IMO there is no such thing as high end car audio. Road noise, reflections, limited speaker placement and so on are all factors that you can not eleminate from mobile audio.
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In the 80's car audio was getting very, very good. I have mentioned in another thread that my biamped Nakamich and a/d/s system with mini monitors and well recorded cassette tapes sounded unbelievably good, and much more musical than a lot of "high end" digital systems I hear today.
That system, the "a/d/s mobile fidelity system" actually dates back to 1975?!? when it sold for the then astronomical price of $1000.00.
Then, at some point, car audio fell out of fashion and later became a subwoofer and neon competition.
I spent lots of money on my last car, a Porsche Boxster S, with supposedly one of the best installers in the tri state area etc etc and the end result was TERRIBLE.
There are a few sites apparently devoted to high end car audio, and once in a while a tube amp comes along. Milbert made one and Butler amps were also supposed to be good.
Really good, 2 channel, not too boomy, not too hot car audio with natural musical midrang, where I can drive off into the sunset in musical bliss - wow I would love to hear more too.
Dynaudio, MB Quart, Infinity and Focal make fantastic component car audio speakers. Genesis(England) make very high end amps and speakers. Try www.Theautophile.com. Mr. Peter Lufrano if I remember correctly and ask his advice. Not sure if his advice is still free though. He wasn't real keen on giving free advice unless you were buying something from him, but there is no denying that the man knows his car audio! It all depends on where you are wanting to go with your car's system and how much $$ you want to spend. It isn't all neon and boomy bass! I love my truck's system!
Obviously conditions are not ideal in a car, compared to say, a recording studio. But to be honest, I never understood this reaction to car audio.
Just because we may add road noise or face challenges with reflections or speaker placement, does that mean we should just give up and settle for Delco?
In my experience the interior of a car - with leather and carpets - can sometimes compensate nicely for the reflective nature of the windows. Car windows rattle less than house windows in a listening room.
And tweeters can be mounted in fiberglass pods, for example, in foot wells and aimed at your ears for more on axis response.
Even if these things cant be tamed, an audiophile can still listen THROUGH these things and hear what is hopefully good sound beneath it all.
Would you rather listen to a good system in a bad room, or a bad system in a bad room? If a band plays in a noisy bar, should they discard the usual care and attention to the mix?
This is AUDIOgon. And whatever, the case listening to music in the car is really FUN.
Yes, the autophile was one of the sites previously recommended for this topic.
Should we all settle for Delco, absolutely not! But, I can't see spending thousands of dollars on a car system. It does crack me up when you go to test drives cars and the sales person says, "And this has a great Bose stereo." I did the car audio thing for several years when I was younger and don't remember any of them sounding anything close the hi end home audio. Just my opinion. If it floats your boat, jump in.
Car audio is not all boom and neon.....at least not for everyone. I just completed a system that any audiophile would love to listen to. Dynaudio system 340 and 360 are the best sounding three way car speakers I have ever heard. I also own MB Quart.....also awesome....but the Dynaudio gets my vote for best ever. The Focal Utopias are excellent speakers as well. All of these speakers are VERY sensitive to amplification. Old school Precision Power amps (art series) are excellent.....if you can find someone willing to part with one. For subs think JL Audio, and accept no substitutes. High end audio in your car is possible......is not easy to do......and will cost you plenty. By the way, I have visited a few car audio forums and I have to say the good advice is there, but hard to come by. Mostly just kids touting whatever they happen to be using at the moment. Yeah, I know, just like me. Except I have owned just about every brand you can name and have benefitted from the experience. For a quick list of what not to buy (except head units) just open a Crutchfield catalouge.
You guys/gals raise good points and yes, road noise, spatial effects, et al, notwithstanding, car audio will not and perhaps never WILL approach that ephemeral pinnacle that a dedicated home setup with a dedicated listening space can accomplish, although we are all hopeful. My point here is that there should be something good or better than a Bose system (which I had a kickin' iteration of in my 3rd gen RX-7) and even a 4.5K Mark Levinson one in my Lexus is an example... Why do drivers who have to commute to work - away from their beloved home systems have to suffer without something that approaches that rarefied and aesthetic level that home systems can bring?! Again, a little help...
For philojet, check out http://www.mobilesq.com/store/ for the Seas speakers...
Also, what about laptop SACD? Even HDCD... Why is this technology lagging - or am I not in the know - yet...?
I have read many of your posts and think they are usually thoughtful and well informed, but in this case, you sound like you need a vacation.
I am not defending the fidelity of car audio because it "floats my boat". As an aside, I dont even OWN a car at the moment (see "what kind of motorcycle do you drive"), other than the family wagon.
Perhaps I am cynical, but I tend to adjust my expectations for all claims coming from car salesmen, used or otherwise.
The point of this thread is that car audio can be - and should be - very, very good and I, for one, am disappointed that the topic is not touched upon more frequently.
In the heyday of car audio, many enthusiasts claimed it could sound BETTER than the average home rig, because you could more easily pressurize bass and sound levels in a confined environment.
Now I dont know what you had in your house or your car that didnt sound "anything close" but I can tell you that I had:
Yamaha PX-2 with Dynavector ruby and Grado signature cartridges
Audio Research SP-9
Hafler DH 500 and Adcom GFA 555
Magneplanar MG IIb's and MG IIIa's
Nakamichi LX-5 and Nakamichi DRAGON
Which were not exactly shabby for 1980.
And I can also tell you that my Nakamichi and a/d/s 2001, biamped "mobile fidelity" system sounded GREAT and in many ways, was more fun than my home system.
Since then, I have heard a lot of car audio that usually just sounds like crap, albeit suitable for open air reggae competitions and/or Fast and Furious parties behind the local McDonalds.
This shouldnt take "thousands" any more than you have to spend "thousands" to get decent sound at home if you know what you are doing.
Ha, ha - well put Cwlondon and yes, I could use a vacation to be sure. And so could you as well, but today's car audio innovations are lackluster at best and disappointing!
I owned a "Fast and Furious" aftermarket car parts business for awhile on the side - right before that movie broke out. I got priced out by hot/stolen shitte on EBay and just got sick of dealing with all of the kids and their lack of class!
You're correct that you shouldn't have to spend thousands on sound at home or in the car to get good sound and beware of the words "reference" when buying anything... The only thing you should reference in car or home audio is how things sound to the ears that God gave you. Everything else is a marketing tactic to drive up the price!
there is great car audio gear out there, you just have to have the passion to spend the time to make it sound worth while. my system in my car starts with eclipise deck, mb quart q's in the front, eclipise alum. woofers, xtant amps., stinger and phoenix gold cabling. trust me its not like your home system, but it is pretty damm goood! if your gonna use stock speaker locations and not get creative, then stay with your delco system. it takes a lot of time and creativity to get it right. check out iasca.com
It's true that road noise, engine noise and speaker placement will never allow a car stereo to sound as good as your home setup. However, these days i really have to find time to enjoy music on my home system, whereas i find myself stuck in my car up to two hours a day!
I have more than $10,000 into my home system, yet I now probably spend more time listening to music in my car. To this end, i have put about $2000 into my car stereo to bring it up to tolerable standards. I really enjoy mt car system now. It is not at all "boom" car. I have spent hours, days and weeks tweaking it to sound balanced.
At home i'm a bit of a purist. i adjust sound with speaker placement, careful matching of equipment cables etc and room treatments. I have no tone controls. Most preamps I've owned have not even had balance controls. In my car setup, however, I have 30 band 1/3 octave digital equalizer in my trunk it it works wonders! A car is a far from ideal place for high end sound. The car's irregular interior space with a combination of highly reflective (the windows) and highly absorbtive (the uphostery) surfaces combined with very poor speaker locations create wildly non linear frequency distribution that is best cured with an equalizer. I have a fairly modest subwoofer in the trunk to fill out the low end and give the sound some depth.
I think I may have some relevant experience here.
I know home audio well, and I know what accurate, high-fidelity sound using live unamplified orchestral music as a reference sounds like.
You aren't going to get this in a car.
However, for the 99.9% of audiophiles who don't achieve this at their home and require this to be pleased, there is hope for you.
I have an 01' VW New Passat that I bought used. It had the "upgraded" Monsoon stereo, which sounded like a broken clock radio. Absolutely horrible, and I just didn't turn the radio on for 2 years.
I then decided it was time to investigate car audio. I first went to a small car-audio shop that also sold vintage home audio gear. You know, KLH, old Bose stuff, vintage turntables.
I thought this gave them some credibility, they quoted me $1200 to put in a system that we agreed would:
* have a relatively flat freq response
* have high dynamic capabilities
* be +/- 3 db to 30hz
* have lifelike, and high-end tone and timbre
The owner of this shop enthusiastically convinced me I was going to LOVe this system, and he said he would be surprised if it didn't compete with my Dynaudio/Plinius home system.
Well, I got the car back, and it sounded like it did before I brought it in, except now with the 30-60hz area up about 30db. Hideously awful. Apparently, they put in some cheap Jensen speakers, some crappy Clarion amp, a JVC head unit, and an Infinity Basslink sub.
Needless to say I went back there, and played some classical music for the owner. He agreed it sounded awful, and asked for a second chance.
I gave them one, they messed around with it some more, I got it back, and it sucked just as much.
Thankfully, I was able to recover most of my money. I kept the basslink sub, because it actually wasn't too bad.
So I then did my own research, bought some parts online, and had a friend do the install.
Alpine 9856 head unit - $200
JL XR-650 - $250 (only front speakers, rears are useless)
JL 300/4 amp - $350
So, for about a grand with the basslink, I put this system together.
It is now just about broken in, and is sounding pretty good.
My goal was to be able to put in a CD or plug in my Ipod, and be able to listen to the album without it hurting my ears, or having a major, distracting problem.
I am happy to say that this system easily meets these goals, and is quite fun to listen to. It isn't transparent like a Quad or dynamic like a Wilson, but it sure makes my commute to a work a LOT more enjoyable.
All this for the price of a "middle end" long RCA cable.
I'm sure it could get a lot better than I've got it, and I am interested in persuing that, but if you want better sound in the car, go for it. It is not a lost cause, though you do have to do you homework and your research, and be very careful about qualifying your installers.
PS - If there is anyone reading this thread that knows a lot more about car audio, send me an email! Especially if you are near Boston. As I stated, I would love to take this to the "next level" if possible and not too cost prohibative, and would love the expert advice and experience.
i had a system in my car that had Scan Speak 7" drivers and 1" tweeters, a Lambda Acoustics 10" sub in a sealed enclosure, tubed Xover, McIntosh amps and then Adcom.
I eventually had the doors silenced with Dynamat...But the real secret was the CDP and the processor with time alignment..it was an old Alpine 7941 and the processor connected via fiber optic.
I had audio boutique store guys that despised car audio raise eyebrows when they heard my system...I bought it all used, so I didnt spend thousands.
There are tons of options for car stereo...just go to car sound and performance web site.