Musicar Northwest & Avants Event – Bye Bye Bose

There are very few aspects of the Spyder that are underwhelming, but chief among them is the audio system. I know…it’s a convertible. I know…it’s a sports car and I should only care about listening to the engine and exhaust. What can I say…music is a big part of my life, and I love cruising with the top down on a sunny day listening to some new indie rock band. Okay, that’s a total lie…it’s more likely to be Billie Eilish or Taylor Swift…maybe some 90s hip-hop. I did add the Bose upgrade to my build, but the old saying of “no highs no lows must be Bose” still holds true. I was going to just live with it, but the stars aligned and I was introduced to Nick at Musicar Northwest. Nick has posted on Rennlist about these staged upgrades they have for Porsche, from mild to wild in three steps. We started talking about options and it quickly became clear that I was going to end up with another modification to this car. All it needed was this one last thing to be “perfect”…really, I swear.

Fast forward a few months, and Nick mentioned that the Portland chapter of Avants was interested in hosting a TechEd event with Musicar. He thought it would be cool to showcase a Stage 2 install and wanted to see if I was game. Hell yes, sign me up!

The plan was to head from Seattle to Portland super early in the morning and then come back the same day. It can be ~ 4 hours each way, so a bit brutal. I talked Shep into coming along and we turned it into a weekend getaway. We drove down mid-day on Saturday, stopped by Musicar to plan the next day with Nick, left the car with him and then checked into The Duniway Hilton in downtown Portland. We had a great time exploring Portland. We had some great sushi, found a super-sized chess board (I lost) and played in the pool until they kicked us out.

A reminder that you can click on the individual photos or photo galleries for a larger view.

Thanks to “spring forward” daylight savings, morning came earlier than we wanted it to. We fueled up with some breakfast and good coffee, and made our way to Musicar for the event. It had rained a lot on our drive down and the car was a mess. I brought some quick detailer and I expected to spend the next hour cleaning the car. To my delight, the awesome crew at Musicar had already done it!! Winning. I spent the time wandering around the shop and reminiscing about my college years spent selling car audio at Circuit City, Myer-Emco and Audiobuys. The last two were high-end shops in Virginia where we did competition level custom car audio systems. We were living in the dark ages compared to what Musicar is working with. Laser engravers, 3D printers, a woodworking shop that would make a master carpenter jealous and sophisticated interface components that seamlessly integrate with OEM entertainment/communication systems. I was in awe of the facilities and clearly in good hands.

Once Sheri (the Director of Avants Portland) and the Avants crew showed up, it was time to setup the event and prepare for folks to arrive. Coffee, check. Avants swag, check. Amazing pastries…yes please. Here are some photos as we got things ready. Nick opened up the shop so we could get a closer view of the larger, custom projects which can take months and hundreds of hours of effort. That Continental is massive and so are the subwoofers going into it!

Okay, enough socializing…time to get started on my project! As the Musicar crew prepped the car for the install, Nick walked us through their process, talked about the components being used, speaker dynamics and took questions from the group.

In addition to the full suite of custom options, Musicar offers 3 stages of upgrades for cars like mine. Stage 1 replaces the tweeters which can make a huge difference by themselves. Stage 2 replaces the tweeters and the underpowered Bose amp. It adds a more powerful amp, a digital signal processor (DSP) and sound deadening to the doors. Stage 3 replaces all of the speakers and uses a different amp appropriate for that setup. Nick and I both felt that for my use case, a convertible where the top is almost always down, Stage 2 would have the best bang for the buck.

The specific components in the Stage 2 kit are:

  • Morel Elate MT350 tweeters. Beautiful soft dome tweeters that make such a difference.
  • The AMP/DSP comes from Audiotec-Fischer and powers 10 channels with a total of 580w of output.
  • The built in DSP allows Musicar to fine tune the system for each car and customer.
  • A MOST interface enables the clean integration with the Porsche PCM system.
  • Various sound deadening materials are applied inside the door, on the door and the door panel as well. This makes a huge difference in the bass response and helps stop the door from vibrating as much, acting like an unwanted speaker in the system.

Each of these components are specified by Musicar and sit in a custom lightweight mounting bracket for a clean installation. While the system likely adds about 10-15 lbs of weight, that isn’t going to be noticed outside of a dedicated track car chasing every hundredth of a second. They aren’t the target market for audio upgrades, unless you include ripping them out completely. My lightweight Antigravity battery saved me about 40 lbs so this is just eating into that savings a bit.

In skilled hands, lots of them in this case, the installation is straight forward. The tweeters drop into the factory locations, the doors come apart easily, and the seat comes out with a few bolts. They need to remove the 8″ driver in the door to install the sound deadening but that is simple enough. They even found a few places where grommets were poorly installed at the Porsche factory and some screws were loose so they fixed those as they went. The AMP/DSP/MOST interface all get installed in the same oem location where the Bose amp lived, neatly tucked away under the passenger seat. It was fun to watch the guys work, and they did an incredible job, especially considering they had an audience of 30+ and the owner of the car sticking a camera in their face the whole time!

Nick has posted even more detailed, step-by-step photos of similar install processes on Rennlist here and a Stage 3 install here.

After the installation was complete, everyone had the opportunity to sit in the drivers seat for a demo. I was blown away by the difference. It’s hard to put into words how effective this stage 2 kit is at transforming the listening experience. The detail, separation, soundstage and bass response are better than custom systems I’ve done. These photos of Sheri, when the bass kicked in, do a better job of conveying the experience than I can put in words. I had high hopes, and this exceeded all expectations. Joyful.

After folks had left, Nick did some custom tuning to create his first top-down Spyder tune for the system. No major changes to the hardtop tune other than to give me a bit more headroom in volume to compete with the wind noise. So now it really does go to 11. I’m the one with the big grin on his face, sporting my new Musicar hat and listening to the tunes while he does his thing.

Here’s a quick video I put together from the event. Thanks to The Actual Tigers for the music, alas this local band is no more. Thanks to Avants, Sheri, Nick and the whole Musicar Northwest team for turning what started out as a basic stereo upgrade, into a really fun weekend event!

Lastly, here is a short video that Sheri captured of my first demo. All smiles when that base line hits (volume up)!!

Update – I’m so happy to see that this blog post made it to the Avants News feed!

Update #2 – I had the chance to do a compare and contrast between my Musicar system and a factory Burmester system. Same car, same source, impartial judges, and the Musicar system came out way ahead. No contest really. Here are two of the folks that went back and forth between cars to test it out having some fun in my car 😂

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