Report on the Yukon system's performance
Michael is Crutchfield's senior creative director for mobile electronics. As a lifelong performing musician and composer, he has released seven albums for Breezeway Records and appeared on many others. His band, Sokoband (formerly "Soko"), was an active part of the Charlottesville's creative music scene in the 1990s, and has continued to record and occasionally perform. Sokoband releases have included contributions from musicians like Leroi Moore, Tim Reynolds, Steve Kimock, David Darling, George Brooks and David Matthews. An avid consumer of non-fiction and a choosier consumer of fiction, Michael loves reading, writing, philosophy, science, technology, and language.
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So all the gear I needed is installed; the car has been treated liberally with Dynamat; and we've recently taken delivery of the finished Sokoband CDs. (Go back to the first couple of posts in this blog for background on the recording project.) So how does it sound? Certainly it sounds better than any car stereo I've ever owned - and I've had some nice ones.
The system figured prominently in the mixing and mastering processes of making the album. By the time we got to the final mixing stage (in the pro studio), the amplifier had been installed. This was the step that put the project squarely into the high fidelity zone. I think it's a combination of the Dynamat and clean, accurate power that really makes it happen. The speakers are quite good, but not great. The head unit is most definitely designed for high performance audio, but it's not exactly a "high-end" piece, either. The amplifier, top-shelf subwoofer, and the recording studio-like damping have to be the critical factors. Now that I've been living with the setup for a few months, I've jotted down a few of my takeaways:
- Overall tone quality is smooth and balanced. I'm not getting the unwanted brightness and harshness that car speakers too often project.
- Good transient response (ability to handle abrupt dynamic and resister changes in the music) thanks to the high level of control that the amplifier is able to exert on the speakers and sub.
- Sweet bass response. Whether I'm listening to acoustic, electric, or synthetic sound sources, the deep low frequencies feel just great. Warm, full, round, and resonant. (I have the amp's sub output crossed over at 50 Hz, so the sub is focused only on the deep bass.)
- Imaging. The system's sound staging characteristics are interesting; I don't perceive the illusion of a musical "stage" in front of me (as would be the goal of a good home system, for example), but rather I feel surrounded by the musicians - as if I were in the musical ensemble.
This last point reflects something just a little strange about the system; the listener should feel placed in the audience, not on the stage amid the instruments. Even when I faded the output forward, completely away from the rear doors, I still felt surrounded. I remember listening to the Phil Collins/Chester Thompson drum duet from Genesis' 2007 Live Over Europe CD, and it seemed like I was somehow sitting amongst the drum hardware; tom-toms, cymbals, and blocks were being hit with joyful abandon all around me. The sounds were so detailed and realistic, I almost flinched - half expecting a virtuosic whack to the top of my head.
Since I've been living with the system for a while, and since the CD is manufactured and ready for a March release, it's time to find out what - if anything - Alpine's ImprintTM sound tuning can do to push the system's performance to even higher levels.
Read the entire Building a Mobile Listening Lab series:
- Laying the Foundation, Part 1
- Laying the Foundation, Part 2
- Laying the Foundation, Part 3
- Dynamat installation and pre-wiring for amplifiers
- Installing the front door speakers
- Video: factory vs. aftermarket speakers
- Rear speakers, amplifier, and subwoofer
- Report on the Yukon system's performance
- The ultimate in system tuning
- Video: Alpine's IMPRINT signal processing in action