OMD, It's The Tesla, Girls!

Lee Preston's Audison Prima/Forza Demonstrator

OMD, It’s The Tesla Girls!


Lee Preston is highly respected across the car audio industry. Having represented several companies supporting sales of audio and security products, these days, he is one of distributor FOUR Car Audio’s top members of staff. We got to sit in his Audison-equipped Tesla Model 3 and chat with him about his audio system.


Lee is a likeable chap. Always ready with a quick quip and a ready smile. He is also extremely fit and competes regularly in fitness endurance competitions. That aside, he is also highly knowledgeable about car audio.


Four Car Audio is the nation’s premier mid to high-end car audio equipment distributor. Over the years, car technology has become highly complex, and installation is now a high-tech art form. Changes happen quickly, meaning dealer support has to be dynamic and swift. This is where Lee scores the highest. Offering daily assistance to a network of specialist installers is no mean feat. This is particularly true when installing highly complex amplifiers such as the Audison Forza range of DSP-equipped amplifiers. These are necessarily complex as they allow connection to all vehicles. An audio upgrade often involves separating multiple audio channels, such as those fed from reversing sensors, navigation, hands-free phone kits, etc, so that these do not blow a driver’s ears off when amplified. Many of these vehicles carry tweaked equalisation curves, and the first job an installer has to do when beginning a set-up is to cancel all such quirks out of the system.


This can be pretty daunting for even experienced installers, and having Lee at the end of the phone is precisely what they need. In some cases, Lee will even travel to a dealer experiencing problems and get hands-on. Lee is also a great talker and demonstrator of products. I have personally worked with him at shows, and visiting showgoers always enjoy his easy-going style and engagement levels.


Lee drives a company car. It is a Tesla Model 3. Electric vehicles are beginning to impact the UK market, and it is typical of FOUR to want to stay at the forefront of the technology, so the choice of vehicle is highly pertinent. Despite popular belief, although generally quieter than a vehicle with a combustion engine, manufacturers of electric cars are still prone to use in-car entertainment as an area where cost can be kept to a minimum. Even in a silent vehicle, the issues of mushy, uncoordinated sound, lack of stereo image and practically zero dynamics remain as car companies invest as little as possible into improving the driving experience for music-loving drivers.


For these reasons, Lee took his car to FOUR MASTER Source Sounds in Sheffield. Proprietor Paul Ellis is one of the finest brains in the car audio installation world, and as this car was initially an unknown quantity, the best brains were required. Lee already had a system design in mind. It was felt that he would not need enormous power but enough to carefully control the speakers he wanted to fit. The system had to be “real world”. Lee wanted the cost to be realistic while outperforming the factory system by at least ten times in all departments.


Lee was keen to keep the installation as discreet as possible, as was the trend at the time. However, as the vehicle was also to be used to demonstrate equipment, he needed to show those interested where all the equipment was.


The base factory system features 4” speakers on the dashboard, firing upwards, with 8” woofers low down in the doors. There are tweeter positions in the wing mirror covers, but on this model, they were empty. Tesla attempted to use average 4” speakers to reproduce both middle and high-end frequencies, as no tweeters were fitted. To do this, they falsely boosted the high-frequencies via EQ in the factory amplifier. This had to be undone during set-up, but the Forza amp makes this reasonably routine for a competent installer.


Lee wanted to use a mid/tweeter upgrade kit from the Audison BMW Plug & Play upgrade range. The APBMW K4M kit has been the making of many a BMW upgrade. Lee felt the same speakers could bring his Tesla to life.


At the time of the installation, Audison had just released the Forza range of DSP-equipped amplifiers. This range of amplifiers was seen as the saviour of car audio upgrades, and some years on, it still is. It allows complex, multi-channel OEM systems to be untangled elegantly and full-range audio to be re-established. Paul and Lee wanted to drive the front system actively. They were going to need at least six channels to do this. An Audison APBX 10 AS active subwoofer was to be installed, so no channel provision was required. However, the spare DSP channels in the amplifier would help enormously with integrating the sub-bass with the rest of the audio range. Subwoofers tend to require more power than mid-range or tweeters, and if a passive sub were to be fitted, it would require at least two amplified channels to be bridged to drive it to its potential.  Lee did want to utilise the existing speakers in the rear for a little “back-fill”. These are basic single-cone speakers, but as they were unlikely to be driven hard, Lee also asked them to be amplified from the Forza. Having designed an 8-channel system (plus an active subwoofer), the amplifier chose itself, so Lee and Paul decided on the Audison Forza AF C 8.14 bit.


Teslas are particularly sensitive to current draw from their 12-volt system. Imagine returning from a two-week holiday to find that you can’t drive home from the airport as your amplifier has flattened the batteries. Paul and his team would not let that happen, so a good deal of online research was carried out. During this research, Paul discovered several companies offering plug-and-play audio upgrades. Many of these involved adding amplifiers but utilising the original speakers and not adding sound treatment to the doors.  They also appeared to be quite prescriptive, with little scope to tailor the sound to a customer’s specific requirement.


Paul loves a challenge. I have known him for a long time and never heard of him giving up on a vehicle. Paul tells me he did turn up a fair amount of information, particularly from America. However, the sources were often unverified, and the information was scant or confusing. There would be nothing else for it; Paul and his team of technicians would have to take the vehicle apart and carry out their own investigation work.


This proved to be a lengthy process, and he reports that along the way, he learnt an awful lot about the makeup of electric vehicles and Teslas in particular. As there was no specific time pressure to get this vehicle ready, Team Source could afford to carry out the work during downtime, which was very helpful due to the nature of the investigation. Eventually, they cracked it and turned a very ordinary-sounding Tesla into a spectacularly good listening environment. While the vehicle was at Source, a neighbour from the industrial estate they are on asked for a listen as he had a Tesla with the Premium Upgrade system. He was completely knocked over by how good it sounded compared to his vehicle. He described it as being “Moon and Stars better!”. Audison strikes again!


Having demonstrated this car to the general public, I have seen the impact and experienced the reactions it provokes during a listening test. I like to demonstrate tracks from Bob Marley’s “Legend.” This is remastered at least, and I suspect remixed from the original multitrack, as the percussion has been brought dramatically to the fore.


Paul tells me that he and his team are now fully conversant with Tesla products and look forward to upgrading more of them. I look forward to giving further demonstrations in this vehicle, while lucky Lee gets to drive it practically every day!


If you want more fun from your Tesla, I could not recommend this audio upgrade more!


Contact FOUR MASTER Source Sounds, Sheffield, by calling 0114 257 1550





Lee’s Top Five Tunes

Lose Control – Teddy Swims

Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac

Uneventful days – Beck

I Was Made for Lovin’ You – Maria Mena

Pneuma - Tool


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