View topic - Road Trip From Penticton BC to Calgary Alberta?

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PostPosted: September 13th, 2017, 4:30 am 
You'd expect a good-quality audio system in an expensive car, right? Rod Easdown discovers that's not necessarily the case. There are still plenty of people around who believe it's impossible to achieve good audio quality in a car. Unfortunately, some of them seem to work for car companies. There are some very, very good audio systems in current models, but there are also some shockers. Take, for example, Holden's Caprice. What is the Difference between 2-way, 3-way and 4-way speakers? Difference between them

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When you're paying $73,690 for a car, you rightfully expect good audio and the Caprice's system looks the part. But don't turn the volume up. All the equaliser pre-sets (jazz, rock, pop, classical and so on) dial in way too much bass. Even with all the settings at 'off' there's too much bottom end. Nor can the system handle it; there is so much distortion that all you can do is turn it down again.

It's much the same in the Monaro, and the Commodore is also crook. The Caprice gets away with it because most buyers can't see past the DVD screens in the rear, providing an instant child-minding service. They're practical and they're sexy. Installation of rear-seat DVD systems has become one of the most common jobs at specialist in-car entertainment outlets and most of the major after-market brands offer them, including Alpine, Pioneer and JVC. Ford's $72,070 LTD may not have DVD, but it has an absolute belter of an audio system, one of the best in a locally made car.

Alfa Romeos, although now improving, have had some truly appalling audio systems in the past and Smarts (those tiny two-seaters built by Mercedes) aren't very smart at all. Fifteen years ago, good car audio was something you only ever heard at car audio competitions (yes, they are serious business). The problem has always been speaker placement: no matter where you sit in a car you're far closer to some speakers than to others and twiddling with a balance control only partially addresses the problem.

Then computer chips became fast enough and cheap enough to enable electronic time alignment. This allows a control called the listening position selector, where you can set the sound up for the driver alone, the front-seat passenger, the rear seat or the entire car. Along with far more powerful amplification, good speakers and equalisers, listening position selectors suddenly made quality sound not just achievable, but affordable. Some car makers have cottoned on.

They either buy in premium audio systems from specialist manufacturers such as Bose and JBL or get audio specialists involved in the development of the car. But in almost all cases the sound guys are presented with a near-complete car and asked to work the audio around the window winders, the vents and all the plumbing behind the dash. The Simple Difference Between Coaxial and Component Speakers

That's what makes the system in the Lexus RX330 such a stand-out. Lexus involved specialists from the American premium audio brand, Mark Levinson, from blueprint stage. Japan-based Levinson executives Don Maidens and Trevor Neumann said they couldn't quite believe the co-operation they were given. When they gingerly asked if a visor mount could be relocated to accommodate a speaker, the mount was relocated.

When they asked for a hole in the centre of the dash for a centre channel speaker, a hole appeared. Even when they said they could get extra fidelity if the doors had more soundproofing, adding more weight, they got it. The upshot is a system that many owners will find far better than their audio gear at home. And there's some remarkable technology here. Central to the design are the three speakers across the top of the dash at left, right and centre.

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They lift the soundstage - that is, the perception of where the sound is coming from - high. Together with tweeters in the A-pillars, they make the signal not just high, but beautifully airy. This design goes hand-in-hand with clever software that blurs the separation between channels, evening out the signal across the soundstage. Audiophiles will raise their eyebrows at this until they listen to it. The signal is wonderfully wide and spacious, yet there is no compromise to definition.

Car audio engineers and installers like to complain about how tough car cabins are as an audio environment and how speakers cannot be mounted to point at their listeners, like they can be at home, but Mark Levinson president Phil Muzio is unlike most car audio people. He alone talks about the two huge advantages in designing audio systems for cars. "Firstly, I know where everyone is sitting and, secondly, I know the size of the room," he said.

This means all the software can be set up to match those two parameters. With equalisation to boost the dead spots and reduce the overly bright spots in the frequency range, as well as electronic time alignment, a very acceptable result is achievable. With the RX330, this tuning took 1200 man-hours. Muzio says car makers are cottoning on to the process. His fastest-growing competitor as a supplier of premium car sound systems, he says, is the systems that car manufacturers are now fitting in base models.

Especially in the USA, where Saabs come with a Harman/Kardon system that is optional on all but premium models in Australia, and cooking-model Toyotas are fitted with JBL equipment. "Now that car manufacturers understand how to get a good result, they're designing systems in from the ground up, and they sound really good," Muzio said. "This will make premium upgrades like ours a lot harder to justify." We haven't come near this far in Australia.

The Europeans definitely sound best. "Audi owners have always been into audio, right from the day FM radio started. Good sound is expected," said Audi's Anna Burgdorf. They're also prepared to pay extra for better sound. Burgdorf says take-up of the optional Bose system is healthy in the models it is offered. Volvo has been fitting excellent audio for many years and spokesman Todd Hallenbeck said it's one of the most frequently named items when owners are asked what they like about the car. "We spend a lot of time making the quality of our audio a point of differentiation from other cars," he said. And yet audio systems, according to Paul Ellis at Saab, are not a deal clincher. "I don't believe it's a motivator for purchase," he said. "People look at a lot of things with a new car, including style, performance, features and equipment, and the audio is just a part of it.

It's important, but it doesn't get buyers over the line. Other technology, like Bluetooth connectivity and DVD in the rear seat, may do." And yet, he said, if Saabs had dead-plain audio it would cost sales. "Audio is a tangible thing, a sensory thing," he said. "When you pay a lot for a car you expect good audio. If you don't get it you can fall out of love with the car." Pioneer's product manager for car electronics, John Graham, agrees. "You don't necessarily buy meat from a butcher with a clean shop, but you sure don't buy from one with a dirty shop," he said. "If the audio is good, buyers go on to the next feature. Click here to read how to choose the best car speakers

If it's terrible, they're frequently out of there." In the main, he said, original equipment audio is getting better, but it's still lowest common denominator stuff. "It's a system chosen to please most of the people most of the time, nothing more," Graham said. "Most attention is paid to getting the look right and the ergonomics right, least attention is paid to the speakers, which are hidden away behind grilles to protect from damage. Replacing the speakers is the easiest and most effective upgrade car owners can make.


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PostPosted: September 14th, 2017, 11:56 pm 
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PostPosted: September 15th, 2017, 9:45 am 
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A very beautiful drive with many, many places to pull off and look at the scenery. A few things come to mind - Rogers Pass, Takakkaw Falls, Spiral Tunnels, drive to top of Mt. Revelstoke, historic town of Field, hot springs in Banff, lots of short hikes, etc. etc.
Enjoy.


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PostPosted: September 15th, 2017, 10:47 am 
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This doesn't belong in Trip Reports.. Those are past canoeing trips.
Does belong in Off topic..
Sigh.. not really caring anymore.
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump


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PostPosted: September 18th, 2017, 1:44 am 
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Heard great things about Rogers Pass and Spiral Tunnels! Must be worth visiting


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