Thursday, January 29, 2009

Car Audio using iPod and Altec Lansing 2.1 desktop speakers

--------------------------------------THE iPod as a HU---------------------------------
------------------------------------Front view of the Satellites-----------------------

-----------------------------------Rear view of the Satellites--------------------------
--------------------------------------- The Sub Woofer--------------------------------
I have been busy with lot of other things (including music of course) in the past one month and one of such things was finding a right audio system for my new car. Since I believe in doing things in my own way, I did not want to follow the general route of buying a Kenwood/Alipne/Pioneer/Sony which is forced upon you by the dealer. Then follows the next general step of going for a JBL/Sony....etc speaker system. It could be two or four or an extra sub too which would rob you of an additional 25-30 K. Well I decided that I was going to do something different and break the general norm. Since I have been using Altec Lansing GT5051R 5.1 other than my Norge Millennium (for reference), my first thought was to see if Altec Lansing had good 2.1 speakers. Am saying this as my 5.1 is one of the best in the business. Altec Lansing never compromises on quality. My search led to the VS 4121 BLK which comes with two 6 watt satellites, and a 19 watt Sub. Now the die hard car audio freaks who swear by the Pioneer and JBL's would laugh at the thought of installing a 2.1 31 watt desktop system in a Car! Well here lies the mistake. We all have been programmed to believe that a car audio only sounds good if you power pack it with the Alpines, Kenwoods and the JBL's! It's not the volume that matters, it's the quality of sound that finally matters. My good friend a bike mechanic and an audio freak who also fits car audio systems distanced himself from me telling me that I was really mad! But I had already decided to go ahead as I believed that since the car is a small closed environment, the 2.1 would sound good with 30 watts. Well here is what I did.
I got the 2.1 VS4121 BLK and then opened it to see the circuit if it could be run on a 12 V car battery. I cut the transformer output wires and saw that it was giving 20 Volts DC. There was a 7812 regulator IC which provided power to the volume/tone control sections and pre-amps. The Power Amplifier IC is the TDA7377 (basically a 2 x 30W dual/quad Car Radio PA) which was directly fed from the transformer output. I found from the IC data sheet that the minimum voltage for it to be operative was 8 volts. Thus I made sure that it would work with the car battery. Then disaster struck! I accidentally switched the +/- of the transformer output wires and I was shocked to see fumes coming out from the PCB! But I had the guts to take it to my College and with the help of a colleague came to the conclusion that the regulator IC and the power amp IC was burnt out. I was relieved to see the sound back after replacing both the IC's. Then, I removed a 12 volt UPS battery and tested the 2.1 with it. It worked like a charm. Next I tested it inside the car and I was really taken aback at what I heard. I must confess that I have never heard all those 30K systems come anywhere near the clarity and pureness of sound that the 2.1 produces in a car! In fact it sounds better in a car than in a room. The sub is just astounding. I just have put the speakers on half the volume and they just blow you over! I tested with an iPod as the input source. I tried different types of music including A.R.R's Yuvraj, Carpenters, Mozart, etc. By now I was in love with the elegant satellites and the small but powerful sub. The highs, mids and the lows were just amazingly reproduced for every kind of music! It has to be heard to be believed. Now the next step was to mount the speakers. Since my car is the Swift, I got a luggage compartment wooden pad. I got a wooden pad as the fibre type MGA original one was not suited for putting the speakers on it. I attached the satellites with super glue on the wooden pad and then the sub in the hatch. The next job was to power up the speakers with the car battery. I took the help of the Maruti showroom electrical guys who did the job for me. The next issue was alternator whine which is a continuous whine which starts as soon as the engine is on. I got over that by using an inductor and a capacitor duo pi filter, the components for which were obtained from an old Computer SMPS. Now the system is perfect without any noise and day by day I am addicted to listening music in my car. My iPod which I was not actively using since some months has finally turned out to be of great use in the car!
Guys, all those who have an iPod or similar media player and have got a new car can go for this arrangement. It will only make you poorer by Rs. 2500! But there is no compromise on the quality of sound that you get. The sleek satellite speakers blend with the inside, and look awesome. The sub also takes very little space in the hatch.
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