Our tour of Thesis-equipped cars in this issue would be incomplete without mentioning Brian Parton's silver machine, a vintage Porsche 964.
An exhilarating tour around no less than four Audison Thesis-equipped cars has been most enlightening. Each installation sounds very different due to differing equipment mixes and physical installation. As we know, speaker positions are the biggest obstacle to hi-fi sound in a car. At this equipment level, it is well worth going the extra distance and having the vehicle modified to position them better rather than put up with them firing into your knees.
I guess the saying about an exception proves a rule exists for a reason. It is undoubtedly true of Brian's Porsche. This is the only one of the four cars we have looked at to have its woofers and tweeters mounted in the stock positions. The woofer has been set on axis, but the tweeters remain low and fire across the car's width.
This car is blessed with one of the finest sound stages I have come across for some unknown reason. It is effortless to listen to. So much so that my regular visits to FOUR HQ have me begging Brian for a listen to my latest hot tune. Many tracks we use for auditions in this issue have been selected after listening to this car.
The sound stage width reaches beyond the confines of the car, but also, bizarrely, the stage depth goes beyond the windscreen. Brian prefers his image to be centred around the driving position. I would say it sits plumb on the top and centre of the steering wheel, which is extraordinary considering the tweeter positions.
Brian and I have listened to many pieces of music in this car across a vast range of genres. We are always wowed by the precise detail and clarity regardless of the type of music. Most recent examples include "Too High" from Stevie Wonder's magnificent Innervisions album.
Apart from recruiting some help with the harmony vocals (Doo-Doo figure), this track is all Stevie's work, even the sensational drumming. Legend has it that Stevie had Right Track Recorders mobile recording truck parked outside his house for over three years while he recorded his three greatest (in my opinion) albums, including this one. This would have given him plenty of time to perfect the truly magnificent drum sound.
The track gets going straight away with a funky Moog bass line and drums lighting the blue touch paper. In comes a Fender Rhodes piano and vocal "Doo Doo's" before the track settles into a funky and dynamic backing for the main vocal. Despite the surprisingly few instruments, the track is full of surprises. The aforementioned drum lines mainly provide these with spot-on rolls on snare and toms. The cymbal hits are so clear you can tell what sticks he uses (really? – Ed). At approx. 2:00, some odd vocal effects appear, including a "click" that I first thought was provided by castanets. There is also someone who seems to be gargling. These oddities introduce the harmonica duet. Again, Stevie plays both parts. The Doo-Doo vocal break is reprised, reintroducing a jazzy feel to the track. Some crazy key modulations post-solo takes us to crazy places before a false end where the track seems to just fizzle out before coming back with some closing Doo doos before a heavily harmonised vocal suspended chord provides an ending that leaves me wanting to play the whole thing again, and so I did!
The far-reaching image in this car not only aids with instrument separation but also adds incredible atmosphere to almost anything we throw at it. If you imagine the individual instruments in a piece of music as stars in the sky and then place an imaginary piece of frosted glass in front of your eyes, you get a pretty blurry picture of the "night sky", as it were. This is generally what many drivers in audio-terms, have to live with. In this car, the frosted glass has been removed, and all the stars are revealed in pinpoint glory.
Another area of the system's performance in this car is how it handles high frequencies. For me, certain tracks can seem a little harsh sometimes. However, I believe this to be as much to do with my ageing ears as Brian's preference. We have even experimented with lowering the tweeter levels by up to 3dB. However, removing the high frequencies also affects the image slightly, so care must be taken. This is because the precise positional detail that is so exceptional in this car is contained in the upper reaches of the audio spectrum. I have long believed that my brain overcompensates as I age and my ears become less good at processing high-frequency sounds. Therefore, I can find it a little disturbing when confronted with proper high-end. Sometimes the discrepancies I perceive are not necessarily shared by others.
When listening, I am a detail guy. Having a musical background, I am drawn to the construction of a piece of music rather than maybe just sonic performance first off. I find myself having to listen to a piece of music multiple times to accurately assess how it sounds. However, I can move through my analysis in this car in a single pass. This is because it is so easy to listen to, and my ears seem to be able to decipher everything in one go.
This car combines an Audison Voce 5.1K amplifier with a Thesis 2-way component system and a single 8" subwoofer to tremendous effect. I remain a huge fan of this listening environment.
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