Our final instalment of the sneaky peek into Tony Parr's Focus upgrade brings us to a speculative bottom-end upgrade which shocked and surprised. Find out why, read on!
I am really looking forward to writing this feature for issue 5 of Diving Sounds Magazine. It has been a bit of a roller coaster, which has bought to light some of the issues often faced by professional installers when devising a system for an unknown car. Not that a Ford Focus in itself is unknown. It remains the most popular car currently on sale in the UK and has been since its launch but, this unique kind of upgrade has never been attempted to our knowledge.
Tony has been driving around with his Prima APK 165 front-end and Prima AP 8.9 amplifier for a month now. After the initial excitement of having the speakers fitted and experiencing upgraded sound in his car for the first time, Tony has continued to enjoy his listening but also voiced a certain slight disappointment that the amplifier had not bought similar levels of improvement to the party. Best friend and benefactor, Brian Parton, who was heading up this project, echoed his disappointment. Brian explains; "we were a little perplexed that adding the amplifier had not bought out the high's and low's of the system more. Image and staging were still good but perhaps some contrast in audio shading has been lost. We ran out of time when installing the amplifier as I tried to fit it in around other tasks I had on the go - Always foolish and another justification for leaving the professionals to it in the first place! So, I was relishing the opportunity to install some bass reinforcement and have another go at setting up the amp and speakers."
The car was returned to Ultimate Audio and a pair of 8inch Prima woofers installed into the rear door panels. The construction of the rear doors is unusual on the Focus and the net effect created a band pass-type effect with the bass proving extremely "peaky" and specific frequencies almost shaking the door handles off completely! In fact the volume of bass was reported as "quite scary". A judicious rethink about the mounting strategy was undertaken and a good deal of sound deadening added to damp things down and reduce the gap between the inner door skin and door panel itself. This work made a huge difference and had the bass performing in a more musical manner even before a full set-up was undertaken. It may be considered that the problems associated with this install were restrictive and that the result could have been compromised due to insurmountable issues with the vehicle build. This is not the case. There is nothing "impossible" for a FOUR MASTER when it comes to audio installation and although the install took perhaps a little longer than would be ideal, the cost of the research work would be amortised over the course of the next few Ford Focus installs. The FOUR MASTER Network now has intimate knowledge of how to get around the odd construction of the rear door panels and early-distorting head unit thanks to this one install.
Ultimate Audio's technical guru, Karl Ward, wheeled out his bit Tune. A sophisticated workshop tool that can be used to do a full audio analysis of the car and adjust the system eq, time alignment and levels. This showed that the original factory source unit was distorting at an alarmingly low level compressing and flattening the input signal to the amplifier. Once this was set correctly, the system changed dramatically as Brian enthuses; "Wow, all the excitement of the initial speaker upgrade returned. The stage lifted and widened and additional control in the mid ranges was blindingly obvious. The niggling high-end harshness that had been bothering me completely disappeared and the bass is awesome!" The vehicle underwent a complete automated set up which bough the newly added bass into line with the rest of the system.
Brian continues; "driving the car back to Tony, I was completely blown away by the performance of the system especially with rock tracks and in particular a favourite audition track of mine, Back in Black by AC/DC. The sheer attack and pinpoint accuracy of the processing and amplification enabled every bit of audio on the disc to be effortlessly reproduced. Our strategy to put bass reinforcement in the rear doors works on many levels. It may not produce much below 40Hz but, the controlled, tight performance was perfectly integrated with the rest of the system and of course, we have made absolutely no compromises to the space available for golf clubs, pushchairs or beer shopping!"
Tony was equally expansive in his appreciation of the finished system and Brian tells me he has already booked friends and work colleagues in for demonstrations! Now this is a man who was sneeringly cynical of car audio. The change in him is palpable and I can't wait to hear the system and explore Tony's music collection which up to now has included two Muse albums and a compilation CD we gave him. Come on Tony get inspired!
You can read the full article in the forthcoming issue of Driving Sounds Magazine