There are four things in my life I'm passionate about. God, (who is a topic best left to other venues of discussion.) my entirely-too-hot-to-be-my-wife wife and my children, all things automotive, and music. My taste in music and my love for car culture has changed and evolved over the years, however, one thing remains the same; they go hand in hand for me.
I have a 50 minute drive to and from work every day. As engaging as driving a 2007 Suzuki SX4 crossover with a manual transmission can be, it still gets pretty mundane after almost nine years. I've tried taking the long way (as if anyone really wants to make a 50 minute daily drive LONGER ...) and come to the inevitable conclusion that west-central Indiana has about as much stuff to look at as the student art gallery at a university for the blind. I've tried talking on the phone. OK, no I haven't. I'd really rather poke myself in the eye with a branding iron than talk on the phone. So what's left? Well for me it was a well tuned, well rounded stereo and my "top 5" driving CDs (or MP3s as you kids say nowadays!).
Given my obsession with the automotive culture, I read/watch/listen to many car reviews, even when I'm not actually shopping for a new car, and outside of Andy's reviews for this blog, I rarely hear mention of what I consider the most important part of the car for me. I simply MUST have a good stereo. If not, it takes me usually less than a couple weeks to remedy the situation.
In the mid 1990s I became part owner in a gas station turned car audio shop in a small town in central Illinois that sparked quite the addiction for me. This was no more apparent than in 1996, when I regretfully (yeah right!) offered up my nearly new 1994 Saturn SL1 as the shop demo and competition vehicle. All in all, my poor, cheap, little econobox family Tupperware car was packed to the gills with nearly $100,000 in aftermarket goodies from the likes of Kenwood, Soundstream, and Orion. I had more channels to equalize than Time Warner Cable, and enough juice coming from the three trunk-mounted batteries to jump start a 747. I was probably the loudest, fullest-sounding, and most expensive Saturn on the planet in those days.
Nearly 20 years ago, you could easily pick my car out of a crowd by the pounding and vibrating lows associated with Dr. Dre's "Chronic" album at 156.1 decibels of earthquake-inducing, thug life livin', complex havin', pure Gangsta overcompensation. Now things are very different. My trusty Suzuki utilizes the factory head unit, but simple Pioneer coaxials in the doors, and a self-powered 12 inch MTX subwoofer in the hatch. Nothing fancy, and not overly loud, but just enough to make Dream Theater's "Metropolis 2000: Scenes From A Memory" sound like an actual memory.
I have noticed, however, many aftermarket companies have developed OEM systems for the manufacturers as an option package. The source unit in my Suzuki is by Clarion and is actually upgradable. The entire system in my wife's 2010 Suzuki Kizashi is by Rockford Fosgate and is actually one of the best OEM systems I've heard to date. Maybe this is a sign that the future of aftermarket sound systems will be limited to the addition of 1.21 Gigawatt subwoofer systems like the 19 year old college kids that live down the block from me that refuse to understand that this old man doesn't want to hear the newest Kanye West release from 1,000 feet away. At 3:00 AM. On a work night. As good as the song is, I am almost 40 you know ...