The Eleventh Hour


Ev­ery year, when the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show rolls around, I start to get ex­cited. Not be­cause of the show—be­cause most of the time I don’t even go—but for a cou­ple of other rea­sons. One is all the-new tech­nol­ogy that hits the streets, which means a lot of press releases hit my in­box, let­ting me know about the lat­est and great­est 12-volt prod­ucts out there. But also be­cause we build our whole is­sue around the show. That means in ad­di­tion to the event cov­er­age and a whole bunch of new prod­ucts, which are con­ve­niently com­piled in a sec­tion called New Prod­ucts, we also ded­i­cate all of our tech in­stal­la­tions to au­dio- or 12-volt– re­lated prod­ucts. This month, we have a state-of-the-art in­stall from Alpine, an amp rack build for a mas­sive sys­tem, and a ba­sic (sort of) in­stall of a head unit, sep­a­rates, amp, and sub.

I’m not sure what it is, but noth­ing else gets me giddy like a school girl in this busi­ness like hear­ing some big bass com­ing out of a truck. As much as I like to see a truck drag­ging down the road throw­ing sparks or a fresh off-road build hit­ting the trails, it just doesn’t quite tap into that emo­tion. And to be per­fectly hon­est, I’m not very much of an au­dio­phile at all.

I built my very first speaker box when I was 14. I didn’t even have my first VW yet. But since I knew that’s what I would soon be get­ting, I took mea­sure­ments from a friend’s car in my high school park­ing lot and got to work. I didn’t even know the mer­its of “par­ti­cle board” at the time. I thought us­ing ply­wood was a good idea. I built the rec­tan­gle box with 1x2 braces in the cor­ners. And are you ready for this? My dad had a stock­pile of brand-new fac­tory 6x8s, not even 6x9s, so I cut holes for four of them, evenly spaced across the front of the box. I think my last step was the best: I painted the box to “seal” it, in­side and out, with sev­eral coats of white house paint. Look­ing back, it was free, it sort of worked, and now it seems pretty hi­lar­i­ous. I moved on to big­ger and bet­ter ideas by the time I had a car that ran, but that box ended up in my surfer buddy’s Square­back for quite a while.

Fast-for­ward a cou­ple of years, and I be­gan to meet some of the heav­ies in the car au­dio game, since my friend’s shop, Fine Line, was lo­cated next to Sound De­ci­sion, a high-end au­dio place owned by Lee Bower. He came from Au­dio Cham­ber and once had his yel­low Toy­ota on the cover of Truckin, flanked by lo­cal high school cheer­lead­ers. Bob Grant just re­minded me that same truck was in the “Cars That Go Boom” video by L’Trimm, but I di­gress. So I was see­ing all these top-qual­ity sys­tems, but I was still broke. I pieced to­gether a sys­tem that ended up get­ting swapped be­tween my Blazer and a few dif­fer­ent Volk­swa­gens sev­eral times. I’m pretty sure it was a Ken­wood head unit, and I have no idea what the com­po­nent speak­ers were. But the star of the show was a gi­ant Cous­tic amp that prob­a­bly made about half of what­ever gi­ant num­ber of watts it was tout­ing (800, I think), and two 10-inch MTX Thun­der boxes. I’m sure it sounded like crap by to­day’s stan­dards, but man I thought I was the s%$# cruis­ing in the Blazer with the top off and the Beastie Boys’ “Li­censed to Ill” at full vol­ume.

So I guess that’s what it is—be­ing re­minded of my golden days and sim­pler times and all that other stuff old peo­ple say all the time. But it worked. Each of the three sto­ries you’ll find in this is­sue evokes that feel­ing I get when we fire up the sys­tem and be­gin to get the tuning di­aled in. It’s one of the coolest things ever, and it re­ally never gets old

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