It started small, as it always does. “I’d really like to get one of them new fangled mp3 playing cd players for my car” I said when Kay asked what I wanted for my upcoming birthday. I shopped online and off, and ended up saving us a ton of money by using eBay. It appears that people with business licenses must be ordering new stereo equipment and selling it online, sans storefronts or operating costs and passing the savings along. However they’re doing it, there are dozens and dozens of folks selling brand new, unopened stuff about 25% cheaper than I could find anywhere online or off. I picked up a powered subwoofer setup to round out the sound (now, before you accuse me of going for the booming bass, know that I was merely aiming to finish out the bottom end of the current stock speaker set which is almost adequate — sonic accuracy is always the goal).
Today was the day I had the stuff installed, and on first listen everything sounded nice, but it wasn’t a night and day difference I had experienced when upgrading other cars. Overall it was a more realistic sound, and it could go much louder than it used to. The ability to play mp3s recorded on CDR is fantastic. I tossed the 20 or 30 audio CDs that were in my car, and quickly ripped 8-12 albums worth of music on a blank CD. Then I did it again, putting another 200 songs on a new disc. Bulky CD changers are a thing of the past now, with technology letting you compress a ten disc collection into one CD. I know compression means lower quality sound, but driving along at 60mph, I couldn’t tell the difference. The new head unit is by Kenwood, and although I’ve figured out the basics, the interface is garbage compared to the intuitiveness of my old Blaupunkt. I’m still surprised car stereo designers haven’t solved the problems of usability after a couple dozen years working on it. It’s the same problem year in and year out: lots of features in a tight space that require reuse of elements, and (if possible) provide tactile feedback so people can keep their eyes on the road. Alas, few seem to do it well enough to appear that they even consider humans during the design process.
I eventually tuned the sound and realized why it wasn’t blowing my socks off: I was listening to exclusively rock music. Weezer, Dealership, Tenacious D, The Hives, The Strokes, and Spoon don’t sound much different with or without a high powered bottom end. And then I got to my folder of Chemical Brothers tracks. Yee-ow, Star Guitar can extract your teeth fillings.