Most of my in-car entertainment reviews have featured cars that have either a set-up that plays music or one that plays movies.
This is not to say that a set-up that is able to do both does not exist. It’s just that many of them do not sound good in the music department and, hence, are not worth being mentioned.
To a music aficionado, Bruce Willis and The Beatles cannot co-exist – from a musical perspective, that is.
A movie-playing set-up is all about sound effects and drama, while music is all about nuances and details. However, in the hands of an experienced installer, the idea of a dual-function set-up can be achieved, as seen and heard in this Toyota Alphard.
There are no less than two head units, one LCD display, one amplifier, one subwoofer and nine speakers in total in this car. Then, there are accessories such as cameras for the front and the rear of the vehicle, and soundproofing on all four doors.
However, it is not the hardware that is the highlight of this set-up but its usefulness and performance. And this would not have been possible without the expertise of Wong from Yihing, a company that specialises in car audios.
Let’s look at the set-up in detail.
Handling the music department is a Clarion DR9255 Limited Edition head unit, a set of Morel 3-way component speakers and an excellent Clarion PFW 1051 subwoofer.
The head unit is installed into a drawer in the lower part of the dash, where it can be hidden from prying eyes simply by closing the drawer.
The tweeters and mid-hi speakers are angled for optimal sound staging, and mounted on the A-pillars in customised brackets that have been fabricated to match the colour of the cabin trim.
The 10-inch Clarion subwoofer sits in a customised flat box under the rearmost seat on the passenger side of the car. For movies, a 2-DIN Clarion Max686T head unit with touchscreen LCD takes care of playback duties. And it is ably assisted by a roof-mounted 9.2-inch LCD and a pair of door-mounted Clarion 2-way co-axial speakers.
So there are really two separate set-ups in the Alphard. But that’s just half the story. The secret of this car is the ability of the two set-ups to co-exist and complement each other. No mean feat, I hasten to add.
With both head units switched on, the front passenger and driver are treated to the sweet sounds emitting from the Morel component speakers and Clarion 3-way centre speaker, which are ably backed up by the Clarion subwoofer.
At the same time, the passengers in the rear can enjoy their favourite movie, almost oblivious to what is going on in front. I kid you not.
When Wong explained this feature to me, I was sceptical, to say the least. But then I sat in the front, and then at the rear, and I could not believe my ears.
With volumes kept sensible, I could enjoy the song, and then the movie, without being disturbed either way.
Turn off the Clarion head unit residing in the drawer and the movie sounds are automatically heard through all seven of the front speakers.
There is no need to press any button or flip any switch. The transition is seamless, and with absolutely no interference whatsoever.
Turn it back on again and – voila! – music playback is resumed. Amazing.
Despite not being equipped with a time alignment feature, the head unit is a powerhouse and a pet favourite with the installer. He likes it so much that he has kept the last unit for himself, having sold the rest to his loyal customers.
With his knowledge in sound staging, Wong has installed the speakers and subwoofer in their best possible positions and angles, given the constraint of the cabin.
It may be a passively driven set-up – that is, two amp channels drive six speaker channels – but its separation is very good, with little overlap.
And the subwoofer strikes so tightly and strongly that it’s hard to believe it is “just” a 10-inch unit doing the work.
The icing on the cake? The total cost of everything, including installation, is less than $10,000. It’s a song.
+ HEAD UNIT
Clarion Max 686T
Clarion DR9255 Limited Edition
Morel Limited Edition 3-way component speakers
Clarion 3-way centre speaker
Clarion 2-way co-axial speakers
Clarion PFW1051 10-inch subwoofer
Clarion APA 4300HX 4/3/2 channel 600W amplifier