Quality of standard CD players in cars called into doubt

Quality of standard CD players in cars called into doubt

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Founder and MD of high end car audio distributor FOUR, Brian Parton, called round to show me his new system last week. Brian took his car to see FOUR MASTER, Stuart Crombie at Accutek. An installer who is held in extremely high regard by his peers as well as his customers!

Brian is extremely happy with the work that Stuart (Stuey to his friends) has done and with good reason. As you can (almost)see the fabrication of the tweeter pods and amplifier mounting are absolutely first class.

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Brian’s visit happened to coincide with the passing of David Bowie and Brian had been streaming the album “Blackstar” from his iPhone via Bluetooth on the way down and was eager to let me have a listen. I tend to listen to music that I have an intimate knowledge of when assessing cars and I had not heard much of this album other than in passing on BBC 6 Music, but it sounded mighty fine and I have since found it on HD Tracks. The 24bit/96kHz flac version sounds brilliant!

That aside, I was blown away. Brian has selected a three-way set of Rainbow Germanium speakers and two mighty Germanium class AB amplifiers to drive them actively. The amps derive their input from a very excellent Audison bit One processor. The setup in this car with the woofers under the front seats and mids handily placed behind the door handles make good sound and especially a good image a huge challenge. But thanks to the quality of the equipment and the initial set up Stuey achieved (by ear!), the system sounded really exciting. Brian explained that the system had not been tuned scientifically and I personally felt that the mids were slightly underworked in comparison to the bass, but overall the result was very open and extremely lively and the soundstage solid as a rock!

I was keen to throw some more familiar music at the system and put in a CD with some James Taylor on it. To our surprise this did not sound anything like as good as the Bluetooth-streamed David Bowie. Brian dialled up the iTunes version of the same track and played that once more via Bluetooth and yes, it sounded much much better! Far less confusion in the mids and better dynamics and no hint of the distortion we were hearing from CD. The car of course, still suffers from some weird, level-dependent EQ with all the treble disappearing when the volume is turned down but we know that once Brian has installed the new Audison DRC controller he has ordered, the on-board Audison bit One can be tweaked to deal with that!

I am afraid I cannot tell you why the disc spinner in this car sounds so obviously inferior, but I am now worried that my insistence that you don’t have to replace your head unit to achieve great sound in a car may have to come with some caveat’s. Don’t get me wrong, with the bit One, Rainbow amps and speakers on board it sounds much much better than the standard system ever could, but there seems to be so much missing when playing discs. I guess the solution is to bite the bullet and use an Audison bit Play HD as a source unit and just ignore the slot in the dashboard altogether!

Life is a constant learning experience and the world of car audio ever changing. It is vital that specialists exist and are up to speed with new developments. A good specialist is equally skilled at finding solutions to money-saving compromises made by car manufacturers and their audio suppliers! This is just one of many reasons why we always recommend that you take the advice and use the skills of your local FOUR MASTER whenever contemplating an audio upgrade for your car.

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