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Monday, May 10, 2010

Performance Auto & Sound Magazine, A Rare Monster

 

You might be wondering about what makes this Mercedes CLK truly rare. Well, it certainly helps that it shares a great deal of technology with the factory Mercedes race cars that appear on Formula 1 Grand Prix tracks every weekend. And it also helps that there were only 500 CLK “Black Series” cars built worldwide, with only 350 of them destined for the USA. Sure, all of this contributes to the exclusiveness of this vehicle, but the true origin of this Benz’s rarity is found in its audio system. This CLK might be the only car in the world that runs a completely digital aftermarket audio system, which is integrated with the OEM head unit. This car is a perfect example of the future in aftermarket audio integration. Through the efforts of cutting edge companies such as Audison and Mobridge, the future of car audio could focus on leveraging OEM automobile technologies to make the aftermarket audio system sound better and make installations easier. This approach would be more productive than fighting against it in order to overcome the obstacles created for many installers by the Mercedes MOST-bus system.

How is this possible? It starts with the CLK’s audiophile owner. He’s the head monster at Monster Cable, and he knows what a world class audio system is supposed to sound like. His choice for installation and system design was the talented team at Sound Innovations in Hayward CA. Ernie and the team at Sound Innovations lead the way in innovative installation strategies and system design. Avid supporters of cutting edge technologies, the two aftermarket audio companies whose products made this digital system possible are Audison and Mobridge. The Audison brand of car audio products is based in Italy, and with a passion for good sound, has for 30 years been synonymous with new technologies. Their ultra exclusive Thesis line of products represents the highest level of technological innovation and acoustical reproduction found amongst Audison products. This Monster Cable Benz features the Audison Thesis TH Coro 2-way component kit, a single Audison Thesis TH 10” Basso Subwoofer and two Audison TH Series Amplifiers, the Uno and the Quattro. The system is configured for a purely active setup through the Audison Bit One Digital Sound Processor. The Audison Thesis TH speakers, Audison Thesis TH amplifiers, and Audison Bit One, are all recent recipients of the esteemed EISA (European Imaging and Sound Association) award for “Best Car Audio” product. Which as you may have surmised, generally means the sonic performance is very, very good! The other key component in making this system possible is the Mobridge DA1000. This sophisticated product is a Digital pre-amplifier that plugs directly into the Mercedes MOST bus fiber optic circuit and re-routes digital audio out of the MOST bus network and feeds it directly into the Audison Bit One, via a fiber optic Toslink cable. The signal remains entirely in the digital domain.



Without the Mobridge DA1000 digital pre-amp, the team at Sound Innovations would have had to decipher each of the frequency-limited analog output channels of the OEM Mercedes amplifier, sum these channels together to create a full range signal, attempt to de-equalize the factory DSP settings and finally feed the signal to aftermarket amplifiers and/ or processor. If you follow the steps involved to do this the “normal way”, the process involves taking the digital signal off a CD, which travels through the factory MOST-bus in the digital domain to the factory Mercedes amplifier where it is processed by the amplifier and converted into an analog signal ready for the speakers. Then you’d feed it back into an aftermarket integration processor, where it would be turned back into digital to undo all of the factory equalization and processing and then, once again, back into an analog signal to be fed into aftermarket amplifiers and speakers!

As you can see, there are lots of steps, and plenty of opportunities for the signal to become altered along the way. Not to mention an average installer will spend four to six hours deciphering, testing, and learning the outputs of the factory amplifier. So, rather than go through the hassle, Mobridge and Audison have created a perfect example of how aftermarket audio companies can overcome complex OEM technologies.

The Mobridge DA1000 represents a different approach. Instead of overcoming the Mercedes factory system, it integrates directly into it. The DA1000 pre-amp physically plugs into the Mercedes MOST-bus in place of the factory amplifier. Cleverly, the OEM system recognizes the Mobridge box as the factory amplifier and continues to function properly. Installation of the Mobridge DA1000 is as simple as unplugging the factory Mercedes amplifier and plugging the same cables directly into the small silver Mobridge box. Keeping the signal within the digital domain has inherent acoustical advantages, and that digital signal is fed directly into the Audison Bit One Digital Sound Processor. The Bit One processes the signal in the digital domain, and in this particular application, feeds its output into the Audison Thesis TH amplifiers through the same process. The digital to analog conversion happens only once, and it doesn’t occur until the very last possible point in the system, at the output stage of each Audison Thesis TH amplifier. The benefits of this audio configuration should be fairly obvious, in both its acoustical advantages and also in the greatly simplified installation. Deciphering a 16 channel factory amplifier is a process that takes the right tools, knowledge, time and care. A simple mistake in mislabeling one of the 32 wires can have adverse affects on the systems overall performance. The combination of the Mobridge DA1000 and the Audison Bit One digital sound processor will make this meticulous “traditional approach” a thing of the past in the not-so-distant future. New applications of the Mobridge DA1000 might allow you to enjoy the benefits of a completely digital audio system in your own MOST-bus equipped vehicle. For more information and applications of the DA1000, visit www.mobridge-inc.com. For more information on Audison Thesis TH amplifiers, speakers, and the Bit One Digital Sound Processor, check out www.audison.eu.