old radio – new sound
If you switch from your everyday car to your classic car, you can look forward to an exciting journey through time and an unfiltered driving experience. When it comes to the sound of the car radio, however, most are likely to quickly long for their modern vehicle.
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By stefan schickedanz/SP-X
Even small cars like the mini cooper with their standard sound system make the car hifi systems from the last century look old. Not to mention the optional harman kardon with center speaker and double central basses under the front seats.
But not only the technical progress in the infotainment area affects vintage radios. Also the tooth of time gnaws particularly on the loudspeaker membranes respectively their suspensions. Despite the purist feel of the car, this quickly gives rise to the desire to update the oldie. But that is not so easy. If you use tin snips and saws to lace your interior with fat speakers on the doors and shelves and thick power amplifiers in the trunk, you stand a good chance of losing your H license plate – not to mention the exhilarating feeling of driving a classic car that is true to the original.
But there is a whole range of solutions. Most of these remain under the radar, because the car manufacturers, with their extensive range of top-class hi-fi systems from brands such as burmester (mercedes, porsche), bowers& wilkins (BMW, volvo, maserati, mclaren), bose (mazda, cadillac, opel) or harman kardon (BMW, volvo, kia) have sustainably thinned out the classic one-builder scene from the last century.
Wide range of products
Surprisingly, there is still quite an abundant supply for cars like BMW’s first 3-series, which was designed for oval speakers in the format four x six inches (ten x 15 cm). Instead of the broadband speakers still available directly from the manufacturer (a four-pack for the openings in the footwell and on the parcel shelf costs around 82 euros), there are also technically more complex two-way systems from alpine (35 euros), ampire (60 euros), or JBL (70 euros). this format was used by many car manufacturers at that time. Besides BMW, which also used such speakers in the 5 series E12 and E28, it was also used by VW, fiat, lancia, nissan, seat, daewoo.
There are even more speakers that would fit in the standard slots by height and width, but some of them are not suitable by depth. This is due to particularly strong, large drive magnets, but also to widely protruding diaphragm suspensions or particularly lush centrally arranged tweeters. Then at least other, conspicuously protruding covers would be necessary, which already seems borderline for the vintage car owner who is concerned about original appearance. Who does not go with its sweetheart to the Einbauer – there are among them also on oldtimer specialized companies – should therefore absolutely make sure that he can exchange the loudspeakers if necessary. The alpine SXE 4625 S could be used in the BMW E21 with the original connectors and screws. however, in a baur convertible, for example, the drivers hang directly from the cover. At BMW, however, you can order a set of four new covers for 44 euros.
Car radios for classic cars
These figures show that changing outdated drivers for fresh, modern transducers alone won’t work wonders: even a mini cooper today has twelve speakers, a multi-channel power amplifier and 360 watts of power. And the installation positions of the sound transducers in modern vehicles are chosen early in the design process to achieve optimum efficiency. The developers succeeded in achieving a ten db higher efficiency simply by optimally positioning a loudspeaker chassis.
Once you get the taste, you’ll quickly want more power and a subwoofer. Because the cars of the last century, which until the late 1990s mostly had membranes that were far too small for low frequencies, lacked bass. There is a remedy in these points. A fine address for this is audiotec fischer from schmallenberg, germany. Their small but powerful DSP power amplifiers supply them with the standard connections of many manufacturers for plug& play off. Because of their extremely high efficiency of around 95 percent, they emit so little heat that they can be installed piggyback on top of the car radio, for example, provided there is enough space. Thanks to an interface to the DSP, the sound of the speakers can be precisely adjusted to the car’s interior using a windows PC and special software from the dealer. A five-channel power amplifier like the match M 5dspmk2 for 550 euros can even drive a compact passive subwoofer from audiotec fischer. You could put it in the trunk like the match PP 8E-Q (200 euros), where it could be taken out at any time after loosening a plug connection. Or you sink it like the round match PP 7S-D (220 euros) completely invisible in the spare wheel well- at least in classic bmws, which already used a flat cover in the 60s.
ÜBer bluetooth network
the only question that remains is how to feed in MP3 audio from your smartphone? After all, USB or AUX connections were not on board at the time, not to mention bluetooth. With an FM transmitter (e.g. technaxx FM900BT, 30 euros) for the cigarette lighter socket, the cell phone user can transmit the music via FM on a free channel directly into the car radio and at the same time charge his device at the USB socket. The device also offers skip buttons and hands-free operation. The trick with the radio works pretty well. the sound possessed in the listening test a powerful kick and offered a powerful, differentiated bass that SWR, BR and HR listeners can only dream of. However, the whole thing is very noisy on the right and often caused interference stress with local radio stations transmitting on the same or a neighboring frequency, especially on cross-country trips. Cassette adapters for AUX or bluetooth are less noisy, but cause certain problems with many tape drives and are nowhere near as practical as the FM transmitter.
If you’re looking for a really perfect solution, you have two sensible alternatives: either install a smart digital power amplifier like the PP-62 DSP for 500 euros and stream your songs directly into its DSP via the bluetooth module available for 130 euros. This then bypasses the old car radio, which is only needed for listening to the news, for optimum sound quality. The appearance remains completely original. Or you can go straight to a more powerful car radio. In addition to providers who specialize in the restoration of sought-after classics from brands such as becker or blaupunkt, there are also new products in vintage look. Here one comes across again and again the name ampire electronics. The car audio specialist from Grevenbroich offers a whole range of ultra-modern head units with FM and DAB tuners, USB and AUX connections and, above all, a Bluetooth interface for less than 500 euros. The fascia with the buttons can then be adapted by the vintage car owner to suit his or her particular era.
In the end, all these measures should not achieve the sound with stage imaging above the dashboard, as is known from today’s multi-channel systems with more than ten speakers. But in terms of dynamics, balance and bass foundation, a vintage car can often match its offspring with a hi-fi upgrade.