A Case for Bassless Driving?
The image above is of the interior of one of the finest show cars currently in circulation, a Vauxhall Astra belonging to FOUR MASTERs John Kleis in Reading. The build quality and sheer power of the overall system has been wowing car show visitors for three or so years now and it never fails to draw a crowd when pumping loud, full-range sound at music festival levels, but with even less distortion!
Despite the undoubted excitement that huge amounts of low bass can add to music, it is this very aspect that wholly polarises the potential car audio customer. Typically, the younger generation put bass right at the top of their criteria when beginning the journey to upgraded car sound. It is the extreme excitement that they are after. For the older music lover, the very thought of having to turn over valuable boot space to a 12″ subwoofer has them running for the hills! As with all things, there is middle ground of course and we have many customers who want low bass and space for: the weekly shop, golf clubs, family holiday luggage etc. A skilled FOUR MASTER is able to install a modern subwoofer with minimal impact on the luggage space in most cases. However, technology has advance considerably in the last 10-15 years, and there are now 8″ subwoofers that will produce rich timbre-filled lows from a very small enclosure fitted neatly under a seat. Many grown-ups remember the days when a system was judged by the number of subwoofers and amplifiers featured in it and some are convinced that without, there just isn’t going to be any fun.
Those amongst you who listen to and appreciate music and its reproduction as an art-form know of course, that bass is not the be all and end all in a system. In fact an unbalanced system can be as fatiguing to listen to as a factory fitted system, and we all know how bad they can sound! A more important bandwidth for easy listening and excitement, in my opinion, is mid-bass frequencies. This is where all the guitars, drums and vocals that many love so much sit and nostalgia is so often in the melody line! (Click the image below to find out why!)
If you were lucky enough to sit in our two BMW 2-series cars as featured on the Driving Sounds Magazine stand at Goodwood festival of Speed and CarFest North this year, you will have experienced very different systems. The blue car was built with lots of power and a 12″ subwoofer albeit, balanced to perfection by the golden ears of Paul Ellis of Source Sounds. The white car had no subwoofer and considerably less power yet 8 out of 10 cats preferred it? – Well no, not quite, but many who listened to the white car first, found the blue car a little over emphasised in the bass register. The comparison was a little unfair as both vehicles were playing 24-bit, 96kHz HD audio and were as sorted as anything we have ever heard in the mid-bass and high frequencies. Furthermore, the listening was done under static conditions and the key reason for emphasising bass in a car is to counteract the bass cancellation effect of tyres on road.
As a youth, I would probably have been tempted to focus on bass as my first priority when building a system for my car however, these days, I have taken the completely opposite approach. This enabled me to spend as much of my budget as possible on sound treatment and sorting the top and middle frequencies which I did some two years ago. Come to think of it, I still haven’t got round to adding a subwoofer and don’t feel I am missing out on bass unless I am bowling down the motorway.
I suppose to conclude, if you are faced with having to build a system in stages then I would rather recommend that people follow my lead and get the mids and top end of their systems sorted before thinking about bass. Having heard plenty of systems belonging to gleeful youngsters who have spent £150 on a powered subwoofer morphed onto an existing factory system, I think I know the fastest and most cost efficient route to car audio nirvana!
Visit your local FOUR MASTER for a demonstration of excellent car audio. If they have built it right you should still have some useful stowage space in the vehicle!
Content provided by our friends at Driving Sounds