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ICE Considerations

Discussion in 'In Car Entertainment' started by johnny, Jan 17, 2011.

  1. johnny

    johnny Regolare

    Messages:
    437
    Greater Noida
    Greater Noida
    Grande Punto 1.3
    Hi guys,

    After my post "Speaker Change on my Emo Pack", I have had a few queries from other members, including a few PMs, asking for my recommendations about ICE upgrades. I therefore thought that it would be a good idea to put up a detailed post covering some of the issues involved.

    The start point for any such upgrade is the budget. This will override all other considerations. Having said that, what are the other considerations?

    The first point is how you like to play your music. If you like to play music loud most of the time, I will advise that you go in for an amp with adequate wattage to meet your requirements. The reason for this is based on the characteristics of most amps, including the one integral to the HU. Most are rated for reasonably distortion free operation up till about 75 to 80% volume. Once you cross this figure, distortion will set in. If you play the amp continuously at these settings, you will definitely damage your speakers in the long run, and could even damage the amp. Therefore, if you want loud music, fit a good amp which can give you the required output at a lower setting. This will give you good quality music without fear of damaging your setup.

    The second point is the type of music you like to listen to. This point becomes relevant if you like bass heavy music. If that be so, it will be a good idea to go for a sub. Quite often people crank up the bass setting on combo /elliptical speakers and try and compensate for the bass. This is a guaranteed way to damage the speakers, especially if you play the music at high volumes. Deep bass reproduction is a specialist function best left to a sub.

    If you have concluded that you need an amp/sub, the next question is about placement. My recommendation is that they are best placed in the boot - you will have to accept the loss in boot space. Placement under the seat can result in damage due to spilled drinks etc. For a sub, it is worth investing in good quality cables. It makes a lot of difference to the output from the sub. Cabling in general makes a difference to the
    sound quality, but may not be worth changing it for the rest of the setup considering that you could void your warranty. For the sub, the mounting/enclosure are very important & will affect the sound quality considerably.

    Coming on to the HU; my personal recommendations based on availability/cost are Pioneer & Kenwood. However, it is worth having USB and SD card availability - no need to put CDs which can skip on rough roads.

    That brings us to the speakers, which in my opinion is the most important component of the setup. I am personally not too fond of Japanese/Korean speakers. I prefer European/American speakers. Currently, a large number of brands are available in the market. The flip side is that there are also lot of fakes floating around. So, buy from a proper dealer with bill & warranty.

    I have commented upon some of the brands in my posts. What is to be kept in mind is that most brands tend to 'colour' the music - increase or suppress the bass/mid/highs.
    The brand which in my opinion gives very 'true' sound is Rainbow. They are German, and yes, expensive. It must also be understood that speaker cost alone does not translate to good sound. If you have the opportunity, audition the proposed setup with your type of music, and let your ears be the deciding factor. Another point is that the more expensive speakers generally require an amp to bring out their sound. While they can be driven by the HU alone, you will be losing out on what the speaker is capable of producing. It will be like using a Ferrari for commuting in Chandni Chowk! So, if you are not planning on an amp, the medium range speakers makes more sense.

    The next point is matching the speaker with the amp/HU. The most important aspect is that the impedance must match. For car audio it is normally 4 ohms. If this is not matched, you could have problems in the long term for the amp/HU and the speakers. The other point that has come up often is about the wattage of the amp/HU vis-a-vis the speakers. My recommendation on this point is that the speaker wattage (rms) must be higher than that of the amp. If it is not so, there is a good chance of speaker damage if music is played loud, or if the recording is not good. The question that often comes up is, how much more wattage rating of the speakers is acceptable? If the speakers can be riven properly by the amp/HU, this is not really an issue. The only point is that if the amp/HU utput is inadequate, you are not exploiting the full potential of the speakers - Ferrari in Chandni Chowk.

    Specially if you are using speakers with only the HU, my recommendation is to go for efficient speakers - speakers which require less power to drive. One parameter that can give an approximate indication of this is the sensitivity. Speakers having 87 to 90dB and higher sensitivity can be considered efficient, and can generally be driven efficiently by HUs with limited power output. Speakers that are less efficient will require a more powerful amp to 'come alive'.

    Coming on to the issue of speaker placement; since we have door placement in the Linea/Punto, I will confine myself to this. The front doors are best fitted with compos with a crossover. There is a big difference in the sound quality between compos & co-axials. Co-axials are a good option for the rear door. In my opinion this gives a better soundstage - separation of the various sound instruments - than putting compos in the rear also. Putting co-axials in the rear will also save you some money, since they are much cheaper. For the Punto you need 6.5" speakers for the front and 5.25" for the rear (you can fit 6.5" speakers in the rear with an adapter).

    Some installers recommend elliptical speakers on the rear parcel tray to cater for added bass. Personally I am not in agreement. As I said, if you need bass go for a sub, ellipticals cannot give you the same bass (I have covered this point earlier also). Secondly, I feel that round speakers give much better sound that ellipticals.

    Door mounting of speakers require damping, or else vibrations will spoil the output. So, it must be done on all four doors. Lastly, irrespective of the quality of equipment used, the important part is the installation. It must be done by a knowledgeable installer.

    The last point is about the music itself. Since most of us listen to MP3s the recording quality becomes important. The two main factors are: Bit rate - I use 160 kbps mainly because of the limitation of B&M. It gives fairly decent music quality with low file size. The second and more important quality is the gain value. Excessively high values will cause distortion and clipping which can result in speaker damage. I use a freeware called "MP3 Gain". It sets a default gain of 89% which is a good value. Load all your tracks into the program & it will equalise the gain of all tracks to the set value. This will prevent clipping & distortion, and also ensure that all tracks play at the same volume. The process will take some time depending upon the number of tracks and the processor speed.

    Regards & Happy listening

    Johnny
  2. Ravi

    Ravi Staff Member Janitor

    Messages:
    6,001
    Bangalore
    Grande Punto 1.3
    Very informative Johnny.
    I am sure it will help for newbies in ICE, like me.
  3. Aanand

    Aanand Amatore

    Messages:
    195
    Pune
    Johnny,
    Excellent. Thanks a pile.
  4. ansal11

    ansal11 Esperto

    Messages:
    1,373
    Noida
    Great Great points for people looking for ICE upgrades. Well Done.
  5. johnny

    johnny Regolare

    Messages:
    437
    Greater Noida
    Greater Noida
    Grande Punto 1.3
    @Ansal11, @Aanand & @Ravi,

    Thanks guys, for the words of appreciation. This had been on my mind for a while; just found the time today.

    Johnny
  6. redbull

    redbull

    Messages:
    292
    Bangalore
    I can use mp3s that are flat 320kbps and VBR > 256 kbps average without any problems in Blue&Me.

    The problem with 89 is that it might sound too low for some equipment. With all combinations of amps (and their characteristic volume settings) and speakers, this is usually true. Some (low grade) speakers will simply swallow the low amplitude portions of the signal, so generally music quality increases with loudness. Downloaded mp3s already have gains ~ 95, even some with 99. The PCM representation will almost always be digitally clipped at some part or the other as mp3gain will report, but these distortions are 99.9 % time not audible. Speaker damage is also quite questionable as people are listening to these clipped songs day in and day out. So the song encoders either at mastering (or the unlikely case being the ones who make the mp3s) pump up the gain to make their songs sound better for all kinds of equipments.

    With 89, my songs sound washed out with my Philips SHP805 headphones, in my Galaxy S, because the factory max volume setting will not exploit the full potential of the power amp. This Samsung did to maintain parity with the earphones it puts in the boxes. With the stock music system, I still did not like the 89 setting as I need to pump up the volume too much and other line disturbances and white noise becomes issue. 89 is probably good for audiophile equipment which can do seamless signal amplification.
  7. johnny

    johnny Regolare

    Messages:
    437
    Greater Noida
    Greater Noida
    Grande Punto 1.3
    Hi Redbull,

    Thanks for your response.

    When I initially started using B&M I found that a large number of songs on my USB drive were not playing - most had been coded at 320 kbps. Then I referred to the manual. Page 50 states "... the following bit rates are supported 16 kbps, 32 kbps, 64 kbps, 96 kbps, 128 kbps, & 192 kbps". Then I recoded the whole lot using Oxelon Media converter. I had selected 160 kbps without realising it. However, the entire library on the stick played without problem, and I have stuck to this figure ever since. I find it is a happy compromise between file size & music quality.

    I have been using MP3 Gain for quite a while, and I have been normalising at 89%. So far I have not found any problem with this setting on any of my equipment. I suppose that the setting is a matter of personal taste. "Audiograbber", a freeware ripper that I use has a default gain setting of 98%. Personally, I have found 89% to be a better setting.

    Regards

    Johnny
  8. vIjAy_kHaSa

    vIjAy_kHaSa Esperto

    Messages:
    1,352
    Panchkula
    johnny 320 kbps works fine in Blue N Me. All files in my USB drive are in 320 kbps bitrate and all files are working fine.
    Your files might have improper tag associated with them which Blue N Me couldn't recognize
  9. Hey Johnny

    This is indeed one of the most helpful ICE post for newbies like me 2 (@ Ravi ::V )

    Now i am looking for ICE upgrade and will be using speakers with only the HU. I dont listen to music loud everytime but i would appreciate decent Bass from speakers. Suggest some brands/makes which i should consider under the Budget of 10 K (both front and rear if possible). What exactly is the difference btw Compos and Elliptical speakers. How much damping cost and what is the process of it. Can someone suggest a good place in Delhi where i can get this thing done.

    Sorry to ask so much questions as i am new to ICE...never did so much of research before going for upgrades and always realised extra spendings. Still have my Alpine amp, JBL basstube and Pioneer speakers on top of my wardrobe at home taken out of my old Indica. :uh
  10. johnny

    johnny Regolare

    Messages:
    437
    Greater Noida
    Greater Noida
    Grande Punto 1.3
    Hi Karan,

    Since you are Delhi based, try Gyro (my post "Speaker change on my Emo Pk" gives details about this place).

    A compo speaker has a separate tweeter & a separate cross over network. The other type is called co-axial. They are single units with the tweeter /and midrange mounted within the same speaker. These are cheaper. The compos give much better sound. The other classification is round or elliptical. This refers to the shape of the speaker. In my opinion round speakers giver much better sound. You get compos & co-axial speakers in elliptical shape also.

    Gyro does damping @ 1500/- per door. While doing all four doors is recommended, since you are on a budget, do at least the front doors.

    To meet you requirements of budget & bass, I will recommend 6.5" MTX Roadthunder compos for the front. For the rear put in 5.25 co-axials. The other option is Bull speakers. I think that Gyro stocks both. Their installer is very good. I think that you will be able to get the speakers & front door damping within 10k, and you will have good sound in the bargain.

    Regards

    Johnny

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