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New car audio brands, especially high end ones, are pretty rare these days...maybe its the shrinking market, maybe its the fact that most business people just want to make a quick profit versus truly delivering a fantastic product; regardless, it seems that a lot of the new names I gander at CES (not pre-established overseas brands that are making an entry into the US) are of the low rent, vaguely (or blatantly) copy cat variety from China.

So imagine by surprise and delight when long time industry friend Andy Wehmeyer told me about his new venture, a high end car audio brand called Audio Frog. My respect for Andy and his expertise instantly gave credibility to the brand, a credibility that was further reinforced when i found that Gary Biggs was also part of it...Gary is someone who has built cars that i have long stared at, someone i have no hopes of ever coming close to matching in the field and someone i respect a huge amount...since talking about it in detail at the 2014 CES, i have eagerly awaited the physical product arrival.

Despite all the faith i have in guys like Andy and Gary, to me, in the end, only one thing matters: the actual performance of the products themselves. So when Andy asked if i would be interested in trying out an pre/early production set and give him my impression, i jumped on the chance. The only thing was to find the right vehicle for the job as we are always prebooked with existing product selections.

In the end, it didnt take long, a good friend of mine, who has had three previous cars done by me, just purchased a brand new Acura MDX...after a quick look at the car and some discussions, it was decided that this vehicle would be my foray into the Audio Frog brand.

To be honest, one of the biggest reasons i wanted to do AF in a car like the MDX is that i know integrating with the oem system to produce a great sounding car has some challenges. With its datalink amp volume control, you have to tap the signal AFTER the stock amp, and that is often less ideal and requires more work than going with an aftermarket system or tapping a oem system pre-amp. I figured, if i can get the AF set to sound good in this car, it would absolutely excel in any environment.

so...lets get started with the goals:

1. achieve a nice level of SQ utilizing the top of the line AudioFrog three way set

2. locate midrange and tweeter onto the A pillars but still try to maintain a low key appearance.

3. Build a completely stealth set up in the back that takes up no room above the trunk floor, so basically, everything had to be located in the stock storage bin.

so...lets get to the log.

First up, a quick shot at the metal fuse holder bracket that Jesse made for underhood, it houses a single stinger 0 ga dual midi fuseholder:



to make this happen, Jesse installed two rivetnuts into the metal side panel, and then fabricated a metal plate that bolts to those rivet nuts and had threaded holes for the fuse holder to bolt down into it:





moving onto the signal source, which of course remains completely stock, the only change was a mosconi RCD-Mini DSP controller custom mounted in the ashtray area. This gives the customer master volume, subwoofer volume, and preset changing on the flay. framing the controller is a little trim panel that has been flocked black to match the finish in the oem tray:





a few quick build pics of this piece, first here is the factory tray and the controller side by side:



the controller mounting wasnt hard, the side of the astray was cut out a bit, allowing the controller to sit on a piece of 1/8" mdf and then the bolts supplied with the controller bolts through the bottom of the tray and into the threaded holes of the controller, and secures it tightly.

i then fabricated a small mounting plate out of 1/4" mdf, put it in, and backfilled the edges with duraglass:



when that cured, i took it out of the car and sanded it down, applied a little more filler at various areas until the shape is what i desired:



i then test fitted one last time in the car:



and then i flocked it with black nylon fibers, let it cure, and press fitted it into the tray:



moving onto the front stage, which consists of the Audiofrong GB60 midbass, the GB25 2.5" midrange, and the GB10 small tweeter. the GB60 went into the stock lower door location.

Lets take a quick look at the GB60. it is quite a beefy little driver, with what looks like a surround capable of supporting very good excursion. but what really impresses me is the awesome build quality of the product. the fit and finish, the design and just the overall end result ooozes quality. Two set screw terminals eliminate the need for spade connectors, though i would recommend tinning the wire leads before inserting them as the set screw is not huge. its a shame such a beautiful driver will be completely hidden, but anyway, here you go :)







so first, jesse applied a bunch of blackhole tiles on the outter door to help with resonance:





some CLD damper went around the factory speaker mounting location, new speaker wires were run into the door, and a honda/acura spacer ring was bolted in place, it is then sealed inside and out with butyl rope:





then, the rest of the door received full coverage with focal BAM XXXL composite damper:



and the GB60 secured in place:





the outter door skin also received ample attention from STP CLD damper:



the same treatment went onto the passenger side:













moving onto the A pillar for the GB25 and GB10...lets first take a look at the finished product. after consulting with Andy on aiming, the GB25 midrange was aimed 90 degress off axis at each other, while the GB10 tweeter was tilted back aiming at the opposite listener. this helped produce an A pillar that was not too obtrusive and Andy told me they would perform well in this orientation.

What i REALLY love is the chromed accent rings around the speakers, normally, to achieve this look a ton of fabrication would be required, but thanks to the unique design of these speakers (more on them below), it was very straightforward. the metal rings matches well with all the shiny accents in the car. the pillars were finished in highgrade german vinyl:













some close in shots of the Audio Frogs:













and three quick pics of the entire front end:





 

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now lets take a look at these drivers, first, here they are in their mounting hardware:



and here is a exploded view of the mounting hardware, pay special close attention to the midrange mounting solution:



so the midrange mounting has four actual parts, ALL made out of metal. a main baffle, an under plate that goes below the baffle with threaded holes for the speaker to bolt into, a metal ring that can be installed at various heights (allowing for the thickness of vinyl), and a press fit metal grille that you wrap a rubber gasket ring around to form a tight, yet soft seal



and here are the raw pics of the drivers themselves, the same high quality look found on the GB60 is also present on them...the GB25 is unlike any automotive midrange i have seen before, it actually looks like a mini subwoofer :) feast your eyes out:







onto the build pics...now the coolest thing about the design of the midrange mounting is that the ring baffle is designed to be molded into the pillar versus sitting ontop of a fabricated baffle, so here they are along with rings for the tweeter, aimed and secured to the factory pillar:



then i forgot to take a pic but you guys know what came next, mold cloth was pulled, resin applied, allowed to cure, and reinforced from the inside via a filler/resin mixture. after that it was all abou filler, sanding, more filler and more sanding, until the shape is what i wanted them to be:



a close up shot of the midrange mounting baffle, you see that little ledge that is right on the outter top perimeter? that is where you tuck the vinyl into...this is truly a design after an installers heart!:



then, i wrapped the pillars in vinyl, note what i said before about having the vinyl go into that little ledge and trimmed:





next, those beautiful accent rings presses onto the pillar, sandwiching the vinyl in that ledge/groove, and then four supplied hex bolts secure them to the main baffle, depending on the thickness of the material you use (or no material at all, you can slide the rings on their tabs and secure them at various heights. very cool:



next, the GB25 was wired up and bolted in:





and the same goes for the GB10:



and here are the finished pillars ready go be mounted back in the vehicle:









so thats it for the front stage, next come wiring pics...i made up some "braided look" rca cables using primary wire to tap into the factory signal at the front main amplifier and the rear subwoofer:





and jesse ran then back, ziptied to the factory loom every few inches:









moving onto the back, which as mentioned before, is to be totally stealth and hidden. i can take up the room in the stock storage bin, but nothing else.

so here is the normal view, with his pet protector in place, as you can see, complete stock:



this is the stock storage bin area i talked about:




open that up and its pretty simply, a single cover with an opening for an illusion audio C10, chosen for its shallow depth and small enclosure requirement. nothing else visible:







pull off the top cover and you see the dsp and amps. a mosconi 6to8DSP controls the entire system, an Arc Audio Xdiv2 1200.6 powers the sub with 600 watts, and sends 150 watts a piece to the GB25 and GB10, while a 600.4 is bridged powering the GB60s with 300 watts a piece. the small footprint of the XdiV2s, combined with their abundance in power, made them a nice choice for this project:







onto the build process of this back, which is actually pretty simple, first, a piece of MDF was bolted down onto the metal via rivet nuts, this gives the enclosure/amp rack a steady and flat surface to mount to. note the two locating holes on either side, and a centered threaded insert...and also notice that all the tools for the spar tire are in a foam bin at the front, more on this later:



then, a subbox was fabricated that is about .5 cubic foot, wtih a taller section on the left, and a flatter section on the right, so that the subs and amps, when mounted sits at the same height:



the box was then wrapped in black carpet and the illusion C10 installed:



this is the top cover before and after carpeting:



 

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now, while its great that everything hidden in the storage tray, it wouldnt be very good if the customer cannot access the spare tire or the tools for it when an emergency strikes. so i came up with a system for that, and to access both takes just a single phillips screw driver and about 2 minutes.

so here is the process:

1. open the tray:



2. remove top cover:



3. note that there is notch cut around the spare tire lowering mechanism:



4. and a bolt hidden in the middle of the tray, this secures the entire structure to the threaded insert on the foundational board, while two dowels slide into those locating holes to properly align and locate the structure. simply take a screw driver and unbolt this:



5. and then remove the factory carpet walls of the tray, which has already been trimmed for easily removal:



6. and just lift the entire structure out of the hole and sit it on the ledge, now you can access all the tools and just put the box back into its place and lower the spare :)

 

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so thats it for the build log. lets do the review!


As mentioned at the top of this log, one of the reasons i chose this car to do the AudioFrog build is due to its less than ideal signal source...a speaker set that can be made to sound good in this environment speaks volumes to me.

so, just how bad is the signal coming out of the stock amp? well, check this picture out. this is pink noise played on the headunit, and the analysis of the three channels i used for signal, the midbass, the front high freq, and the sub.

note that none of them seem to be really crossed over much, the sub extends well into the higher frequencies, while the highs channel does the same in the opposite direction, while the midrange, seems to be ALMOST a full range signal with a strange dip below 500hz...interesting indeed:



so after a lot of time using the Mosconi DSP's summing and input EQ, i ended up with a signal that looks like this, not terrible, but far from ideal:



with the signal source figured out, i set the xovers with instructions from Andy. the xover points are: 70, 300 and 3500, all with 24db linkwitz filters.

what i usually like to do this point is to just fire it up and start listening for a short while. to me, a system without any eq will give me a rough idea on the natural characteristics of the front stage, and will also tell me just how much work will be required to make it sound right. I always prefer a speaker system that sounds decent like this, not crazy problems.

To me delight, the AF set was really good in this regard, sure the balance tonally was all off, but there wasnt anything that screamed out to me...a great start.

then i ran through all my time alignment, and did some time on the RTA via pink noise...and once again, my initial impressions was true. these speakers did not look too bad at all on the rta, and i manage to smoothout the response very quickly, infact, maybe among the quickest in a three way system.

then i jumped back in the car and did more tuning by ear.

here are my impressions:

Words that immediately come to mind about the Audiofrog set are: Smooth, Natural, Open, Airy, Well Behaved, and Robust.

Midbass: perhaps the weakest point of the factory signal is in the midbass region, with that dip below 500hz. but the GB60 did a great job at producing the signal between 70 and 300hz range. There may be more speakers that have slightly more snap, but this thing just seem so controlled. it had effortless extension, very good impact, and blended superbly with both the bass and the midrange. it handled high volume music with a shrug...so think of it as a midbass that has muscle, but yet can do the delicate stuff just as well.

Midrange: the GB25, despite its tiny size, easily went down to the 300hz cutoff with no distortion, even when pushed on some songs, they dont seem to struggle. the resolution is superb and again, the whole presentation is super smooth. to be honest, as much as i dislike harsh tweeters, a harsh midrange is probably just as bad for me...i hate it when it seems like certain singlers, especially slightly lower female vocals, seem to SHOUT at me for no reason, but these did do that at all.

Highs: the GB10 picks up where the GB25 leaves out seamlessly. To be honest, i was worried that this would be a pretty hot tweeter, but honestly, its just like some of my favorite high end tweeters out there, such as the seas lotus reference or the morel supremo piccolo, its just effortlessly smooth but not loosing any detail at the same time. super super balanced.

now there is one thing i like to do which may seem kinda odd. after tuning, i like to jack up the gains on the midrange and the tweeter to see at what point, they become unbearably harsh. this is so i know what i have left to work with if the customers listening taste is brighter than my own...which admittedly, is on the laid back side.

this is where i had the biggest revelation about the AF set. as i started turning up the gains on the dsp, i kept on waiting for the threshold where the upper frequencies go from just bright to downright painful. using the intro part of Eagles hotel california live recording as a marker. the initial claps of the crowed can quickly sound like someones slapping your ear drums as you turn the gains. But soon enough, the beeps on the computer told me i had reached the maximum threshold on the gain adjustment on those channels, a full 8 db above where i had set them initially...and i still reach that point of crazy harshness! i listened to it time and again, and yes, it was blaring, and yes, it was completely overwhelming the midbass and unbalanced, but it wasnt painful, it was just really really loud. I dont believe i have experienced this sensation too many times, with the morel elate and supremo drivers coming closest. Bravo!

Despite having no dash mat and the angles of the pillar pods, the center image is dead on and well focused. the car has a center channel grille so it is very easy to see if the center is well behaved...and literally, song after song, the center sounds like its coming right front the center spekaer grille, despite the speaker itself not hooked up at all. i think with a dash mat, the image can be even better focused.

stage height is about 6 inches above the dash with very little rainbowing, depth is right at the edge of the windshield, and width is just inside of each pillar.

using the same demo disc i have been using for years:

1. hotel california: just really open and airy...if i close my eyes, i can easily imagine being in a big stadium or concert hall. this is again, despite a crappy signal source. when the big drum notes hit, the C10 blended really well with the front. some credit goes to the c10 of course for its smooth bass reproduction, but also it shows that the GB60 can produce that impact with authority. i listend to this track a few times with the sub completely off, and you can hear the AF driver extend down effortlessly from its 70hz xover point. no distortion or break ups.

2. The best is yet to come - Michael buble: the vocals are really natural with the right amount tonal balance, and the snaps are crisp with very nice echo effect after each snap. when the orchestra hits, again, the well behaved nature of the midrange and highs come through, even at high volumes, its loud but never offensive.

3. The way you make me feel - Michael Jaskson: the intro drum beats was really nice and powerful, with nice full bodied feel against indicative of how wellt he midbass works with the sub. when MJ starts singing, a lot of speakers can get quite harsh, or too dull if you have the highs muted too much, but this one seemed to be just right for me, i can really crank it and they remain smooth and balanced.

4. keith dont go - Nils Lofgren: three things i listen for in this, the reverb of the guitar evertime he stops plucking, the details of the string plugs themselves, and nils voice. the reverb is nice and natural, trailing off each time to the point that you can hear them all the way until the next pluck...the highs are again, really detailed yet never harsh. but his voice really impressed...it has that right crisp feeling to it but doesnt make him sound too low or too high like a boy, just again, i hate sounding like a broken record, well behaved.

5. Simple - Collective Soul: i love this rock song, starts with a strange out of phase intro, and at the 30 second mark, all the drums and guitars comes at once. which the AF set did with aplomb...but when the vocals came in, they really shined...on some systems, when you turn it up to a certain volume, the singer can sound like hes ripping his throat out and it becomes raspy and unpleasant, but they didnt suffer that issue here, his voice remained natural and controlled.

6. Axel F - Harold Faltermeyer: the instantly recognizable tune is just silk with the AF, its fully bodied, has that top frequency yet not even close to sounding harsh or piercing, when the drum beats start, they definitely have that snap like they should. these midbasses arent in your face type of beasts, but just provides the right amount of impact with seemingly very little effort.

7. Eyes on Fire - Blue Foundation: far from a SQ track, this is just a cool dubstep song i like. the vocals are recorded really harsh, to the point that in most cars, i just want the bass to come on to balance it out. it is still very hot in this car, but less piercing than most, like i dont feel like there is that ringing sensation in my ear. this big suv, with a single 10 buried in the back, is no bass monster, so when the big notes came, i mostly listened to see if i can sense any breakup in the midbass...and again, i couldnt tell any.

so thats my short review.

the thing that i am most impressed with is just how well these speakers behave, especially int he midrange and the highs. nothing seems to throw them out of sync to produce unpleasant harshness. and keeping mind that this isnt result of a bunch of additional tuning and infact, i may have spent less time tuning this than many other 3 way sets we have done. Like the seas and morel that i love, these are also great at making you feel like you are in a larger environment than a car's interior, with things sounding big and airy always.

I am honestly sold on them 100 percent...and you can expect to see many more them from us in the future.

now, maybe lets talk about some shortcomings of the set so you dont think i am being paid by AF or something haha

1. maybe some people are not keen on the Audio Frog name, and i initially was one of them. but honestly, for us, WE are the brand that we push, so the customers have full confidence in us and what ever we recommend. in addition, you have to admit that a name like Audio Frog wont get lost in a sea of brand names in the industry :)

2. The grilles over the drivers are very untraditional looking. some have remarked they look like sink drains or strainers. it may be one of those you love it or hate it things. but i know for one despite their more restrictive look, they dont detract from the sound at all. and i know that the drivers were voiced with the grilles in place.

3. the set screws on the speaker mounting holes could be bigger. on the tweeter especially, the screws are microscopic, and while they do give you a similarly microscopic allen wrench to tighten it, i am always fearful of stripping it or loosing the wrench. also, having such a small screw means that its best to tin the wire ends on the speaker wires and then inserting them into the holes. I was able to wire up all three speakers with no problems. and i think Andy may have mentioned that some changes are coming in the true production models.

4. the baffles are quite large. as you can see on the 2.5" midrange, the baffle itself is the size of a lot of 4" drivers. they do have a system in place so you can use just the ring and the grille into a fabricated baffle, but if i wanted to use that nice curved baffle that the speaker came with, it does require some room.

5. tonally, there is very very little to fault with them, as evident by my review. Comparing with my favorite speaker line up currently, the morel elate 603, they compare very well, with the midrange able to go a little lower and similar smooth and airy highs, perhaps the AF is even better at walking that balanced line of detailed yet smooth. But in this car, i do think the morel MW6 has a bit more snap and impact to them than the AF, i dont know how much it has to do with the factory signal on this thing, and i will reserve my judgement until i get to play wtih a set of GB60s in a more ideal signal source environment.

So in the end, my advice to you is this...if you are in the market for a high end speaker set, Audio Frog should definitely be on your mind. The GB series is among the best i have ever sampled and the fact that its from a brand new company is quite impressive.

I hate to hype anything, and again, i dont want you guys to think these are some how miles and miles better than other speakers in their price range, other speakers from brands like Morel, Focal, HAT, Dyn all produce awesome awesome speakers that rival the AF set.

what i find most pleasing about the Audiofrogs is its balance...i think there are speakers as mentioned, that may do one thing in particular stronger than the AF, however, i think it will be very hard to come up with anything that rivals them from an overall standpoint.

So there you go, i know some of you have been asking me about them ever since we showed them at our last meet, and i am very happy that i finally can give them an initial review. :)

Cheers,

Bing
 

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That is an incredibly simple and beautiful install and a great review...MANY thanks for putting time into writing it up. I ESPECIALLY like the Mosconi controller in the ashtray!!

A question, can you post the mounting dimensions for the 3 AF drivers that you used??
 

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Got a question? How come you made a wood ring for the tweeters and use the metal factory rings for the mids?

Josh
haha. that's the first thing I saw too. The grey of the tweet mounting jumps out to me.

BUT...its easy to armchair. AMAZING build and about damn time we get some AF details.
-a
 

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Got a question? How come you made a wood ring for the tweeters and use the metal factory rings for the mids?

Josh
the mid had that channel to allow for vinyl tucking, i could be wrong, but i dont believe the tweeter had the same allowance for the vinyl to tuck in between the grey outter cup and the tweeter itself :)

look at this pic:


see the channel right on the inside opening of the mid grille to tuck the vinyl into:

and then see this pic:


see how the tweeter sits just completely flush with the grey mounting cup, leaving no room to tuck vinyl into. :)
 

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I've browsed those beautiful pics and fully intend to give this a full read at work... The sick people will just have to wait :)
 

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I'm really glad to hear that AF is a success in your opinion. I had no doubt it would be considering who is behind the company. Sadly I'll never hear these most likely. They are well above my price range, due to my personal priorities, not because they are over priced.

Beautiful install as always, and great write-up.
 

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the mid had that channel to allow for vinyl tucking, i could be wrong, but i dont believe the tweeter had the same allowance for the vinyl to tuck in between the grey outter cup and the tweeter itself :)
I follow what you're saying, but I guess my questions would have been better asked as why not make a wood ring for the mid. The rings on those mids look nice but they're huge compared to the speaker themselves. Maybe could have been a bit smaller...?

Don't take it as a slight, just curiosity. I think you guys do awesome work.

Josh
 

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I follow what you're saying, but I guess my questions would have been better asked as why not make a wood ring for the mid. The rings on those mids look nice but they're huge compared to the speaker themselves. Maybe could have been a bit smaller...?

Don't take it as a slight, just curiosity. I think you guys do awesome work.

Josh


i get what you are saying, i guess i really wanted to try this new idea on molding the supplied baffle in on this car :)
 
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