Take one look at Paul's MS-RT Ford transit custom and you can tell he's serious about his business, his brand, HIFI and motorsport.
From the outside looking in it seems that Paul and Wendy, in a relatively short space of time (6 years give or take) have grown Hifi Lounge born from a hobby into arguably one of Europes top specialist Hifi outfits. Off topic slightly here, but I struggled with the term "outift", I wanted to type "dealer" but Hifi Lounge just doesn't have that vibe. Upon delivering the van back to an excited Paul we were invited to stay for as long as we want and listen to whatever we liked which for us being HIFI enthusiasts also, was something we couldn't refuse.
Set in the Bedford countryside Hifi lounge feels like you're invited into someones home, both me and Stuart at first didn't know whether to sit down as we were still in our work wear, the place is wonderfully decorated, warm and welcoming. After reassurance from Wendy and some coffee and a friendly chat, we were more than comfortable enough to take a seat on one of the comfy sofas and listen to PMC new £45,000 Fenestria. An absolute treat, although it's not these mighty things that are on blast today, it's Pauls van!
Paul approached us after a chat with Bruce Gowans, a multiple award-winning sound quality competition client and friend of ours who had mentioned us after taking his own car to one of the Hifi Lounge cars/coffee open days. We got talking and a simple system was decided on, leaving the factory unit in place to start with and integrating this so we can retain all OEM functionality. 5 channel active with DSP to allow us to control the output from the headunit, splice this up and send it where we wish, then time aligning, EQ as we go.
The suggested kit list is as follows:
- AudioControl D-4.800 - Multi Channel Amplifier with DSP Function
- AudioControl LC-1.800 - Mono Subwoofer Amplifier with AccuBass
- Hertz Mille Legend ML 280.3 - Tweeter Set
- Hertz Mille Pro MP 165.3 - Woofer Set
- Audison Prima APBX 8 R - Compact Subwoofer Enclosure
- Connections silver tinned OFC cabling throughout
With the system penned in and the van booked months in advance, we had plenty of time to look forward to it! However, as usual, the booking date came around quickly and we soon found ourselves under the interior skin of this new transit.
The Installation Process
The first part of the job was to attack the doors and get rid of the standard plastic speakers/housings, then apply deadening to damp the doors making them a much more forgiving surround for our upgraded midbass units and custom baffles.
With the standard speakers off we made a copy of the mounting footprint as a start to build our baffles from.
These were then stacked with 36mm baffles and treated, fitted up with our new midbass units.
Once this stage is complete we add a foam surround to meet the rear of the door card to channel all energy into the cabin.
It's time for the door cards to go back together, but not before the rear has been treated and the clips have been bonded, its not pretty but it is neccessary.
With these back together we moved onto the pillars, the factory plastic mount isn't large enough to mount our new tweeter so we removed the mount using a router bit and made a new one.
We plastic welded our new mount in, then surrounded the tweeter with an automotive hot glue to ensure everything stays true.
Once this process was complete, the cables we had run in the meantime were connected to each driver and sent back to our new amplifier. We then moved on to unboxing the new Audiocontrol DSP and slave amps. It's exciting for us using a new product, it doesn't happen very often as we stick to the products we love and are confident with for our clients, although we've been hearing great things and Audiocontrol are a brand that has stood the test of time, usually only for one reason, so lets give them a go.
Powerful at 100W RMS per channel and 800W RMS for the sub channel, DSP control of independant channels and DSP output control of the subwoofer amplifier. Very simple looks and a solid feel already have these amps in our good books. The user interface is amongst the best we've used. It takes a little getting used to being familiar with most other DSP software but this took all of 10 minutes.
Amps out of their box and a simple unboxing video in the bag we started on the under-seat mounting location. For this we made a simple rack just slightly larger than the amplifier footprint to strap our cabling down and to allow a couple of fixing points, there's no point boxing them in under the seat they'll only get hot unnecessarily.
The under seat area in the new and old transit custom is ideal. It offers bags of space and a down firing 8" subwoofer offers buckets of low end should you want it. We tend to wind our subwoofers back for a more "linear" output, possibly 3db up on the rest of the system for reference. There's a little magic going on with the transit under seat area and a loaded down firing subwoofer, they work extremely well together.
I'm sure Paul will testify to the fact the subwoofer is not "booming" or over powering, it just has a well natured approach to developing the big notes and integrates very well with the midbass.
From here the battery was disconnected, The power cables were hooked up and then reconnected with appropriate fusing, individual feeds were sent for both power and ground directly to the battery.
Now with everything hooked up, the van back together we're good to go and get the system fired up. Early line level test showed the vans oem output was relatively flat, shifting around slightly with volume as expected, although it was subject to time alignment straight from the deck.
We first had to get around this with some input delay and then we could move forward. On brand new equipment we don't usually move to EQ and if we do its very slight cuts here and there. We aligned the system for a decent centre stage and experimented with a few different crossover points.
Using the Audiocontrol interface was a nice first experience, extremely simple to use, almost like it had been designed for someone with a basic understanding of sound. That's not to insult, quite the opposite, more a compliment to how simple Audiocontrol have managed to get there software to be to understand, other brands need to take note here.
Initial set up complete, we're happy with how things are looking so it's time to go home.
The typical cost for a system of this level is £3,850, turnaround is approx 24 hrs.
When I sat down to write this post I was going to write a huge article on how and why car audio and HIFI types don't tend to mingle, why car audio is tarred with the brush it is and why it shouldn't be, the reasons behind it being likely the unregulated car audio industry and it's majority amateur-at-best professionals and I simply couldn't put down words that didn't drag the post down into a dark miserable place, I rewrote it a number of times before deciding to approach the post from a different angle.
Truth be told I've avoided the subject all together because it isn't a part of the market we (Studio Incar) sit in. Music and the love of it is what makes us all do what we want to do, regardless of whether you're into HIFI, car audio, musical instruments or pro audio/production, it's always the end product that keeps us wanting to reproduce that "in the studio or live" rendition with our equipment. Trust me, it can be done just as well in a vehicle as it can be in any room.
Paul is extremely happy with how the system has turned out, we're already in discussions for another step to maybe rid the Transit of its factory head unit, although this will take a little more planning than the norm, we'll get there.
What a great way to start a great relationship both in business and in friendship, we're extremely grateful to Paul for choosing us and Bruce for pointing Paul in our direction. Positive vibes all round.
Feel free to stick around and look at the rest of our pictures
As always, a huge thanks for reading if you get this far. Thanks to Andy at Lurntwubber photography and Stu at immaculate detailing.
Shares, and feedback all welcome!! You can get in touch with us at:
- 01489 877987
Shakey - Studio Incar