Mark Rutledge passed away this week.

Mark was a member of a few exclusive groups. He was an installer who became an electrical engineer, and his work was informed by his experience in the bay. He was a security-and-remote-start pro who transitioned into the audio field (a maneuver which sounds easier than it turns out to be). He pioneered the use of external devices to configure in-car products - first with the Bitwriter alarm programming tool (which I believe was his senior project for his EE degree), and extended to many other devices which were PC-configurable when that was still rare. Finally, he was an engineer who went back to school and learned business, earning an MBA. Mark had a level of credibility with installers, salespeople, buyers, marketers, and business leaders which is very rare - and it was deserved. 

I knew Mark for almost 30 years. He was working in the install bay, and came to a training we did on selling security for cars. Mark took that back to his shop, and reported 6 months later that their average ticket had almost doubled using the techniques he learned. Soon, he was working in our technical support department, taking over the management of the department shortly after I left, and eventually returning to school and progressing to vice-president of engineering. 

He then pivoted, going to iDatalink to head up an audio-focused initiative based on leveraging knowledge of vehicle networks. iDatalink’s Maestro has become a highly respected brand, known for solid engineering, great vehicle-specific plastics, and appealing features. Whether it involved head-unit integration, amplifier replacement, or the sound processor created in partnership with Rockford, products from this group are widely considered to be excellent. 

Seeing him over those years - almost 30 - I got to see him grow as a person and a leader. We have all made mistakes, but the best of us learn from them, and Mark learned from the past and improved. His team at iDatalink hold him in high professional and personal regard. He told me recently that I was a different person than when we met, that I had grown, and I believe this was equally true for us both. He recommended me to my current employer, and I don’t know that I would have this job without his advocacy. 
He will be missed by his many friends and colleagues in the 12-volt community. We offer our condolences to his family. 

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A BMW 3-Series gets a multichannel 2-seat upgrade
A few years back, I bought a BMW 335xi GT. I really like the car, but not the audio. The “harman/kardon” system in my BMW should have sounded awesome, but it didn’t. 
The amplifier can generate 100 watts per channel to each underseat 8” flat woofer. The other speakers receive 30 watts per channel. The positioning of the 4” midranges and 1” tweeters up front is excellent. The center channel and rear effects channels are derived by Harman’s Logic 7 upmixer (Harman ended up with Logic 7 when they bought Lexicon). 
However, while it was loud, it didn’t sound great - and I think there were a few reasons. 

The center speaker was harsh-sounding. The midrange lacked any low-pass crossover filter, and the tweeter had the standard series capacitor (which filters at the rudimentary 6dB/octave). So the sound from the most critical speaker in the car wasn’t that good.

The center channel wasn’t loud enough to create a true center, so each front-seat passenger got their own center image, biased toward their side of the car. This may have been the goal, or maybe Harman didn’t want to drive that center hard enough since it didn’t sound that great. 

The midbass was lacking. This was due to the unusual decision to ask the 4-inch midranges to play down to 80 Hz, where the underseat woofers come in. Previous BMW models didn’t do this, an...


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Speakers are meant to create air-pressure changes. 

Audison AP6.5P midwoofer

 Let’s take one speaker. Let’s use the most popular size in car audio - the 6.5” round speaker. 
That speaker can play an amazing range of notes. It can play from pretty low in the bass - 80 Hz for sure, maybe even lower in some cases - and it can play up to roughly 2kHz or so before it starts to roll off from the listener’s perspective in a car door. 

But one 6.5 just isn’t loud enough. What do we do? 
Power
We can give it more power. But each time we double the electrical power we send to the speaker, we only get 3dB more output - and 3dB isn’t that much. It’s noticeable, but it’s not impressive. 
Cone Area
We need more cone area - another speaker. So now we have two speakers playing the same notes. Double the cone area gets us a potential 3dB increase. 

Two Speakers

Audison AP6.5P midwoofer

Audison AP6.5P midwoofer

Power and Cone Area
Now let’s give that added speaker another amp channel, same as the first. We have doubled the electrical power of the sound system. That’s another 3dB! That’s 9dB we’ve gained! Now, we are getting somewhere. 
However, now we have a few potential problems. 
Polarity
First off, we had better connect the speakers in proper polarity! If we accidentally ...


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Quality Assurance - Not Just for Factories
I see conversations on social media about how to deal with potential clients who are particular. Most of the comments make me cringe. I want a client who is particular, I want a client who cares a lot about their car - so we get an opportunity to show that we care even more. 
Due to the complexity of system integrations today, we should all have quality assurance procedures in place. We would be horribly angry if our manufacturers shipped us defective product at the same rate that our industry delivers defective installations. 
This three-phase plan is based on a similar process used in the construction industry. I’ve modified it for us. 
This should not be free - no one should do it for free, and it should not be “thrown in as an afterthought”.  This should be baked into your price. 
Phase 1: Preparation
Is there a “work order”? This means different things for different shops - it might be an invoice, or a sales order, or an estimate form. Regardless of what your shop uses to start the job, it needs to be completed. 
Is there a system diagram? If the job has any complexity beyond a speaker swap, a block diagram is really important, even if it’s drawn with crayon on the back of a napkin. If the salesperson can’t block diagram it, I’m not convinced they actually have a plan. 
Are all the parts on hand? If not, what is the ETA for those parts, a...


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Phase is really tough to talk about. 
One reason is, we’ve confused the words “polarity” and “phase” for decades. 
The polarity of a speaker refers to the (+) and (-) terminals. If you connect them to the (+) and (-) wires, respectively, you have observed proper polarity. 
Let’s assume we have two identical subwoofers, in the same enclosure, close to each other on the same side of the enclosure, sharing a baffle. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume they are single voice coil woofers. 

If they are connected observing proper polarity, both cones will move outward when the amp’s voltage swings positive, and both cones will pull inward when the voltage swings negative. 
If you accidentally connect one woofer’s voice coil backwards, so that its cone pulls inward when the voltage swings positive, and pushes outward when the voltage swings positive, you now have two woofers which are fighting each other. 

Both are trying to create air-pressure changes, but the work one is doing cancels out the work the other is doing. Because they are close to each other and on the same baffle, and because the distance they are separated is nearly nothing compared to the wavelengths they are playing, almost complete cancellation occurs. 
And this is a pretty common error made in car audio. Almost everyone has had this experience. We ...


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Recently I was contacted by a high-school friend who asked if I could assist her husband with selecting an audio upgrade. I’ve been asked recently to show how I quote via email, so here’s that email with the pics and contents I used. 
The final job ended up around $7500 with lighting and sound damping (I forgot to include it in the original proposal, which was my error - I’m a bit out of practice, been out of retail for three years!)
Hi, Mike, nice to virtually meet you. 
Sorry about the delay, I’ve been a little swamped.  So you have a 2014 Tundra CrewMax with JBL. 
I’m going to give you a lot of data. Forgive me :) First some explanation, then some links, then some overall prices, then detailed line-item proposals at the end.
I also need to stipulate something. For ten years, I was co-owner of Musicar Northwest, the best shop in the northwest. They're here in Portland, I'm on good terms with them, they take care of me all the time, I spun off our training business and I do training for car-audio professionals now. I've been doing this 30+ years, and Musicar is the best shop around, but we weren't the cheapest then and we aren't now, just as a heads-up. If you want to see some cool projects, check out their Facebook page  . The work they do is amazing. Since I left, they do even more exotics and radar/laser systems, but my old partner Tom loves Toyotas and they do plenty of them as well. 
So,...


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I first met Fraser Hiebert and Kurt Porter in 2019 - I was doing training for the Canadian Elettromedia importer at the time, and NextGen of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, had just picked up Hertz and Audison. We did a “onboarding” webinar with them - back before webinars were cool. 
Well, over the next year-and-a-half, I’d hear from Fraser and Kurt occasionally with questions - always really good, I-did-read-the-manual sort of questions, the kind I enjoy answering. I helped them set up a Logic 7-upmixer retention demo system in Kurt’s C-Class, that sort of thing. 
This particular client ordered a new 2021 GMC Sierra 2500, and wanted a first-rate stereo system to be integrated with the GMC Intellilink head unit. 

The truck came to NextGen almost right off the lot, and great care was taken to protect it in the bay.

The vehicle came with the factory Bose amplified system. This system uses phase equalization to provide good imaging to both front-seat occupants. 

Fraser decided to eliminate that processing, start with good old 2-channel stereo, and deliver a one-seat stereo presentation, so a Zen Audio AVB-GM external preamp was used. Like other Zen Audio preamps, this device connects to the digital infotainment network in the vehicle, intercepts messages sent to the Bose amplifier f...


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I recently received some PMs asking me about why some industry veterans  said they don’t believe in the “house curve philosophy” because “every car is different”. 

Obviously, I can’t speak for them. 

But I was reminded of an article I read a long time ago by a pro sound guy named Bob McCarthy. I looked it up, and I went ahead and ordered his book -  On Sound System Design -  and here’s a bit of what he said in the article:

“Where do you aim the speakers in a lively hall? At the people. And in a dead hall? At the people again. In what kind of hall do we intentionally aim sound at anything other than the seats? None that I have ever been involved with. Do we approach this differently for pop music than speech in a house of worship? Do loud shows need to aim away from the walls while quiet ones don’t?

This might seem like a silly line of questioning, but I am bringing this up to make a simple but important point. Sound system engineering is not about the room. It is about the sound system.”

He goes on to make some excellent points, some specifically for pro, some I’m going to test out in my own car - but the gist of it is this:

A house curve approach isn’t an approach of where to set the sliders. That truly would ignore differences from car to car. 

A house curve is a frequency response target. You can change that target for personal preference or system deficiencies (or because you don’t want to rattle one trim panel you aren’...


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What do we need to measure?
I recently watched a seminar on advanced tuning delivered by my friend and colleague, Steve Turrisi of JL Audio. 
I greatly enjoyed it. Steve takes this sort of thing very seriously, which is all too rare in our field, and any technician would be well-served to watch this two-part presentation. 
Plus, I think that “tuning” is “measuring the system and correcting the problems”, as I’ve heard it described (correct attribution is Andy Wehmeyer’s friend Ulrich, I believe). And it’s hard to describe Steve’s class as anything other than that.
That said, there were a few things I was unclear about, and a few things I disagreed with. 
Soon after, I talked to Steve over the phone and cleared up the biggest questions I had about the presentation.
Fundamentally, I will describe Steve’s advanced process as “measure the impulse response, analyze the resulting amplitude and phase responses, then correct for amplitude and phase both”. Which sounds sensible, right? However, in the commercial car-audio environment, it’s not something I would rush into.
I also recently read Sound System Design and Optimization by Bob McCarthy. It’s all about pro sound, but it’s an interesting read for anyone interested in sound, even if around half of it isn’t applicable to what we do. Bob was a pro sound engineer who then got involved in the development of an impulse-re...


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Educar has been involved with training 12 volt professionals on process, theory, and system design for many years. These articles address the process of selling, installing, tuning, and how to present new audio system technologies effectively.
First things first - We at Educar Magazine are thrilled to announce the following sponsors:

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OK, now that we’ve dispensed with the good news, let’s cover other news.

2020 has been a chaotic year for many of us, personally and professionally. While some industries have been decimated by shutdowns, our retail stores have been busier than at any time in years. We regularly hear of shops booked three weeks out who are used to same-day installation, of shops spending half their day finding product for the jobs they’ve sold because so many suppliers have run out of stock, and even how ticket sizes have increased as customers buy better gear than some of us are used to.
It’s important to remember that not everyone is enjoying this commercial success right now. Some suppliers have laid off staff to survive t...


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