Well, it's taken a while to get here for reasons that will become clear, but my stereo upgrade is at last sufficiently complete for me to write about it. For those of you who don't know my car is a 2015 GTS Cab, which I specced with the Burmester system. I liked that system fine but to be honest was never blown away. I'm a bit of an audio tragic - my living room looks like this:
and I figured I spend probably more time in the car than I do on the couch (my psychotherapist prefers armchairs lol) so I wanted something of comparable quality. I spoke to AutoAudio in Park Royal, NW London about the options for a high-end replacement system. My wishes were these:
1) Audiophile-grade sound. The Burmester is fine, and good and loud, but to me everything on it sounds compressed. As Greg the boss of AutoAudio said when he listened to it, you can hear which sounds represent which instruments, but you can't hear the instruments themselves, and you definitely can't hear anything *about* the instruments. I wanted to be able to hear about the instruments.
2 To keep the original head unit. I like the stock look and feel. Have a Pioneer head unit in my Spyder and while it does the job in that car which had been specced with base stereo and no satnav, it's a pain to use compared to the Porsche one. Carplay and I don't get on!
3) Not to lose too much space. I use my frunk and back seats so they couldn't be completely filled with amps, subs etc.
4) For the car to be puttable-back to stock. I currently feel like I will be separated from my GTS only by death, but things change and I have to face the fact that I may want or need to sell it one day. If I did I'd take the audio stuff out and install it whatever car I had next.
AutoAudio were superb. It's the most extraordinary place - a warehouse filled with literally the most exotic cars you can imagine. I am under strict instructions not to share any of the photos I took, but I saw a LaFerrari, a 1950s Lamborghini Mura, and an Aston DB11 that was being made into a full replica of the James Bond car, complete I kid you not with replica guns that fired compressed air. AA don't just do audio...
My journey to the system I have in the car now has been pretty long. If I have a criticism of AA it's that they almost didn't sell to me hard enough, so I had stuff fitted and then it turned out there was additional stuff that would make it all sound better, and then further stuff on top of that. This has meant I've spent a lot of time going back and forth from there, and the system has often felt not quite finished. It's been fun, and I've learned a lot, but I would have preferred to have been sat down on the first day and talked through all the options.
The first thing we did was new speakers and amplifiers. AA had been allocated a few sets of the Morel 38 Limited Edition 3-way speakers. Only 500 sets were made by Morel in Israel and they seem to be pretty state of the art
The tweeters were fitted into the dash and the mids and woofers in the doors.
In the rear of the car we went for Morel Hybrid Integras, which play at low volume just to lift the soundstage off the dash a bit.
To power these eight channels of sound (3-way fronts + rears X 2) we used two four-channel Sinfoni Presto Ad Lib amplifiers
Here's what they look like in my frunk (along with a subwoofer amp, but more on that later!)
AA did a beautiful installation, with some tasteful LED lighting and a carpet to go over the top so the plastic doesn't get scratched and I don't have to have the amps visible if I don't want to. I was almost tempted to leave all of this amazing wiring on show though!
And here's what the car looked like during surgery.
We then decided to add a subwoofer. Believe it or not the Burmester doesn't have a sub (or not one that we could find). What it does have is massive 8" door woofers, which throw out a lot of bass. The Morel woofers are only 6" and so, in spite of sounding wonderful, didn't have that seat-shaking quality. The problem is, Porsches don't have big trunks for putting subwoofers into. AA had done one before where the sub went in the passenger footwell, but we decided it wouldn't work in my case because Mrs Rat is on the tall side and it would restrict her legroom. It was pretty surreal having a conversation with a car audio technician about the dimensions of my wife, but it's important to get these things right!
The sub we chose was a Morel Ultimo Titanium 8"
and AA had the genius idea of converting the rear armrest to accommodate it
It looked utterly amazing and was powered by an Alpine PDX M-12 mono amp
which went in the frunk, and still left room for my suitcase (AA had taken measurements of said suitcase. They're good like that)
At this point the system sounded seriously impressive - I was hearing detail in songs I knew well that I'd had no idea was there - but it still just didn't sound as great as I had hoped. What I learned was, and I owe some thanks to 12vNick for this, that while the stock systems in these cars might not be anything special, what they are is tuned specifically for these cars. What this basically means is they give out quite a lot of extra bass, to compensate for the bassy sounds the car itself makes. The system as I had it, even with the sub, sounded trebly and insubstantial. Cue the miracle that is DSP.
DSP stands for digital signal processing and basically allows for EQ programming and the exact tailoring of sound to listening environment. I had no idea this even existed (my home amps sound great whatever I throw at them and have no adjustability at all). DSP also allows one to do time correction. Here's where it gets crazy. When listening to a home system, one generally sits equidistant between the speakers to receive a proper stereo image. If it's a good system the speakers will seem to 'disappear', vocals will come from a space straight in front of one and other instruments from wherever they're placed in the recording. If you close your eyes, you can visualise a band on a stage.
The problem is that in a car one set of speakers is much nearer you than the other one is, so getting a stereo image like this is impossible, until you do time correction. What this means is installing one of these
then placing a microphone at head height in the driver's seat, and selectively delaying the sounds from different speakers and the sub so they all reach the mic at the same time. Your brain is then fooled into 'seeing' a stereo image.
Since doing this it sounds like the lead singer is standing in the middle of my dashboard, and yet there is nothing coming out of the centre channel at all. To hear in, say, a Springsteen recording (you may have guessed from my username that I'm a fan), that the organ is on one side and the piano on the other, has been a truly wonderful thing. We also added a lot more bass to the mix so Bruce could be heard over the exhaust (thanks Fabspeed/Kline
The problem then is that the sound sucks in the passenger seat, but thankfully the Bit One allows for different modes. We installed its controller in the armrest enclosure, and currently have
Passenger Mode (lateral time-correction removed so it just sounds like a regular car stereo)
and Top Down Mode (more treble to compensate for wind noise)
This was wonderful, but I am quite a difficult rodent. The little 8" sub sounded great with acoustic music, but started to max out with hip-hop and dance (I listen to more or less every genre) so I decided I wanted to see if we could go bigger. AA thought we could fit in a 10" Ultimo sub (the name does sound like a meatball sandwich somehow...) but would run into problems indenting the box sufficiently to use the car's rear seat belts! They had the bright idea of facing it backwards, and thought this would also make the bass stronger because the rear of the car would act an additional enclosure and reflect the sound back. This is what it looks like now
It's less in your face than the previous one, but still looks like it could be OE. AutoAudio's leather work is pretty incredible. And it sounds absolutely banging. The sub volume control is under the steering wheel, and it can be ranged from merely punchy to totally earth-shaking.
The sound of this system is now truly unbelievable, in terms of detail, warmth and the ridiculous volume that can be attained. It is completely unfazed no matter how loud I turn it up - my ears give up long before it does, and my main worry is sending myself deaf! It's hard to say what the best thing about it is, but I'd have to say precision, transparency, I guess truthfulness? It sounds like one is in a concert hall or a club, depending on what one is listening to, and like I said music I've been hearing my whole life now sounds quite dramatically different and better.
My only complaint is that my phone currently has a problem in the car, in that people can hear their voices back down the line, like on an old-world transatlantic call. This is apparently a problem with the Bit One HD, which Audison are aware of and working on.
So overall I'm very pleased, even though it was a longer (and more expensive!) journey than I'd anticipated. I would caution that if you want to start upgrading the stereo in these cars you'd better be prepared to finish if you see what I mean. I'm going to go ahead and answer first the question I would have if reading a writeup like this but do feel free to ask any others. My home system cost about £15,000, and this has worked out pretty much the same. I would say the quality is as good. It's impossible to replicate the sound of big floor-standing speakers in an acoustically sympathetic room, but the detail and sheer aggression of the car system are both better. Good times!