As a musician I find myself listening to music in the car on every journey, but unlike how you probably listen to music I'm studying and learning the songs - overly analysing them but equally enjoying them and letting the music embrace the journey. On a daily basis I see drivers become irate with others, angry, stressed and on occasion getting themselves into a road rage incident which could have been entirely avoided if they'd just.. relaxed..
One day I got into a friends car, a Jaguar XF Sportbrake with a Meridian Surround system in. We were in central London in rush hour and didn't have bundles of time to get 4 miles (if you know London, 4 miles can take an hour.. or more) but somehow, thanks to the brilliant audio, the entire journey ended up being peaceful and relaxing, even though around us utter chaos was ensuing. Outside horns were blasting, people shouting and the occasional bird being flipped.. inside was pure bliss, relaxed and easy going.
Later on I got back into my Passat and I wanted to turn the music up and immediately be in the same place, but somehow I wasn't. The audio quality was inferior, the stress seemed just the same as before. I decided to spend a little time tweaking the audio equalisation (like I would a production), ensuring the music I was listening to was clear enough to cut through the beeping and noises around you without having to be 'loud' enough to distract you and damage your hearing too. A low end boost here, a mid scoop there, suddenly audio in the car was sounding better to me than ever before. Driving would forever be changed..
The first drive in rush hour with beautiful sounding audio was like breathing fresh air for the first time, the manic rush going on outside didn't reflect on me and I didn't let pushy drivers wind me up. I arrived with no stress at the exact same time as I would've arrived before.
Whilst premium audio will always give you a superior result, you don't have to have premium audio to get a better result - insider knowledge will allow you to 'upgrade' your audio for free.
Firstly, mid frequencies hurt your ears at loud volumes, knock them down a bit and save your hearing. Bottom end frequencies (bass) use up a lot of your speakers capacity, if you want more bass - turn it down.. or hear the crackle. You can have too much top end (usually resulting in ringing in your ears), use it sparingly if you like to turn up the music - you don't want to be deaf in 10 years.
If you don't have controls on your head unit, you can utilise your mobile phone (if you have a connection) - iTunes and Spotify both give you full equalisation control so you can perfect your sound. A parametric EQ gives you loads of control, play around and find out what works for you.
Premium audio is something entirely different - some people are super lucky to have it and others just wish they had it. Whilst the engine noise can be music to your ears.. a good driving soundtrack is essential too.
Naturally, more expensive cars come with better 'premium' audio systems. BMW has Harman/Kardon, Jaguar gets Meridian, Lexus gives you Mark Levinson, Volvo wow their drivers with Bowers & Wilkins and Abarth now have Beats.. which is better than you'd think.
No matter if you've got a cheap run around with a basic stereo system or a top of the line super saloon with a £8,000 upgrade system, you can still get great audio - and you should have great audio. The soundtrack to your drive enhances and changes everything - making great drives memorable and difficult ones tolerable.
Here's a story about how premium audio changed a dodgy situation..
Fast forward a few years and I'm now fortunate enough to own an XF which has Meridian in, every journey I'm thankful for the audio quality. A commute to central London doesn't cause anxiety due to anticipating the stress, a long road trip is even more fun now - not just for the drive, but the audio discovery on the journey.
Remember this though, you don't need to upgrade what you've got - unless you've got a bottom spec Duster without radio and pre-wiring for speakers. You can adapt what you already have to work in a better and clearer way - empowering every single drive.