My Car’s Got 17 Speakers!

Source VW dash

Is this the best sounding car in the country? This picture shows a very small part of the dashboard of a VW Golf demo car built by FOUR MASTER supremo’s Source Sounds in Sheffield. The car is completely smothered in speakers. There are 100 voice coils (that’s the component that makes speakers move in and out) in this car and by some people’s understanding, this alone makes it the best sounding car in the country. I know this car and its creators very well. The car does sound absolutely awesome, but I probably wouldn’t enjoy listening to it on the move as it is not meant for that job. If you park it at a car show and turn it up, you can hear it sounding crystal clear – This is the job this car was built to do and, as with everything Source Sounds do, it achieves it in spades doubled and redoubled!

Getting to the serious point we are hoping to convey, we are increasingly told by car owners that their audio system must be good because it has (insert erroneous number here up to 17) speakers fitted at the factory. This is what these unwitting car owners have been told by the salesman in the car showroom with whom, you can have a great deal of fun by the way, if you know absolutely anything about audio! This is a worrying message and doesn’t add up on so many levels. For a start, the placement of a tweeter is extremely important when trying to establish a correct stereo image. Simply adding an extra pair because the first ones fitted are facing each other firing across the dashboard and have such a poor dispersion characteristic that the listener is effectively hearing mono, is not really a sensible option unless they are positioned so that they fire into the car, in which case, remove the first useless ones! Similarly, if you were to remove all the woofers and mid-drivers that add little or nothing musical to the sound or are mounted so that they point toward the passengers ankles and you could arguably end up with less than two!

Last month we spoke about the many attributes and advantages of having a traditional two-channel set up with possibly a third channel running non-directional sub bass frequencies. Judging by the response it seems that those who took the opportunity to read it agreed wholeheartedly. However, car companies who still don’t treat their door panels with sound deadening as it saves them a couple of quid per unit, now seem to be inventing whole new sonic parameters. It isn’t about the integrity of the source – MP3 is just fine! – It doesn’t matter about the woefully underpowered amplification – 12 Watts RMS per channel is all you could possibly need – It is all about the number of speakers. Well, how could we all have been so stupid, this makes so much sense doesn’t it?  Well, actually, no it doesn’t and they know it so they try to further blind the already misinformed customer by mentioning phase and the fact that in order to maintain phase stability, they have come up with magical ways in which to ensure that the phase of the final stereo output is enhanced by having a number of really cheap speakers dotted about the place. They may even mention noise cancellation and using anti noise to reduce wind and road noise. This has been a holy quest for many years and I remember sitting in a Vauxhall Carlton 20 years ago which claimed to use anti noise very intelligently to this effect. Sure enough there was a resulting reduction in road and wind noise but no more than a liberal coating of sound treatment would achieve and the whole system fell over if the listener moved their head by a few degrees in any direction.

We fully expect car manufacturers to continue with this misinformation for as long as there are people out there who can’t be bothered to do anything other than tick the box for an “audio upgrade”. Maybe these people are driven by some kind of 80’s yuppy dream to spend far more on a car than they need to just to impress the salesman, their neighbour, friend or colleague or maybe they haven’t heard that seeking out a passionate expert in car audio and asking their advice could result in them spending half of what a showroom upgrade would cost and achieve a far more pleasing result. Some people do the right thing and we feel it is their duty to spread the word before we start seeing car adverts selling upgrades of; “Optional Super Round Wheels!”

Go to your local FOUR MASTER and find out how to ensure you get great quality sound in any car and you could save money into the bargain.

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