Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Golden Era to Remember


What if Romans had stayed away from hubris and currency defacing? Where would they be today?What if tulip bubbles had spared the Dutch? Would economic markets be better regarded? What if the best artists in the world didn't have to flee Europe during the second world war? Would Paris still be the cultural center of the universe as we know it?
All these people and all these places went through a golden era that was followed by devastating decay. Not to the same magnitude because we're only talking about a car audio store in a small town, but my teammates and I went through a golden era of sorts during the mid-90s. Almost 10 years after I left Stereo West, I had lunch with Noel Huff. I was coming back to my spiritual home of Omaha to do some Rocker Fosgate training for Stereo West. Noel, the smartest and most mature of all the people I remember working for Stereo West when I left, was as pleasant as always. After reminiscing about the good ol' days, he suggested that my stint at the store was its golden era. Although I was humbled by the suggestion, I must say that it felt right to frame it in such way.
It was almost like nothing could go wrong. It seemed as if we could create brain-fart of ideas that would lead to new solutions to better sound.
We sold the better brands. Not one but all. Everyone wanted to be in our store. We had factory sales reps pushing us to build new cars that highlighted their equipment. If you look at the time, we would build a supercar with all Phoenix Gold equipment. We would then build another supercar with all Rockford Fosgate equipment. We would follow it with a supercar featuring all Kicker's best equipment. Inevitably next came a supercar with JL and MB Quart gear. Eclipse, Alpine, we had them all.
image in color of the exterior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truckWe were so successful at selling based on quality rather than price that having the biggest discounters in the universe as neighbors didn't even faze us.I remember that management at Nebraska Furniture Mart would send Joe Cavanaugh, the owner of our store, Christmas cards thanking him for another year of high profitability for all. If you are not sure what the Nebraska Furniture Mart is, just download space-station's images of the cities of Dallas, Kansas City and Omaha. Then look for the largest structures visible from space. Those are the three Mart's locations.
We built the best cars, sold the best equipment and never had to discount. We did so much business that there were plenty of crumbs for the likes of Cellular Sound and Security to survive.
It was during that time that some of our best cars were built. Matt Billmeier brought his truck to us precisely during that peak.
Unfortunately, following the principles of historic reality, the golden era was not to last much longer. Those were bittersweet days for me. No matter how successful we were at doing our jobs, there was Greg Pauley who wanted my job and who made it impossible for me to stay. Unfortunately for him, the pleasure of taking my post after my departure didn't last at all. Within a year he was chewed up and discarded by the machine. He simply never had the commitment, integrity or the love for music.
Thankfully for me, those same 12 months brought a new and invigorating experience. Living in Europe opened my eyes. My life changed and I never second-guessed it. It was the best catastrophe I ever experienced.
image in color of the interior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck  highlighting the radio
7909 CD radio was mounted in the stock
radio location, and switches in the ashtray
control various features of the audio system
Yet, I was not the only casualty. There was extensive collateral damage. I left the US without being able to help Brian Casagrande finish his masterpiece, for example. While he eventually forgave me, I still feel sad about it.
I also looked back a thousand times at Matt Billmeier's truck and wondered where he could have gone had I dedicated as much time and creativity to his truck as I did to Chuck Barbosa's car.
But in the end, it was not to be. It all now seems as if time froze. It feels like I can walk between the spaces of yesteryear anytime I want. Yes, it's kind of weird. I am free to experience the greatness of whose golden moments at will.
It is my intention to share this same experience with you. Through this blog  I hope that you can also immerse yourself in between the pictures and the narratives. I hope that all creative ideas we had will make you fall in love with music all over again.
Matt Billmeier's truck was very special indeed. No wonder Car Audio magazine decided to do an Installation's feature on it. The most prestigious article within the best industry magazine had nothing but accolades on this truck. So why not? Let's re-experience it one more time. Here is the transcript from that March 1997 issue. Enjoy!



Car Audio and Electronics
March 1997

Dance Machine
by Edwige Lee
photography by John Skaucky

image in color of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck with him and a lot of people around
Sound travels for mobile DJ Matt Billmeier
Matt Billmeier is no stranger to music variety, although he's less than half the age of many of the musicians he listens to. Billmeier, 20, owns a mobile disk-jockey service, where he is likely to play anything from the latest hip-hop anthem to the smooth sounds of the Count Basie Orchestra.
"I play everything, even the stuff I don't like," he said.
Billmeier, of Omaha, Nebraska, is a management information systems major at a local university. He started his DJ business when he was 17. But he said he has tinkered with car radios and electronics ever since he was old enough to have a learner's permit at 15.
"I can't sing, and listening to music and playing music was the only way I could relay what I like to do," Billmeier admitted.
image in color of the interior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck highlighting the equipment behind the driver's seat
Panels behind the seats of Matt Billmeier's '95 Dodge Ram
hold amplifiers, subwoofers, signal processors and accessories
Billmeier said he's interested in and knowledge of 12-volt technology, however, were not enough to complete a competition audio system in his 1995 Dodge Ram 4x4 in the manner he wanted. So he left the installation of a custom system to Greg Pauley of   West in Omaha.
"I could have installed it physically, but I couldn't have made it as nice as they made it," Billmeier said.

Best Use Of Space
The limited space a pickup cab offers presents a unique challenge to installers, but Pauley was up to the task. By mounting angled panels in the narrow crevice behind the seats, using space under the seats, and taking advantage of factory storage compartments and other empty space, Pauley was able to fit in processors, amplifiers, subwoofers, horn-loaded compression drivers, others speakers, and other equipment without compromising passenger space.
image in color of the interior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck  highlighting the grill covers behind the driver's seat
Grills made of MDF and metal mesh
cover the subwoofers. Similar covers,
minus the metal mesh, conceal other
components behind the seats.
The panels behind the seats hold the largest concentration of equipment. The panels, built out of 1/2-inch medite and white Formica, with fiberglass and Bondo added to form curves, where attached to the back wall of the cab. They were finished in gray vinyl, as where all panels in the installation.
The panel in the center, which is visible between the seats, holds a Rockford Fosgate 1-farad capacitor and a Phoenix Gold power-distribution block. Plexiglas covers fit over the two pieces.
A Phoenix Gold EQ-230 equalizer and a Phoenix Gold AX-406 crossover are mounted on a panel behind the passenger seat. The panel on the driver's side holds two Phoenix Gold M. a PS-2240 amplifiers. Strips of aqua neon highlight the interior of each panel, and Plexiglas covers fit over the components to protect them.  
Two Kicker Solo-Baric S12a 12-inch subwoofers are housed inside sealed enclosures behind the seats, one on each side. The front of each enclosure fits flush with the equipment panels.
image in color of the interior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck  highlighting the equipment behind the passenger's seat
A Phoenix Gold equalizer and crossover are mounted behind
Plexiglas in a panel behind the passenger seat.
The subwoofers were mounted on baffles made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and white Formica. According to Pauley, each enclosure holds a little under 1 cubic foot of airspace.
Grills wear fashions for the subwoofers out of MDF and metal mesh, and they were finished in grey grill cloth. Similar covers, minus the metal-mesh material, where made to conceal the other components. The covers were wrapped in grey grill cloth, and white Formica was used to finish the backsides of them. All covers used for concealing equipment in the truck where made the same way.

Nontraditional Mount
Midbass supplied by a pair of MB Quart 5 1/4-inch speakers from a CX 215.03 component set installed in custom-made kick panels. The kick panels were built out of MFD, fiberglass, and vinyl.
The hollow cavity behind each kick panel serves as an enclosure for each speaker. Grills similar to the ones concealing the subwoofers were built to protect the kick-panel speakers.
image in color of the interior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck  highlighting the passenger's side kickpanel
An MB Quart 5 1/4-inch speaker was mounted in a custom
kick panel on each side of the truck
The grills are not normally removed, Pauley said, except when the speakers need servicing. But just in case a sound-off Judge asks for them to be taken off during competition, the speaker baffles were painted black for a finished appearance.
Two USD BC-3 RTMT horn-loaded compression drivers handle upper frequencies. But their installation didn't follow the traditional under the dash routine, Pauley said, because the under dash area in the Dodge truck is much narrower than other vehicles. "In that truck, it would have looked really big and really noticeable," he said.
The space below the seats, normally used for storage, was substantial, so Pauley decided to mount the drivers there. Instead of firing toward the passengers as in a typical dash mount, the horns face the opposite way and project sound toward the dash.
The seats did not have to be modified to make the drivers fit, Pauley said. The only changes were some holes that were drilled into the existing seed brackets for mounting bolts. "You don't see any of the mounting pieces," Pauley pointed out.
image in color of the interior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck  highlighting the passenger's side waveguide under the seat
Two horn-loaded compression drivers were mounted
in an usual location: beneath each front seat. The
mouth of each horn is covered by grille cloth.
Each driver is concealed by an L-shaped trim panel made out of MDF and vinyl, with grill cloth stretched over a cut-out in the center for the horn. The panels also extend to the side of the seat next to each door.

Smokin' Bass
The tweeters from the MB Quart CX 215.03 component sets are mounted in cut-outs made at the top of each door. Gray grill cloth was stretched over the cutouts. Because the tweeters are not used for everyday listening. Pauley said, a switch in the dash turns them on for competition use.
The switch is located where the factory ashtray used to be. A vinyl-covered panel in the ashtray holds four switches. One switch turns neon on and off, the second controls a digital voltage meter end and amplifier temperature gauge in the overhead console, the third switches power between the two batteries under the hood, and the last turns the tweeters on and off.
The cigarette lighter also does not work in its original capacity. Pauley modified it to control a Phoenix Gold LPL-44 bass-level controller. By removing the internal workings of the lighter, Pauley said he was able to fit the LPL-44 In Its place. The removable tip of the cigarette lighter was then attached to the control knob on the LPL-44 with epoxy. Instead of pulling out the cigarette lighter to light someone's smoke, the lighter/LPL-44 knob combination is turned to pump out some smokin' bass.
image in color of the interior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck  highlighting the equipment behind on the dash
Displays for battery voltage and amplifier temperature
are mounted behind a smoked Plexiglas panel in an
overhead storage pocket.
Right above the switch panel is the Alpine 7909 CD radio, mounted in the stock location. A trim ring fashioned out of black Formica borders the unit.
An enclosure made out of MDF, fiberglass, and vinyl below the center of the dash holds a Phoenix Gold TBAT balanced-line transmitter. A cover similar to others in the installation conceals the front of it.
A digital voltage display for the batteries and a temperature gauge for the amplifiers are mounted behind a smoked-Plexiglas panel in an overhead storage pocket. A switch on the panel in the ashtray alternates to display from one battery to another, "so you can read the voltages of both batteries with one meter," Pauley said.

That Winning Edge
Pauley protected Billmeier's investment with an Alpine 8080 alarm. When the alarm is triggered, Billmeier's cellular phone housed in the center console will call his pager.
image in color of the engine compartment of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck  highlighting the upgraded batteries
The factory battery was replaced with two interstate
batteries linked by a Phoenix Gold isolator. Mounted
next to the battery on the passenger side of the engine
compartment is a Rockford Fosgate capacitor and a
Phoenix Gold fuse holder, all covered by Plexiglas.
Under the hood, the factory battery was replaced with an interstate MTP-74 model. Another sits next to it to power the audio system when the engine is off. The two batteries are linked by a Phoenix Gold isolator. Also mounted near the batteries is a Rockford Fosgate 1-farad capacitor.
The isolator and capacitor are mounted on top of the passenger-side fender wall on a black-Plexiglas panel. A clear Plexiglas panel covers them for protection. The panel also wraps around the batteries and holds various fuses and relays. The factory alternator was replaced with a larger stock 120-ampere model.
The system in Billmeier's Dodge has remained generally the same in the two years it's been installed. Byt upgrades in the system are inevitable, Billmeier said, especially after his only loss in the 1996 season was when he took second place in the 0-100-Watts Consumer class at the USAC Finals in Kansas City.
"There's that winning edge. You always want to be on top of everyone else," he said. "It's the same way being a DJ; you are always trying to outdo the competition. If your competition has 5,000 watts, you want to double that. You're always trying to do better than them."
image in color of the interior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck  highlighting the Line Driver
A compartment made out of MDF,
fiberglass, and vinyl below the dash holds
a Phoenix Gold balanced-transmitter.
image in color of the interior of Matt Billmeier's 1995 Dodge Ram truck  highlighting the status meters
Displays for battery voltage and
amplifier temperature



















In the now customary fashion, the magazine's complete page images follow:

image in color of Car Audio and Electronics March 1997 Cover
Car Audio and Electronics March 1997
Cover
image in color of Car Audio and Electronics March 1997 Index page
Car Audio and Electronics March 1997
Index




















image in color of Car Audio and Electronics March 1997 Pages 36 and 37
Car Audio and Electronics March 1997
Pages 36 and 37

Image in color of Car Audio and Electronics March 1997 Page 38
Car Audio and Electronics March 1997
Page 38
image in color of Car Audio and Electronics March 1997 Page 39
Car Audio and Electronics March 1997
Page 39

image in color of Car Audio and Electronics March 1997 Page 40
Car Audio and Electronics March 1997
Page 40
image in color of Car Audio and Electronics March 1997 Page 41
Car Audio and Electronics March 1997
Page 41

4 comments:

  1. i just saw this article . thought you might like it . http://www.caraudiojunkies.com/showthread.php?2228-Dustin-Culton-1990-Honda-Civic-Si-1996-MSCA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Steve and sorry for the extended delay in reply. I finally got around to transcribing from the magazine I had archived.
      Feel free to read the article:
      https://audio2music.blogspot.com/2017/07/it-couldnt-have-happened-to-nicer-guy.html

      Thanks for flagging the link.

      Delete
  2. hey albert, in addition to switching to the morel or dynaudio midbass, do you think floor mounting the midbass would have improved the system's performance?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely.
      My Sentra had 9 inch Morels on the floor as midbass and they worked great with my kick panels. https://audio2music.blogspot.com/2015/04/bajele-al-boom-car-audio-electronics.html
      https://audio2music.blogspot.com/2014/04/failing-in-car-audio-and-very-special.html

      Also, and perhaps more relevant, Jay Bow's British Escort matched a pair of waveguides to a set of 7 inch Dynaudio midbass drivers.
      https://audio2music.blogspot.com/2015/08/a-family-business.html

      Delete