Cars as Mobile Sound Stages – Wall Street Journal
Mark Eldridge, 53, owner of Mobile Soundstage Engineering from Bixby, Okla., on his world champion car audio, as told to A.J. Baime.
I’ve been building car-audio systems and competing since the early 1990s. Numerous organizations sanction competitions, like the Mobile Electronics Competition Association (MECA) and the International Auto Sound Challenge Association (IASCA). I compete in sound quality—the best sound wins, according to professional judges. Some others compete in volume—the loudest car wins. But that’s not for me.
Being a little OCD, I tend to take things to the extreme. I can count some 80 world and national competitions that vehicles I’ve built have won.
My current project started out as a Nascar Sprint Cup Dodge Charger used in the 2002 season. I bought it in 2004, and I’ve put about 3,500 hours into it. The car was perfect for building audio, because as a racing car, it had no passenger seat, no dashboard or center console, none of the stuff the factory usually puts in, that you have to build around when installing audio. I could build the audio first, place all components in the optimal position, then build all the other stuff around that.
I spent 800 to 1,000 hours just making the car street legal. It needed functional doors, headlights, taillights, turn signals, the works. The audio starts with an Alpine source unit, that plays any kind of music source. A dbx signal processor behind the front seat is for equalization, for tuning sound. I have a 12-inch subwoofer built into each kick panel (near where your feet go), and 14-speakers behind the dashboard. Eight JL amplifiers supply 3,900 watts of power. (I’m not using all of that. I look at volume like money in the bank. If you need it, it’s there.) And, there’s an Xbox, stereo, and a TV built into the trunk, a completely separate entertainment system. Including all the mechanical audio and video equipment, paint, the initial purchase, and the biggest investment, my time, I’ve probably put some $200K to $250K into the car.
It’s everything I ever wanted in a car. I can listen to music and close my eyes (not while driving!), and the listening space feels so much larger than the car. I can envision the musicians—drummer in back, vocals up front, guitars spaced around. Then, I’ll take the car onto a track and drive the snot out of it at 150 mph.
It’s one-of-a-kind. Nobody has ever built anything like it.