I recently read an article by Arik Hesseldahl about where he saw the iPod heading. I was inspired by this article to share my own thoughts on the subject. In
retrospect, I saw my post as too similar to Arik’s, so I pulled it down.
It is obvious that I am not a fan of the iPod, never have been. Maybe it is my fear of certain types of change or just the fact that I didn’t come up with it, but to me, the iPod represents something evil in modern marketing. It is forced down your throat and you have no choice but to accept it. But then again, maybe that’s just my inner “crotchety old man” talking.*
What the iPod is likely to become in the next few years will be a serious intrusion into your life. We are already too linked in. I’m currently driving around in a Dodge Grand Caravan with mobile WiFi. Even when I am driving around, I am at work. Not that I don’t like being at work, I love what I do, but come on, when does it become too much?
Personally, I absolutely love technology. The new 1 terabyte SD cards are going to revolutionize media storage. Which is why I predicted iPods will be available in terabyte flash memory soon, within the next few years. Additionally, I see the iPod moving away from the media storage device and toward the pocket-PC (sorry Mac lovers) realm, with a mobile Mac OS and an infrared keyboard. You will be able to be in the office while you are on the subway.
While I was researching this post, I stumbled across an article posted yesterday (Aug 7, 2009) about Apple’s rumored new tablet. The big iPod is scarily similar to what I envision for the pocket version. It is just a matter of time before all of these capabilities are rolled into one portable hand-held device.
While I prefer to listen to my digital music via a Samsung P2 player (just like an iPod Touch, but without a few key features and all that iTunes crap), we may all soon be required to use the newest gadgets from Apple, because it is tied to your 4-year contract with AT&T mobile, your DirectTV satellite provider and is also the keys to your iCar (available in 2-door, 4-door and iEntry).
*Now get off my lawn, ya’ dang whippersnapper.
Congress voted to tell the
treasury to print up $2 billion more dollars. Cash for clunkers is now full of money, at least for the next couple of weeks. If you want a new car for a few thousand bucks, hit up the nearest dealership for some clunker action. I am still not excited about the plan. The price of quality used cars is going to increase for two reasons-
1. every jackass selling a car for $1500 now thinks their car is worth $4500.
2. The used car pool, which consists of cars mainly 10-15 years old, is going to be seriously depleted. While these cars will be going into the salvage lots, which will drive salvage parts prices down, buying a running car will cost you more.
While I reported yesterday that the cash for clunkers program has ben suspended, the White House announced late last night that the plan was still on and would be on until at least Friday. Congress is rushing around, trying to put together an additional 2-billion dollars in the fund, pushing the total up to $3 billion. If you want to buy a new Dodge Caliber for 9k, you better do it today, this program may not last much longer if Congress can’t find $2 billion. Of course, all they need to do is look under the cushions of the couches in each member’s office. I am sure they could find at least $2 billion in change from lobbyist’s pockets…….
Well, it was good while it lasted. Apparently, the folks in Washington have gotten spooked by the popularity of the program. I posted about the clunker bill a few weeks ago, and though I was not excited about the plan, it has certainly sparked some deals in the car
industry, which needed the boost. So much so, that the auto dealerships have spoken up about the huge backlog that currently exists in the system. Since the Gov allowed the rebates to be retroactive to July 1st, there are thousands of deals that have not been processed. To date, there has been over $96 million in rebates, a total of 22,782 cars. The program was officially launched July 27th, that was last Monday. Seriously? $96 million in less than a week? Since there is such a heavy backlog, Congress called a late meeting today (that’s Thursday the 30th of July) to suspending the cash for clunkers plan. At least for now, cash for clunkers has been crushed.
One of the greatest tools in the audiophile toolbox is math. What? Math sucks you say. Well I say get your calculators out and start working your brain. This will be fun, honest.
In retail, chat forums and lunch rooms across the country the single most common questions are “how do I get my system louder” or “how loud will these subs be”. I can personally guarantee you that you ask ten people this question, including the guys at the stereo shop, you will get 13 different answers and none of them will be basing their answers on facts. They simply do not know how it works. There are some basic physics at work here.
Volume, which is measured in decibels (expressed by dB), is a function of power, cone area, enclosure design, and transfer function. Oh, you knew that already? Ok, sure that last statement might seem a little obvious, but undestanding how they interact togethr is critical to calculating volume. That’s right, you can calculate exactly how loud you system will be. Enough BS, here is the worksheet. You won’t find this anywhere else, send your friends.
This formula requires a few specs. First, you need the sensitivity of the sub(s). This listed on the woofer spec sheet in dB. It is sometimes notated as the SPL of the sub. Next, you need to know how much power your amp puts out. An amp birth-sheet (usually included in the box) will have the actual power the amp displayed when it was tested at the factory. Not all amps come with these. If you do not have such a sheet, you can use the power ratings, or even better, you can test it yourself (that is whole other enchilada and we will get into that another time). Other specs you need are more simple- what type of car do you have- truck, hatchback, or sedan; and what kind of box is it installed in. The enclosure will make a big difference, if it is a crappy home-built box with lots of leaks, held together with carpet and liquid nails, it probably won’t function as well as a professionally-built enclosure (like the Q-Logic pre-fab enclosures- shameless plug) and how many woofers you have. Have fun.
When discussing Q-Logic Q-Forms or Q-Customs, often I get the same question- Why Plastic? With all of the different types of materials available, why use plastic, why not wood or fiberglass? There are several answers to this question, and I will get to all of them.
Wood- Wood is great for the basic flat enclosure. It is cheap, dense, rigid and easy to work with, which is why it is the single most common type of material used for subwoofer enclosures. The problem with wood is that it is hard to bend. It can be bent and molded to a point, but mimicking the shapes of a car is way beyond what regular wood is capable of.
Fiberglass- This stuff is awesome. It can be formed to any shape, it’s strong as hell, super lightweight and costs a fortune. Oh wait, that is not a good thing. The price of fiberglass resin is expensive, and it keeps going up. Five years ago, the price for a gallon of resin was around $30, now it closer to $60. Considering that you can easily use 2 or 3 gallons in even a small two-10” sub enclosure or a gallon of resin for a pair of kickpanels means that the project becomes very expensive. While fiberglass is very strong and resists flexing (to the point that it just breaks), building tooling molds for fiberglass is more expensive than the materials to make the part. The molds must be two or more parts and it takes around a day to make a single set of parts from one mold, depending on the size of the part. This makes it cost prohibitive for use in our type of manufacturing. Sure, building a show car with fiberglass molds is not a big deal, you are only going pull a few parts from each mold and you have bigger budget, but for mass-production, it simply is not worth it.
There are several different types of plastics that are used for manufacturing. I am going to touch on the three most common types.
Innovation in car audio is difficult. Whether you are talking about unique materials or custom equipment, being innovative is not a simple task. Just about everything has been done before, but that does not mean that it can’t be done better. Q-Logic has been in the business of building pre-fabricated enclosures and vehicle-specific kickpanels and enclosures for 20 years. I bring this up because up until recently,
Q-Logic has been manufacturing all kickpanels in .140” thick plastic, which is just over 1/8” thick. This makes for fairly strong component and has been good for many projects. That said, one of the biggest complaints about the kickpanels has long been that the plastic has a high resonant frequency, meaning that they can buzz during certain passages in the music. A common fix for this is lining the back of the panel with Dynamat, which is always a good idea. Since Q-Logic is making a comeback, it was important that a few changes be made. One of which is thicker plastic. All Q-Forms are now formed from .180” plastic.
Not only does this make the panels harder to deform and install incorrectly, but it also lowers the resonant frequency. With more mass and inherent rigidity, the panels feel better in your hand and fit better in the car. This plastic has been retrofitted to work with all of the previous tooling and all new designs are being done to accommodate the thicker plastic.
Being innovative does not mean using something completely new, sometimes it just means better.
Why I hate the iPod
I grew up using Apple computers. In 1985, when the Mac came out, my parents bought one. I loved the Mac, even though all of the games I wanted to play were IBM-based. So when the iPod came out you would think I would love it, right? Incorrect-amundo my friends, I hated it. I called it back in 2001, when it hit the market- iPod will kill the car audio industry. Flash forward to 2008, the car audio industry as a whole held a 12-volt summit to discuss what the hell happened to car audio. I was there and when that mic was passed around, I was the first to grab it and I proclaimed “It’s all our own damn fault!”
There were MP3 players before 2001. I had one, it was a Creative Labs Nomad HDD player. It was cool, I didn’t have to worry about skipping or scratched CDs, but I didn’t use it in the car. I had a competition system and I was not going to play crappy MP3s through it. That is paramount to buying a Formula 1 car and trying to tow a trailer with it, it just doesn’t make sense. I knew it was all over the day I saw Alpine come out with an iPod adapter for your car- the industry killed itself in one fell swoop, giving up its precious market share to a $200 device. Now iPods are a billion dollar industry by themselves. That used to be car audio money.
The problem is that the industry saw the iPod as the next big thing, which it was, but we lost sight of what built this industry- good audio, not integration of an iPod. When you plug an iPod (iPods in particular) to a car audio system, it is the equivalent of playing a tape through an FM radio station. You are taking compressed audio (even if you use FLAC or other lossless codecs), playing it through a small device that was designed to output to .25” ear bud speakers into the radio. iPods castrate music. The software in the unit cuts out the low frequencies so that the earbuds don’t pop. This kills bass output when you plug it into your car.
When I listen to my Samsung P2 while mowing the lawn, exercising or whatever, I use Skull Candy full-size headphones with the built-in bass shakers. This emulates the feeling of bass frequency output. I really like the headphones. Occasionally I will plug my P2 into the wife’s minivan while on a road trip, the stereo is bone stock and sounds like crap anyway. Plug an iPod into a high-end car audio system and you quickly become aware of the differences. Try this- play a song through you iPod and then play the same song through a real CD (not a burned MP3) the difference will likely amaze you, even on a stock system.
While every system uses different components, there is one area that is often overlooked, the wiring. I am not talking about the power and ground wire that runs to the amps or the speaker wires, I am referring to the charging system. Before adding anything else, upgrading these wires is critical for optimum performance. Most enthusiasts call it the “Big Three”, and it will do wonders for your system’s performance.
The big three refers to the wiring for the charging system; battery to ground (frame or body), alternator to battery, and engine to frame (or body). Contrary to popular belief, electricity flows from negative to positive, not the other way around. The negative cable is just as important as the positive cable; the methodology of transferring that power is just different. Most cars use negative ground systems, and all car audio equipment is designed for negative ground systems. This is where the negative pole of the battery ties to the vehicle’s metal body or frame. The positive pole of the battery is run to each component with individual wires, so each component gets the proper gauge of wire it needs for the length of run and current demands. The negative pole is supplied by the entire chassis of the vehicle, ensuring that the chassis has the best supply feed is critical.
Starting with the battery negative pole to chassis, pull the original wire and replace it with at least 4-gauge wire. It is a good idea to match the amplifier power feed cable gauge, if not use a bigger cable. In my cars, I use 1-ga battery to frame cable. You should clean the frame (or body if a unibody car) where the battery ground attaches. This should be secured with a bolt and not a screw. Any paint, rust, scale or grease should be cleaned away as well, you want a nice clean metal only surface. If the factory location does not allow you to use a bolt, move it. It does not have to be in the same location as the factory cable, but it should be as short as possible. You don’t want a 4-foot ground cable if you can help it, as the shorter the cable, the less resistance you will have.
2009 Mid-America Ford and Shelby Nationals
This year marked the 35th annual Mid-America Ford and Shelby Nationals event held at several locations in Tulsa, OK area. The 5-day long event included road racing at Hallett Motor Circuit, drag racing at Tulsa Raceway Park and a car show at the Southern Hills Marriott in Tulsa, OK. This was my third year covering the event, and it was also the best so
When I arrived on Wednesday morning, the Shelby Automobiles booth was set up and ready for business. This being the media day, they had several Shelby cars ready to be put to the test on the track by the journalists. I patiently awaited my turn to get behind the wheel of a Shelby, and finally that moment came. They said “Jefferson, why don’t you take out the Terlingua”. I obliged, thinking this would be fun.
The Terlingua Shelby is an aftermarket package assembled by Shelby Automobiles. Basically, you purchase a new 2010 V6 Mustang (yeah, I said V6) and the folks at Shelby bolt on a Paxton supercharger, 6-piston brakes, a new hood, Ford Racing suspension and add the Terlingua graphics kit. The Terlingua Mustang is a continuation of the famed Terlingua Racing Team formed by Shelby in the 1960s to compete in Trans-Am racing. The new version is as race inspired as you can imagine. The car handles incredible, and the Baer brakes will throw you through the windshield. The supercharged V6 has plenty of power, putting out more than the stock 4.6 V8 found in a Mustang GT. If you want a car that will haul ass and take corners like an F1 car, this is it.
The next car I drove I will remember forever. Shelby had brought out a couple of continuation cars, cars that are built just like they were when they were new, a Shelby Daytona coupe and a GT40. While I did not get a chance to drive the GT40, the Daytona was the highlight of the day. This is a full-on race car. Race pedals, mid-engine 427 big block, race tires, harnesses, the whole deal. The interior literally wraps around you, if you are big person (at 6’ I barely fit with a helmet on) it is a little claustrophobic. Oh well, cause when you drop the hammer going around a blind up-hill right-hand turn and the car side-steps a bit then digs in and launches you down the straight-a-way, none of that matters. It was too much fun.
I finished the day driving the new 2010 Shelby Super Snake. This 725 hp machine puts so much power to the ground, triple digit speeds are commonplace on short straight runs on the track, given the opportunity on the street, and this car would be scary fast. Taking hairpins at 60 mph is not a problem with the race-tuned suspension of the Super Snake. While the package may be a little pricey ($33,495 for the 725-hp post-title package version, that’s in addition to the $47k Shelby GT500 price tag) you couldn’t build the same performance in the same car for less.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Mid-America Ford and Shelby meet, do it. It will be something you never forget.