I found out about FHRX through this forum and I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about my recent experience with them. So, if you have some time to kill and don't mind the ramblings of some bored guy behind a computer keyboard, read on.
Let me start by saying that my gear isn't be the best stuff out there. But, it suits my personal taste and I didn't want to shell out several thousand more on new stuff. So, taking a rather thrifty approach, I've been recycling the same gear for a while now - some items are up to 10 years old. I first had them installed in my Subaru Impreza back in 2000, then they were moved into an Alfa Romeo 156, then into a Honda Prelude and now into a Subaru Impreza again.
Much like the experiences had by many on this forum, the previous installations were less than impressive. Prior to FHRX, the best installation was performed by a friend of mine in my first Subaru. The Alfa and Prelude installations were done by the usual "big player" suspects and even with my limited knowledge of car audio their poor workmanship was clear.
Having acquired a 2006 Subaru WRX Wagon, I wanted to install my existing gear into it and for this to be their final resting place. But this time, I wanted a quality installation. I didn't want to see exposed cables. I didn't want the component set crossover box to be falling on the accelerator while driving. I didn't want my rear speakers distorting once I passed 50% of max volume. And seriously, when I pay for sound deadening, I want it to be done properly.
So I started my search. After a short while I stumbled across MEA and then FHRX..... that's when I spoke to Marty and all this begins.
Aside from the installation of system components including front splits, rear sets, 2 amps, 2 subs and a head unit, I threw in a few curly ones to see if the team at FHRX are as good as people claim them to be. This included:
- Installation of a Forester DIN Pocket (with cover)
- Installation of Foot well LED lighting
- Installation of under door courtesy LED strip lighting
- Installation of a Front Lip
- Removal of a ding on the driver side door
I'm one of those really annoying customers. I carry on and talk a lot. I have my own thoughts as to what I think is best and given the failed efforts of previous installers I do not feel comfortable just "leaving it to the experts". Well, I can say that I've eaten a lot of humble pie this time around – here’s one example.
Introduction of DSP courtesy of the Audison Bitone: The Pioneer head unit I'm using is pretty damn good for my tastes - or so I thought. Amongst a range of audio controls, it has a 13 band graphic EQ and some time delay functionality. Pretty good, yeah? I was certain that I didn't need a processor let alone the cost associated with it.
.... time to serve up a bit of that humble pie.
Regardless of how I tuned the HU, there's no way it can match what the Bitone brings to the party. A sense of sound depth, staging and imaging I've never before experienced in car audio taking it to another level.
But doesn't this speak more to the efficacy of the Bitone than the crew at FHRX? .... Not at all.
You see, Marty took the time to learn and understand what I was trying to achieve. He understood what the final product needed to look like if I was going to walk away a happy customer given the equipment and budget constraints presented to him. More importantly however, he also understood my lack of knowledge. So, he spent the time to educate me on the finer points of car audio and what was needed in order to achieve the results I was looking for and despite my resistance he continued to make recommendations that were contrary to what I believed to be the best way to go.
The old adage "The customer is always right" couldn't be further from the truth in this case. I followed their advice and the results speak for themselves. Needless to say, Marty and the guys at FHRX really know their stuff.
But this is not only about the advice they give, it's also about the complete service they provide. Sure, they could have sold me the Bitone, handed the controls over and wished me well, but the FHRX crew gave me a finely tuned finished product delivering exactly what I was looking for - a real "turn key" solution.
If you simply want to have your gear installed then I suspect that anyone can do that to varying degrees of quality. But if you're after the highest quality and standards in all aspects of workmanship, then the guys at FHRX is where you want to go.
That little bit more
I'm an IT nerd and customer service is always the most difficult part of the job, especially when you have difficult and demanding customers like me. I'll be honest here and admit that I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I've done all sorts of things to cure myself of this problem but I've still a way to go. As I looked through these forums and the images of the work done by the FHRX team, it would seem that these guys are perfectionists too - perhaps bordering on some form of obsessive disorder. The looming, the cable runs, the driver mounting, all of which would indicate a high level of care, diligence and pride taken in their work. But so what? Just because they took such care for those installations, who's to say they'll do the same for mine?
... gotta say, I'm really hating the taste of that pie right now.....
The images posted in the MEA forum aren't one offs or showcases. Photos taken during my installation show the same level of high standards throughout. Hell, you can even find some of them in the “Random Install Images from March - April 2011" thread!! Personally, I couldn't be happier.
Having surpassed my expectations already, they took it one step further. Unfortunately, my sub amp wasn't working when I delivered it to the FHRX workshop. Busted output transistors apparently (whatever they are). Most installers would have likely done the install minus the sub amp leaving me with an unfinished product.
Aside from their willingness to meet at rather odd times due to my work commitments and travel time, the FHRX team took the opportunity go that little bit further. They willingly provided me with a loan amp until my unit was repaired!! Now, I'm not suggesting for a moment that FHRX will do this for all customers, but I am confident that, if they can, the FRHX team will go that extra mile for you.
The End Result
Being very familiar with the system and having heard it perform in a range of different vehicles, I can say that without a shadow of a doubt, it has never sounded this good!!! There are many elements that contribute to this so I'll do my best to describe just a few. (Please note, I’m not an audiophile so my terminology may be a little...... special).
Thickness: That's the best way I can describe it. The sound reproduction seems thicker and more solid. I'd hazard a guess and say it's due to the sound deadening, but it may also be due to the way the drivers have been mounted... or a combination of both?? Whatever the reason, the end result is plainly obvious. Historically I've never felt confident in the sound being produced. It felt like the drivers were being pushed too hard to deliver the sound I was looking for and never had any mid bass strength. Now, I get the feeling that it's effortless and is par for the course. The system feel like it's got more to give.
Dynamics: Loud vs Soft, harsh vs gentle. The change along those continuums was never before delivered with such precision. Almost as though the system could only deliver one or the other. Now, I'd liken the system to an opera singer. It has the ability to belt out mammoth power one moment, and in the next, deliver soft, subtle tones leaving you wanting more. This dynamic range really takes the audio experience to new places for me.
Power & Clarity: This is an easy one. It’s simply sounds cleaner and more powerful. No doubt this is due to the quality of the install and tuning amongst many other things. Just brilliant.
Flexibility: Having already discussed the benefits of the Bitone including the staging and imaging it brings, I won’t explore that much further. Suffice to say that you'll only truly know how good it is when you try it. However, something worth mentioning is the ability to change your environment using the Bitone "profiles" function. Personally, I love listening to club/dance/progressive. However, I do have classical training behind me so it's not unusual to find me listening to Mozart, Bach or even Beethoven from time to time. The "profile" function allows me to tune the system to suit different genres of music and store those settings in a profile. This functionality introduces a level of flexibility not easily achievable previously and certainly not to the same degree of detail. I recall the days of having to spend ages modifying the EQ and high pass filters to suit the genre of music I wanted to listen to, and there was no way I could do that while driving without running up someone’s rear!
Now, this can all be done by pressing one button, and with that, the entire system takes on what I can best describe as a new personality.
My installation wasn't anything exciting. Other than the Bitone, the equipment wasn't new and there wasn't any sort of competition or fancy presentation requirements. It was a boring, bare knuckle installation and from my point of view there was nothing really motivational for the FHRX crew.
But this didn't bother them.
They approached this installation with all of the professionalism and care demonstrated in all of their previous work. Clearly, the delivery of an exceptional car audio experience and the highest levels of installation standards take top priority at FHRX Studios. And, as a customer, this is what I value most.
In an industry where competition is driven so heavily by price, it's no wonder that it's rife with corner-cutting, shoddy workmanship, crappy sounding systems and ultimately unhappy customers.
Marty and the rest of the FHRX team don't play this game. They know that good business is to do things right - to maintain high workmanship standards and deliver on the customer's expectations... and anything less is simply unacceptable.
Now that I’ve been bitten by the bug, I’m looking for ways to further improve the system.... perhaps an upgrade of the rear drivers? Or maybe upgrade the front splits??? .... I don’t know..... but I don’t need to.... I guess I’m now comfortable leaving it to the experts at FHRX.
Some install and finished images are attached - and you can also find a couple more of them in the March / April Random Install images.