INSIDE LOOKING OUT
In The Beginning
By Brett Solomon
Posted on Feb 8, 2006
I remember it like it was yesterday — the 1997 IASCA World Finals in Greenville, South Carolina (no this ain’t no Sophia story from the Golden Girls). I’m waiting at the airport with my fellow competitor and buddy, Chris, for our flight back to New York. A gregarious, heavy-set laughing dude and his entourage of three sharply-dressed women are talking about the competitors they met at the competition. I’m sitting facing away from the group on one of those vinyl-coated airport benches that would be better suited to a first-generation Daewoo. I’m too curious as to why some business-minded people from New York are genuinely interested in the state of car audio competition and who the major players are.
Enter Marty Porter — his brainchild became CAR SOUND & PERFORMANCE, and he headed up the show at this magazine until our own Rob Hephner took the wheel as editorial director. I was eavesdropping on Marty’s conversation, intently listening about competition legends such as Mark Eldridge, David ‘Fishman’ Rivera, and Mike Mineo. Ah, the hardcore old-school autosound competitors — like ‘em or hate ‘em, their personalities are what paved the way to make this industry the most fun industry ever. Period.
I started waxing to the group on what I thought of the systems that I saw, when Marty asked me, “What do you think of CAR SOUND Magazine?” I replied, “It’s good, and I like the fact that there is serious testing going on by AutoSound 2000, but, overall, there are too many discrepancies in the magazine. How come you ask?” Marty’s reply, “Come see me in my office next week.”
Huh? Here I am a college senior, with no major experience in publishing, let alone consulting on it like I’m some kind of guru, but I LOVE car audio. I was the same sick dude in college that had posters of Clarion head units, Rockford Fosgate amps, and JL Audio subs next to a neon Budweiser sign. I did an install in a Jeep Wrangler in the University of Delaware dorm parking lot using a Swiss Army knife and a stolen butter knife from the cafeteria, bartering it for a keg and a hottie’s number. But what could I offer this guy — as it turns out, plenty, just like you, our loyal readers, offer us plenty every day. Before the days of message forums, about the only way industry executives could meet their demographic was at events, but now, every time you contribute to the CAR SOUND & PERFORMANCE Forums somewhere, someone is paying attention.
Back in the day, Marty didn’t have the luxury of polling everyone at the event about his new magazine, so he chose me as a representative to let him know what I liked and didn’t like. My first complaint: “You know, there happens to be a picture of a [now defunct] Butler tube audio amplifier on the cover of the latest issue. I don’t have any problem with that, but then you have Richard Clark doing a column about how tube amplifiers are yesterday’s technology and not to bother. That’s a huge discrepancy.” And, thus, one of the biggest debates in car audio was brought up to the boss — do all amps when played within their specifications sound the same? There are too many schools of thought on this, and I recommend that you let your own mind wrap around the details. So, I’ll direct you immediately to the CAR SOUND & PERFORMANCE Forums (especially to Richard Clark’s forum on audio) where you can read for hours on $10,000 challenges and such...
Marty’s take was the most brilliant of all, and it still resonates with me today. “Brett, what you have to understand is that there are so many different layers to the car audio world.” It turns out that the now-defunct amp company was a big help to Marty in supporting him get the magazine off the ground. My new job: To help Marty keep the ‘Layers’ of car audio from becoming intertwined with editorial and make a good magazine, while respecting journalistic integrity. In other words, respect our supporters and respect good journalism and reviewing.
One of the questions that came up the most in my years at CAR SOUND & PERFORMANCE is ‘How come you guys don’t slam bad products?’ The answer to that is pretty easy — we usually don’t waste our time reviewing cruddy products, and the ones that we do review will usually have a positive benefit to certain systems. Although it may not make YOUR system sound better, it will make SOMEONE ELSE’S sound terrific. CAR SOUND & PERFORMANCE’s ultimate goal is to arm you with the information to make educated decisions about products and installation techniques to give you the best-sounding system you can reasonably afford. The goal of this magazine has never veered. Thank you Marty for taking a chance on me and thank you Rob Hephner for not only taking over the reigns, but leading them into a direction that is making us the best place for both budding and veteran car audio enthusiasts. Here’s to another awesome year!
The Lowdown On The Dirt Cheap Pricing Of Car Audio
One of the most interesting threads recently on the CS&P forums was a discussion among dealers to try and get their own place to discuss problems and pricing strategies business-to-business. Unfortunately, there’s too much liability exposed to CAR SOUND & PERFORMANCE to make an Internet area like this come to pass — we don’t want to be responsible if confidential pricing information gets into the wrong hands. But, in these times, it seems an infatuation among consumers more than ever to try and get the ultimate lowest price for a car electronics item no matter what. But that should not necessarily be the end goal.
There’s something called ‘Service’ that can be worth much more than the sweet taste of a good price. If you scour the Internet long and hard enough, you’ll probably find a vendor willing to let a product go for perhaps a 10% markup of what it costs the manufacturer to build. Your local retailer has to have more markup than that in order to keep the lights on, pay rent, pay insurance, and pay skilled employees. So, you’ve gotta expect that they will have to charge just a little more for equipment, but you get so much more than that when you shop at a specialist. In fact, the most kick-ass retailers have an Internet terminal parked right in the display area of their store. They have nothing to hide when it comes to pricing, so they send you over to the Internet kiosk and you can check the price yourself. What the store can do that the kiosk can’t is install your equipment, possibly right then and there, and give you the advice to make sure the equipment you’re interested in will sound great in YOUR VEHICLE. As a newcomer to the world of car audio, it takes the knowledge of a specialist to get great sound. When it comes to achieving great sound in a car, speaker location and positioning still means more than the brand you choose. So choose the best retailer, not necessarily the lowest be-all-and-end-all price. They can get those speakers mounted in the right position with the correct amp powering them...