Thursday, January 18, 2007

Round 1: Focal K2P Series 165KPS Speakers + Steg QmosII 105.4x Amplifier

Along with the Bremen HU, this was the setup that originally got me into the ICE fever. Figured if I can't get my kicks out of feeling da G Force I might as well settle for some nice music. Actually only wanted to get speakers only. 6.5" separates to be exact. A stock N16 comes with 4 6.5" speakers. 1 per front door and 2 on the rear deck. This means a simple bolt-on installation job with no cutting involved. Went speaker hunting in Penang and that's when the nightmare started. Want Morel, Got! DLS Got! Focal, etc ALL GOT! Just don't expect a ready unit to audition like what you get with home hi-fi. All the shops can order but none had a unit for me to hear. Not a nice move if you're planning to spend a lot of money.

That's when I found Golden Auto Accessories in Bukit Jambul. Looks like any average car audio shop but there's more than meets the eye. For one thing David Yeoh and his brother 'Just Call Me Yeoh" don't look like your average professional installer. They're decidedly "Uncle" looking. That is until they get the installation done. Very neat and classy work with no loose ends untied. Perfectly justifies their array of IASCA trophies on display in their shop. Plus they had a Focal K2P 165 6.5" series speaker albeit KPS rather than K2P model (confusing huh?) on display and ready for audition. More details in Focal's webpage. In summary the KPS uses the same tweeter as a K2P (Focal's reknown TN52 Tioxyd 5 inverted dome tweeter) but with a lesser midbass and decidedly conventional looking woofer/driver. To make things more confusing there's also an even lesser variant called the KF model which uses the same midbass as the KPS but with a lesser and older TN47 tweeter.

Actually the first speaker I auditioned in Golden was the Rainbow Dreamline SLX series CSX265 as I wanted to only directly connect these speakers to my Bremen HU. So how did I end up with Focal K2Ps KPS which are nearly twice the price of the Rainbows? Let's just say the poison ran too deep. And since the Focal's were too power hungry I had to get an amp. Settled for the STEG QMOSII 105.4x 4-channel amp after researching around ICE forums and checking some mags. Apparently the STEG is highly recommended to partner Focals due to the Focal's bright sound. Urban legend or the hard unadulterated truth? Let your ears tell you.. Anyway, David also unbelievably had one last sample of the very same amp on display. Call it my luck. So I ended up auditioning amp with speaker and that's what I bought for my very first ICE setup. Decided to use my rear stock speakers for some bass duties. Yes, you heard it correct. My rear stock speakers. ICE hardcore and purist folks, pls feel free to puke at this point.

Wanted the "oem" look as much as possible and that is what I ended up with. Pix below of my amp and simple rack + cover after installation.

Closeup of the amp

Oh, and I also got some caplang 4AWG power cables, Rockford Fosgate 60amp fuse, Audioquest CL3 series FLX-16/2 speaker cables and Supra Dual interconnect cables with Supra PPX RCA plugs. I'm a firm believer having auditioned blind and able to tell the difference on the full range of Audioquest cables back when I was a student in the UK some 10+ years ago. Picture below of the Supra Dual interconnects (light blue) , Audioquest FLX-16/2 (white colour) speaker cables and America Sound (quite an original name cept it's a local company) power cable (dark blue). Pardon the lousy picture quality. Picture taken with a lowly 1.3 megapixel cameral of my Nokia h/phone.
Speaker cables nicely terminated with ends shrink wrapped by David. Got the interconnect and speaker cables including the gold plated spade speaker cable end terminals from my home hi-fi contacts - Hi-Fi Choice.
Picture of the Focal 165 KPS mids mounted on the door. The crossovers are mounted in behind the stock kick panels. 2 layers of sound deadening went into each door. Will cover that in a separate article.

So how does it sound? Pretty decent IMHO. I had the speakers setup for full range with a -4 cut on the tweets. The mids gave very good midbass. Tight and punchy. Unfortunately the doors couldn't take it. Lots of rattling and resonating effects despite the 2 layers of sound deadening and this really got me off. Per Uncle David the best fix is to 1. Add even more layers of sound deadening (I got friends with 5 layers per door I kid you not), 2. Use a proper subwoofer and cut the sub bass frequencies from the mids via a high pass filter 3. Mount the speakers on a kick panel.

The tweets are an acquired taste apparently with many people complaining bout the brightness. They sound fab to my ears though. Honestly I've never been to a live concert where things didn't sound "bright" anyway. I did find the mids were lacking giving an overall sound balanced that was mostly towards the highs and lows with little in between. This prompted an instant upgrade to K2Ps which took about a month to arrive as the distributors Audio Active were out of stock. Then I decided the rattling was getting to be a bit too much somehow or other the super lows or something were also lacking and the rear speakers sounded like they were gonna blow up. I need to be able to enjoy Massive Attack's "Teardrop" and the "Mezzanine" album at it's lowest fullest BASS! This then prompted another upgrade to a proper sub and the story goes on. Ah, but that's another story...

But honestly this setup is more than sufficient for most ICE enthusiasts or a starter setup. Beyond this article, read only if you are crazy or poisoned enough. This setup already cost me more than 8 grand with the Bremen HU, install costs and cables. Oh, and don't compare with the Sound Quality you can get with Home Audio like me. This is even worse for your wallet.

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