Our long-term project is now in its 4th month and has already allowed us to document some typical attitudes and reactions to car audio amongst those making their first steps. Tony Parr is a good friend of founder of distributor FOUR UK Ltd, Brian Parton who laid down a challenge to Tony to resist the allure of great music in his car once it had been upgraded to make it sound good. Following on from last month's appraisal filtered through Brian, this month Driving Sounds managed to catch up with Tony himself to ask him a few questions.
We were hoping to have added an amplifier to Tony's car by now but things have slipped for reasons beyond our control but we will be doing this very soon. When I first met Tony and attempted to engage him on music, and car audio it was to be frank, hard work. Having never experienced good sound in his car, Tony had nothing to say and was struggling to get what all the fuss was about. I shouldn't get disheartened by this as I would bet that over 90% of car drivers in the UK are similarly disengaged with what they are listening to (88.2% of statistics are made up on the spot - Vic Reeves). Of course, I do not know the numbers but certainly, most people I speak to about car audio think I am part of some sort of weird minority group. If I am, I think we have just recruited another member!
Tony is already a changed man and when I phoned him, I had to wait for him to finish demonstrating his new speakers to someone (doesn't he know who I am?). Anyway, under the circumstances I was only too happy to wait. I began by asking Tony for his first impressions.
DS - Tell me what you thought when you sat in the car with its new speakers for the first time?
Tony - It was late at night when I returned from my holiday. The car was waiting in the drive for me and I couldn't resist having a quick listen. I sat in the car and listened to a Muse track very quietly, not wishing to wake the neighbours and wow! Even at this low level, the clarity was incredible and I certainly had no trouble identifying that the new speakers had been fitted while I was away."
DS - What other things made an impression once you were in a position to crank it up?
Tony - The next day, I checked that equalisation on the head unit was set to flat and set off for a drive. The depth of the bass notes and the punchy snap that was added to everything I listened to, was a bit overwhelming. The other notable thing was that everything was much louder than my previous speakers were at the same level. I couldn't previously turn the volume up past 11 or 12 before the old speakers distorted really badly. Now at that same level the sound is not only much louder but also really clear and undistorted.
DS - So have you explored other music since the upgrade?
Tony - My intention was to use my phone as a music source as I don't really have many CD's but I haven't managed to get round to that yet. However, Brian gave me a Driving Sounds demo disc, which has lots of different kinds of music on it (Yep, I know it really well actually - ed). There is a jazz track featuring a female vocalist, which must have been recorded live as I could hear glasses and crockery jingling away in the background. This has become my favourite track as the things I can hear in there are really astonishing. It really is like I am sat in the front row at a gig. I keep going back to that track and can't stop myself from dragging work colleagues and even my boss into the car to listen to it!
DC - You are due to have an amplifier and cunning bass reinforcement solution fitted as part of this project. What is your expectation of the difference that will make?
Tony - Initially, I was concerned that this would just make the system far too loud but Brian has since explained that adding an amplifier isn't all about sheer volume and that the amplifier would provide a more controlled reproduction to the speakers which should increase instrument separation and make the speakers sound even better. I can't wait now. I want more definitely and I previously thought my factory fitted speakers sounded OK!
DS - Do you see yourself ever being happy to own a car with standard speakers fitted again?
Tony - There is absolutely no way I am driving a car with standard speakers in ever again!
Warms the cockles doesn't it music lovers? I look forward to bringing you the next step in Tony's journey next month.
Shortly after writing this, I received a call from Brian who was driving Tony's car to FOUR MASTER Ultimate Audio for the next stage of the installation. I know Brian very well and we have spent many hours sat in cars together listening to music and analysing sound. We share a very similar vision of what good audio should sound like. Because Brian is around car audio every day, it takes quite a lot to get him excited and I have never heard him be so effusive about the sound in a car as he was when he called me! - "Blow me!" he said, or words to that effect, "this car sounds absolutely amazing. I am listening to Frank Sinatra, he is actually sat on the dashboard and I can literally see his hat reflected in the windscreen. I have never heard him and his orchestra sound so good. The image is as wide as you like and the stage depth is absolutely astonishing and this car has only had the speakers replaced - we need to tell people how good this is!" (I'm trying to Brian - ed) The conversation went on for a lot longer than this. In fact after 20 minutes, I was exhausted but also really jealous that he was having such a brilliant experience and I have yet to sit in the car. I went back to my work with a big smile on my face but felt I had to report this feedback from Brian but he wasn't finished. He called me back 30 minutes later and spent a further 15 minutes describing how the speakers were rendering the MTV unplugged live version of Eric Clapton's Laya. "I don't really like this track very much but I have just listened to it four times in succession. I have to keep checking what I am hearing, astonishing, absolutely astonishing!"
I am only sad that I won't get to hear the car in it's current state but if a speaker upgrade can cause such excitement, think what will happen when the speakers are being driven by a matching Audison Prima amplifier with signal processing! Full audition by yours truly next month if all goes well.