographer du jour, Lauren, and me waiting for the sun to break through the clouds so we could take a good picture of the car.


Harry is a keen fan of cars and has been from a very early age. He spent a lot of time with his dad, who was keen on anything sporty, and they used to spot cars for fun. He became especially fond of the work of BMW and John Cooper. His first car was a BMW Mini, which he liked a lot. However, he was immediately disappointed by the base audio system in it. This triggered in-depth research into the wonderful world of car audio upgrades. His loyalty to the BMW brand led him first to consider a Harman Kardon upgrade system available from his dealer. Harry believes he understands technical things well, so his research led him to contact an aftermarket car audio specialist. They advised him that a pair of APBMW 4KE drop-in mid-range and tweeters, along with replacement under-seat woofers (Audison Prima S8), could be a good starting point. Although much better, Harry soon returned to have an Audison Prima AP 8.9bit installed, and although this improved things, he felt he needed to go further and even thought that adding the amp reduced the amount of bass available. He added an Audison Prima APBX 8 AS to add sub-bass.


Harry wanted a JCW Mini. This required financing, and so he patiently accumulated the money to do this. When he came to place the order for the car, he specified the base system again, intending to upgrade from the off. He planned to use the equipment he had salvaged from his previous vehicle.


During his audio research, he came across FOUR MASTER Studio Incar in Fareham. Studio Incar has always been very keen on social media, and it is fair to say that Harry is all over it! Despite the distance between them, he watched some of the videos that Studio Incar has posted over the years and decided that he wanted them to do the installation in his new car. FOUR MASTERs are generally not keen to install pre-owned equipment into vehicles. This is because if faulty products are installed, a customer’s natural reaction is often to blame the installer. However, Studio Incar agreed to meet Harry to discuss his new car, old equipment and, inevitably, their shared enthusiasm for social media.


As a result, Studio Incar’s Carl Shakespeare agreed to take the job on. During this initial system design meeting, it was discovered that Harry felt his existing system lacked a little power and could do with a little more sub-bass. As a result, Carl persuaded him to upgrade from an Audison Prima AP 8.9bit to an Audison Forza AF C 8.14 bit. The new Forza amplifier contains a full suite of diagnostic software for ironing out acoustic imperfections, and with each channel providing 65 watts, it offered great scope to get more from the speakers Harry was to carry over from his previous car. Similarly, the original Audison APBX 8 AS was replaced with an APBX 10 AS. The subwoofer change brought a 150-watt uplift in power and an extra 2” in diameter.


The Audison Prima plug-and-play products are a dream for the installer. They come with the correct car connectors and drop into the original factory positions. A specific wiring loom also helps connect the new amplifier and ensures all equipment can be de-installed, leaving no trace. The possible exception is the Skinz sound deadening applied liberally to the door panel to create a solid acoustic basis for the speakers.


Harry mentioned that he was not necessarily exposed to much music in the family home. He only became interested in listening when, at the age of 10, he received a pair of headphones. He would plug these into an iPad and enjoyed exploring any music he could find. He is still fond of the ’80s and ’90s classics but has frequent forays into smooth Drum and Bass to satisfy his desire for low bass. This period has had a profound effect on Harry. When he got his first job at a John Lewis store, he quickly became tempted by a Sonus system he subsequently purchased for his home. He has since invested in a Devialet Phantom wireless speaker system. This is built for quality listening. With a fancy price tag, the speakers have a quoted frequency response of 14Hz – 27kHz and an RMS power of 1100 watts.


When listening, I was keen to try a broad approach and pick music from different places. We were streaming Tidal from an iPhone. Harry told us he usually streams from Apple Music, and we hoped to demonstrate the chasm in quality available from Tidal.


First up, I was keen to check out the sub-bass. I selected Angel by Massive Attack. This is a great demo track, as any bass imbalance will swamp quieter high-frequency detail. Harry has a sub-level control fitted under the dash. This is handy as it enabled me to switch the sub-bass off and add it gradually to hear the effect. The control that comes with the APBX subwoofers could be more linear. Getting the level right when driving can be tricky, but it performed its purpose flawlessly in static conditions. I was unable to recognise a lack of sub-bass with this track.


Next, we went for an old Driving Sounds favourite, “The Wheel” by SOHN. The three-note bass line on this is excellent for checking articulation. Once again, I felt the system performed with accuracy. Each note was clearly discernible in pitch and played at the same level.


We continued with Harry's track, “Don’t Wake Me Up!” by Bop & Sub Wave. This track is deceptively euro-pop. A relentless drum machine provides bouncy percussion and keyboards, and a relatively low-mixed guitar provides all the mid-range interest. A breathy female vocal completes the initial picture. However, the bass and sub-bass are unexpected and underpin the track perfectly. The track trots along at a pleasing pace and is handled well by the system in Harry’s car.


Finally, for a bit of contrast, I asked our photographer for the day, Lauren, to pick a Latin House track. She is a big fan, and it is a genre I am just discovering. Lauren chose “El Merengue” by Marshmello and Manuel Torizo. The mid-range is full of tight and precise percussion supporting the Spanish vocal, and then at 46 seconds, the bass kicks in, and the track takes off.  Once again, the system reproduced this with great precision. The prima speakers were in their element, and there was not a hint of lack of low-end from the subwoofer. It was a great, fun listen to that invoked memories of the sun, sea, and sangria!


Once again, Audison Prima has turned the rubbish factory system in this BMW into a fun-filled club on wheels. Lively, articulate and dynamic, this Prima upgrade is the best thing owners of these vehicles could spend their money on.


Harry is already looking to the future and contemplating upgrading the tweeters. The Audison upgrade works well, but the bulge in the Harman Kardon-ready A-pillars offers considerable challenges to the stereo image. He is contemplating a pair of Mille Legend ML 280. Although these would fit into the existing A-pillars, a custom A-pillar build to put them on axis would make a world of difference to the image, which was just a little narrow for my liking.


We are very grateful to Harry for giving up a day off to meet with us and allow us to listen to his car and learn about his musical journey.



Harry’s Top Five Tunes


Come Together - Urbandawn 

Never Be Alone - Deadline

Off The Ground - Sub Focus

Don’t Wake Me Up - Subwave & B.O.P

Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing) - Fred Again

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