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September 2016 May 2017

! s t fi o r P e s Dual-Purpo e business

ws Osprey sid ro g n ro a M y outfitter Jeffre n a v & k c u r t oston into premier B

New Companies, New Products

Make Industry Introductions at KnowledgeFest

Are You Top 50 Material? Time to show it! – page 6

Tech Today:

Ward Talks Tuning

optimize your senses





Wide Viewing, 120º view, 0.3 Lux

OEM look, Stick On mount super wide, 160º view

Mini Surface Mount Camera Incredible Low Light !

Split Screen 180º Rear/Front Camera



No OBD Connection Required !

RVCLPM (Chrome) RVCLPMB (Black Chrome)

RVC800LPWIRB (Black) RVC800LPWIR (Chrome)

License Plate Camera 120º view

IR License Plate Camera 120º view

“DRS” active parking assist lines !

“DRS” active parking assist lines show car turning trajectory


High sensitivity 1/3″ DSP color CCD Lux 0.3 @ F2.0 140° viewing angle



• 4.3” LCD Rear View Mirror with OnStar ! • Manual Dimming • Includes Cable Adaptor • Adjustable Parking Lines

NEW ! Adjustable Parking Lines


OE STYLE REARVIEW MIRROR with Built In 4.3” LCD (Auto or Manual Dimming)


Auto Dimming !

Rear View Mirror Monitor



Adjustable Parking Lines

5” Display with bluetooth to android smartphone function HUD500BT


3” Display



• Installs behind bumper so no holes • OEM Quality • Clean Look • Waterproof IP67 • Easy to Install Not Ultrasonic

Microwave Radar will work in rain, snow and even through mud !

Dual USB Power Output

Dual USB Power POD with Mount

12 VDC Input

Round flush mount

Dual 2.1A / 2.1A Output


1 amp & 2.1 amp USB output


Indicator LED Lights


Volt Meter


HDMI / USB Extension


u o y e Ar

. . . y d Rea


10.2” MOTORIZED FLIPDOWN MONITOR WITH WIFI • Built in Wireless Wifi HD receiver • USB Input • AV + HDMI inputs • Wireless FM transmitter • Led Dome lights • IR Remote control • Wireless IR headphone transmitter • Motorized Auto (Up / Down)

( ( ( ((

Wirelessly Stream !

1080 HD Content from your smartphone

NEW ! (

• Built in Wireless Wifi HD receiver • Built in SD card player • Audio Video inputs • Wireless IR headphone transmitter • Wireless FM transmitter • Led Dome lights • IR Remote control


1080 HD Content from your smartphone



17900 Crusader Ave, Cerritos, CA 90703 USA (800) 788-1212 (562) 809-5090



Your HDMI Cable Here





IR Transmitter


IR Receiver


Interchangeable color skins (Gray & Tan)


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CAR ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM WITH BUILT-IN DVD PLAYER / GAME CONTROLLER • High Resolution Digital Panel • Works in all type of Cars • Multimedia DVD Player • Supports 3-In-1 SD Card Slot, USB, DVD • HDMI Input • Game Controller and remote • Slim Design • Touch Button Controls • Dual IR Wireless Headphone Transmitter Built-in

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Wirelessly Stream !

Volume 34// Issue 5

Ad Index Accele Electronics...................................... p. 2 & ®3 Alpine ........................................................................ p. 5 DD Audio ............................................................... p. 19 Elettromedia: Hertz ........................................ p. 37 Firstech: Momento ......................................... p. 59 Harman: Infinity ................................................... p. 7 InstallerNet ........................................................ p. 43 Mobile Electronics ........................................... p. 41 Orca: Illusion Audio ............................................ p. 11 SiriusXM ................................................................ p. 10 Sony ........................................................................ p. 15 SounDigital .......................................................... p. 17 Soundskin............................................................ p. 47 Voxx ....................................................................... p. 60

12 FEATURES 12 // What’s Happening: KnowledgeFest Spring Training

This year’s spring event featured unique manufacturer trainings, new products and companies on the show floor and the highest attendance in the event’s history.

30 // Real World Retail: Osprey

To keep up with changing trends in 12-volt over its 32 years, Osprey adapted its offerings to include truck and van, fleet and emergency vehicle installations, rebranding that part of their business Boston Truck and Van.

38 // Behind the Scenes: AudioMobile

With a rich history as one of the pioneering brands in car audio, AudioMobile has stayed relevant with quality amplifiers and speakers, selling its brand exclusively with boutique retail shops.

44 // Strategy & Tactics: Top Level Hiring

Hiring quality employees in the 12-volt industry has become a challenge in recent years, but if that’s the case, how do you hire at the management level? Retailers and experts weigh in on this challenging topic.

48 // Tech Today: DSP Tuning, Part 1


Installation expert Joey Knapp kicks off the first of a series on tuning with a preliminary discussion on obtaining a quality signal through OEM signal testing, written by Ken Ward of Musicar Northwest.

ARTICLES On the Cover Taking exciting photos at trade shows is always a challenge in that we strive to take not only quality shots, but images that reflect the changing landscape of 12-volt. This year’s spring training offered some unique opportunities with trainings on the show floor itself, drone shots provided by Kris Bulla of Sony and lively speakers that made our jobs easier when capturing all the trainings. Considering the success of this show, Dallas should be even more fun to take photos of, not to mention witness. COVER DESIGN: ROBIN LEBEL

4  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

24 Retail News/Who’s Who 54 Installs

DEPARTMENTS 6 Editor’s Forum 8 Feedback 9 Stats 10 Helpful Stuff 26 Hot Sellers 58 Guest Editorial


INTRODUCING ALPINE ID SOUND The new premium X-Series speakers, amplifiers and subwoofers are engineered for system matching to achieve the ultimate sound imaging. All the X-Series products are built on sound heritage and authenticity through engineering and materials resulting in the achievement of Alpine’s sound philosophy - Alpine ID. To learn more and experience Alpine ID for yourself, ask your Alpine representative for details.

©2017 Alpine Electronics of America, Inc.

Your Cheat Sheet for the Top 50 It’s that time! Read this to get an Industry Awards head start.

If I were putting together a Top 50 submission video, it would probably start like this: “Hi, my name is Solomon. I fell in love with electronics in general—and mobile electronics specifically—when I was about 12. I was fiddling around with an old speaker in the garage and my dad showed me how to connect two wires and insulate them with electrical tape. (No, we didn’t solder, but that’s not the point.)” Yes, this is my long-winded intro to tell you we are kicking off the 2017 Mobile Electronics Industry Awards. I won’t get into all the details here, but the Mobile Electronics Industry Awards is an annual event that recognizes the best our industry has to offer in retail and installation excellence. In addition, the awards process highlights brands, distributors and their sales representatives for service to the industry. I would continue my submission like this: “In the years following, it was one project after another. Installing a portable radio on the handlebars of my bike (which my dad made me remove for fear of ‘peddler distraction’). Building a lighting control box for me and my brother’s burgeoning DJ business (‘Snap, Crackle and Pop’ took on a WHOLE new meaning!) Creating a remote starter for my 1987 Dodge Colt Turbo using Excalibur K9 alarm outputs and a ton of relays and timers. And then there was the sobering experience of hanging upside-down after running that same Colt Turbo up the side of a steep hill, distracted by the portable television I had just installed in the dash. (I just remember thinking, ‘Wow—the TV is still working!’)” This year, we are adding one more category: retail sales. In an industry in which storeowners and fabricators get all of the camera time, the guys on the floor who actually bring in the revenue are overlooked. We recognize that, in many stores, there might be one or two people who wear multiple hats, so to clarify, this award is for people whose primary duty is sales. That means, if you do sales and installation, you’ll need to pick one category to submit an entry for. As you can see, the first step in the process is to create a video submission outlining your experience and telling the judges why

6  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

you should be considered for the Top 50 Installers, or your store for the Top 50 Retailers. In my video, this is what you would hear next: “Along the way, I’ve worked for some great companies and dynamic individuals. I’ve tried at every stop to teach myself more and become more valuable. I gained a larger view of the mobile electronics world by networking and listening to others. Today I’ve applied all that knowledge and growth with even more knowledge and growth to piece together a living doing something for which I have a strong passion.” I hope you’re taking notes, because some of the elements we are really looking for in a Top 50 recipient are on this page. The judges want to know what started your journey in this industry; not step by step, but enough to get a sense of your passion for your craft. We also want to see growth. That doesn’t mean that your store has to have amassed seven figures in a few short years, but that you or your store are on a continual evolution curve. We should be able to hear how you have adjusted based on your customer environment, mistakes you’ve made and things you’ve learned. That’s important: don’t be afraid to admit mistakes you’ve made along the way. Nobody’s perfect, and therefore a perfect story is not believable. We also want to see a continued desire to be better. Personally, I don’t want to hear the word “success” in any video, because acknowledging success means your growth is complete and there are no more challenges to conquer. And if you’re done growing in this industry, you won’t be successful for long. For me, my video would finish with this: “What I do every day gives me the ability to be creative. It allows me to not get bogged down in tedious, repetitive tasks. It presents me with new challenges and obstacles that spur my continued growth when I overcome them. As if those three are not good enough, what I do gives me control over my income, whether it means working more hours or taking on more work. It allows me to make a difference and better someone else’s experience. And most important, what I do lets me to help people and create fulfillment in others.” Funny thing is, this could be describing my current communications career. But it could also describe your installation or retail career. Except for the flipping the car part. You’ll find more information at Good luck!


DEFINING THE STANDARD FOR COMPONENT SPEAKERS. AGAIN. What happens when leading audio engineers with world-class resources develop uncompromising component speaker systems without cost constraints? Audio perfection. Introducing Kappa Perfect, Infinity’s flagship line of super-accurate, super-high performance speakers. Kappa Perfect component speakers deliver high power handling, high SPL capability, and unparalleled response. They also feature high-end industrial design and available three-way configuration. With just the flick of a switch, you can transform a 2-way system into a 3-way system by adding the Kappa Perfect midrange speaker. Any audio company can aspire to perfection. But only one with Infinity’s engineering, manufacturing and testing resources can achieve it. To Learn More Visit: Or Please contact: Christopher Dragon at 203-328-4203 /

© 2017 HARMAN International Industries, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Infinity is a trademark of HARMAN International Industries, Incorporated, registered in the United States and/or other countries. Features, specifications and appearance are subject to change without notice.

 feedback

Pedal to the Metal Top 12 Retailer Kenny McCardie believes in pushing harder during slow times to maintain momentum, while George Smith of MobileWorks backs the continuous training method as the path to steady profits. “Always offer the best solution for your clients, let them decide what they can and cannot afford. They will never want better if they do not know better exists.” Steve Sanchez, SoReal Sounds, Stoneham, Mass. “Never take your foot off the gas. Even during good times, keep pushing as hard as you can to ensure you are in the best situation possible during the slow times and/or for whatever arises.” Kenny McCardie, Auto Sound Tint World, Union City, Calif. “Advice I would give to other retailers is continue to train. Keep an open mind and know your product knowledge and your employee’s experience level. Attend many KnowledgeFests and sales trainings to continue to help our growth.” George Smith, Mobileworks, Santa Maria, Calif. “Being in business since 1977 that tells it all. I have been around for the birth of most audio/security/video/ communications.” Edward Honeywill, Honeywell Tech, Wexford, Pa. “Have an exit plan before you lose your passion.” Anonymous “It seems that consumer confidence is increasing. We have noticed an uptick in average tickets and we feel very positive about that since retail prices of most products are dropping every year.” Rick Miller, Sound on Wheels, Rock Hill, S.C. “I have been looking for quality workers for years but after continuously searching I’ve come up empty-handed. I have decided to sell my retail location and commercial property and downsize to a smaller shop

8  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

and focus on custom builds only.” Anonymous “I recently ran into a situation where every aspect of a full system job we were installing had some obstacle to overcome. While we did overcome the obstacles, it obviously led us to a very delayed completion time. To our advantage, our name and reputation in the town gave the customer the confidence needed to know that the reason it was taking longer was because we take pride in our work. He was very understanding about having to wait longer than expected.” Josh Bowen, Sommer Sound Systems, Panama City, Fla.

ADVERTISING SALES Kerry Moyer 978.645.6457 • ®

EDITORIAL Solomon Daniels 978.645.6463 • Ted Goslin 800.949.6372 ext. 466 • Creative Layout and Design: Robin LeBel Contributing Editors: Jamie Sorcher, Laura Kemmerer and Rosa Sophia.

Published by TM

mobile electronics association

Chris Cook, President 978.645.6434 • Kerry Moyer, VP Strategic Partnerships 978.645.6457 •

“[Retailers] can expand their operations by selling safety and collision products to commercial and industrial customers. For example, small contractors or beverage companies, etc.” Anonymous

Solomon Daniels, Dir. Media and Communications 978.645.6463 •

“Geo Fence marketing was a bad experience. My fault for not doing more research and understanding its strengths and weaknesses, how best to use it.” Chris Hilbert, Sound Decisions, Mount Pleasant, Wisc.

Robin Lebel, Creative Director 978.645.6456 •

“Look smart, be smart, act smart; look professional, be professional, act professional. Raise your own bar often, change with the changing times.” Paul Papadeas, Soundcrafters, South Daytona, Fla. “Treat your clients like your parents and best friends and you will always be successful!” Eric M. Carter, Cartronix Inc., Valparaiso, Ind.

Richard Basler, Dir. Technology Solutions 978.645.6449 •

1) Title of publication: Mobile Electronics. 2) Publication No.: 957-170 6. (ISSN# 1523-763X) 3) Copyright © 2017 by the Mobile Electronics 4) Date of filing: Sept. 1, 2016. 5) Frequency of issue: Monthly. 6) No. of issues published annually: 12 7) Annual subscription price: $35.00. 8) Periodical postage paid at Lawrence MA and additional mailing offices. 9) Complete mailing address of known office of publication: 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 10) Complete mailing address of the headquarters or general business offices of the publisher: 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 11) Full names and complete mailing address of Publisher, Editor and Managing Editor: Publisher: Chris Cook, 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845; Editor/Managing Editor: Solomon Daniels/Ted Goslin, 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845 12) Owner: MERA, Mobile Electronics Retailers Association, 85 Flagship Drive, Ste F, North Andover, MA 01845. 13) Known bondholders, mortgages, and other security holders owning or holding 1% or more of total amounts of bonds, mortgages or other securities: None. 14) Tax Status: Not applicable. 15) Name of Publication: Mobile Electronics. 16) Issue date for circulation data below: August 2016. 6. a) Total no. copies (net press run) Average: 12,484 Single Issue; 12,826. b) Paid/Requested mail subscriptions Average: 6834, Single Issue: 6826. c) Paid sales through dealers, etc.; Average: 0. Single issue; d) Requested distributed by other classes of mail: Average: 531, Single issue: 520. Total paid and/or requested circulation; Average 7365. Single issue: 7346. e) Non-requested distribution by mail; Average: 4382 Single issue: 4223. Free distribution through other classes of mail: Average: 0, Single issue: 0. f) Non-requested distribution outside the mail; Average: 325. Single issue: 750. g) Total non-requested distribution; Average 4707, Single issue: 4973. h) Total distribution; Average: 12,072. Single issue: 12,319. i) Copies not distributed; h1) Office use, leftovers; Average: 412. Single Issue; 507 j) Total; Average: 12,484. Single issue; 12,826 Percent paid and/or requested circulation; Average: 61.01%. Single issue 59.63%. 17) POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Mobile Electronics, 85 Flagship Drive Suite F, North Andover MA 01845-9998


Keeping your store up-to-date with the latest technology for business use is critical in the digital age. Find out where you stack up compared to industry peers. Rating Your Store’s Level of Technology for Business Use

We are always embracing the latest and greatest


We use a good amount of new technology


We are always embracing the latest and greatest

We use it only where it makes sense

We use a good amount of new technology

We are somewhat behind

We use it only where it makes sense


We're still using paper We are pads and abacus

somewhat behind

We're still using paper pads and abacus

Ways Your Staff Use Wireless Phones and/or Tablets

info Insta rm lla sea ation tion/s rch from ales eng ines apps, , et c.


W m f e don’t or b usin use ess

izza gp erin

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ring nito mo Cam era

ma Invent nag o em ry ent

ces Progra sor s, in mming dev tegrat of ices ion , et c. pro

dem Custo ons mer trat ion

Inte r (tex -staff ting com , PT mu T, e nica t ma il, e ion tc.)


t-of -

sale /p pro aymen ces sing t

90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

Type of Solution Used for Each of the Following: Axis Title CLOUD-BASED PROGRAM / APP


































6%   9

 helpful stuff Book:

Nevertheless: A Memoir by Alec Baldwin If you’re a fan of Saturday Night Live then you know Alec Baldwin recently broke his own record and hosted the show for a landmark 17th time last month. Definitely colorful, definitely controversial, he shares in this book how he rose from practically nothing to launch his successful acting career. I actually had the privilege to see him on Broadway back in 1992 when he starred as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. There was no question even then of his incredible talent. In his memoir, Nevertheless, he looks back on more than 30 years of how he established himself in Hollywood as an entertainer, not to mention comedian and hotheaded commentator. With films like Beetlejuice, Working Girl, The Hunt For Red October, and It’s Complicated, to his role on 30 Rock, he delivers an honest, moving reveal of all that has shaped his life from the financial strains of his childhood to challenges he faced as a young soap opera actor to his addiction to alcohol. What you will come away with is a respect for the fearlessness that has defined and driven Baldwin’s life.

App: Credit Karma (free)

Don’t underestimate the value of good credit. When you want to rent an apartment, buy a car, or take out a loan, your credit score will have an impact on what happens next. Credit Karma is a cool financial app that gives you a simple way to check your credit score once per year for free. It lets you know when there are major changes to your credit score so you can respond to what needs attention. The app offers some other things like potential credit cards or loans to consider based on your profile.





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© 2017 Sirius XM Radio Inc. Sirius, XM and all related marks and logos are trademarks of Sirius XM Radio Inc. All other marks, channel names and logos are the property of their respective owners. All rights reserved.

10  Mobile Electronics  May 2017 SIR.12629 ME Mag Ad March 2017 SXV300_D5_sh.indd


7”w x 4.875”h




Google Hangouts Meet app These days many companies have folks that work both in the office/ shop and remotely which can present challenges when you need to have a team meeting and need the benefits of meeting face-toface. Now Google has upgraded its Hangouts tool to become a suite of business oriented communication apps. One of those is Hangouts Meet which is a video chatting app that lets you join meetings and conference calls. Use the video function or just go with voice. Conveniently, you can include up to 30 participants and it syncs with Google Calendar.

Sites To See: Pairing elegance and technology, this cloud-based development platform makes it easy for you to design a web presence that is professional and engaging while allowing you to also promote your business, create an online community, or set up shop. The web site builder has everything you need to create a free website and is easy to use. These days you can’t afford not to have a presence online and this site lets you do things your way.   11

 what’s happening


KnowledgeFest Spring Training record attendance and qualit

12  Mobile Electronics  May 2017


g surpasses expectations with ty educational opportunities.   13

 what’s happening WORDS BY TED GOSLIN

I “We have a lot of new game-changing products. The direction of the company is safety and integration in general for this year. The Amp-PRO is one of the most important products in the past 10 years.” Steve Rogers, AAMP Global

“There’s a huge growing opportunity for retailers to become involved into this safety, expanding into IoT [Internet of Things], device category.” Steve Witt, American Road Products

t may be true what they say—third time’s the charm. In its third year, KnowledgeFest Spring Training has set a new record for attendance with more than 800 attendees and 32 exhibitors. The event, held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Ind., took place April 9 through 11 and featured over 29 hours of educational sessions, 39 hours of manufacturer trainings and over 14 hours of exhibit time on the show floor. The original intent of the show was to highlight manufacturers’ newest products to prepare retailers for the selling season. Categories highlighted at the show included car audio/video (amplifiers, speakers, subwoofers, DSP, sound deadener, monitors), remote starts, alarms, OEM integration and the growing

safety category. Companies on the floor ranged from long-time attendees like VOXX and Kenwood, to returning brands like Savv Mobile Multimedia, makers of headrest monitors. The popularity of the event has centered around its diverse offering and ability to reach retailers who may not have the resources to attend other shows like KnowledgeFest in Dallas. “There were two drivers behind our creation of this event: First, to offer our retailer members the opportunity for training and networking; and, second, to offer our manufacturer exhibitors the opportunity to meet with their retail accounts east of the Mississippi, the mobile specialists they’re not seeing in January in Vegas,” said Chris Cook, president of the Mobile Electronics Association. “Exhibitors we spoke with on-site at space selection for our 2018 m

“Accele is showing its latest technology. Certainly, retailers should be aware of how we display our new technology and how we help retailers sell our products in their stores.” Christian Way, Accele

KnowledeFest Spring 2017 featured over 32 exhibitors, including brands like Savv and Aquatic AV.

“We’re releasing our new Maestro AR for OEM integration and our DSR1, which is a joint partnership between Rockford Fosgate and iDatalink Maestro. We have a video on YouTube explaining the product. Just search Maestro AR.” ADS

“We have not been focused on the 12-volt market as much recently. But now, with the introduction our Apple CarPlay/Android Auto products, we are re-engaging with our 12-volt specialist with products that they sell every day.” Mike Anderson, Alpine Electronics

14  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

Aquatic AV showcased marine products for the aftermarket.

What if we told you our best wasn’t quite good enough for us? What if we told you it had to look more sophisticated? What if we told you it needed to be more powerful? What if we told you it had to have more features?

Meet the WX-GS920BH.

Sony GS 3-Year Warranty. Front & Rear USB and AUX Inputs. HD Tuner and SiriusXM Compatibility. 180W RMS Output, 5 Volt Pre-Outs, and Subwoofer Direct Mode.

Sony supports and recommends Mobile Electronics Certified Professional (MECP) certification, contact your Sony representative for more information

Sony is a proud member and supporter of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and participates to support the entire Mobile Electronics industry.

Sony prides itself on well controlled authorized distribution and online marketplace compliance. ©2017 Sony Electronics, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Sony and the Sony logos are trademarks of Sony Corporation. Sony, Walkman, Music Center, Dynamic Color Illuminator and their respective logos are trademarks of Sony. iPod and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc. PANDORA, the PANDORA logo, and the Pandora trade dress are trademarks or registered trademarks of Pandora Media, Inc., used with permission. Google, Android, and their respective logos are trademarks of Google Inc. Bluetooth an and the Bluetooth logo are trademarks of Bluetooth SIG, Inc. The N Mark logo is a trademark of the NFC Forum, Inc. HD Radio is a trademark of iBiquity Digital Corporation. All other trademarks are trademarks of their respective owners. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice.

 what’s happening

AudioControl showed off its latest products, including the DM-608 processor.

AudioFrog’s showcased its latest speakers and subs in a demo vehicle.

“The number one thing is that we need to improve our customer experience in the store. If we’re designing for our ideal customer, we’re going to win this all day long.” Marcel Newell, Avidworx

“What we want to do this year is give more options to all of our retailer partners than we ever have cover every opportunity for a new profit channel and maybe an old one that a retailer needs to revisit.” Brady Siebert, Cedar Electronics

16  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

events were pleased with the traffic they received, both in their booths and their training workshops. We received strong commitments from exhibitors to come back to Indy next year and to participate in our new Spring Training Long Beach.” During the town hall presentation, Cook announced that MEA was adding a third KnowledgeFest event for 2018 at the Long Beach Convention Center in southern California, February 23 through 25. Also at the town hall, Cook provided a ballroom full of retailers, installers and manufacturers a glimpse into the overall popularity of 12-volt products for the past three years with the industry conducting around 4,500 transactions a year, with the average amount between $104 and $113 per transaction. Cook stressed the importance of keeping up with new technology in each category in order to better educate customers and make sales. According to automotive data from the SAE Group, the connected car will play a key role in the near future with 380 million vehicles set to be connected in the next four years. Even with these advancements, the aftermarket has an opportunity to surge ahead through innovations in established and emerging categories, according to Cook. “What are you doing to get ready?” he added.

One highly talked about portion of the show was the manufacturer trainings, which included product tips and tricks from top companies like Alpine, Escort,

K40, AAMP Global, VOXX and Metra, among others. To keep things fresh for retailers, who may already know a fair amount about most products, some companies went the extra mile and created focused classes offering something that could only be learned at this particular show. Metra, for example, took its attendees to school with its “Metra/Axxess 101: Back to the Basics” course. The class went over basic installation techniques on the company’s most popular products. During the JL Audio training, “OEM Integration Made Easy With FIX and the All-new Functionality With TUN Software,” individual simulation consoles were set up to help retailers learn the process for producing a clean, flat audio signal with the company’s latest software products. Even for those companies that focused on general information for product lines, retailers were still able to gain a great deal from the experience due to the sheer amount of information retailers must retain to remain experts in their field. “I’m a Sony dealer and I have most of the product in store already. But the way Kris Bulla breaks it down is really helpful. And he’s new with them,” said John Schumacher of Audio Solutions StL. “They went through the whole lineup, features and product line with general information. There’re things in there you forget, certain features on certain SKUs. It’s always good to refresh yourself.” The DD Audio training discussed the company’s recent work building 30 enclosures as an experiment to m

“We’re here to get the brand out there and let retailers know that we do have more offerings than just the big amplifiers and subs. The retail aspect of it is big for us. We stopped on some shops on the way to the show to show them the product we have available.” Seban Helms, DD Audio

“The number one risk to business is not taking advantage of personal growth. That puts retailers in the 99 percent of companies that go out of business. The top one percent invest in personal growth.” Del Ellis, Del Ellis International

Tech Fest

“We’re now in the marine market. We’ve got the speakers and amps to do well and give great margins.” Yousef Phillips, elettromedia

Chris Pate conducts a demonstration during a Mobile Solutions seminar. understand different applications of the enclosures in different vehicles. “It took well over a month. We found that listening to different genres of music affected the customer’s enclosure and power amount allotted,” said Kevin Doyle, a representative of the company. “The

training is more general, focused on all models of our subwoofers.”

Upping Your Game Like every KnowledgeFest, retailers from across the country came out in droves to attend the educational m   17

 what’s happening

“For new retailers, we definitely want them to take away the knowledge of how to talk about products and how to sell it to consumers.” Carrie Sahotsky, Orca (Focal, Mosconi, Illusion Audio)

Chris Cook, president of the Mobile Electronics Association, gives a presentation on the state of the industry at the Town Hall event.

“We want retailers to feel that JL Audio is supporting them with training. More importantly, it’s an opportunity for them to share with us what their concerns are. Help us make plans for future products, future programs, etc.” Manville Smith, JL Audio

“Here at KnowledgeFest our primary goal here is to solidify and cement our flagship models. Our 830BT and 730BT, our Apple CarPlay and Android Auto offerings for 2017. JVC is quality built since 1982. We’re constantly innovating and being a part of that technology curve for car audio.” Hazim Jainoor, JVC Mobile

18  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

seminars, which were broken into three track categories: Sales/Marketing, Technician/Fabricator and Owner/ Manager. Each course ran just over an hour each and featured some of the most popular names in the industry, including Chris Pate from Mobile Toys, Inc., sales guru Del Ellis, Ken Ward from Educar, Steve Witt from American Road Products and Bryan Schmitt from Mobile Solutions, whose classes on fabrication were all completely full. Opening up the event in one of the first sessions was Eric M. Carter of Cartronix, who covered how to handle online reviews in “Word of ‘Mouse’: Dealing With Social Media & Online Reviews.” “Be a storyteller. Explain why you’re better than your competition, what you offer, what your clients love about your business. Give value, encourage questions,” Carter said. “Do you know what your customers are saying? 84 percent of Americans say online reviews have an influence on their decision to purchase. 97 percent of review readers find the reviews they read to be accurate.” The newest presenters at KnowledgeFest included renowned retailer Chris McNulty, who taught a course called, “Principles in Profitability: Identify and Cultivate Your Most

Profitable Clients.” “At the end of the day it’s all math. Excel spreadsheets are your friend. Know. Don’t think. Thinking is not in the bank. Real money is in the bank,” McNulty stressed. “If you lie to yourself, you’re never going to make the change and you’re never going to get better. The fact that you’re here shows you have the willingness to improve.” “It was really about getting down to the numbers and where the profitability is at. It’s something I slack on,” John Schumacher said after attending the course. “What I’ll take from that class is breaking it down and knowing that I should be doing it. I also need to get better at Excel.” m

Last But Not Least Attracting new attendees has become a staple of KnowledgeFest, which has pushed for maximizing its outreach to as many retailers as possible. One such person was salesperson Jennifer Lopez from Far Beyond Tint and Alarm in Corpus Christi, Texas. After attending one of Del Ellis’ sales trainings, Lopez expressed her joy in getting to attend. “I came with my boss. He took me to KnowledgeFest in Dallas last year. He wanted to try something different so we came to this one,” Lopez said. “Del’s class

 what’s happening

“Have you ever been pulled over before? It’s a simple question that can take you down that avenue helps you talk to customers about the product. All we’re asking is that retailers turn their head and focus a little time on the radar category because this is one product that will never go OEM. You can make a lot of money with K40.” Justin Vallo, K40 Electronics

Cedar Electronics conducts a manufacturer training on the show floor.

“We’re doing things that are going to keep retailers relevant in the future. That’s what’s so important to us. We’re expanding into categories that will keep us relevant.” Seth Halstead, Kenwood USA

“Kingpin University is here to help retailers, techs, and sales, and owners get to the next level.” Jason Kranitz, Kingpin University

“We have a lot of new product this year. We have some really cool OEM integration technology coming out to make it easier on installers to save time in the install bay.” KICKER

“We had over 70 new products released at CES this year. We’re improving and replacing products. There’s a wide variety of product selection we are showing everyone.” Matt Julius, Memphis Audio

20  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

was great. He’s a character. I learned a lot.” Another element that the show has pushed is not just how many classes a retailer takes, but what they get out of them. According to Jason Kranitz of Kingpin University, who also presented at the event, it achieved that goal. “From what I can tell in my classes, there was a lot more energy and participation than at past events,” Kranitz said. Retailers who missed the show will have more opportunity to engage with industry celebrities like Kranitz when

“The Turbo Touch is our new division that allows us to do more kits using the same interface.” Tim Shell, Metra Electronics

“We want to help retailers take their skill set to the next level. They should use best practice methods so they’re not ruining cars, creating repeatability and knowing what to charge for their time.” Bryan Schmitt, Mobile Solutions

“We’re kicking ass and taking names. The high-powered products especially. It’s funny when I go into certain retailers who say they thought Sony was getting out of the business. Just showing that we’re continually evolving and bringing new technologies into the game such as highpower and hi-res.” Mike Rundel, Sony

KnowledgeFest heads back to Dallas August 12 through 14, taking over a new venue, the Dallas Convention Center. Now in its eighth year, the Dallas KnowledgeFest will feature more classes, a larger show floor and the finale of the Mobile Electronics Industry Awards. For more information, visit 

“We’re here to attract more retailers to our brand name, our category and to recognize us as one of the leaders in this category.” Mike Northup, Rydeen Mobile Electronics

“We listen a lot to consumers as well as techs in shops. We try to address their needs as with the changes in the market and provide them a product that gives them flexibility to make good money and gives their customers ease of use.” Michael Betts, Omega R&D

easier.” Joe Dentamaro, VOXX Electronics

Savv has returned to the aftermarket to showcase its latest video headrest products.

“This is the first show we debuted SoundSkins Lite. The adhesive is the same as the SoundSkins Pro. It’s super sticky, can be used on the roof or inside of the door panel.” Aaron Garcia, SoundSkins

“We’re looking to provide training, knowledge from attending the training, and to invest more time and resources to educate the installer to make their life   21

 retail news

The Best Around

Daytona-based store, Soundcrafters, has been awarded a local publication’s “Best Around” award more times than it can count. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

In June of 1978, Soundcrafters opened shop in Daytona, Fla. Owner Paul Papadeas has lost count of how many times the business has been awarded The Readers’ Choice Best Around award from local publication The News-Journal. The key to the business’s success is multi-faceted, relying on passion and commitment to quality installation, according to Papadeas. “Through the years, the business has been recognized as ‘the best around’ for I don’t know how many years straight,” he said, adding, “I wear a few hats. I am a retailer, but I have also for the past 31 years produced a mobile electronics trade show [called] Spring Break Nationals. 17 years ago, I took control of IASCA (International Auto Sound Challenge Association). It’s an association of car audio retailers, manufacturer members and international affiliations—training, expos and competitions.” Soundcrafters has also remained steady

22  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

in the same general location since opening. Only once did the business move, according to Papadeas, and it was only “a quarter of a mile down the street,” he said. Papadeas went into the industry when his brother decided to open a shop in New York and suggested he join him. He started out “stimulated by my passion for cars and music—what a combination. I came down [to Florida] on a vacation. My parents lived in Daytona and once when I visited, I went to a local car audio shop. Before I knew it was working there,” Papadeas explained. “A year-and-a-half later, I opened my own shop.” The second and current location was larger. “We took over a former McDonalds restaurant and built a 3,000 square foot installation bay on the property,” he explained. Currently, the business has eight people on staff. Consumer awareness is an important aspect to Soundcrafters, which Papadeas

stated was one of his motivations for creating Spring Break Nationals. “The show itself is open to consumers who can enter and walkthrough, see brands and products and experience the live demos of car audio systems.” Consumer seminars are also offered to educate potential buyers. Industry gurus are brought in to conduct training seminars, which Papadeas said are publicized as free events. The goal is to show consumers what’s available for audio as well as the safety category. With almost 40 years behind them, Soundcrafters has naturally changed with the times in terms of the business’s demographics. “Our target used to be 16- to 24-year-old males, and while we still get those, the majority of clients are young professionals,” Papadeas said. “A little older, they have better discretionary income. We do service on systems that have failed over the years and supplement the deficiencies of OEM in their new cars. [The] bulk of what we do is audio enhancements and the safety category is growing as more people become aware.” The two most recent hires have come from the local Installer Institute. On-the-job training occurs every day at Soundcrafters, according to Papadeas. Whenever training seminars are offered by distributors or manufacturers, the staff at Soundcrafters attends. “We virtually pack up and go to them as a team. I’ve even, in some cases, shut down the shop to do that. Continued education is important and there’s not enough of it being produced by the manufacturers, distributors or factory reps as much as they really should. Some brands do a better job than others.” Papadeas cited the importance of fair pricing and word of mouth as factors that have brought Soundcrafters continued success. The steadfast commitment to quality is what keeps the business “the best around.” “We’re in a highly visible location on Highway 1, and [we have] connection to word-of-mouth customers that have been my customers for years,” Papadeas added. “They’re still loyal.” 


Who’s Who Paul Papadeas

Soundcrafters South Daytona, Fla. Years of industry experience: 44 Hobbies: Work, music and guitars What you’re really good at: Educating my customers, customer service, industry insight

Keith Price

Custom Cars Unlimited Salem, Va. Years of industry experience: 19 Hobbies: Family What you’re really good at: Customer service

Carl Fowler

Benchmark Audio Horseheads, N.Y.

Soundcrafters, Inc. storefront in Daytona, Florida.

Years of industry experience: 8 Hobbies: Family, cars, car audio comp What you’re really good at: Troubleshooting

Chris Hilbert

Sound Decisions Mount Pleasant, Wisc. Years of industry experience: 28 Hobbies: Going to live music shows What you’re really good at: Troubleshooting

Paul Papadeas, owner of Soundcrafters, created Spring Break Nationals with the intention of attracting more consumers to the world of car audio.   23

 retail news

The Tint Artist Darren “Snap” Simmons at Custom Cars Unlimited in Salem, Va. has brought his passion for art into his career, creating works of art on vehicle windows. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

Darren “Snap” Simmons is a full-time window tinter at Custom Cars Unlimited, where he not only tints windows, but also creates works of art for customers’ vehicles.


indow tinting is a lucrative business for many shops, but some have taken it to the next level. In Salem, Va. at Custom Cars Unlimited, Darren “Snap” Simmons is a full-time

24  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

window tinter who has applied his love of art to tinting. “I’m not alone,” he said. “There are other tinters out there creating amazing work!” He added that with the many types of film available, there’s more room for creative thinkers. “Snap” Simmons—who was given the nickname by his parents—has been an artist since childhood. “In high school, my favorite subject was of course art

class. In that class, there was a piece I did that I never knew would make such an impact on me today. It was a portrait of Tupac Shakur using only blotches of shades of gray to create depth ranging from black to white,” Simmons explained. “I always kept it since I was such a huge fan of the rapper. A few years after graduating in ’98 I had a friend introduce me to window tinting as a career. So I

packed up and moved to Charlotte N.C. to work for a major company around 2001. We were sitting around and I pulled out that painting of Tupac and I said to myself, ‘I bet I can cut this out in tint.’” What followed was Simmons’s first attempt beginning with an image. “Break it up in a cartoonish way. No shading, just blotches or a complete shape. Put a piece of glass over it and recreate the image by cutting out pieces of tint in accordance to the picture,” he said. “Black parts would get five percent. Medium dark parts, 35 to 20 percent. I could even use colored tint to bring it to life!” More complicated pieces of art will cost the customer more money. “It takes a lot of time and patience to create the tint art,” he added. Simmons started working at Custom Cars Unlimited in 2005 and showed owner Keith Price what he was able to do with tint. “He told me that’s what caught his attention,” Simmons said. “It was something new, a new approach to tint, and it sells. It was something that could generate a different crowd. Someone who wants their car to stand out without having a sticker on the outside of their vehicle.” The tint artwork applies a conversational piece to a vehicle which helps create personal relationships with customers. This one-on-one connection is important at Custom Cars Unlimited, according to Simmons. “This is the key for our success and also providing great service. I strongly believe if you take care of your customers and show positive attention—you know, show some love— they’ll give it back.” Simmons is the only tinter currently working at Custom Cars Unlimited and he noted the importance of always striving for perfection. “As far as learning how to do tint art and tattoo tint, just start out with something simple like a star or single shaded figure and practice from there,” he said. “Or you could Google ‘tattoo tint’ to see some stunning work!”    25

 hot sellers

The Upgrade Approach Retailers like Jeff West use the warranty upgrade to sell new head units while Chris Pate explains the benefits of DSPs to maximizing sound quality.

JL Audio FiX82 OEM Integration Module Main Selling Features: “Showing the client how to make their factory radio sound as good or better than aftermarket radios.” Primary Objection: Additional parts are required. How to Overcome: “We compare the price of replacing the head unit versus integrating.”

Mosconi Gladen AEROSPACE 8to12 DSP Submitted by Chris Pate, Mobile Toys, Inc., College Station, Texas

Main Selling Features: “Showing that it has the ability to correct and fine tune a vehicle’s soundstage to get the most out of the amps, woofers and speakers the client purchased.” Primary Objection: Price How to Overcome: “I explain to them the benefits of the high resolution DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) and the high-end internal components.”

26  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

Pioneer AVH-4100NEX In-Dash Multimedia DVD Receiver with 7-inch WVGA Touchscreen Display

Main Selling Features: “CarPlay is very popular.” Primary Objection: Price and compatibility How to Overcome: “Clients are won over by the device’s ease of use.”

Kenwood DPX592BT

Double -DIN In-Dash Car Stereo with High Resolution Audio Compatibility Submitted by Jeff West, Benchmark Audio, Inc., Springfield, Ill.

Main Selling Features: “We offer a two-year warranty if it’s installed by the dealer. We also sell the overall cosmetics of the unit, which has a very classy, high-tech look.” Primary Objection: Price How to Overcome: “The amazing expandability and the two-year warranty make up for the price difference on the lower-priced units.”

Audison Prima AP8.9 Multi-channel Compact Power bit Amplifier

Submitted by Paul Zaccaria, Streetstyle Inc., St. Charles, Ill.

Primary Objection: Price How to Overcome: “We prove why it’s worth every penny and how it will seamlessly integrate into any project.”   27

 hot sellers

Arc Audio DSP Controller for PS8 Processor

Submitted by Brandon Green, The Car Audio Shop, High Ridge, Mo.

Main Selling Features: “We go through the features it adds to the PS8 and benefits they will enjoy. We haven’t sold a PS8 without it since they were released.” Primary Objection: The learning curve that comes with the device. How to Overcome: “We get over the objections by educating them on the additional versatility it offers. We also teach them how to use it when we deliver the vehicle, just like we do on every other product we sell.”

KENWOOD eXcelon KDC-X301

In-dash CD Receiver with Built-in Bluetooth

Main Selling Features: “It is a quality product with many features.” Primary Objection: “The fact that additional parts are required and the labor cost to install.” How to Overcome: “That is what it takes to get the job done right.”

Sony XAV-AX100

Receiver with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ Submitted by Mark Miller, Westminster Speed & Sound, Westminster, Md.

Main Selling Features: “It’s very easy for a client to harness the technology of their smartphone in a vehicle.” Primary Objection: “It needs satellite capabilities.” How to Overcome: “No problem if they are okay not having the satellite option.” 28  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

Kenwood eXcelon DDX9902S Multimedia Receiver with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™

Submitted by Nathan Dunn, CarTronics, Madison, Tenn.

Main Selling Features: “Having built-in navigation in addition to CarPlay and Android Auto.” Primary Objection: Price and the learning curve. How to Overcome: “If you save money by purchasing the unit without built-in navigation (DDX9903s), you may lose your navigation if you travel outside of a data coverage area. The built-in Garmin navigation is easy to use and ensures that you will never be stranded in an unfamiliar area and have to ask for directions.”

Focal RSE 165 6.5-inch 2-way Component Set

Submitted by Kimberly Trainer, Car-tunes, Inc., Greenville, Mo.

Main Selling Features: “Sound quality. Our Focal display proves even to the untrained ear that Focal speakers just sound better! This product is also appropriate for practically EVERY Vehicle on the road!” Primary Objection: Additional parts required and labor cost to install. How to Overcome: “Explain the need for the additional parts/labor in terms the customer can relate to with their particular vehicle. This is so the customer knows they are getting the best sound possible out of the speakers they are about to purchase.”

Rockford Fosgate TMS65

Harley-Davidson Direct Fit Speakers Main Selling Features: “The amount of sound achieved out of these small 6-inch speakers is amazing. They are not cheap at $299 but they are well worth it and sell themselves once heard in person.” Primary Objection: Price, additional parts required How to Overcome: “We tell [customers] about our successful past experience and allow a demo from our sound room or possibly a previous motorcycle install.”   29

real world retail

By venturing outside of the typical 12-volt retail space with specialty equipment installations, Osprey’s revenue is soaring higher than ever. WORDS BY TED GOSLIN PHOTOS BY WES WILLIAMS


bird of prey has many functions. These functions change based on the surrounding environment. To survive, the bird must rely on its instincts and natural abilities to catch food. The method of catching food, however, is almost always different. Hunting landbased prey requires different strategies than hunting water-based prey. The birds in these varying landscapes go by different names, which include fish eagle,

30  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

sea hawk, river hawk, fish hawk and one other—OSPREY. Much like its namesake, 12-volt retailer OSPREY has earned its name by adapting to an ever-changing environment in its 32 years of doing business. The new Westwood, Mass. location operates out of Boston’s South Shore community, where car audio is only a fraction of its daily workload. For its alternate business, the company goes by a different name, Boston Truck & Van Outfitters, to cater to

its fleet business installing ladder racks, van shelves, emergency lighting and GPS tracking. This work is done not just for small businesses like plumbing and electrical, but for local municipalities like police, fire, highway and DEA vehicles. Since opening its doors, the company has adapted to declining revenue in one category by venturing full-force into another. That journey began in a completely different market, far from a standard 12-volt operation.

“In 1985, there was a new thing coming to Boston called cellular. We were the very first independent cellular telephone dealer in the Boston area,” said Jeff Maron, owner of Osprey and Boston Truck & Van. “The book, ‘Who Moved My Cheese,’ is our creed. When the cheese gets moved, you have to find more cheese or you’re going to die. The cellular telephone business was such a good thing that those companies (like Verizon and AT&T) opened their own stores. At that time we started doing alarms and remote starts, which became our new cheese. A little while later, my son Jason

came in and said ‘We are going into the stereo business with cassette players, CD changers, dealer work and personal work in customer’s cars.’” For the last five years, the company has profited greatly by using Adrian Steel, a national supplier of interior shelving solutions, ladder racks and other installation components that Boston Truck & Van uses in its fleet and B2B installation work. “That hard work earned us the Gold award from Adrian for sales excellence. We’re currently doing millions of dollars worth of business. Now we’re off the

Automile and in a new facility,” Maron said. “This new facility is outstanding. Now we can house nine vehicles at a time. We have two dedicated bays for electronics and the rest dedicated to van shelving and ladder racks.”

A Larger Wing Span To be in business for 32 years means the necessities of your business will likely grow. More work means more space is needed to accommodate more vehicles. Today, the store does work with 47 car dealerships and has cars and vans lined up outside the bay with an average   31

real world retail

Companies bring their entire fleet of vehicles to Boston Truck & Van for upgrades like shelves and GPS tracking devices.

32  Mobile Electronics  May 2017



OSPREY/Boston Truck & Van Number of Stores: 1 Address: 378 University Ave, Westwood, MA, 02090 Facility Square Footage: 11,600 Store Type: Traditional Retail Number of Employees: 11


BRYAN CARPENTER of seven in the bay at any given time. “We were totally out of space and needed a bigger parking lot, more installation bays, a larger showroom and above all, larger stock rooms. By doing business with so many dealerships and different brands, whether it be Ford, Ram or Mercedes, we fish in a lot of ponds,” Maron said. “It’s all about NEEDS over want. It’s not a kid who wants a car stereo. It’s a plumber who NEEDS lighting in his van to work more efficiently or GPS to get to his next job. We talk about NEEDS selling all the time.” The new location consists of 11,600 total square feet of space, with 6,000 for the warehouse and garage, two showrooms of 1,500 and 800 square feet each, and the rest made up of offices, employee break room, customer waiting room, electronics stock room, four bathrooms, and kitchen. The store is fully stocked with product and offers a focused

product offering that includes Kenwood, Alpine and Viper (Directed) for 12-volt products, Whelen, Sound Off Signal lighting for LEDs, and Adrian Steel and Prime Design for ladder racks. Located south of Boston, Mass., right off of the busy Route 95 highway, the store sits in the middle of a new shopping center called University Station which sees thousands of people pass through daily. To make the shop’s recent transition to its new location a seamless experience, Jeff Maron emphasized the importance of what he calls “The Five P’s.” “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. People’s plans don’t fail, they fail to plan. If you are working in the new facility while still cleaning out the old facility, it’s good planning,” Maron said. “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary. If you plan for it, when you move into the new building it’s like you’ve been there all along.”

Service Manager


Production Manager


JEFFREY A. MARON Business Development, Vice President


Jeff Maron (left), poses with wife Beverly at the front entrance of Osprey.   33

real world retail

» Circling the Feast

The Social Method

“One of our best methods for marketing is being a member of the community. It’s having your face in the face of people all the time. That’s the way we do a lot of our business. People know who we are. We shop in local stores. If people know you and know the business you’re in, that makes a huge difference. “Be active in church or be a member of a committee. I’m in charge of membership for a Ford club. I’m in charge of membership because I know all the Ford dealers and their salesman. “The initial goals of this method were to energize the people I met there to do business with me and show them reasons why they should be a guest speaker at the club and be a sponsor of it. At a Christmas party, I gave away a remote start. That makes you at the top of the pile.”

34  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

Given the company’s versatile product offering, it’s vital that customers are presented with options in a clear manner, which all begins with the entrance. “The first thing they see is completely different from any other car stereo store. There’s a blue wall with our two company’s names on it and Beverly Maron is greeting every customer. It looks like it’s a place you’ll want to leave your car,” Maron said. “When a person walks in and wants a car stereo, GPS tracking or remote start, it goes right to Jason [Maron] because he’s the expert in that area. He walks them into the showroom where they are seeing displays like you’ve never seen before. If they’re looking at remote starts or a car stereo, it’s a different experience than they’re used to, better than any big box or car stereo store in this area.” The initial presentation to customers includes a mandatory shop tour through the showrooms, pickup truck department and installation bays so they will see where their car will be, which is a clean, neat environment. “That’s the clincher right there. Every customer gets a walkthrough. It’s all about the experience. They want to see people are working, dressed well, tools are neat and orderly and there’s no oil all over the place,” Maron added. A steady stream of high-end vehicles, including BMW’s and Mercedes brands, patron the shop for remote start and radar detector installation. This encourages customers to go for the upsell more often than not. The same trick works for small business owners looking to have fleet work done after seeing truck and van equipment being installed. “Once you walk a customer back there with his truck or van equipment, he sees four or five other vans or

cars in process, he says, ‘This is incredible, when can I leave my vehicle?’” Maron said. “We have TVs that are running continual loops of sales info in the showrooms. It has different products and testimonials from existing customers. There’s also a very nice customer waiting room with a big screen TV. They’re not sitting in the hallway.” Different plaques and awards are hung up around the building to showcase the shop’s long-term credibility to customers. This includes a letter of endorsement from K40 Electronics, one of the store’s most trusted vendors. The business is conducted 80 percent through appointments, with walk-ins accepted only if there is a break in the schedule, which is rare according to Maron. Rides are also offered to customers who don’t want to wait, as long as their drop-off location is reasonably close. “Depending on the scope of the job, we will rent the person a car. We do not rent one for a $250 remote start but for a $2,000-plus radar detector, we will,” Jason Maron added. To add a finishing touch to jobs, the customers are given a complete vacuum and dusting inside and leave-behinds in their vehicles, which consist of folded brochures with company information on them and a mention of one product the company did not install to entice the customer to come back for that future job.

Birds of a Feather Maintaining a tight-knit staff culture is very important to the Marons, but because it is part of what makes the company a welcoming place for its customers. “We used to have issues with space but now, it’s more comfortable, everything is organized. We have a break room that we didn’t have before. There are lockers, a fridge and a microwave,” Maron said. “Morale is incredibly different than what we


More Than Friends

The Kenwood and 5-axis showroom displays were created with the help of two people, Matt Herald from Trent Partners New England, the shop’s sales rep for Directed, and Jody Culbertson, owner of 5-Axis Displays, according to Maron.

The company has profited greatly from its partnership with Adrian Steel, which is going on five years strong to date.” had in the old building.” The staff consists of 11 total employees, including five management staff with the Maron family, Service Manager Bryan Carpenter and Production Manager Stephen Pansy. Jeff, Jason, Bev, Bryan and Steve act as sales staff while six installation technicians work in their own departments, with some cross-training and cross-over work occurring when needed. “Two of the people I just got came from another store because they heard about us and they came to me,”

Maron said. Maron uses a host of regular cliché phrases to remind himself and others of the best practices for running the business. One such cliché that he uses relates to employee competency. It’s the concept of attitude and aptitude. “A guy might be good with his hands. He’s the kind of guy I want in my rack and pin department. With attitude, he has to be able to fit in and be a good guy and not be a troublemaker,” Maron said. “When you’re working with all those personalities, if you have one guy

“Our key vendors are Adrian Steel (five years), Directed Electronics (Viper, 30 years), Alpine Electronics (25 years) and Kenwood (20 years). We have an A+ relationship with all of them. I build relationships. I think that’s most important. More than that, results count. if you’re doing business with these people, you’re not just a nice guy, you’re doing business. “The best selling product for Adrian Steel would be the new ladder rack, composite partition and tradespecific packages. Customers like that they’re easy to use. The partition keeps the cab of the truck quiet, cool and comfortable. Viper has an app for iPhone that can start the car and lock it which is more user-friendly for new vehicles. Kenwood and Alpine have the CarPlay products. Customers like the ease of use. “They support us as a retailer with displays, print and online brochures and product awareness all the time when something new comes out. They also visit, provide training for installation guys, and provide general awareness of what’s happening on the market. All of them do an unbelievable job to keep us right in the loop all the time.”   35

real world retail trainings off-site.”

Chirps, Songs and Tweets The company’s marketing budget is spent mainly on our company brochures, Internet advertising and website maintenance. Both websites (Osprey and Boston Truck & Van) are in the midst of being revamped, according to Jeff Maron. Social media is big as Service Manager Bryan Carpenter is one of the key staff for the company, having held the well, with regular position for 17 years. postings on Facebook, which included the details of the shop’s recent move and new address. “We just spend some money in Christmas holiday season to advertise in print and I’m thinking about making that go away,” he said. “The other thing is trade shows. [Recently], we did the builders trade show. We also do the electrician show or locksmith show. We spend our money on trade specific shows. Doing ‘consumer’ shows is a waste of time. All those people want to do is put stuff in their bags.” Another chunk of the advertising A large part of the company’s business is outfitting fleet vans with racks, budget is put towards membership in shelves and flooring, as seen here. local automotive clubs like the Ford truck who is a bad apple, how to keep him like them. We look for time management, club and General Motors truck club. The away from everybody else is a challenge.” where does he park his car and what his membership allows the company to meet The company finds new staff dress code looks like when he comes in. and great dealers as well as all the people by using job boards like Craigslist There’re lots of things we look at in that who refer business to the company, while or Indeed. Maron also uses the six month period.” they can refer business back at them. unemployment department for the State Even though the mixture of work the Email newsletters are also sent out of Massachusetts. As a test for potential shop sees is not focused solely on 12-volt, regularly to retain existing business. new employees, Maron has them work Maron believes in continuously training The newsletters promote new products two or three days to see if they can staff, regardless of their level of expertise. and upcoming events. “We’re going to perform everything asked of them, You can’t just depend on doing four head be having a customer appreciation day without any strenuous labor involved. units and four sets of speakers today. The where we are going to take over the Once hired, new employees are trained two guys we do have who are 12-volt, we whole parking lot with vendors,” Maron through shadowing and given a sixdo send to trainings,” Maron said. “There said. “It’s going to be an event. There month “engagement period,” according are regular vendor trainings that come will be an alarm and remote start table, to Maron. “We see if they like us, and we through. We also attend industry ladder rack table, tents and food. It’s like

36  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

Emergency vehicle work done by the shop includes lighting installation, as seen here. a festival.” The breakdown of how Maron approaches how much money to spend on each type of business he seeks is centered around what he refers to as “lunch business” and “dinner business.” “Referral business is dinner, where the customer is coming in all the time. There’s a difference between the guy looking for the special of the day for lunch versus the guy coming in with his wife for dinner,” he said. “Municipalities offer a lot of business with new cars. There’s a lot of repeat business that way.”

Soaring High Being in business for as long as Osprey has certain advantages. It allows you to see their clients grow up before your eyes, with new generations of their children coming in new business and service. For Jeff and Jason Maron, there is no greater thrill. “We’ve been in business since 1985. We’ve earned the right to see second and third generations of families. We’re already seeing customer’s grandchildren. That makes me very, very proud because they appreciate what we’ve done for them in the past,” Maron said. “We were in a barn at one point, then the Automile doing installs and now we’re in this new facility. You wouldn’t believe the smiles and comments from seeing this new facility because they’ve seen us grow too.”

With its new facility now near completion, and all the struggles that came with the move behind them, Maron can look back confidently knowing he did everything right with no regrets. “We’ve been looking for a new building for three years. We finally found it and didn’t settle for different things,” he said. “We wanted it to be the right location. The physical move took probably four or five weeks. It was another month to six weeks for construction.” On top of that achievement, the company was named the top Adrian Steel dealer in New England for 2016. Achievements like these don’t just happen, of course. It takes everything you’ve got and more, according to Maron. “The fish don’t jump in the boat when you go fishing. You gotta work hard,” he said. “I think moving into this new building is the top of the mountain for me right now. But you gotta go get the business. You can’t just sit on your rear end.” The business’ mission statement, according to Maron, is an acronym: YCDBSOYA. “It stands for ‘You can’t do business sitting on your ass.’ How often do you see guys at a car dealership sitting around talking? Why can’t they be on the phone talking to people they sold to last year instead of sitting around talking all day?” he said. “Read the book, ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ Work hard, work smart. Don’t be complacent.”    37

 behind the scenes


The beginning of car audio is rooted in the early 1970s when CB radio and 8-track players were a big deal—before the first sound-off events were staged in the late ’80s. Out on the West Coast, a movement had started. Folks wanted more out of their cars than the standard sonic fare. A group of enthusiasts had an idea about what needed to be done and started building 12-volt audio amplifiers. This was the backdrop for Audiomobile, launched with industry pioneers Paul Starry and Rich Coe at the helm. The company name, of course, says it all. “It is a landscape name,” said Matt Overpeck, Vice President of Audiomobile. “It says exactly who we are—audio and mobile—and it is an absolute legacy brand. Many would say it is the genesis of high-end car audio.” The original Audiomobile from Costa Mesa, Overpeck said, not only put Starry and Coe on the map, but Larry Frederick and other luminaries like John Bishop, who literally wrote the book on highend car audio. “They had a technical

38  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

Audiomobile keeps its cutting edge with selective products, a prestige brand and a handful of savvy retailers. training manual that they published on a quarterly basis that was the vanguard of teaching retailers about audio and stereo,” Overpeck said. Audiomobile was not only at the forefront of the high-end car audio evolution then, but has managed to survive being bought, shuttered and re-launched. Today, according to the company’s web site, Audiomobile is fully committed to delivering products that represent a “no compromise” philosophy. “We have no Internet sales, we do business with no distributors, we are in some respects the antithesis of your typical car audio brand,” Overpeck said. “In fact, we actually say that we’re not a car audio brand, but a solutions-based audio engineering company that develops products for the automotive platform.” From terminology like the 6-channel (front-rear sub) architecture to the “amp rack” concept, Audiomobile—according to company lore—brought these technologies to the mobile audio world. These days the company maintains its standing with targeted product offerings,

Matt Overpeck serves as Vice President of Audiomobile.

working exclusively with boutique specialty shops that can handle the kind of installs its products demand, said Overpeck, and which also have the discerning clientele that Audiomobile is interested in courting.

Audiomobile sets up shop at KnowledgeFest last August. The manufacturer does business with a select group of retailers. “We have been at CES for the last seven years but we always exhibit off-site because we’re not interested in the typical tire kickers,” Overpeck said, adding that the company also seeks to avoid the drama and excessive costs of CES. “It is a union town so if you want to hang a sign over your booth, it’s 10 grand. The logistics in and out are obscene. It just doesn’t make sense for us since we are incredibly selective about who we do business with. We’re pretty much on an invitation-only basis.”

Turning The Tide The car audio business over the years attracted many types without much need for credentials, according to Overpeck. “The barriers to entry on any level—manufacturer, retailer, rep—were about as thin as a dime, “he said. “Anyone could get into the game. It attracted a lot of people looking for low hanging fruit. No problem, but then comes 2008 which was a real paradigm shift.”

At that point, people didn’t have a lot of discretionary money, so the only thing that was selling was cheap. “Since a company’s prime directive is to survive, and if the only thing that is selling is cheap, then you’re making cheap stuff,” he said. “As a result that dragged down the average selling price, dragged down reliability, and put a real burden on retailers because then they’re selling to fewer customers at lower prices at lower margins. It was a perfect storm—a triple hit—and it persisted for quite some time.” Thankfully car audio, and the consumer electronics industry overall, has seen a resurgence and the tide has turned. “People are buying vinyl records and record players again,” Overpeck said. “There is an elasticity to the U.S. consumer buying cycles and mindset. What people have figured out, now that things have stabilized with the economy, is that if they have money to spend—and I am hearing this from lots of retailers—consumers want better quality. They don’t

want to buy junk. If you couple that with a car audio industry where retailers are now in the business of integrating into computers on wheels, it has thinned the herd to a large degree.”

It Takes Two While some companies are looking to offer a broader mix of product, Audiomobile has streamlined its offerings with two categories—subwoofers and OEM interface preamps. The original Elite series has been shipping for about five years and the company is now producing its second generation. Audiomobile’s biggest series, the GTS 21 Series (more bass from a smaller space) and Evo 24 Series (higher performance in a smaller package) have also been in the marketplace for a couple of years and are doing well, Overpeck said. “We have pivoted a bit from where we were and now we’re in two categories,” he continued. “Our LineDrive Series— designed to easily upgrade a factory   39

 behind the scenes audio system—includes high-performance OEM-interfaced pre-amplifiers, not to be confused with line-output converters. These are used specifically to take the high power of factory system amplifiers and connect to the factory amp and then allow you to add aftermarket amplifiers. We are only in these two categories, but these are the solutions that retailers need.” While the connected car has brought with it a plethora of new product possibilities, Overpeck said the strategy for Audiomobile is to keep it simple and to stick to what dealers need to thrive. “At the end of the day, whatever you’re trying to put into the car, it has to be able to fit, and it has to provide a compelling value because that is what drives retail,” Overpeck said. “We have a nice balance

A pallet shipment is prepped.

40  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

providing solutions that allow retailers to upgrade factory systems. As everyone knows, the single biggest improvement you can make in a factory audio vehicle system is to add bass. It means you can push your system, push the subwoofer much harder, and it doesn’t stress the existing factory system. Consumers get the biggest bang for the buck by adding subwoofers.”

Got Chops? While Audiomobile requires no minimums of its dealers, there are some basic requirements for those who are interested in carrying the brand. “We’re principally concerned that the shop has the chops to do the proper level of work,” Overpeck said. “It’s the first criteria we look at. If they don’t measure up then we’re not

interested. Otherwise you’re just inviting bad performing systems which ultimately hurt the brand.” As of now, according to Overpeck, the company only does business with the top five percent of retailers in the industry. “It narrows us but we have become very important to those guys,” he said. In return, he added, these retailers appreciate that Audiomobile doesn’t publish any pricing for their products. “That is an attractive cocktail,” he said. “We refer to our brand as a co-op private label. What we mean is if you look at car audio at the big box stores, the last man standing is Best Buy. It is not coincidental that they have three private label brands.” What is most important for a manufacturer to do for its retailers, according to Overpeck, is create so much demand that


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 behind the scenes

A Ferrari 488 gets overhauled with Audiomobile.

Audiomobile’s LDV6 summing preamp is part of the LineDrive series which offers an upgrade to a vehicle’s system.

of solutions then the customer, with all things being equal, will buy the cheapest.”

Drop-Ins Done Right Looking ahead, the company has built out the middle of their product line and will have some less expensive options later this year in addition to pricier ones people will stand in line and fork over as well, according to Overpeck. cash for its goods. Referencing BMW’s step-up strategy, “The next best thing is to provide your Overpeck said, “We have nailed our 3 retailers with a treseries solutions mendous and and will be compelling introducing value proposome 5 and 7 sition,” he said. series products “When anyone later this year—next today starts doing the quarter.” research to buy someBut after that, thing, the first thing they do is Audiomobile is getting check out Amazon or eBay to find out the into a new product catestablished egory: dual The Elite Series offers low profile depth the street form-factor and a reduced enclosure footprint, designed to price. There enclosures. are hundreds address an affordable, cast-frame performance “Enclosures driver family. of options go with in the subsubwoofwoofer realm—and in every category for ers like cookies go with milk,” Overpeck that matter—but the big problem for our said. “There is a growing trend of drop-in brick-and-mortar retailers is that it can bass. A customer walks in and wants be very difficult for them to compete with something to sit behind the seat or online pricing. They need products that right under the seat of his truck. With are aesthetically attractive, super reliable, this product line, the dealer can do a sound great, and fit better than anything demo and it’s a done deal. The retailer else. If the retailers can’t offer those kinds doesn’t have to make a box. So we will be

An Audiomobile driver undergoes Klippel Laser testing, as does every sub the company manufactures.

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offering principally unloaded enclosures, but they’re specifically designed for our drivers.” Essentially, the company is taking things a step further. “Since inventory dollars are

The GTS-250 was designed to address the need for a highperformance subwoofer, which would not compromise power-handling, excursion or sound-quality. incredibly dear, we realized if the dealers are selling loaded enclosures as well as raw drivers then they basically have double inventory dollars,” he said. “The beauty of our system will allow our retailers to drop in whichever of our raw drivers meets the price point the customer wants to hit and allows them to sell what they have inventory-wise. It is that IKEA concept—just screw the driver into the box and presto, they have a drop-in solution.” Above all, the name lives on. “What we want to do above anything else is give our dealers a strategic advantage in terms of reliability, profitability, and attractive price points while providing solutions.” 














Installation Everything.


















TE   43 • 800-444-1644

 strategy & tactics

The right manager can help a shop move smoothly in a positive direction. Three profitable retailers share best practices for bringing in new labor as well as management-level employees. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

high standards. “When you work for someone who doesn’t have those standards and you have to compromise, it’s almost demeaning.” All of Cartronix’s staff members have been with the company for twoplus years. Eric Carter, owner Troy White, Service Manager at Cartronix in Valparaiso, Ind. of Cartronix, stated that when leader should unite and he’s looking for a new hire, he generally inspire the team, not only looks on the Internet for someone who innovating and making the might be interested in relocating. He workplace more efficient, but checks the 12-volt industry website, allowing others around them to feel enerand also Facebook. What’s he looking gized by their passion for the industry. for? “Someone who wants to gain new Troy White is the newest addition to the experiences,” Carter said. “I also talk to team at Cartronix in Valparaiso, Ind. and friends in the industry.” For two to three has filled the position of service manager. years, Carter needed a service manager When White planned to relocate from for the shop, but just couldn’t find the Iowa in order to be near his new grandright fit. It’s important to find the right son, he hoped to find a workplace that fit person for the job, and each business well with his values. has its own hiring practices—some more “I had, through my research, already complicated and in-depth than others. got the feeling that Cartronix was aligned with my values and beliefs as far as The Hiring Process how things should be done and how When interviewing candidates for any customers should be treated,” he said, position, carefully assessing responses adding that he appreciated the business’s and the body language of the individual


44  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

can be utilized to gain some insight. While it’s great to agree with one’s coworkers, having a good mix of different viewpoints can bring new ideas and concepts on board. Without these new ideas and fresh mindsets, an organization can become stagnant. Mike Bartells of Extreme Audio, Inc. in Mechanicsville, Va. stated they have a complicated hiring process to help weed out anyone who isn’t serious. “In a way, we overcomplicate our hiring process to naturally weed out the people not willing to put out the effort,” Bartells said. “Someone who is not going to put in effort now won’t do it two years down the road as they’ve gotten comfortable.” Jeff West of Benchmark Auto Sound & Security in Springfield, Ill. has a similar approach to hiring. Certain answers give him an indication as to the individual’s mindset. “There’re many trick questions I ask,” he said. “Like what’s more important, making money or doing a job well? If someone answers making money, well, that’s fine—but you don’t want to take a shortcut just because you want to make commission. Generally, the answer I’m looking for is ‘doing a job well,’ because if you do, money will follow anyway.” West added that the candidate interviewing for the position should demonstrate friendliness and enthusiasm. They should also believe in “the golden rule,” he added. “If I get a good read on all that kind of stuff, then they’re generally going to work out really well.”

Carter, like the others, aims to hire They discussed the possible job both by for the job. for the long haul. “I always know there phone and via in-person interviews. “Next However, it took Carter a long time can be turnover,” he said. “It depends thing you know, he was on board.” to find the person he’d been looking for. on the individual’s family As many retailers and and relationships. There’s business owners will agree, a lot of unknowns that finding the right person can happen. I try to think for any job can be very they’re going to be there difficult. Finding someone for the long haul. I see five, for a management six, seven years.” position—perhaps more so. Before White joined At Benchmark, West the team at Cartronix, handles the job of he explored the situation managing the business, to gain a feel for it. For but one of the long-time Carter, it was clear his installers “is in essence new service manager the installation manager,” knew what he was doing. West said. “[He] takes on “When I first met Troy, responsibility to make sure I could tell within a few we have all our supplies, seconds that he was very carpets, vinyls … Basically knowledgeable of what he alleviates me from having did,” Carter said. “He was to do those tasks so I very confident in himself, can get more active in Extreme Audio has a complicated hiring process to weed out in his mannerisms, so I marketing or some other those who aren’t driven to succeed at the highest level. knew right away that he’d productive things … to be a perfect fit.” help grow the business.” The hiring process and In another instance, West seeking employees for management White came to Cartronix with roughly had also promoted from within when it positions is different for each company, 25 years of experience behind him. “I came to the sales team. A salesperson but there are still a lot of similarities— had started following Cartronix when was brought into sales management including the difficulty of attracting we first decided to move out here for our training in order to help the staff. “We new people to the industry, according to grandson,” White recalled. He reached out did well doing that, again alleviating Bartells. “I believe we need something to Eric and some of the employees. After responsibilities from me,” West said, to create interest in this industry,” he submitting a résumé, and having a phone adding that the sales staff manager left added. “It was always driven by hobbyists interview, it happened that White was for another job and hasn’t worked there and people who just did it because they in the area for the birth of his grandson. in some time. enjoy it. With the amount of technical “We had a face-to-face interview and Promoting from within can be a knowledge needed now, I think what a couple months later, he called and good way of filling a management-level we’re missing is [people who have] the wanted to know my timeframe. It was position. The candidate is already known desire, the interest to learn within the company. On the the inner workings of this other hand, Carter explained “In a way, we overcomplicate our hiring stuff.” that he’d hired another process to naturally weed out the people tech to fill the position of The Right Match window tinter who didn’t not willing to put out the effort. Someone At Cartronix, Troy White’s actually have experience who is not going to put in effort now won’t job is to oversee everything tinting windows. “We sent do it two years down the road as they’ve in the installation bays. He him to trainings to become ensures work is being done my window tinter,” Carter gotten comfortable.” properly, including product said. “He didn’t have any - Mike Bartells, Extreme Audio installation and fabrication bad habits and didn’t have jobs. Carter recalled how any know-how to do it, so he White first arrived when he was visiting probably a month after that we moved learned correctly the first time on how to from Iowa. “He stopped by one time out here.” Though handling everything do everything. You can mold them into when he was in the area, and him and long distance was a challenge for White, the person that you want, really. Now, I met and hung out in my showroom.” it went well, and he was the right match with our industry, finding a good tech is   45

 strategy & tactics extremely hard to do nowadays. I think we all know that.” Extreme Audio tends to attract veterans of the 12-volt industry, according to Bartells. While the business usually leans on referrals from current employees, he noted that this may become a problem in the future. “Most people have been here for a while and have worked with other people and know who they were happy working with,” Bartells said. “We have a good camaraderie amongst employees because everyone knows each other and gets along with everyone.” Because of the difficulty in finding good technicians, Bartells feels this may become problematic over time as veterans within the industry get older. “We do have a procedure set up and ready for when we need to start training people the way we want things done,” he said, adding that “just finding that interest level, and really bringing up the payroll to make it more enticing to people” may prove to be an issue when it comes to finding the right match among newcomers to the industry. West stated that finding out whether someone is looking for a career, or just a job, can be discovered during the interview process. “I always go through a two- or three-step interview process,” he said, noting the candidate must have good aptitude and experience. “A lot of people know what you want to hear, but in our business, it’s easy to say something I like to hear, but I want to test their knowledge,” West explained. “I also bring them in under a trial period, three to five days.” The trial period is paid, and West uses this time to analyze how they work as well as how they interact with customers and fellow employees. “I get input from the rest of the staff on their feelings because they’re going to have to work with them just like I have to. We

Cartronix found a service manager online by looking for someone who shared the shop’s core values but was open to learning new things. 46  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

make a team decision to bring someone in.” When he’s assessing a possible new hire, West asks the individual what they see themselves doing in five years. While things can change, it still helps to get a feel for what the person is looking for. “I want to make sure I create an environment that promotes retention. I’m kind of a good read on personalities. Different personality traits will help the whole staff be a cohesive unit.” As for how things are going at Cartronix, Carter said, “[Troy is] doing excellent.” White came to work at the shop just before Thanksgiving. “He came to us in our real busy season for remote car starters, and was able to tackle everything with that.”

The Next Wave Having worked in a number of different shops, and at one time owning a shop, White has seen different types of customers and various ways of doing things. The customer base at Cartronix isn’t what he’d become accustomed to in the past. “Our typical customer is coming in for safety or remote start … which is different than what I am used to as well,” he said, adding that he’s had to adjust to a new and different market. As service manager, White stated that he would like to go to Mobile Solutions to expand his own personal training. Cartronix will also be going to KnowledgeFest. “I’m constantly talking to everyone, trying to keep up to speed on what is new and what new ways to approach things,” he said. “Just today I was looking on Musicar Northwest’s website and there was a quote on their approach that just blew me away. It made me kind of stop in my tracks and think about what they said, how they said it and the deeper meaning of it.” White noted that even authorized retailers have been dropping prices and continuing the “race to zero.” As an industry, he added, “we should be coming together to raise our profit margins, not reduce, because they’re already bad enough as it is especially in certain categories.” At Cartronix, the team is diversifying

in terms of what they can offer clients. “Last year, we brought on window tint and detailing, and I know Eric has other plans on expanding the business here … different categories to help us diversify and maximize our profit.” The staff at Cartronix is small, which is something that White said he hadn’t noticed until he arrived. His role as service manager is multi-faceted. “I’ve affected processes and efficiency, scheduling and communication,” White explained, adding that it all relates to being prepared. “When I first got here, it seemed we were flying a little loose by the seat of our pants.” He focused on tightening things up, planning and organizing as much as possible. “I think things are smoother in that respect,” he said. “Scheduling as well, so we don’t overbook but we’re not standing around with nothing to do.” In the past, White worked at shops that were

family businesses, which he noted was a completely different dynamic. Retailers agree that hiring someone for the long haul is the only way to go, especially when it comes to management. West noted that it takes a lot of time to integrate a new employee, and at Benchmark Auto Sound & Security, he aims to lead by example. “I have no problem mopping floors,” he said. “[We] always have awards every year—employee of the year award, service award, sales master award, honoring people who are doing things above and beyond.” Benchmark also takes the employees to concerts for special outings. “Next month we’re going to a Pink Floyd cover band. I’m taking the whole staff and we’re going to see a rock and roll show.” West also hosts a cookout at his house each year. “Treat everyone fairly and they’ll stick around for a long time.”    47

 tech today

DSP Tunin

Ken Ward of Educar Training opens this series with a tutorial on obtaining a quality audio signal through OEM signal testing.


It seems like one of the hottest segments of our industry is OEM integration. More and more cars are coming with head units clients want to keep. Oftentimes, their sound quality isn’t bad. The speakers, amplifiers and subwoofers could always use an upgrade, though. Once those pieces are replaced, their performance can be maximized with a digital signal processor. There has

48  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

been a recent uptick in the number of manufacturers that are offering DSPs. Selling a DSP to a client is only a small part of the equation. If you sell the DSP, you also shoulder the responsibility of tuning it. Tuning, like sound, can be a subjective thing. If you ask five different people how to tune, you are likely to get five different answers. They all may come to the same general conclusion, but the paths to get there might be different. I thought it would be beneficial to put together a whole series on first getting

a good audio signal from a factory radio, and then using the audio signal in conjunction with tuning a DSP. To address the subjective nature of tuning, I have invited a number of top tuners in the country to provide their input on their processes. A glimmering light on the horizon is that of multi-channel audio in cars. One of our writers will address not only two-channel, but also multi-channel tuning. Our first guest writer is Ken Ward. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending

ng, Part 1 time with Ken on a number of occasions. There’s never a dull moment around Ken! If his name doesn’t sound familiar to you, it should. He is part owner of Musicar Northwest. His partner, Tom Miller, has also contributed to tech articles in the past. Ken is a seasoned industry veteran with over 30 years of experience. Ken has contributed to MECP manuals and worked with CEA in the past. Most recently, Ken has begun trainings focusing on OEM Integration. He has coined them “Educar Trainings.” Ken also

provides the industry with OEM testing tools available at www.educartraining. com. Read on to see how Ken simplifies the process of analyzing and using an OEM signal with just three questions.

The Backstory (Ken’s Part) Back in 2003, my then-fiancé bought a 2004 Acura TSX. Sure, it was a Honda Accord wearing leather, but it had a very nice—for the time—eight-inch touchscreen navigation system. It had a distributed architecture—the screen was

separate from the AM/FM/in-dash CD changer, and the navigation computer was in the trunk. Changing that receiver was completely impractical in 2003, and frankly, it still is. Back in the mid-80s, when I started in car audio, one of the basic tenets I was taught was “don’t ever use the stock radio.” Well, here I was with a mid-priced sedan I just couldn’t change the radio in! So, I started researching. I ordered a real-time analyzer, I hacked up a microphone cable, and I started trying   49

 tech today

to figure out what I needed to do to get good sound in that car. It turned out the TSX was pretty straightforward. At the same time, JL Audio came out with a device for OEM integration, and Manville Smith posted on some online forums with detailed information about the Acura TL’s audio system. They were meaningfully different. What worked in one would not work in the other. This complexity is the problem we as an industry wrestle with today—what works in one car doesn’t work in another. Back in the mid-80s, when I started, adding door lock control to an alarm was sort of black magic. The install department wanted a lot of money to do it, and a lot of time, and, in general, it was seen as a pain in the neck. Fast forward ten or fifteen years, and door locks were a very common addition and took very little time. One reason for this was that a very basic formula had been adopted for door lock types—Positive, Negative, and Five-Wire covered 95 percent of the door locks we saw in the 90s. (Nowadays, door locks have gotten a bit more complex, and are often handled via data and require no specific wiring at all.) The Three Questions was born as a way to reduce the big question of “what do I

50  Mobile Electronics  May 2017

need to install?” to as basic a formula as possible. The Three Questions are used to decide what the proper product is to install. There is no perfect OE-integration product—there are only appropriate products for your project. There are some great products out there that might be completely inappropriate for your vehicle or your gear. It’s worth remembering that we need a usable analog signal to amplify. Some devices plug into fiber-optic networks, but they are a rarity. Where do we find analog signals? They might be at the head unit. If the system uses deck power, that’s where they will be. If there’s an amplifier, the signal between the amp and the head unit might be usable, or it might not. It needs to include all the signals we need, like hands-free calling audio and warning chimes, and it needs to be affected by the volume control. The output of the OEM amplifier is always usable, and that is also accessible at the speakers themselves. So, there’s a bit of detective work required to sort this part out. The Three Questions Process “OE Integration is the future of our industry.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that, but it certainly seems to mean different things to different people.

There’s one thing which seems to be a constant, though: we aren’t changing the head unit in the dash. Whether we’re adding functions, or upgrading the sound downstream, it’s not going anywhere. Adding amplifiers to stock receivers, though, is often problematic. In a recent online poll of professional installers, 98 percent of those using the Three Questions process thought that it should become an industry standard. Well, we aren’t the computer industry. We don’t have standards committees. But until something better comes along, this seems to be a pretty useful tool in the installation bay. So, what the heck are the Three Questions?

The Three Questions are: • What is the signal type? • What is the signal range? • What is the signal response? Each of those questions has three possible answers.

Signal Type? • Preamp • Standard speaker • High-voltage speaker

Signal Range? Ever use a passive line We need to output converter find a signal on a signal from with all the notes a stock head unit, we need. If we on its way to the are adding a stock amplifier, subwoofer and and have lots the signal we of noise-floor “grab” only has issues? LOCs are midrange notes, designed for use well, we’re going with speaker-level to have a bad voltages—usually time. How do we eight- to tentest this? With a volt maximum. pink-noise test Using them track, a realon low-voltage time analyzer of preamp signals some kind, and attenuates that a cable to get the one- to two-volt electrical signal preamp signal into that realeven more, and time analyzer. then you have to No microphone turn up the gain is needed. In A factory low-passed signal, typically found on a subwoofer. on the amplifier a pinch, you you’re installing can use various sort of signal can melt passive LOCs, and in order to hear test tones and it can smoke the input stage of active anything, and then you hear noises you measure the voltage of each, but the speaker-level inputs, and it can clip those never thought possible! The solution? production way to do this is really a realinputs pretty easily before it smokes Test for the difference between preamp time analyzer. them. Very important to test this with a and speaker-level voltages. Use a sine voltmeter or oscilloscope with modern wave test track and your voltmeter or cars. oscilloscope. The high-voltage speaker is basically Signal Range? Signal Response? any speaker signal which exceeds battery • Full-range • Flat or flat with auto-loudness voltage. It tells us that the factory • Partial-range, usable crossover • Fixed pre-emphasis or fixed with amplifier in question has a switching point auto-loudness power supply, and can generate voltages • Partial-range, Unusable crossover • Dynamically changing response above that of a standard BTL deck. This

point   51

 tech today

A factory high-passed signal, typically used on speakers to protect them from too much bass.

Good thing we found a real-time analyzer for the previous question, because we need it to answer this one as well. We play a pink-noise track, and test the electrical signal we have found with our real-time analyzer probes. Flat signals have no pre-emphasis or equalization. Auto-loudness provides a slight bass boost and perhaps a slight treble boost at low volumes, and this maps onto how we hear, so there’s no need to worry about correcting auto-loudness. However, signals with preemphasis usually need correction. If you’re putting in good speakers, and the signal out of the stock system is pre-equalized specifically for the stock speakers, installing good speakers won’t usually give you the results you expect. Good speakers are designed to sound great with a flat signal. It’s very risky to hope that the signal optimized for a lowperformance audio system is going

to make a set of high-performance speakers sound the way they should. Finally, the only way to detect if the signal has a dynamicallychanging response is to test it at various volumes. This is the signal most forgotten test in the Three Questions process, but it’s what can get us into a lot of trouble. If there is a significant dynamically-changing response present, we better install our own volume control somewhere, and we better explain to the client why having a new master volume is good. Hint: DON’T scare the client about the new volume knob! I recommend telling them “we tuned the system for best sound at 26 clicks. Use your volume controls the way you normally would, but if you ever notice it not sounding quite as good as it sounds right now, set the volume back to 26 clicks and use this knob, and that will take care of it.”




Device Question List


Maximum Voltage In?


Number of Channels In?

Input Equalizer?


Product A







Product B







Product C







Product B would be a terrible choice. It doesn’t handle the voltage, and it has a lot of other functions which are not needed and which add to its price. (In most cases, we wouldn’t use Product C, but in some situations, we might—a topic for another day). So, what if we are doing a full audio installation in this same car? This car has low-passed woofer channels and highpassed mid/tweeter channels, all with pre-emphasis applied.

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Well, now Product A won’t do what we need. We could use two of them, one on the bass and one on the midrange/treble signal—but Product C is much more appropriate, in that it handles enough channels in and sums them together, and corrects the pre-emphasis back to flat. What it won’t do is allow sophisticated equalization of the output, or do time delay, or let us actively crossover-filter various channels. If we need to do that, we need to find another way to do it.

Well, Product B lets us do all that, along with a number of others. What if we want to do all that cool stuff? Then we better figure out how to deal with that high voltage, and in this case, using Product A in front of Product B would be one way to do it. Using Product C in front of Product B would be another. (Another would be assembling a resistor ladder to reduce the voltage going into Product B).


Follow-up Solutions I answered the Three Questions now what? So, how do you know if you have the right product to solve these problems? Here is a list of questions which I recommend that you know how to answer about your OE integration products. I have entered in three actual products on the market today, but I haven’t identified them for obvious reasons. None of these products are bad, but the engineers who designed them meant them to solve very different problems.

So, let’s say that we have a subwoofer-add installation scheduled into a 2015 BMW 3 Series with Harman/Chardon sound. You test the amplifier’s output and determine that it’s a high-voltage signal going to the stock woofers, reaching 28-volt peaks. We aren’t worried about summing. We only need two channels—but we better be able to handle that voltage. A passive line-output converter will eventually fail if we use that, and an amplifier with speaker-level inputs will do the same. Product A is a great solution for this.

Using a summing device and the high and low passed signals can result in a good, useable signal with which to build an audio system. This signal was post JL Audio Fix device, and it definitely benefitted from some EQ help. A Fourth Question?

Output Equalizer?

Volume Control?







Lately, we have run into a new wrinkle—outputs which need loads. Some OEM amplifiers mute their outputs if the load they “see” isn’t close enough to the speaker they were designed to power. Some OEM amplifiers distort the signal badly when they attempt to drive a device, rather than the speaker they were designed to power. This has become more common lately, and the answer seems to be using an external load of some kind. 47-ohm or 50-ohm resistors with 5W of power handling are something you should absolutely keep on hand, and some manufacturers are supplying more complex loading circuits as an accessory. Again, something to order and put on the shelf before you need them.

A New Category of Product—Vehicle-specific Preamps Some of those stock amplifiers are difficult to get good sound out of. A few

suppliers are now offering what I call vehicle-specific preamps, such as the Maestro AR from iDatalink and the Amp Pro from PAC. These devices plug into the vehicle, “grab” the signals going into the factory amplifier (which is, for various reasons, unusable—no volume control, audio and hands-free signals are separate, no tone controls, etc.), and also connect to the vehicle data bus. When the stock volume control is used, this new preamp executes that command, and gives us great-sounding audio. These are great tools for us, and I look forward to this category growing in the years to come. There’s no one manufacturer out there who can solve every problem for us, but there are a lot of products out there today which solve some of them. Identifying the problems that need to be solved is an important capability in today’s installation bays, and that requires a real-time analyzer, some test tracks, a test cable and a process. This process works—give it a try!   53

 installs


Using his Facebook page to promote his work paid off for Rodriguez as he received a job from client Chris McGray to build this 1994 Chevy Impala. Parts used included four JL Audio 10W6v2-D4 subwoofers and two HD1200/1 amplifiers. Two sets of JL Audio C3 components were used inside the vehicle.

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 installs


Needing to build a demo car in only three days for Expo Car Audio Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico with 4LR (4 Loudest Reasons), past Mobile Electronics Installer of the Year JT Torres knew he needed help. He called upon friend and fellow past Installer of the Year, Tom Miller, to help design it. Miller rendered the build and provided Torres with some pointers on how to execute the work. “The vehicle was built to be displayed at the expo. I was invited by Andy Garcia, Fermin Cabrera and Ignacio Torres to help teach the training and built the Audi TT. Antonio Excamilla and Omar Villa were in charge of the vehicle wiring. Tom Miller did an amazing job with the rendering and gave me some pointers on how he would go about building it,” Torres said. “Special thanks to our partners that made this possible: Mobile Solutions USE, Soundskins, RE Audio and Audison Mexico.” RE Audio provided four 8-inch, filed-down subwoofers, while Audison provided a bit One processor and wiring. Soundskins sound deadener was used in the trunk with Mobile Solutions router bits used to help fabricate.

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µ guest editorial

Is Marine Audio the Holy Grail?

Here’s one category that may help you expand your 12-volt business.

With the Spring audio season upon us, most mobile retailers get excited about this time of year. Spring brings new products and customers are enjoying the outdoors and cruising/car show season begins. What’s not to love? Here at the office we have even started barbequing for lunch! It is a great time to refocus and get ready for the hustle of audio season. This time of the year, most shop owners start to consider new areas of revenue. In the past two years, many manufacturers have been throwing their hats into the ring to fight for a piece of the marine industry’s audio business. Rockford Fosgate, MB Quart, Memphis and many others have dedicated divisions to the category they call Motorsports. Many manufacturers are putting all their research and development money exclusively into this category. Should you? There are many factors to consider. Geography “That’s a no brainer. I have three lakes within 100 kilometers (70 miles),” you might say. I am not referring solely to lakes in your area. I am referring to oceans, rivers and lakes in the geographic area. How are these vessels (boats) different? Ocean-going vessels usually use white equipment, must be seawater resistant, may or may not have a wake board/speaker tower and the radio must have a nautical weather channel to be legal. Nine times out of 10, river vessels do not have wake board/ speaker towers and have a very open all-aluminum hull. Lake vessels usually have wake board towers and use silver, black or white products. Market Demand Do you have marinas or boat mooring options nearby? For example, ask yourself how many marinas are within 100 kilometers (70 miles). Ask yourself, “How many customers do I want, how many builds?” Is your goal to do 10 boats or 50? Let’s say there are three marinas within your area, and one hundred boats at each facility including dry dock options (boats not stored on the water). Rough math would mean 300 boats. If your goal was to work on 10 percent of the boats, your perfect season would be 30 boats, or 30 customers. This might mean a simple speaker swap or larger water shaking system. Your Installation Facility This is a huge consideration, but it does not have to hold you back! Some storefronts are blessed to have a 30-foot-long

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installation bay with 12-foot ceilings and shop doors at both ends. But not many. Ask yourself these questions: “Can I fit a 16-foot boat with three to five feet of clearance all the way around the boat?” “Can I maneuver a boat safely in and out of the installation bay?” This would include security poles and vehicles. If the answer is “no” to either of these questions, there are still options. Remember how I mentioned marinas? Go to the marina, set up a truck with orange cones around it and place a sandwich board beside it stating, “ABC Audio on-site and available for any questions.” Add your contact info. Then place another sandwich board on the wharf next to the boat you are working on. The marina is great place to talk to people. This shows them that Bob the boat owner trusts you, so why shouldn’t Dave? This allows you the opportunity to talk to marina staff and makes you visible to the other boat owners (free advertising and it’s face-to-face time). You did not need to dedicate any additional space for expansion in this category. But…you will have to dedicate tools, shop supplies and some product for this type of installation service. Having an on-site vehicle is an expense, but at least you can move all the assets inside your storefront in the off-season. Sellable Products/Talk the Talk You need to have marine specific products, with features that mean something to marine customers. Let’s talk boat tower speakers: These speakers are going to get wet, either by a power washer or the elements. It’s just the way it is in this type of installation. A typical coax speaker has a tweeter mounted on a pole coming through the dust cap of a speaker. Water can simply get in through the gap between the midrange and tweeter and destroy the internals of the speaker. Some manufacturers use an accordion-style boot to seal the space between the midrange and tweeter to keep out the water, but this is a moving part. The midrange will move in and out and the rubber will break down over time. This is still a decent solution for keeping water out of the speaker. Is Marine Audio the holy grail? Only time will tell. Does it offer a new revenue stream for your business? Absolutely! With a small investment of an “outside installation team,” a couple of sandwich boards, and taking the time to research some quality brands, you can be up and running quickly. But be strategic, look for opportunities to enter the marine audio market. Marinas offer a captive audience, a measurable demographic and a new profitable business category for your store. 

VOXX is delivering more choices in device connectivity, more capability to enhance entertainment and more value than ever before. Our NEW Overhead and Headrest systems incorporate certified HDMI/MHL inputs, giving the user direct connection to any HDMI/MHL enabled device: smart phones, tablets, even Smart-TV devices such as Roku, Chromecast and Amazon FireTV Smart Sticks. VOXX Mobile Video products make your entertainment possibilities endless, delivering high-definition content and the best quality in sound. VOXX Mobile Video Systems offer the latest technology enhancements, giving users optimized features and functionality that fits into a more convenient lifestyle.

Tops and Trends has had great success with Voxx mobile video products. Car Dealerships may tell you the mobile video category is stagnant due to handheld mobile devices, however we disagree. Mobile video preload programs work when sales staff are properly educated, vehicles properly displayed and customers encouraged to view a demonstration. We find consumers are excited about SmartTV and web streaming functionality that allows for expanded in vehicle viewing options that were previously unavailable. The relatively low increase in monthly payment makes this an easy up sell. - Joey Johnson

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Mobile Electronics Magazine May 2017  
Mobile Electronics Magazine May 2017  

Mobile Electronics Magazine May 2017