Sound Foundations

Car audio star gets his own car upgraded



Founding Partner of UK car audio equipment distributor FOUR and the brains behind the FOUR MASTERS network is driven by a passion for music. This along with a love of cars brought him in to the car audio industry where he has made his living for over 20 years. His drive and determination to bring good quality sound reproduction to as many drivers as possible has delivered much-earned success but has not diminished his ambition, to further promote good quality sound in cars.


Brian’s daily driver is a BMW 5-series touring with many features previously thought of as “bells and whistles” which have now become standard on vehicles in the executive saloon sector. As cars evolved to current levels of comfort and sophistication, many new obstacles were placed in the way of those wanting to upgrade car audio. Brian wanted to use his car to demonstrate how a car like his could be massively upgraded with the addition of an Audio Heaven system at reasonable cost, without intruding on luggage space or compromising dashboard design or the functionality of BMW’s iDrive system.


The first thing that strikes you when looking over Brian’s car is the complete lack of any visible indication that any work has been carried out at all! It takes an expert eye to discover what is going on. However, you don't need to be an expert to hear what has happened. Many owners consider the factory equipment on this vehicle to be fine and in fact some would demonstrate it to friends as sounding great however, sitting behind the wheel of this car as it is now and playing your favourite CD, you soon realise that car audio as you know it is far from great! The system reproduces music in its’ purest form with clear distortion-free high frequencies supported by warm mids and lustrous bass which can also rattle your chest when required.


So, how did Brian achieve such an up-lift in sound? The man himself continues; “There are basic overriding principles behind achieving good sound in a car. When you understand what they are, it amazes me that car manufacturers can’t or won't take them on board at design stage. This would make life far easier for them and deliver great rather than adequate sound to their customers. On the other hand, their refusal to do so, makes my business viable so I am also grateful!”


“The main issues are obvious; If you were to propose to a manufacturer of high quality domestic hi-fi speakers that they build speaker cabinets from pressed steel sheet with no anti resonance or damping treatment at all and mount cheap drive units directly on to a cardboard baffle they would quite rightly laugh or call for a psycho analyst. However, this is in essence what car manufacturers have done for many years – OK more recently, speakers are mounted on hard plastic mounts suspended from the structure of the doors but the number of ways in which sound from the speakers they install is compromised by the environment in which they used are many. The first thing a FOUR MASTER will do is strip down the car doors and treat them with specially formulated sound deadening material which will not only reduce outside noise but more importantly add rigidity to the panels and help to prevent the vibrations that amplifier and speaker work so hard to produce from dissipating and cancelling out at the rear of the speaker. The addition of a diffuser system designed to further reduce the effects of reflected sound cancelling the output of the speakers is then added as well as an open cell foam which acts as a barrier against water ingress to the speaker terminals caused by leaks or condensation.


This work all happens behind the trim panels and is therefore unseen although the result can be discerned by tapping the door from the outside and comparing with an untreated door. The treated door should deliver a dull thud when tapped with a knuckle. Other parts of the vehicle can be treated in the same way and it is not unknown for customers to have their roof, floor and boot and engine fire walls treated too, in search of the perfect listening environment. But, this will add significant labour cost to the install so I stuck with simply treating the front doors in this instance.”


Next, audison VOCE AV-3.0 mids and AV-1.1 tweeters were installed on custom speaker rings, which help to beef up the stiffness of the mounting and allow more positioning flexibility. The mid-range speakers and tweeters were mounted in the standard positions behind existing grilles with no visible modification. VOCE speakers are the latest offering from Italian manufacturer audison and contain many ground-breaking speaker technologies which help them to cope with the cramped confines of a car particularly when it comes to sound dispersion and creating a noticeable stereo image and sound stage – something car manufacturers rarely manage to achieve at the factory!


The BMW comes with 6.5” woofers mounted under the front seats and these were simply replaced with VOCE AV-6.5 and suitable sound treatment. Sub bass is produced by a Hertz EBX-F20 flat box, which contains an 8” subwoofer and 10” passive radiator in a super slim enclosure, which fits snugly under the luggage compartment floor.


Connecting to the vehicle electronics was made simple by the inclusion of an audison bit Ten. This takes full-range speaker feeds from the BMW iDrive system and converts them into left channel, right channel and subwoofer outputs which are then fed directly to an audison SR 5.600 amplifier.


Although sounding highly technical, the system is simplicity itself and by utilising the talent of a FOUR MASTER, all the car owner need worry about is the final result. Functionality remains as it was before the installation was carried out with the exception of an added iPod interface that integrates seamlessly with the iDrive system and allows the existing on-board controls to be utilised for music searches and machine control. The bit Ten contains a powerful digital signal processor capable of near infinite changes to equalisation and time alignment allowing the FOUR MASTER to set up the car for the sound that best suits the music their customers listen to. Brian has had two preset sounds set up to cope with the wide range of musical genre’s he frequently demonstrates; these include settings for acoustic/classical music and rock/dance and can be selected from a remote controller secreted away in the ash tray. Brian could not be happier with the result and exclaimed; ”given the restrictions I put on the FOUR MASTER, challenging them to give me great sound without any visual or functional changes to the vehicle, I could not be happier with the results and genuinely look forward to driving my music collection around!”


Music for Driving

Recommended by Brian

American Head Charge – Just So You Know

Foo Fighters – Everlong

Slipknot – Vermillion

The Deftones - Hole in the Earth

Band of Skulls – Wanderluster


Equipment List

audison bit Ten 

audison Sr5 

audison VOCE AV 1.1

audison VOCE AV 3.0  

audison VOCE AV-CX2WMH Crossover 

audison VOCE AV-6.5 

Hertz EBX-F20


iPod interface

Skinz sound treatment

Connection cables and accessories




Car Audio Upgrades Made Easy

Find out what our partner, The FOUR MASTER Network, can do to bring Hi-Fi quality to your car. Simply put some brief details into the form below.

Not ready for that yet? You can use the same form to book a demonstration at your home, place of work or with your local FOUR MASTER