The Best One Yet , we'll get to the title a little later, take a look at our take on this Mercedes Burmester pull out.
The scale of some of our projects, I'll admit, we get a little complacent with. This brand new Mercedes E400, for instance, was a 6-week long booking. Unheard of in most professional environments, it's what we're geared to do. A far cry away from the 2-3 cars a day procedure, projects of this size are what make up the majority of our business model at the moment, intentionally, and long may it continue!
We actually took delivery of this E400 coupe from the dealer on behalf of our customer, 5 weeks before it's scheduled booking date. Due to the wait the project had with us we (the car's owner, James, and I) decided to ship the car about a bit to have a few things done in the short term. The car was sent over to Prestige Motors in Horndean down the road from us to have it's ECU removed and sent across to the US for mapping, a RennTech suspension module was also installed allowing us control of the factory air system via our laptop and RennTech software, amongst other subtle upgrades to try and make use of the downtime.
Wheels were ordered prior to the car's delivery to us, BC Forged HCA163 - 20" x 8.5" / 20" x 10" with gloss black centres and gunmetal lips/barrels. We had these wrapped in Michelins top PS4S.
Car Audio Brief
With these not-so-car-audio upgrades done, time was passing quickly, the car was away for a little longer than expected due to customs holding the ECU, however, it still managed to be back with us before the booking date.
Now, James is a seasoned customer of ours, and as with most of our longstanding guys, now a friend and can speak from experience when deciding on his system equipment, what he wants from it and its uses/compromises to the car. This helps projects run a lot cleaner, the deep understanding of what's required is something we try and hit every time.
Bearing in mind the first system we built for James was the Audison Thesis SMAX. The second system we built was, at the time and likely still is the most complex system we've built, the Mk7 GTI Clubsport which we actually purchased further down the line, though that's a whole other post! So you could say by now, between us listening to James' feedback and his ear becoming accustomed to a particular level that we should be consistently delivering the sound he likes. Bold, big, loud and most of all fun, which is great news for us, something often overlooked. In short the brief was as follows:
- Visible components in the cabin to a minimum
- Maximise usable boot space
- High-level fabrication
- OEM integration Mercedes Burmester
- Toe-tapping fun sound
- The rest is up to us
The car is equipped with the Mercedes Burmester upgrade from stock, so this has been a great exercise for us in learning that system, its flaws and what we can do to overcome them. I won't go too far into detail, it's a common thread amongst our blog posts what these factory upgrade systems actually off other than dealer mark up, and this system is no exception. I will admit however, it's not as bad as most. I think in part this is more so due to the cars fantastic build quality and the OEM source unit can really sound quite special, the amplifier and speakers just really start to struggle past half volume and things get a little nasty.
The Mercedes Burmester system presents a couple of problems for an installer, one of which is its dedicated amplifier. We have the tools and products in our portfolio to grab the signal coming out of the 11 channel active amplifier, re-sum them back to a stereo signal and splice form there with our own DSP, however, it's not our preferred way, grabbing the signal on the input side of any OEM amplifier is how we'd prefer.
Herein lies problem two, the signal input is on MOST150 protocol (digital optical in/out data carrying from module to module) and up until we started the project we weren't aware of a way to crack this. We posted about the beginning of the project on Instagram as we do and were contacted by NAV-TV, Julien to be precise, we've spoken and dealt with each other before but this time was to inform us of the new Zen-M integration module for MOST150 cars inclusive of which is this model Mercedes.
If you're a pro and you're reading this and have one of these booked in, in my opinion, you would be daft not to use this module, it's incredible, retaining all OEM features and delivering an excellent full range digital or up to 12 channel analogue output. Different presets can be assigned if you're not using DSP.
Our chosen DSP in this car is Audisons incredible BIT ONE HD. We believe this processor with its Finite Impulse Response firmware upgrade is (at the time of writing) amongst and if not the best processor on the market. Light work for this DSP in this system, running a four-way active front speaker system and sub bass. 9 channels in total, using all of the available output channels when in FIR mode. When in FIR mode the processor reassigns a lot of its processing power and has to remove the last 4 available channels.
The new DRC MP controller was mounted subtly in the front compartment, not losing a single cup holder.
For this system, James wanted to try us out on fitting a full 4-way active front end. Not something often done which I imagine is part of the reason! More than up to the challenge we started looking at top-flight kit to do the job. The brand that sat best with us and has a product in each line to allow for a 4-way arrangement would be Dynaudio, new to Studio Incar at the time having only just secured the account this would be a great way for us to start our path with this brilliant speaker manufacturer.
- Dynaudio Esotar 110 Tweeter
- Dynaudio Esotar 430 Midrange
- Dynaudio Esotar 650 Midbass
- Dynaudio Esotec MW172 8" Midwoofer
A four-way system in this car, with the brief, that preferably no visual changes to Mercedes wonderful interior were to occur presents a huge task in its own right. We managed to get the midranges and tweeters installed behind the factory door panels, these are installed in a very particular way using different length machine fittings to accommodate their extra size amongst other things. It was quite a gamble to place these here, we were, of course, ready to build a pillar mount system but wanted to stay within the brief, the gamble paid off and these excellent speakers play very well through the Burmester metal grilles. Always room to move them further down the line should we wish.
The factory midbass in this chassis is a dream location for car audio fans. Mercedes Burmester have basically done us a solid and created a sealed enclosure in the front firewall housing an 8" midbass. The Mercedes Burmester cars have them in stereo (left and right) and none Burmester cars have a single unit in the passenger foot space. Whilst these are a great position for a solid midbass they're not simple to work with, a few hours stripping out for instance, then dealing with near zero space inside the baffle to mount a decent speaker. The choice was made to invert our new Dynaudio 8" midbass speakers and flip their polarity respectively. The space behind the pedals and the carpet on the passenger side are usable.
The fourth speaker in the front end is the "upper midbass" Dyanudio Esotar 650, for this, we had to come up with a location. There is an option in the front door toward the rear but this was pretty useless. We came up with a location in the floor to potentially reflect from the front screen. Our route was to make a fibreglass mould of the floor section, add a top baffle, open up the enclosure to use the cross brace section running adjacent and then seal this for an ideal 6 ltr capacity. The carpet was modified to mount through and then the top carpet was modified, and Alcantara edging was custom made to finish the top mat. See the mock up below.
With these wrapped up we moved on to the integration work and rear boot space. As explained above our integration went in a particularly nice direction, we did, however, choose to relocate a number of modules in the boot, including the MOST150 loom, fusebox and others. These were re-racked at the back of the boot for quicker access rather than behind side panels which will be difficult to gain access to once the boot installation is complete.
We started from the subwoofer enclosure, our original plan was to include two side enclosures with in-house custom grilles, however, we were not familiar with the E400 floor pan, considering the car is 4-matic we assumed incorrectly the boot floor was a no-go area due to space for the rear diff. This wasn't the case and the boot floor presented us with a great space for the subwoofer enclosure, a custom enclosure was made in this space to house the two 10" Gladen Audio Aerospace subwoofers.
With this made and the fascia trimmed in black Dynamica, we started to build the amplifier rack with a "pass-through" design. The amps will be mounted above the subwoofer with a cutout section between all of the amplifiers and chamfered to allow airflow. What governed the cutouts is the displacement of the drivers otherwise we would be creating a strange band-pass fascia to the subwoofer box which we need to avoid. They play freely now through the amp rack. If you look carefully you can see how the rear face is chamfered.
Whilst the amp rack was designed and built we stripped the amplifiers down and sent the cases over the "H" at H20inc hydro dipping.
We had the amplifier cases dipped in a black wood effect finish then coated in a satin lacquer to protect them. This was intentionally done to mirror the black ash finish inside the car, it's difficult to see but all becomes clear when it catches your eye, just the type of finish we wanted. See if you can pick it up in the following pictures.
The fabrication was to be in fitting with the car, a nice high end finish with usable space, load cover for protection but something to see for pride of ownership. We love how this installation has turned out from an aesthetic point of view, it goes way beyond the brief.
To keep within spec we made a vented load cover, this, of course, will affect the performance of the subwoofer which also do need the centre armrest down for maximum effect. We knew this would be the case in this particularly well-sealed coupe, in fact, it goes for any coupe, it just varies on the build quality and how open the rear shelf section is. Small compromises like this can be expected, the armrest down-load cover off is for that Sunday evening drive when you want to take in everything the system has to offer, all of the rest of the time you just have to deal with it sounding a few percents off fantastic in the bottom end whilst the load cover protects you amplifiers from your laptop bag.
Whilst the system went in we also installed a Target Blu-eye system for tetra scanning of emergency service vehicles, warning us of when there are emergency service are around and when we may need to slow down to move out of their way.
Installed alongside this was the Laser Track Flare system, used primarily for opening/closing garage doors, have a read about it's other "features".
It's a simple one to summarise this, due to the kit used, the work ethic and the correct customer the car and its system are nothing short of brilliant. Going back to the title, our first contact after the car was sent for delivery when complete was an after hours voicemail "Blown away, absolutely brilliant, the best one yet!" Which is more than enough for us.
Whilst running this car in for 20/30 hours on the last week it kept the workshop filled with lovely sound and kept me driving the long way home night after night, which is EXACTLY what this is all about, indulging in your own music at any volume, anywhere.
Enjoy the rest of these photos from Andy at Lurntwubber photographic, check him out here - Click Click!
Fun in the bucket load listening to this car, it's a riot to listen to, to drive to and just to be around, we're chuffed, James is chuffed, a job well done.
As always, sharing via social media is highly appreciated, if you get this far then its worth a share either directly from this page or via our social media links. Many thanks for reading, hopefully it's helped with either making a decision on your system upgrade or it's helped with ideas for another system!
Either way, we're available at:
- 01489 877987
Speak soon, Carl Shakespeare - Studio Incar