Audi have just released details of their new ‘Sound Concept’ Car. The system contains a whopping 62 speakers, surrounding the cabin and creating a truly remarkable surround sound effect. This is either a stroke of excellence or simply a case of Audi showing off?
This may be the most extreme sounds system ever produced by a manufacturer, setting a new bench mark for OEM and Aftermarket equipment alike. The idea behind the system is that the sound should be multidirectional and you will not be able to pick out any single speaker as a point of reference. This effect should give a totally immersive feeling to the music, making you feel like you are at a live concert.
The kit is fitted to an Audi Q7 and is very unlikely to be an option any time soon. This has the smell of a one off, show piece for the brand, albeit a very impressive show piece.
Although it’s doubtful that Audi will put this into production, it may lead the way to new concepts and perhaps similar systems that are not quite as large, being produced by other car manufacturers.
Active subwoofers have long been seen as the simplest solution when it comes to adding that extra punch to any sound system. Buying an active enclosure eliminates the need to start matching subwoofers with amps, designing the box to suit the subwoofer and connecting them up in a tidy fashion. To the audio novice this can become a very complex and difficult process, which is why active enclosures are so good when building your first system.
The value for money on the active kits is extremely good. The subwoofer is primed to perform to its fullest straight from the box, companies put millions into the development of the right enclosure and this really shows. Product lines such as the Fusion Encounter series and the Vibe Black Air series are both excellent examples of what can be achieved with an active enclosure; this is probably why they are the market leaders.
In this market you get what you pay for and from my experience go for the better quality items. The slim fitting units that slot under seats really can’t cut it for volume and SQ against the full size enclosures. These are the more expensive units and for the best quality you are going to be looking between £150 – 200, this still works out cheaper than building a custom system.
The active enclosures are excellent quality kits, yes you can build a better system by going custom, but you will pay a lot more in order to achieve this. For value/performance there really is no better option out there.
For years the bottom rungs of the Car Audio ladder have been full of poor quality, cheap products. Not anymore! The improvements over the past couple of years have been mind boggling, the falling cost of technology and cheaper manufacturing processes have allowed this change. What was top of the range 3 years ago is now the very basic we expect. Colour screens, pre outs, memory card slots and remote controls, once reserved for the prestige units from the likes of Alpine and JVC, are now available for less than £100.
Take Beat for example, there entry level unit (Beat 175) comes with more features than a Swiss army knife and is so far ahead of its time it even comes without a CD slot. It runs purely on digital media, only a few have tried this route before and failed, however the Beat 175 has price on its side at under £40. The next step up is possibly the best head unit on the market for less than £100. The Beat 275 has features you would expect on units costing three times as much, with remote control and every slot you could imagine. The only downside is the lack of iPod connection but for the money and compared to their rivals, the Beat units cannot be outdone.
Following the Head unit trend of improvement, car audio has improved in general. From speakers to amps, cabling to terminals, quality is on the up while prices are remaining steady. The basic product lines from the likes of Fusion and Vibe are now excellent value for money. It is entirely realistic to build a full audio system for under £200 whilst still maintaining the features and quality that you would expect from a build costing twice that.
New brands are starting to appear offering greater quality products without the cost of the brand name. Products like the SNG Jatt series, although unknown to most, will blow the likes of Alpine and Kenwood out of the water. With basic builds using two 12” Jatt series subs reaching a whopping 140dB, they really are a force to be reckoned with and the best bit? The subs are available for less than £90 each.
With technology becoming cheaper it is only a matter of time before we start to see touch screens and motorised monitors breaking the £100 barrier. The Beat 550 has a 3” touch screen and that is available at £120. Bargain audio equipment and cheap car stereos no longer mean settling for poor quality items, shop around and you will be amazed at what is out there.