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How not to install car audio

 

 

 

Isn’t the internet an amazing place? Weird and wonderful, and pretty wild in parts; but generally, it’s an incredible resource for information. I mean, where else do you find spontaneous experts popping out of the woodworks after they’ve done just a few hours of online research? Keyboard ninja mode: engaged!

Take car audio installation, for example. This may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but did you know there’s more to car audio than just knowing which wires to connect correctly? Over the years, we’ve always showed you guys the glamorous side of the car audio world; incredibly experienced installers and passionate DIY’ers who have gone to great lengths to produce setups that are indeed inspirational and drool-worthy. Life is all about balance; and for all the great installs we’ve showcased, there are equally horrendous looking (and sounding) setups that will usually just leave you scratching your head in confusion and asking, “So, you’re telling me you actually paid money for THIS?!”

Sadly, most of these horror stories usually stem from work carried out by said internet experts; who, after watching an online tutorial, suddenly feel they are capable of doing way better. Sometimes, they even come from the friend who had a mate who claimed they could “do it for way cheaper.”

Of course, some of the efforts you’re about to see were made by individuals who simply didn’t know any better at the time. I’m sure it’s apparent that some of these installs are epic fails of spectacular proportions (and probably fires that’s just waiting to happen); but all I’ll say on the matter is this: if your car audio installations looks even anything remotely close to the ones pictured, please do yourself a favour – head down to a proper, reputable fitment centre and get it done right!

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DD Audio’s Exquisite New Tweeters.

DD Audio, manufacturer of high quality audio gear for the masses, announces the release of a trio of new oscillatory transducers! These new and revised models sit poised to redefine audible clarity while remaining True to the Source.




The debut model in the new line-up is a replacement for the outgoing VO-CT35. The new VO-CT25 compression tweeter has a clean sheet design leaving no performance behind. DD Audio was able to increase the phenomenal 105dB sensitivity of the previous model to 107dB, while decreasing in size and weight tremendously! The compact nature of this new driver opens up all sorts of install opportunities that would have been impossible with the prior iteration of compression tweeters. The diminutive nature is owed to the high powered neodymium motor construction, and 1” coil utilized on this state of the art driver. This driver is perfect when paired with one of DD’s VO-W Midwoofers or Horn Waveguides.




DD Audio also introduces the strikingly improved VO-B1a and VO-B2a. These ultra efficient drivers boast neodymium magnets for incredible motor strength and ruggedly stylish, yet functional, vivid red anodized heat sinks machined from aluminum billet. The VO-B1a employs a high output 1” diameter voice coil/diaphragm assembly (rated for 100w RMS), and the VO-B2a, sporting an even larger 1.5” coil/diaphragm assembly (rated at a whopping 150w RMS), both benefit from curvilinear wave guides modeled into the sleek design for superior off axis performance and superior high frequency dispersion. The B1a has a frequency range of 3.5kHz-20kHz while the B2a has an impressive frequency range playing down to 2.5kHz, allowing it to pair well with midrange drivers when dedicated three way setups are not possible.




The new sleek, understated look allows these drivers to blend in with even the most boutique interiors for all of the high frequency reproduction you need without having to look garish or intrusive. In an effort for DD to continue to cater to the busy installer, the next benefit of the revision is the ease of installation afforded by the clever re-engineering of the terminal system for the powerful duo. All three models remain serviceable with replacement diaphragms available.


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The Magic of Sound Proofing in Car Audio

A factory-fitted car system can sound decent enough at times yes, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that an upgraded car audio system is pretty awesome. Not only does a pumpin’ system breathe new life into music, it also adds a distinct level of enjoyment that only a few would understand. Seeing as life is all about balance; while the upside is some very awesome low bass notes, ultra-warm and realistic vocals and super-crisp highs – the downside is usually some really annoying rattles, and I don’t just mean the rear number plate.




Experience has taught me that the best time to actually tackle the sound dampening process on a car is as soon as you’ve purchased it. I know it might not necessarily be a process you’d look forward to if you’re planning on doing it DIY, but I can promise you that the effort will reap some serious rewards. I say sound dampening should be your very first step because when a car is new, the panels are still rather tight.

The moment you add dampening to metal panels that are still fresh, tight and properly-bonded; the dampening sheets are guaranteed it to keep it that much tighter, compared to applying dampening to panels that have already stretched. We’re not here to discuss dampening metal, though – instead, we’ll be addressing its more annoying sibling: those squeaky, rattling plastic panels that sit atop the doors and tail gate.

It’s worth bearing in mind that squeaks and rattles usually occur as a result of either two surfaces rubbing together, or as a result of some part that’s not quite secure. You should also remember that every component has a resonant frequency, which is sometimes pleasing to the ears – and sometimes not so much.




What I like to do when addressing these annoying rattles, is to change the panel’s resonant frequency by adding Constrained Layer Dampening (CLD), which we traditionally call “Sound Deadener”. By doing so, you’ll be able to better-control the panel’s natural resonance. Yes, these pads have greater use beyond just being used on metal panels and the inside of your doors!

There’s no denying there are some solid brands out there, but my personal preference in my rides (for various reasons), is products from the STP range. Not only do they come with a proven track record internationally, but more importantly: it’s freely available, and there’s always stock available. The other factor that draws me to them is that they happen to have a few different CLD solutions to choose from within their range. For these panels in particular, I used some of the older STP Gold; which I cut into little blocks, which I then evenly distributed over the entire area (as I didn’t have too much of on hand at the time). I managed to cover just over 30% total area of the panel, which yielded great results; however, if your budget allows, I guarantee you the results would be even better if you covered the entire panel.






Once you’re satisfied with your CLD layer, you can move onto the next important layer – the sound absorber. For this, I used the STP Biplast Premium; which is a sound absorber, heat insulator and vibration absorber all-in-one. Not only does it feature the highest sound-absorption coefficient, it also has the widest frequency range-absorption; but for the purpose of this article, we’re only interested in its vibration-absorbing abilities.

This material has its own adhesive which is pretty strong, so I seriously recommend you work with it in small sections at a time. You could even go as far as cutting it into little blocks; the last thing you’d want is to have it sticking to something it’s not supposed to – because if that happens, not only is it very difficult to remove but you’ll have wasted the material (it’s not reusable).  Unlike the CLD, when using Biplast Premium (sound absorber) you’ll need to ensure that you get 100% coverage – in other words, you don’t want to be able to see any part of the inside plastic at all. Once you’re done completely covering the panel, fit it back into place and you should be noise-free.




For your final assurance for rattle-free panels and a powerful, immersive in-car experience; I recommend you try out some STP Bitoplast Anti-squeak Tape, which gets applied to all of the panel’s securing clips. This will ensure an ultra-snug fit, and complete your efforts at getting rid of all undesired rattles and noises. Not only will all these steps vastly improve the sound quality of your car audio, but the cabin will also be a lot quieter and solid; basically, just a really nice place to be in during your daily commute. For more information on STP products, please check out http://www.ananzitech.co.za

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The Next Level of Vehicle Security.

Contrary to what you’re told or might believe; vehicle-related crimes aren’t indigenous or a “South African-only” problem. It is certainly a global issue that’s not likely to experience a sharp decline anytime soon. Personally, I’d probably almost be ‘okay’ with someone breaking into my 100% stock car, and snatching a few things which insurance would (hopefully) replace.

However: Words cannot describe the sheer rage and fury experienced when your beloved modded car gets broken into, and all sorts of cool aftermarket gadgetry (usually worth more than the car itself) are stolen. Given that lots of people experience this on a daily basis, I decided to take a closer look at some of the latest and greatest in aftermarket vehicle security.

Unfortunately, most factory vehicle alarm systems offer no real protection. In most cases, tech-savvy thieves more than likely already know exactly how to bypass the vehicle’s security, and easily gain entry into your vehicle without detection. This is a problem indeed; but for every problem, a solution is available.

A novel product pegged as “the future of security” by its creators, Directed, was released earlier this year at CES. In short, it’s a Live 4G Surveillance System for your car – yep, that also caught my attention. The new Viper SMARTVIEW dash cam includes a built-in 4G ‘SmartStart’ functionality, as well as two cameras. With the SMARTVIEW dash cam system, vehicle owners now have a real-time view in and out of their car, via their smartphone.

 

 

The SMARTVIEW has a wide-angle, front-facing camera; as well as a 130-degree rear-facing camera. Thanks to this combination, you’re able to see the driver, passenger, and sides of the car – in real time. This means you’re able to watch someone approach your car, and attempt to smash a window or break in; and because the unit automatically starts recording when movement is detected, you’re able to access the footage to use as evidence. Also, thanks to the Live View functionality, you can go do your shopping while parked at the mall and still be able to keep an eye on your ride. That’s peace of mind right there!

The Viper SMARTVIEW can be used as a standalone device, or connect to a Directed DS4 unit via Bluetooth.  When synced to a DS4, the user is automatically notified of any sort of event. You’re also able to use your smartphone to not only remotely lock/unlock the car, but even cooler, you’re also able to remote-start it! Thanks to the dash cam’s WiFi capabilities, it can also double as a hotspot for devices in the car.

Expect to purchase your Viper SMARTVIEW for roughly R10k when it launches next month; and if the market reception of the product launch at CES was an indicator, I’m positive that it’ll be a huge hit amongst enthusiasts who can’t stand being away from their pride and joy for too long – and who’ll do anything to protect it!

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Retro Rewind: Car Audio From Yesteryear

Since we’ve been seeing a surge of throwbacks on social media since the national lockdown, I thought it would be cool to take you guys on a virtual trip down memory lane. I’ll apologize in advance for the quality of these pictures; but 98% of them are probably older than some of our readers. Also, I didn’t own a camera back then, so big shout out to my homies Adam, Jogee, Brett and Kimos; and The Wheel Shop (Shaheen) for their awesome contributions to the archives!



For those who don’t know, I’ve been actively involved in the car audio scene since the early 90’s. Fun fact of the day: not many know this, but I cut my teeth in this game by selling car audio at Bruma Lake flea market… true story! Back then, the car audio competition industry was vastly different to what we’re accustomed to these days. For starters, Sound Quality was all the rage, and far bigger than SPL. Speaking of, SPL competitors were required to play music – and not test tones. The competition classes were broken up by amplifier ratings; and there was an abundance of competitors in the lanes.



Although technology has evolved in leaps and bounds since then, the pavement pounders of yesteryear were nothing short of magical. Some of my favourite local heroes at the time were the likes of Mr Foot; the Billy’s Enterprise-built Mk2 Golf kitted with a pair of Kicker subs in a plexi enclosure. Another that comes to mind was the Soundstream-powered “TRT” Golf, kitted with two 15” SPL170 woofers powered by a Soundstream REF1000 amplifier.



Another goodie was Neshon Rawjee’s Street Wise build; a kombi called “The Black Bitch”. Equipped with four 15” Earthquake subs and a Kenwood 1021 amplifier powering them, along with an overkill amount of Pioneer mids and tweeters; builds like these were what ignited my love for the Earthquake brand. If you want to talk about legendary taxis, personally I felt that Durban taxis ruled supreme; but in all fairness, I didn’t get to hear much of the PE and Cape Town taxis – but I’ve heard of quite a few walled legends from these parts!



I do remember a time the Rockford Fosgate-powered taxi called “Scream” reigned as king of bass, thanks to its eight 18” mammoth-sized woofers; man, that thing was so loud it could damn-near be heard in neighbouring provinces. I also remember the taxi called “Designed to Devastate”, kitted out with Digital Designs subs and US Amps amplifiers; emerging seemingly out of nowhere and smashing the taxi record!

I the RF powered taxi called “Scream” ruled the roost with eight 18-inch woofers and I also remember a taxi called Designed To Devastate kitted with Digital Designs subwoofers and US Amps amplifiers coming out of nowhere and smashing the taxi record.





I’m sure a lot of you guys will remember seeing images of Monier’s installations in old copies of our magazine. My good bud Zeyn at Monier’s was building some of the meanest, sickest-looking systems I’ve ever seen; and the industry was lit. Man… those were some truly epic, memorable times enjoyed at events which were so well-supported. Good times, boys… good times.



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Gold Dust Magic from the Namib

Namibia is known for its hot “jap imports” but we found a little Volkswagen that proves local is still lekker!

By Shudley Daniels  //  Phots by Nathan Nell

I’m often asked what car is a good buy, and I always recommend a VW Polo. While it isn’t my favourite car in the world, it just makes so much sense. They’re relatively cheap, easy to maintain, reliable, and great to modify. Hell, there’s a reason the Mk1 Golf was replaced by the Vivo in South Africa not too long ago.

It’s been a while since we showcased a car from beyond our borders, but when we got wind of this one, it looked too good to not grace these pages. Levodhia Brendell hails from Namibia, and after acquiring her stock Polo, went about modifying it by adding a Matte Black paint job, rims and a set of coilies. Although she loved the colour, it was a bit of a schlep getting rid of a few scratches, so she called up her bro beans to help. Now bro Jerhome is even more nuts when it comes to vehicle customisation, so together they decided to create a show car, and Queen Bee was born.

Levodhia isn’t much of a speed queen, so the little 1.4 litre aspirated powerplant remains in its factory guise, bar the K&N air filter and 63mm exhaust. The rest of the car though, received an extensive makeover…
The front bumper was replaced with a WRC item and custom spoiler which adds aggression, while the rear received a R400 bumper and diffuser. If you ask me what the best colour is to paint a car, I will say “yellow” every day.

This ain’t no average yellow though, it is a flipped with gold sprinkles to make the queen sparkle. 3 Stage Perfection was responsible for the brilliant paintjob, and the gold fairy dust was supplied by Seven Customz down in the fairest Cape.

Seven Customz supplied front bags and struts as well as the custom rear bags. Their flagship product is also the Accuair Endo CT tank with internal compressor, so a smallish unit was supplied for the not-so-big Polo boot. Jerhome fitted all the components himself, and designed and built the boot install himself. His hard lines is arguably the best aesthetically

I’ve seen, and having seen the build pics, it is most impressive. As Jason explains “We provided the components and tech support when needed. For a novice, he pulled it off brilliantly. He even C-notched the car as well”.
The 17” alloys were colour-matched and often this creates a somewhat “tacky” look, but in this case it works brilliantly. The interior is fit for a queen. Sit down on the plush luxurious hide with the custom stitching, and enjoy the crystal sounds of the Android double din. 5” Digital Design mids are fitted both in the front and rear, while two 8” Big Daddy XTC woofers are powered by Soundigital amplifiers.

Levodhia would like to thank Jason and a huge thanks to Jerhome. Together, they showed us exactly what can be achieved with a little imagination, and yellow paint!

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A Deeper Look into Battery Chemistry.

If there is one question that I know I receive every week without fail, it’s “what is the best type of battery for me to use”? While I should get tired of answering it, I’m actually glad that so many people ask this question as it takes power to make power and it all starts at your battery. You can spend thousands and thousands of Rand on fancy amplifiers, woofers and splits however if the current supply isn’t up to standard, you may of well have thrown half that money down the drain. A number of folk think that by simply fitting a “bigger” battery than the stock one, their problems will be solved. Sadly what a lot of them don’t know is that too can be a waste of money and I’ll explain why in the article below.

What about race cars? I know they all about weight, but they happen to run large fuel pumps, coil packs and other electronics all of which also needs a beefed up current supply. When they run smaller lead acid batteries, they actually end up doing themselves a huge injustice. Again, read on and find out how exactly do batteries work and what makes up a good battery. This will help you make an educated decision as to what battery you should look at when deciding to upgrade from the OEM one which has just about enough power to run a cars stock electrical system with the addition of maybe a cell phone charger. What we’re about to dive into isn’t only helpful to bass heads. It’s something anyone with a car can benefit from.

How a battery generally works?
If you didn’t already know, a battery is like a reservoir that stores all the current needed to power the starter motor, the lights, and the ignition system of a vehicle’s. It needs to be able to do a bulk discharge to turn the starter motor when starting the car and is then slowly recharged by the alternator. Batteries generally have surplus current to help supply the rest of the electronics after a bulk discharge while the alternator recharges it.

Battery Specs.
When looking at a battery there are four key things to look at. The first two should not be taken for granted as they can lead to problems down the line and that is the physical size of the batter which includes the pole height as they sometimes sit about the casing and could cause clearance issues. The second is the battery pole positions as there are a number of different options here. With some cars, it doesn’t really matter which side the positive or negative sits or even if they are positioned more towards the top or bottom of the battery however with a number of modern day cars, this can lead to serious problems as a number of these cars have bulky positive battery terminals because they have built-in fuse boxes on them.

The other two important specifications would be the CCA rating as well as the Ah rating.  CCA rating is the Cold cranking amperes which is an international standard for measuring the performance of a battery.  CCA measures the cranking capacity of a battery at a temperature of -18°C (0°F).  To get technical the rating is defined as the number of amperes a lead-acid battery at -18°C can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts for a 12 volt battery).

AH stands for Amp Hour. An amp hour (AH) rating tells us how much current can be dispersed from the battery over an hour before the batteries current has fully depleted. Now with this in mind, please note that the type of battery used also plays a vital role here as an AGM battery can dispense a lot more current, faster than a conventional lead acid battery and at the same time, it’s also able to be replenished or recharged much faster than a conventional lead acid battery as well.

Starting Batteries and Deep-Cycle Batteries

The starter battery is designed to deliver quick bursts of energy so generally has more plates in order to have a larger surface area that provides a high electric current for a short period of time.  The plates are thinner and have different material composition. The deep cycle battery has less instant energy but greater long term energy delivery.  Deep cycle batteries have thicker plates and can survive a number of discharge cycles. You’d find these on boats or campers, where they’re used to power accessories like trolling motors, winches or lights. These are also great for systems that you’d leave pounding all day as these batteries deliver a lower, steady level of power for a much longer time than a starting battery. In the older days it wasn’t uncommon to have a regular starting battery up front and then a deep-cycle battery in the boot to help with the high current demands of massive amplifiers.

Before going on, I’d like to digress a little to make a point. If you asked if it were possible to drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg in reverse I would have to say yes because technically you could. Would it be advisable to do so is a completely different story.

Similarly, you can use a starter battery for deep cycle applications but it’s really not advisable. The reason behind it is that deep cycle batteries can be discharged a lot more than general automotive batteries without damaging the cells. General Automotive batteries should not be discharged more than 75% whereas Deep Cycle batteries can go as low as around 50%.

Different Types of Starting batteries. The next part of our article on batteries and finding the right type of battery for your application sees us looking at the different types of batteries. This is where I want you to pay close attention to the main difference between the three types we discuss. I also want you to pay attention to the tips and graphs at the end of the article as this will help you get a better understanding as to why it’s more important to not only replace the OEM battery with one that has a larger current capacity, but why it’s also important to go with the right type of battery as sometimes that on its own can make all the difference.

Lead Acid
The first thing you need to know about these batteries is that the typical charge rate is between 13.8V to 14.2V Max. Should your charge rate be lower than 13.8V, the battery would not be topped up to its full capacity and should the charge rate be higher than 14.2V, it will reduce its amperage storing capabilities and lower the lifespan of the cell. Lead Acid batteries are the oldest type of rechargeable battery that we know of, which is something that should already scare you off using them for high current demanding systems. Aside from their very old technology, they are also the cheapest type of automotive battery which is what makes them attractive for OEM use in motor vehicles especially when manufacturers are trying to keep the cost down. Lead acid batteries are constructed of several single cells connected in series of which each cell produces approximately 2.1 volts. The cells are made up of two lead plates, a positive plate covered with a paste of lead dioxide and a negative made of sponge lead, with an insulating material (separator) in between. The plates are enclosed in a plastic battery case and then submersed in an electrolyte consisting of water and a type of acid.

Calcium battery.
A Calcium or GEL battery is a still a lead acid battery however these are usually sealed, maintenance free.  Calcium replaces antimony in the plates of the battery to give it some advantages including improved resistance to corrosion, no excessive gassing, less water usage and lower self-discharge.  Silver is another additive used by some manufacturers. The addition of silver enables the battery to be more resilient to high temperatures. Calcium batteries require a higher charge voltage than conventional Lead Acid batteries.  GEL Batteries are rather more efficient than regular Lead Acid or flooded batteries and are a good choice for longer lasting systems.

AGM/AGM+/Start stop  Battery

AGM stands for Absorbed Glass Mat and what you need to know about these batteries is that they are far superior than the above mentioned cells, however they do need to be charged differently. Their typical charge rate is between 14.2V to 14.9V for the AGM while the AGM+/Start Stop batteries charge rate can vary between 14.6V and 15.5V. Should your charge rate be lower than indicated, the battery would not be topped up to its full capacity. Like the other cells, if you charge an AGM battery above 14.9V or an AGM+/Start Stop higher than 15.5V, it will reduce its amperage storing capabilities and lower the lifespan of the cell.

Regarding its chemistry, these batteries differ from both types mentioned above as the positive and negative plates are separated by an absorbent glass mat that holds the electrolyte like a sponge as opposed to freely flooding the plates. The very thin glass fibres are woven into a mat to increase surface area enough to hold sufficient electrolyte on the cells for their lifetime. The fibres that compose the fine glass mat do not absorb nor are they affected by the acidic electrolyte. These mats are wrung out 2–5% after being soaked in acids, prior to manufacture completion and sealing. The plates in an AGM battery may be any shape. Some are flat, others are bent or rolled. These battery’s advantages include lower internal resistance and greater plate area for superior starting power, the ability to recharge much faster, and higher voltage characteristics during discharge. AGM batteries are able to supply amperages that would kill the GEL battery. The GEL cannot compete with the AGM construction either as a starting battery or as a deep cycle battery. Basically the jelly or GEL inside a GEL battery will be scarred by high amperage charging or discharging. The AGM battery on the other hand is designed to push the load, no matter the amperage required. AGM batteries also last longer as they have lower internal resistance which makes them slightly more efficient than a GEL battery. GEL Batteries, being rather more efficient than flooded batteries, are a good choice for long lasting systems though. Each of these batteries is designed to recover much of the gassing, and return it to electrolyte inside the operational battery to eliminate maintenance and prolong life. However, the AGM battery is designed to recombine the gases no matter how they originate.

Recovery rate.
This is where your street pounders and SPL enthusiast would need to pay extra close attention. It’s all good and well having a battery that can supply your audio system with the current it needs, but how quickly is it able to bounce back and recuperate?

I once referenced a regular wet cell to an AGM cell. Nothing scientific or crazy technical. It was just a simple home test involving a meter and a stopwatch. I pushed both equally and both batteries performed similar for the first few minutes. The initial burb using the AGM cell was louder and the amplifier put out a lot more RMS than it did with the wet cell which was the first part of the tests. The second part of the test involved how long it took each battery to register 100% on the intelligent charger. The AGM cell took about an hour to fully recover while the wet cell took the greater part of half a day. Now think about it, do you really have or want to wait half a day for your battery system to recharge before you can pound again? I certainly wouldn’t.

On the topic of recovery rate, have you ever thought about the new generation cars which have Start-Stop technology.  In traffic, the car starts every few minutes so naturally the battery needs to have a super-fast recharge or recovery rate. Guess what type of battery they use for this? Absorptive Glass Mat (AGM) batteries.

Point of the matter is that if you’re looking for a good high-performance battery for anything, AGM is the way to go…unless you can afford to go the lithium route, but that’s another story for another day.

 

 

 

 

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Shopping For Your First Bass System.

Okay, so here’s the scenario: you’ve finally decided to take the plunge, and add some meaty bass to your anorexic-sounding stock audio system. In other words, you want the homies to hear you before they see you; you wanna bang! So you head over to your favourite car audio supplier; the plan is for a subwoofer (or two), and a suitable amplifier to power your new setup.

Problem is, as soon as you walk through the door you’re bombarded with a huge range of brands and products; and to further compound matters, you’ve got an over-enthusiastic sales assistant breathing down your neck, pushing you to choose products you might not necessarily be interested in (or not have the budget for). Relax, your situation isn’t unique – it happens nearly everywhere on a daily basis; which is why I figured it’d be pretty useful for you guys to have a clear idea on the steps needed in order to properly pair a subwoofer and amplifier system.

Follow these few simple guidelines, and I guarantee you that you’ll get the best audio performance within your allocated budget! Before we get started, I cannot emphasise this enough: Bigger isn’t always necessarily better! Have some faith here – I can show you a properly planned and constructed system, comprising of a single 12” subwoofer and a small monoblock amplifier; that has the ability to destroy systems made up of two 15” subs and an amplifier. Genuine!

The trick to it all is so simple: Just ensure all your equipment is properly matched and set up. Before I move to the topic at hand, I want to start off by saying that we’re going to work off the assumption that all subwoofer enclosures referred to have been properly designed & constructed; and that the installer is using the correct gauge and grade of copper cable.

Getting started: Amplifier current draw on stock electrical systems.

First and foremost; you need to establish what you’re working with in terms of your car’s electrical system. Find a battery centre in your area that can Load Test your vehicle’s battery to ensure that it’s in good health. This is usually a free service, and should cost you nothing but your time. It doesn’t matter if you’re only planning on one amplifier or ten; if your car happens to be older than 1 year, this will become an essential step. Once they’ve established how strong your battery is and have given you the green light, step 2 is to begin your amplifier search.

Before we even get into that though; I’m sure you’re curious as to why a battery test is so crucial? Well in short: so you don’t murder it with huge, power-hungry amplifiers whose demand is greater than the electrical system’s ability to supply. Most cars typically come equipped with a battery rated between 40Ah and a 60Ah; which means that you can safely get away with using a small monoblock amplifier (along with a four-channel to feed the vocals) using the stock battery.

Note: ‘Ah‘ is Amp Hours – it describes how much current can be delivered at a constant rate, as the battery is depleted over the course of an hour.

WHICH AMP IS BEST FOR ME?

If you happen to have anything less than a 40Ah battery, I’d recommend no more than a four-channel amplifier. Don’t feel despondent or let this deter you, especially if you’re an up and coming “bass head” – it’s still possible to build a system that can be heard from down the road, with just a four-channel amp powering your bass system. Yes, I am speaking from experience; and yes, I’ve personally done this before. Adding an extra battery will make a massive difference; but I’ve already covered that in another article.

If you’re in the fortunate position of having anything above 60Ah; feel free to add a small monoblock amplifier to accompany your four-channel amplifier; but please hear me out on this one: don’t even think of adding anything over 1000W RMS, especially if you want your system to be efficient and reliable. Don’t let sales assistants coerce you into buying an amplifier bigger than your electrical system’s capabilities.

Will a capacitor help if I am using a stock battery?

I’ve witnessed so many “pro” installers and retailers shamelessly con customers into buying capacitors (aka power caps) under the pretence that it will help with the battery’s reserve current. Surprise: If anybody has told you this, trust me, they’re talking utter rubbish. Capacitors DO have a place and purpose yes; but “helping with your reserve current” simply isn’t it. If you’re using a capacitor but your electrical system isn’t up to scratch, you’re doing more harm than good.

Subwoofer shopping.

While subwoofer enclosures are extremely important, I’m not going to dive too much into it as I’ve covered this in the past. What we will discuss though, is the “beginner’s guide” on how to mate woofers with the correct amplifier. The most “common method” used when choosing a sub is to look at the RMS rating of the sub; then trying to match it to an amplifier’s RMS output.

 

All good and well in theory; BUT: the problem I have with this is that there are so many subwoofers on the market that have really high, fantastic ratings on the sticker; but out here in the real world, those woofers probably won’t be able to handle half of its rated power for more than 3 minutes straight at full tilt.  Remember, you wanna be smokin’ tyres, not subs!

 

So as a beginner, how do you know what’s the correct speaker to use?

A good start would be to look at the woofer’s voice coil size. The larger it is, the more power it’s able to handle… BUT it’s not quite as simple as that. Many have made the unfortunate mistake of assuming that using a low power amp on a high-powered woofer will ensure the woofer won’t break, and should perform better… right? See, here’s the thing about that though:

In my experience of building small pounders I’ve discovered quite the opposite; so as a rule of thumb, I’ll always suggest that when you’re using a low power amplifier (around 300W RMS’ish), always try to match it up with a subwoofer that has a voice coil no larger than 5cm (2-inch). Generally speaking, these woofers have high sensitivity, so won’t need much power to get really loud. Now; if you were to feed this same amplified power into a woofer with a 7.5-10cm (3- or 4-inch) coil – which ideally needs a few thousand Watts RMS’ worth of power to really get it pumping – the simple fact of the matter is this: the higher-powered sub would not be as loud as the sub with the smaller coil.

If your amp is rated between 300-700W RMS, you can start looking at subwoofers that have voice coils up to 6.3cm (2.5-inch) in diameter; but please, no larger than that. Truth be told, it’s possible to use subs with 7.5cm (3-inch) coils within this amplified power range; but don’t expect them to sound as good, feeding off that low power.

Once you start playing in the 1000+W RMS amplifier range, you can extend your search to include subwoofers featuring voice coils larger than 3”; but ensure your electrical system is able to handle the load you’re about to place on it.

There’s naturally a lot more to everything we’ve just discussed; however, I’ve tried to keep it as basic and simple for newbies to understand and follow. Purchasing the right products is only one half of the equation; you’ll also need to ensure that they are properly installed using best industry practices, in order to get the best possible audio performance. Literally bang for your buck!

By properly planning out your system by using the above-mentioned guide, coupled with following proper installation principles; you can build a small, inexpensive system that can be heard from a few blocks away. Remember, efficiency is key; ‘more’ isn’t always more. You don’t always need massive equipment to be loud.

 

 

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SUBWOOFER ENCLOSURE DESIGN BASICS Part 2

 

In the first part of “SUBWOOFER ENCLOSURE DESIGN BASICS”, I covered the first few steps on how to manually calculate enclosure volume. I shared the industry standard formula that everyone uses and I also explained how to use it correctly. I spoke about internal enclosure volumes and how you can quickly calculate these values coupled to a few other calculations in order to get to your final net volume which is the most important value needed in order to accurately work out a proper enclosure spec for your drivers.

In this article, I’ll be showing you how to design your own enclosure using these calculations and a Nanograph. As a side note, I personally recommend you invest in a good enclosure design programme and learn how to use it correctly. This is merely a guide to help those getting started with enclosure design.

Getting started – For too long, people have built enclosures blindly. They’ve taken a box, added a hole and then they drop in a standard size and length vent. This programme will allow you to better match the correct diameter and length of port according to your enclosure volume and preferred tuning point which removes the guess work and shooting in the dark from enclosure builds.

 

To use this chart properly, you need to have an idea of what size port you’d like to use and then work out your net enclosure volume. Once you have that value, and say it happens to be 2 cubic feet, you make a dot one the first line where it says 2 cu.ft. The next line is your tuning point. Should you opt to tune your system to say 33Hz, you’d then make a dot at 33Hz in the next line.

Using a ruler, you’ll then need to draw a line from the first dot pass the second dot on the second line and carry on until your line meets the third vertical line. You’d then make a dot there as well. The next step is to move your ruler horizontally and then draw a line from the dot on the third row all the way to right of the page and you’re done. The final step is to read the graph.

Now you’ll notice a number of different lines intersecting your horizontal line, all of which indicates a specific vent (port) length. So say you wanted to use a single 4-inch port, you’d look at the point at which the 4-inch port intersects your line and at that point, you’d just move all the way down and the marking at the bottom will give you the required port length.

What you’ll notice is that the diagram only gives you one a size for a single port. Should you want to use two ports, divide your net area by however many woofers you have and then do this exercise. That will give you the port size and length for each woofer.

Should you use to use a slot port and not a round port, you’ll need to convert the area of the round port to the area of your slot port however do not do a like for like conversation as slot ports have sharp 90 degree corners which hampers airflow so a little trick to overcome this would be to make the port slightly larger than needed, but very little.

Another tip I’d like to share with you which I’ve made a rule of thumb with myself is to avoid having a port that’s shorter than the woofer length inside the box. Rather use a smaller port that extends pass the woofer inside the box or else you’ll general pick up horrible port noise which is another thing a programme like this won’t pick up before you build your enclosure.

 

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Subwoofer enclosure design basics

 

Day in and day out, I see people asking questions about subwoofer enclosure designs and for good reason too. It is so important to have a properly spec’d enclosure designed and built as these will yield the best possible results with any speaker. The trick to it is getting every last detail of the enclosure design process 100% spot on in order to yield maximum results from your bass system and while the calculation steps are simple and straight forward, where the biggest confusion comes in is understanding what parts of the box it is that we need to be working with so I’ve put together this little article to help you better understand the basics of enclosure calculation.

Understanding Enclosure volume.

Before we dig knee deep into enclosure design, there’s some things I need you to understand first as this will make all the difference when designing an enclosure. The first order of business relates to the difference between gross and net volume but before we get to that I’d. While this may sound simple, believe it or not but there are tons of guys who get this wrong and I don’t entirely blame them as it’s easy to misunderstand the difference.

Gross external volume also known as total volume, is the entire volume of the enclosure including the port volume, the volume the subwoofer consumes when it enters the enclosure and also the material thickness.

Gross internal volume is the overall volume of the inside of the enclosure. This is the amount of area the raw enclosure has without the port or the subwoofer being installed. A common mistake people tend to make is stop their enclosure calculations at this point when this is actually only the first part of your calculation process.

As much as people do use this method of calculating enclosure volume the reality of it is that it’s completely useless information.

Net Volume is what you actually need to know and this is where tons of confusion comes into play. Net Volume is the total internal volume of the enclosure that is left after you take away the volume which the port and subwoofer would consume once they are placed into the enclosure. To help you better understand this try and picture this. When installing a subwoofer into the enclosure, the only thing that sits about the hole you’ve cut is the surround and mounting ring. The basket and motor both sit inside the enclosure and if the enclosure was filled with water, a large amount of the water would have to be removed from the enclosure in order for there to be enough room for the woofer to fit. This is called the subwoofers displacement volume and because it consumes volume, that volume needs to be taken away from the gross internal volume of the enclosure. The same applies to the tuning vent (port). If you were to close the bottom end of the port (irrespective if it’s a slot port, round port or even a triangular port), you would need to remove water from the enclosure in order to get it to fit.  In case you were of the opinion that the vent (port) volume doesn’t take up space because it’s essentially a hole, just remember that the area inside the port belongs to the port and not the enclosure.

Should you be like me who likes using braces to strengthen the enclosure on the inside, the volume of these braces would also need to be subtracted from the enclosure volume as would anything else you place inside it.

The calculation.

There is a simple calculation which most people use as industry standard. The formula requires you to convert all your sizes from millimetres to inches and in case you didn’t know, 25.4mm = 1-inch. So if you have an enclosure with the following volume 900 (W) x 500(H) x 350 (D), you need to divide each value by 25.4 which would equate to 35.43(inch) x 19.68 (inch) x 13.77 (inch) = 9601.30. You then divide your answer by 1728 which is a standard number that never changes (In case you forget what this number is, just remember 12 cubed or 12x12x12= 1728) in order to find out how many cubic feet you have available. You’ll then get an answer of 5.55 which is in cubic feet which is in fact almost large enough to house a pair of 15-inch woofers tuned to around 45Hz….or is it?

This is where majority of folk goes wrong as this is only the first of many steps required to know your actual enclosure volume. The answer we have there is in fact your Gross enclosure volume. What you need to work out is your gross internal volume which you’ll see gets cut down pretty quickly after the next calculation.

The one way of calculating the internal volume would be to take measurements of the inside of the box and then using the formula above, you will come out to the answer you’re looking for. A quick way of doing this would be as follows. Say you’re using a 18mm shutter ply (which is most commonly used in competition systems because of its excellent strength), you’d then multiply 18mm x 2 as you’ll have an 18mm piece on each side. That gives you 36mm which you’ll then subtract from all three measurements. That will leave you with the following internal sizes, 864 (W) x 464(H) x 314 (D) after which you’ll convert to inches and then do the calculation above which will result in a final volume of 34.01 x 18.26 x 12.36 = 7675.83/1728 = 4.44 cubic feet. That’s 1.1 cubic feet lost to material thickness alone.

Following these calculations, we still need to subtract the subwoofer displacement then further subtract the port volume and then we’re still not done yet.

Now that you know how to calculate internal and external volume, calculating the area consumed by a slot port should be very easy as the principal is exactly the same. Convert all your sizes to inches and then follow the steps above using the outside measurements of the port. Whatever answer you come out with, subtract it from the gross internal volume and you’ll be another step closer to your final answer. Should you be working with round ports, you’ll have to use the Pie r- square formula to calculate it’s volume and then subtract that from your internal enclosure volume.

The final part of your calculation would be the subwoofer displacement. Subwoofer displacement is always provided by the manufacturer of whatever speaker it is you’re using. Should they not provide you with this, it becomes a little challenging to calculate

Once you’ve worked though all of the above, you’ll quickly understand how an enclosure that started off large enough to house a pair of 15-inch subwoofers suddenly reduced to something that is just about enough to house a single 15-inch woofer.

 

 

 

 

 

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Audio Review, Pioneer AVH-Z9150BT head unit with built-in Wi-Fi

When I reviewed Pioneer’s AVH-Z5050BT head unit soon after its release, I mentioned Pioneer had stepped up their game by delivering a feature-rich head unit at an affordable price. What really impressed me was the introduction of Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which not connects iOS and Android devices but also provides a seamless hands-free user interface while driving.

Pioneer’s primary focus is driver safety, simplicity, convenience and musical enjoyment – all rolled into one. Their Z-Series range of head units have been transformed from the more conventional head unit into a new-age “smartphone-type” head unit which utilises apps such as Google Maps, Waze, Spotify and Mix Cloud to name but a few. Another personal favourite for me is the on-board audio processor that for a system to be setup in Network mode, allowing you to run a fully active 2-way speaker system via the front and rear channels. The third output channel will always be the dedicated subwoofer channel. In addition, the pre-set and an adjustable time alignment setting does wonders for any audio system. So how did Pioneer improve their game? They introduced the new  AVH-Z9150BT……

 

Pioneer’s AVH-Z9150BT

After having reviewed the first Z-Series head units, I made a list explaining what my perfect dream head unit should feature. I sent it over to the guys at Pioneer, not really expecting anything to come from it. A few months later, they released a new flagship model that surprisingly had everything I had wished for, including a few extra bits of brilliance.

The AVH-Z9150BT has a detachable face and a handy carry pouch which I personally love. Another handy feature is the dual camera inputs – one for the front, and one the rear. Why would I need one in the front I hear you ask? Simple, lowered cars hate clearing curbs. Dual USB ports is a definite plus! – This allows for a portable hard drive/thumb drive to be plugged in, while the second port allows for OTG connectivity like charging your phone’s battery or plugging in an iPod.

WI-Fi Operation.

One of the head unit’s main key features is the wireless (WiFi) connectivity for Apple CarPlay. The cherry on the cake is saved for Android users as selected units can now be mirrored wirelessly to the head unit. In an era whereby streaming almost anything off a cell phone is a daily occurrence, this added feature offers travelling entertainment value. Kids have become tech savvy, meaning they can “survive” all day long by just watching YouTube.

In order to make use of this feature, I downloaded the Mirror Cast App. From there, I switched on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to enable connection to the head unit and its audio system. Now given this feature is wireless, I expected a delay of sorts between the device and the head unit, however everything worked perfectly. The head unit display also responded quickly to swipes and taps. I even handed the phone over to my kid and he absolutely loved it the ease of use.

 

GPS.

It’s without a doubt that GPS-enabled services such as Waze and Google Maps offer convenience and a more cost-effective way of travelling. Therefore, the need for utilising outdated external GPS units are now a thing of the past as Pioneer have added a GPS antenna to the head unit which improves the signal to your mobile phone. How cool is that?

 

Google Maps and Data Costs.

 

One of the features of the Android Auto and Car Play is the ability to use Google Maps. and the affordability it offers with regards to data costs. To see how affordable it really is, I conducted my own test. I navigated from my home in Ruimsig, West Rand to OR Tambo International Airport in the East Rand. I used an LTE-capable smartphone that was connected to Cell C’s network and fired up Google Maps. Before I carry on, it’s important to remember that data cost does not work on distance travelled but on the amount of time used.

With Google Maps running through Android Auto to the head unit, my 60-minute journey used 5.58MB of data. If you dissect the value, the pricing ranges from as little as 11 cents (based on a 1-Gig daily bundle) to 90 cents (based on a 25MB daily data bundle with Cell C). If you travel from Johannesburg down to Durban for example, the cost for using Google Maps for those 6 hours equates to less than R10.00.

For more info, check out Pioneer South Africa’s Face Book page.
https://www.facebook.com/PioneerSouthAfrica/

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IASCA Semi-Finals Sibaya Casino

 

A few weeks back Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom played host to the Boss Motorshow which was made up of a show and shine event, a mobile dyno challenge and an IASCA South Africa World Record SPL and Bass Boxing event (with Sound Quality too). With so much happening on the day, we had Dushandren from KZN Car Club cover this event for us.

As per the norm, the event started off rather slow and only picked up momentum a little after lunch. A welcoming surprise was the amount of competitors on the Sound Quality side. Irrespective of where they placed, the most important thing was that there were competitors this time around and that those who attempted competing liked the format. Let’s hope and pray that each one of those competitors can bring at least one new person to the next Sound Quality event and that we see the sport once again grow to what it used to be.

On the SPL and Bass Boxing side of things, there were a number of veteran competitors who were there for one thing and one thing only, and that was to smash world records and improve their global standings. Although we still have not received official results from IASCA SA, there were some crazy scores achieved on the day.

Team Starsounds Brothers of Bass, has certainly drummed up quite a following and for good reason too. Brothers Wez Lo and Bradley Samuel’s smashed their own World Records, which shows that these two are still consistently working on their rides. Bradley mentioned that one of his goals is to get all their cars over the 160dB mark, and from the looks of things, they should be there soon.

On the Bass Boxing side, Team Targa’s Rups made a surprizing return to the lanes and after such a long absence; he proved that he still had it when he snatched a World Record. For those who don’t know, Rup’s was also the first person in Africa to smash the 180dB mark on Term Lab.

Team Bass Power has also cemented their names as the best in the business when they too managed to smash two World Records in the Cruiser Weight and NHB Bass Boxing Classes.

The loudest of the day was Pretoria’s Dr Decibel who managed to smash his personal best and past the 175dB mark in the Ultimate Division. 177.8dB was his final score on the day and guess what, Jaco mentioned that he is gunning for that magical 180dB mark and he isn’t going to stop until he reaches it.