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Building your first Audio System

When building you first audio system there are a lot of things to consider. How much am I going to spend? What level of quality am I aiming for? Do I want to compete? What colour scheme do I want? All these factors can add up to one massive headache, it is always best to fully research your options and take your time.

Building a system is easier when you break it down into chunks. Start with the car stereo and work your way back is always a good method to follow. The stereo you choose may affect your choice of speakers or amps, it is therefore important that you choose the right one! Once you have your head unit you need to decide what type of speakers you want to fit, do you want a basic 4 corner set up with speakers in each door, or do you want to build custom door cards and run more than 2 sets?

Once you have chosen your speakers you need to consider amplifying them. You can set your car up and have a good system without doing this but to get the most out of the speakers you have bought it is highly recommended.

So now you have your head unit and speakers chosen, next up is the subwoofer. For most people building their first audio install the subwoofer is the most important item of all. This is going to give your system the deep rumbling bass that will impress your peers. For this very reason it is important to spend a lot of time picking the right one. Your first choice is do you buy an active sub or a separate sub and amp. This usually comes down to cost, with active subs working out a lot cheaper.  These are good but to get the best you need to buy separates, this can be confusing so it’s always best to get some good advice on the matter.

Ok, so we’ve chosen all the components on our system now we need to look at connecting them all up. It is important that the system is powered properly so it is a good idea to uprate the battery and use the best wiring you can afford.  When selecting wire it is important to get as much copper content as you can. This will show the quality of the wire.

Your first stereo is something you will always look back on with nostalgia. It is therefore really rewarding to make your first system your best, have a look round, choose your components and get as much advice as possible. There is more to making a great system than what is written on the box, it is always best to have an experienced friend or contact to guide you.


July 29th, 2010
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What does the future hold for Car Audio

With technology rapidly improving and new products appearing every month, car audio is improving exponentially. This poses a problem though, with things moving so fast how is it possible to keep up? The trick is to be one step ahead of the game and make sure all future purchases are future proofed.

So what’s in store for the car audiophile? We are starting to see the next stage of technology emerging into the market with the Fusion CA-iP500 and the Sony DSX-S100. Both of these units are classed as Digital Media Receiver’s, meaning that they do not use CD’s. This seems like a major leap that is perhaps a step ahead if itself however with the likes of Sony now producing these units it’s a safe bet that other manufacturers have got similar products in the pipeline.  Digital units have the advantage of being able to navigate and utilise iPods and MP3 players, allowing you to carry your whole music collection and listen to it whilst driving. In the next few years my prediction is that all car audio brands will look at going for purely digital stereos.

Bluetooth, already a massive feature in today’s car stereos but expect to see this as a basic feature much like Traffic information.  The functionality of Bluetooth is also improving; it is now possible to stream music over Bluetooth directly from your phone or computer. Future advances will probably involve pulling up phonebooks and more phone controls being integrated with the head unit.

The design and functionality of future stereos will include improved screens, perhaps true LCD, HD even. Faster response times and generally improved user interfaces. Built quality is already on the rise with cheap car stereos being able to keep up with the more expensive units.

Whatever the future holds for car stereo, much like the rest of technology, it will continue to improve at an amazing rate. Advances over the last 5 years have been huge with colour screens and MP3 compatibility becoming major features almost overnight. Looking for the latest features and a little research will enable you to stay ahead of the game and make sure your unit is not yesterday’s news before you have even fitted it.

 


July 29th, 2010
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Sony Tune Tray, the next stage in car stereo








With the arrival of the DSX-S100 Digital Media receiver, Sony have released their new wave of car stereos and look set to take the market by storm. They have decided to take the huge leap and get rid of CD decks in favour of a purely digital unit, allowing you to dock either an iPod or MP3 device directly into the stereo.  They have developed the Tune Tray system which hides the connected device within the unit themselves, getting rid of messy cables and keeping your prized possessions safely out of view.  



Sony’s new Zappin technology allows the user to quickly search for their favourite tracks by playing the chorus from the selected song as a sound clip. This allows you to search without taking your eyes off the road.  The new DM+ features cleans up your digital media and restores the frequencies lost during file compression. This will be an excellent feature for the more enthusiastic audiophile.  These new units fit in the Xplod range and will be the more premium units Sony have to offer.

Whether the public are ready for such a change is questionable but Sony are taking a massive leap towards the next stage of car technology. CD’s are fast becoming a thing of the past with sales of solid media dropping rapidly whilst digital media and downloads are flourishing. We have only had MP3 players for around 10years but they are already a fundamental part and our gadget essentials and popularity is growing stronger each year. Sony have sensed the ever growing need for connectivity and like Fusion before them have developed these cracking units. The DSX-S100 is available now from most car audio specialist priced at around £120. The DSX-S200X and DSX-S300BTX are set to follow in the autumn of this year, expect to pay around £150 for the 200 and around £200 for the 300.

 


July 20th, 2010
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Products to consider when buying a car stereo





When buying a new car stereo there are a few essential items that most people over look. The majority of users don’t realise that most cars have their own specific connections that will need to be adapted to suite the stereo or that an up to date stereo may be a different size to their original unit.

Most cars have a specific vehicle connection on the back of their stereo; all aftermarket stereos use an ISO connection. This creates a mismatch which needs to be overcome by the use a wiring adaptor.  Most people do not realise that this can be a factor when buying a car stereo and then realise when they go to fit the unit that it will not work. The easiest way of checking whether your car needs a wiring adaptor is the contact a car audio specialist.

Aerial adaptors are much like the wiring adaptors I mentioned above, only the aerial connection as opposed to the power/speaker connection. This can be totally separate to the wiring adaptor, you may need an aerial adaptor but not a wiring adaptor and vice versa. Always double check both as it can be very frustrating when trying to install a stereo to find that you have not got the right aerial adaptor. Aftermarket head units all use a DIN connection, a lot of cars come with this as standard but it is always best to check when purchasing your stereo.

Last but certainly not least is the fascia panel. You’ve bought all your adaptors and wiring needed to fit the stereo but then find out it does not fit into the slot on your dash! This is where a fascia comes in; it alters the size of the dash to enable a nice snug fit for an aftermarket head unit. New aftermarket stereos either come in DIN or Double DIN sizes, OEM head units on the other hand come in a variety of sizes and some newer models can’t be replaced at all. Again it is best to check whether you need a fascia when purchasing your stereo.

So in brief always,

·         Check if you need a wiring adaptor

·         Check if you need an aerial adaptor

·         Check if you need a fascia

This will prevent most headaches when you come to fit your nice new stereo.


July 20th, 2010
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How to improve your Car Stereo on a Budget





When looking to get more performance out of your car stereo you have to consider the most cost effective way of going about it. What exactly do you want? More bass? Better sound quality? Maybe the ability to connect an iPod? Whatever your needs are there is a solution for you and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

So, you have your favourite CD playing and there’s something missing. Bass! Adding bass to a system is very simple in essence but the options are vast. The most common and easy way of upgrading the bass is to install a subwoofer. This provides a good level of bass and can be tuned to the style of music you listen to. On the down side most subwoofer enclosures are rather large, taking up valuable space in the boot of your car. Sometimes a great options is to simply upgrade the door speakers, this can be very cost effective and is possibly the easiest choice. Products like the Fusion car speaker range offers excellent value for money and will provide nice amounts of bass with little effort.  

If its better sound quality you want, maybe your standard speakers are getting a little worn out, then upgrading is an excellent way forwards. The standard speakers in most cars are simple paper built units; any aftermarket speaker is going to be an upgrade over this.  For improved sound quality it is advisable to buy a good quality set of speakers and amplify them separately.

When it comes to connectivity the there are two basic choices. You can either stick with your factory radio and find an interface, or you can replace the head unit for one with the features you require built in. Both options cost roughly the same however a new head unit will also improve other areas of your system at the same time.  Products like the Dension Gateway 100 can provide a great integrated look for people who don’t want to change the look of their car. Some head units can provide advanced connectivity without costing much at all. Models like the Beat275 can connect to all except the iPod and yet only costs £45, pretty amazing really as it’s also has a good build quality! It’s not very often in life you find cheap and good in the same description.

No matter what you would like to achieve with your car stereo it is possible to do it on a budget. The options out there are vast and vary greatly in cost. Before you buy anything first consider exactly what you want to achieve and then research the products which will deliver this for you. There are a lot of factors to consider when buying car audio so it is important you take your time and make sure everything fits into your idea.


July 16th, 2010
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Cheap Car stereos, are they really up to scratch?





OK, so there is some debate as to whether the cheap car stereos on the market have the quality of the more expensive, well known brands. The answer is sometimes, as with all other walks of life there are good eggs and bad eggs. I’m sure you have all been there where you buy a cheap torch from the local market and 3years later it’s still working, however the top of range torch only lasted a month. The same goes for car audio, the cheap stuff is not always the worst.

I have used many stereos over the years, my favourite probably being the Kenwood units. I have paid large and small for them ranging from £50 to £500. In my experience the price has not always been justified by the quality. I only recently purchased a Beat 275 unit, one of the cheapest head units you are ever likely to see at £45. It was brilliant from day one, never missed a beat (pardon the pun) and had all the features I could ever need.

In the past i have used most types of headunit and my worst experience came from a JVC. It had stability issues and every bump in the road caused the unit to skip. This could be expected from a unit costing less than £60 but i was nearer £160. This just highlights the difference in quality is not always determined by price but also by luck and brand.

By paying the big bucks, most of the time you will get the best but there are the exceptions out there. Have a look around, play with some demo models in the shop and learn what you are buying. Just because the unit is really cheap doesn’t mean it’s going to last a week, just because it cost more than the average family home doesn’t mean it’s going to last forever.  When buying a headunit, don’t be afraid of  the  cheap car stereo on the market but do research it first.

 


July 16th, 2010
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Have Fusion grown from the sucess of 2008?

Fusion’s MS-RA200 has been recently Recognised For Marine Innovation, and FUSION Electronics’ 2008 Car Audio product range has been rewarded for its quality and innovation. Has fusion been able to have a product that is rewarded for its quality and innovation in today’s market.

Fusions success in the UK market was based upon products released in 2008, which received gold awards from stereo design to Best Sub woofer Under £150. Power Plant Sub woofers feature technological advancements never seen before in car audio.

The new wave of Award winning products of 2010 include the MS-RA200 Marine Stereo. Against extremely strong competition from many international manufacturers, FUSION was awarded the prestigious 2010 International Innovation Award.

So the real question is, will fusion car audio be able to replicate there success today after the success back in 2008, keep your eyes peeled…


July 12th, 2010
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Does Fusion Car Audio offer Good Value for Money ?

 The Fusion Car Audio brand in the UK is strong, A Good combination of advertising and product quality has established Fusion as one of the more significant brands amongst a large competitor base. Fusion products are immediately recognisable, probably more so than any other brand on the market which helps with the popularity and sale of Fusion products.

 

To ask a question Is fusion good value for money? First we have to consider other products available, what quality they are and where fusion sits against the competition. Secondly if the value for money is good, does this make them any more desirable?

 

To start with quality, Fusion isn’t leading the market. The Fusion products offer a decent quality overall, however most of the products fall into the entry level category. Basically meaning the audio equipment is at good standard but can’t and wont compete against other products designed for competition (Digital Designs, RE Audio, Focal, Diamond etc) However this generally wont effect people looking to purchase Fusion (or any equivalent products) as they aren’t looking to purchase competition spec equipment. Fusion do offer products into a higher quality bracket. The Fusion PowerPlant range for example pushes toward the middle product range.

 

Knowing where Fusion sits in comparison with other products is important to determine value for money and what the product offers in addition over other products. Generally speaking Fusions main competitors are Vibe, Fli and a few others.

 

When you buy Fusion you get a product with a strong identity, strong design and offers quality at least level with its main competitors. People who are interested in car audio instantly recognise fusion and can relate to its performance.

 

You can purchase Car audio equipment cheaper than fusion, however I wouldn’t recommend it. In my opinion Fusion audio offers the best value for money of all the entry level equipment available on the market as they combine style & performance with a good price tag. If you do decide to go with fusion your onto a winner.   


July 8th, 2010
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Key Features of Today’s Car Stereos





There are certain things you should look for when buying a car stereo these days. The most very basic options that should be accepted have gone up in recent months as technology has become cheaper and cheaper.  Features once out of reach to the masses are now expected in even the most back head unit. So, what should you look for in a car stereo these days?

Radio Function – This goes without saying that a stereo should have radio and also a nice amount presets to go along with it. DAB is still far enough in the future that most people aren't worrying about the digital switch over. When the car manufacturers start fitting the feature as standard, that's when its time to start looking at upgrading to digital.  RDS, TA, PTY are all expected nowadays no matter what price the head unit is your looking at. A head unit without these features is a like a car without wheels, it won’t happen.

CD – Nowadays CD goes with radio in the category of items expected from any car stereo.  We have moved on a little from the 1980’s when CD was the new thing, we now want MP3 CD’s containing hundreds of songs. MP3 capabilities are a key feature to look for nowadays; if a car stereo does not have this feature then it really is a poor unit.  

Connectivity – In this market connectivity is the most important and biggest selling feature. Whether the stereo can connect to an MP3 player, iPod or portable HDD is very important to today’s end user.  Digital Media is to the 21st century what T.V was to the 20th. In order to achieve total connectivity and integration you are going to be looking to spend upwards of £100, some products like the Beat 275 for example offer excellent value but do not offer the iPod which is a huge feature.  7/10 people have an iPod with 95% of that figure driving. This just shows the huge potential out there for iPod connectivity and why it is so important nowadays for products to support it. 

Ports and Slots – The physical connection on a head unit are more important than how fancy the unit looks or what software it is programmed with. The bare minimum nowadays is to have at least 1 RCA Pre-out, and Aux in and a USB slot. All of these can be seen on items costing less than £50. You would also want to be looking for iPod docks, SD slots and CD changer ports. The more slots and ports on the head unit the more broad the connection options are, if you are looking to build a serious audio system you would need a few RCA Pre-outs, a dedicated sub-out, iPod dock, USB  and CDC port in order to be able connect everything a pro audio install requires.  For these kind of levels i would recommend looking at the £200+ products, the cheaper items like the Sony CDX can run basic audio but for real power you need to pay. In this market cheap car stereos do the business but can’t really cut it when you try to build big powered systems.

Bluetooth – This could have been covered under connectivity but it is about the biggest feature available right now. Bluetooth is a huge business nowadays as more and more people are becoming conscious of the legal consequences of using mobile phones whilst driving. A good quality head unit will have this feature built in and will eliminate the need to have a separate Bluetooth kit saving you £££’s.  Bluetooth is slowly filtering down the market and is now available for less than £100.

When it comes to car stereos the old saying of “you get what you pay for” is mostly true, there are the odd exception like the Beat 275 for example, but this is rare. In this market there is a stereo suited to everyone’s needs so look at all options and you will find a unit with every feature you need at a price that suites.


July 8th, 2010
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