Page 1

November 2017


Brain Trust:

4 fab masters collab for Focal

Family Affair:

M.E.S.A. Summit resembles reunion

Snake Support:

Directed does email, phone & forum

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Volume 34// Issue 11



FEATURES 12 // What’s Happening: M.E.S.A. Summit 2017

Retailers from all over the country converged in Denver, Co. this past September to educate each other in this year’s M.E.S.A. Summit. The event featured its first-ever show floor, which included four Pioneer vehicle builds from four different members.

28 // Real World Retail: Sound Connection, Inc.

After starting from scratch with no experience in business aside from being the son of small business owners, Ben Larson chased his passion and opened Sound Connection, Inc. bringing his brother on three years later. Today, the company sits atop the industry as Retailer of the Year, an accolade almost unthinkable 22 years ago.

Accele Electronics...................................... p. 2 & ®3 American Bass ................................................... p. 31 American Road Products ............................ p. 53 Businessworx ................................................... p. 27 Crux Interfacing Solutions ......................... p. 45 Custom Car Stereo ......................................... p. 45 Elettromedia: audison .................................. p. 37 Firstech: Compustar ...................................... p. 59 Harman: JBL .......................................................... p. 5 HD Radio ............................................................... p. 23 Hybrid Audio Technologies.......................... p. 26 InstallerNet ......................................................... p. 33 JL Audio .................................................................. p. 13 Memphis Audio ................................................. p. 43 Metra: iBeam ....................................................... p. 10 Mobile Electronics ........................................... p.49 Orca: Mosconi ...................................................... p. 11 Rocky Mountain Radar ......................... p. 20-21 Scosche ................................................................. p. 17 SiriusXM ................................................................ p. 15 Sony .......................................................................... p. 7 Voxx Electronics: FLASHLOGIC................. p. 60 Waylens ................................................................ p. 57

38 // The Support Team: Directed

From its humble beginnings as a vehicle security company, Directed Electronics has blossomed into a 12-volt powerhouse, complete with dedicated consumer service, tech support and dealer relations departments.

42 // Strategy & Tactics: Operation and Business Planning

Prepping for the year can be a daunting task, especially when you know the success or failure of your business rests with one season. Experts weigh in on how to maximize each season with proper planning.

46 // Tech Today: All Mixed Up, Part 1

Joey Knapp introduces a series on the use upmixers with multi-seat OEM integration. David MacKinnon kicks off the first part with background and explanation of the different types of systems installers encounter when starting their work on a new audio project.


On the Cover With so much going on this season, we felt it was important to highlight as many things as possible in this issue. Ben Larson’s Sound Connection had fun with its photo shoot thanks to the excitement it generated after winning Retailer of the Year. Tom Miller graces the cover as a representative of the popular Mobile Solutions build featured in our Installs section and the M.E.S.A. Summit gets the last slot given its impressive turnout and growing popularity this year. The fall selling season is off to a great start with more activities than even we can keep up with. COVER DESIGN: SOLOMON DANIELS

4  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

18 Retail News/Who’s Who 54 Installs

DEPARTMENTS 6 Feedback 8 Editor’s Forum 9 Stats 10 Helpful Stuff 24 Hot Sellers 58 From the President

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Boy George Had a Point The name of his iconic band is exactly what we need on our stores.

If you’ve determined that the culture of your store could be better, you can make it better, but you may have to make some tough decisions along the way. Here are four important points:

Since the 1980s, people have talked about power words: those things people say that make them sound learned, intelligent and informed. And while power ties, power lunches and power pyramids have gone the way of Michael J. Fox into 80s lore, power words have only changed with the times.

1. Culture starts at the top. Signs don’t make culture. Nor do slogans, mission statements or motivational videos. Culture is created by seeing people practice it, and by people, I mean ownership. Owners need to lead by example, which means being in store, taking care of customers, coaching and encouraging. If, as an owner, your store culture is low and you’re not out on the floor regularly, you need to put off whatever else you think is important and get back out there with your staffers.

The one word I am hearing lately (and it’s a good one) is culture. Not the “club” or “clash” variety, but the type that describes the environment of a place. Major sports teams credit good locker room culture with improvement and wins. Tech firm employees attribute good culture of a business as a major reason for staying. And recently, the word has popped up on video submissions of some of our best retailers. Ask someone what culture means and they may describe it using examples rather than getting to the root of the matter. But I’ll describe it this way: culture is a measurement of fulfillment. It may sound cliché, but the culture of a business is just as important as pay for most employees, which—in this day and age of SMRI (Social Media Reputation Inflation, or, to put it more clearly, “I put some cool install pics on Instagram, so you should pay me $100K a year to work for you”)—is a good thing. Ask yourself this question, whether you are an owner, manager or staffer: What’s the culture of your store? I’ve met many storeowners who have been lucky enough to have developed a good culture by accident, and others who can’t understand why there are so many problems despite their best efforts. Good culture has some common denominators: Teamwork is strong. Staff members support each other in working to achieve a goal everyone buys into. Employees feel empowered. Staff members are confident that they are allowed and trusted to do what it takes to make customers happy. Communication flows freely between management and staff. Ownership is available and engaged in the day-to-day of store operations, and staff members feel like their opinions and suggestions are taken seriously. Turnover is lower. Simply put, happy staffers stay. What are the common denominators of poor culture? The exact opposite of the above.

6  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

2. Culture requires champions. Just like how vendors use retail and installation “brand advocates” to grow product sales, your people need to believe in the culture you want to create and in turn become practicing examples with new employees and customers. Like billboard advertising, this requires repetition to be effective. Be consistent with your efforts and reward staffers for positive change. 3. Culture is susceptible to poison. An employee who disparages management and customers to other staffers (rather than coming to management directly) can become a cancer. You need to address it right away by finding out and managing the reason for dissatisfaction. Then you need to counsel the behavior, and if that doesn’t work, let the person go. If that person happens to be your best salesperson or installer, it’s a tough choice, but it’s also an opportunity to bring in someone who will share your vision for a great culture. 4. Culture requires constant feeding. You can’t rest on your laurels. Happy employees mean good business, and good business means competitive poaching. Keep working to evolve your culture and build cohesiveness within your team. Of course, make sure to get input—and buy-in—from your staff. If you need a selfish reason for establishing good culture in your store, here are three. Good culture will save you money. Employee investment is stable since you aren’t spending time and money to retrain new people every few months. Theft is lower since there is trust and accountability among your staff. And perhaps most important, you can go on a two-week vacation and not have to worry that your store’s fallen apart by the time you get back!

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 feedback

Fresh Perspectives Ata Ehdaivand wanted to try something new so he hosted a car audio competition at his shop, while Brett Hall believes in trying multiple options like training and new product lines to keep his store operating at its best.

ADVERTISING SALES Kerry Moyer 978.645.6457 • ®

EDITORIAL Solomon Daniels 978.645.6463 • Ted Goslin 978.645.6466 • Creative Layout and Design: Ana Ramirez

“Consumers expect and deserve professional sales and Installations. Train your staff! Check their work! Reward excellence!” Kimberly Trainer, Car-Tunes, Inc., Greenville, Miss.

be surprised at what may happen if you add another line. It brings excitement to your customers.” Brett Hall, Mobile Sound Solutions LLC, Angola, Ind.

“We had our first of many car audio competitions. It was a huge hit. We had a bunch of really neat cars come out from all over the East coast to compete in the rain! People were excited to come out and show off the sound systems they worked so hard to build. Many of the competitors were already asking about the next event! If I did it over, I would have planned it further in advance and done a traditional car show at the same time. I would also get some stuff for kids to do their face painting and a bounce house and fun stuff for the whole family. I guess I’ll do it next time.” Ata Ehdaivand, Absoute Electronix, Rockville, Md.

“Use social media more. More. More! Use multiple platforms because not everyone uses the same one”. Martin Branch, Lafayette Custom Automotive, Lafayette, La.

“For other retail owners I say just be open to new things. I see a lot of fellow retailers that get stuck in a rut. They hang on to the old and comfortable lines and habits. Send your staff out to training. As great as we all are, we all have something to learn from others. Be open to new brands. You could

“I had a big issue with a major manufacturer earlier this year and the steps and channels I used to voice my opinions and concerns within the industry. How I went about it towards the end and after dealing with the run around for three months, it received a lot more attention than I had imagined it would have. I received a ton of support and help from a lot of other industry individuals. The issue not only got resolved but I think it went even further than that. We are still currently in talks to not only bring the industry closer from every level but have better relationships so the retailers can pass that experience off to our customers (the manufactures, reps and distributor’s customers as well).” Ethan Blau, Sound Wave Customs, Virginia Beach, Va.

8  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

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 • Solomon Daniels, Dir. Media and Communications 978.645.6463 • 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: Oct. 1, 2017. 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: October 2017. 6. a) Total no. copies (net press run) Average: 10,237 Single Issue; 12,826. b) Paid/Requested mail subscriptions Average: 6,039, Single Issue: 7,346. c) Paid sales through dealers, etc.; Average: 0. Single issue; d) Requested distributed by other classes of mail: Average: 435, Single issue: 520. Total paid and/or requested circulation; Average 6039. Single issue: 6024. e) Non-requested distribution by mail; Average: 3,860 Single issue: 4,973. Free distribution through other classes of mail: Average: 0, Single issue: 0. f) Non-requested distribution outside the mail; Average: 267. Single issue: 750. g) Total non-requested distribution; Average 3860, Single issue: 4,973. h) Total distribution; Average: 9,899. Single issue: 12,319. i) Copies not distributed; h1) Office use, leftovers; Average: 338. Single Issue; 507 j) Total; Average: 10,237. 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

Face Off

Best methods to use Facebook for business include using it as a networking tool and afternoon being its most popular time of day. Number of Hours Per Week Spent on Facebook for Business-related Interactions

Most Active Time of Day on Facebook for Business Purposes

Network with retail professionals tech support from vendors

Primary Method For Using Facebook



Order products 13% Place store ads or boost store posts


Promote store with Facebook business page


I don’t use Facebook for business or profession 4% Interact with potential clients through Facebook Messenger 11%

Other Social Media Used for Business

 helpful stuff Book:

The Blue Zones Of Happiness: Lessons From The World’s Happiest People by Dan Buettner

With the Thanksgiving holiday later this month, it is a great time to reflect on what you have to be grateful for and all of the things that make you happy. For many of us, we sometimes lose sight of just enjoying life and cultivating joy in our day-to-day existence. Those who in live in the Blue Zones of the world have nine commonalities that lead to longer, healthier, and happier lives. In this book, you’ll find an inspiring guide to game-changing tools drawn from global research and from expert insights for how to achieve maximum fulfillment. Discover the three strands of happiness—pleasure, purpose, and pride—that feature prominently in the world’s happiest places. Take Blue Zones Happiness Test to pinpoint areas in your life where you could attain greater happiness, deeper meaning, and increased satisfaction. Meet some of the world’s individuals from Denmark to right here in the U.S. who reveal dynamic, practical ways to improve everyday life. Reading this book and applying these lessons could give you a whole new outlook—and a longer life!

10  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

Sites To See:

Silicon Beat It’s tough to keep up with the pace of technology as companies boom, go bust, and everything in between. Silicon Valley is a hotbed for all of this activity and keeping up on the latest news and trends is easy with this, the official tech blog of The Mercury News. It covers venture capitalists, big data, gadgets, the cloud, entertainment, social media and more. A fun read and quick way to stay on top of your tech fix.

App: Insight timer Free for iOS and Android

Learning how to relax is an important part of staying healthy. If you have a stressful day at work, don’t get to take a lunch, have pressure to complete an install or project, then the tension can add up. Before you shrug it off, consider a meditation app that helps you sleep better or clears your mind. Insight Timer has almost 7,000 free guided meditations (everything from Body Scan Meditation to Yoga Nidra for Sleep), to more than 1,400 different teachers and musicians, and topics related to everything from dealing with anger, to finding focus, to staying grounded, to managing addictions. Every month, the Insight Timer community mediates for 1 million hours. Whether it’s a soothing ambient sound or breathing exercise, this app can steer you towards better sleep and increased energy.

Services: uBreakiFix

You’re running to a business appointment or getting out of your car and your smartphone drops and cracks. It is an accident that none of us wants to experience, but when it does you need to react quickly. The uBreakiFix chain of stores around the country specialize in fixing electronic devices fast—especially smartphones. It all started back in 2009 when uBreakiFix’s founder, Justin Wetherill dropped his new iPhone 3G. A tech geek, Justin thought he’d handle the repair himself, but that wasn’t the case. He partnered with his college buddy and another friend to open their first high-quality smartphone repair shop in Orlando, Fla. Now there are more than 330 uBreakiFix stores across the country, Canada, and in the Caribbean. Repairs are done same day with a 90-day warranty on all repairs and price-match guarantee. To date, the company has completed more than three million repairs.   11

 what’s happening


The Mobile Electronics Specialists of America (M.E.S.A.) held its annual summit this September, which featured four custom builds from Pioneer vendors and the show’s first ever product showcase. WORDS BY TED GOSLIN

Back in 2010, there was a collective mindset bubbling in the minds of 12-volt retailers across the country. Margins weren’t sustainable at their previous levels due to challenges with educating the general public about all products and services available. The buzz soon built into a roar, resulting in the formation of the Mobile Electronics Specialists of America, known best as M.E.S.A. “It was formed by a handful of retailers that were looking to be part of a buying and marketing group. They all had the same marketing needs in trying to get customers in the door and all ran similar sales,” said Ryan Gunter,

12  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

executive director of M.E.S.A. “As long as you don’t have overlapping territories, why can’t we all just share? The goal was to maximize their efforts and spread across the country to match the high tide, raising all boats.” The group began with a core group of 10 members and has grown to include 135 members today. With only one retailer allowed per territory, growth is limited, but continues with over $269 million in sales to date and 261 store locations covering 43 states. Membership is broken into different levels, with the Platinum level requiring sales of $1.8 million a year and above, while the

Gold level requires a minimum sales of $700,000 per year. 2017 marks the sixth year of the M.E.S.A. Summit, which took place in Denver, Co. The event began in the organization’s second year with two primary goals, according to Gunter. “For all of us to get together to share best business practices. ‘What are you doing different from what I’m doing?’ The second was for our member partners to have face to face meetings with our members and bring opportunities for Q4 buys for the year,” he said. “A lot of our retailers in the past were not very promotional because they assumed they couldn’t

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 what’s happening

M.E.S.A. has 135 retail members, covering 43 states. Members have the benefit of not competing with each other due to the territorial nature of the group. compete with big box and online retailers. But with the marketing materials we provide members, they are now more involved in Black Friday sales. It gets people really engaged just before you go into Q4, gets them loaded up with product for the holidays, then leads into tax season. It’s become the place that our members go. The majority of them don’t go to CES anymore; they get more out of the summit than they get from CES.” This year’s event featured its first ever show floor to allow vendors to feature new products in the hopes of both educating retailer partners and selling the latest product to them in time for the holiday season. Having been in the business since the 1980s, when he started his career as a product specialist for Kenwood reps, Gunter has a deep understanding of what both retailers and vendors need from each other. “I noticed the retailers were looking to put together a buying group and I knew all the guys because I called on most of them, except the east coast as I was mainly a west coast guy. Manufacturers needed someone who’s been on the vendor

14  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

side of things and understood their point of view in working with a retailer,” Gunter said. “The thought was, ‘If we want this to be a success long-term, it has to be a win-win for both vendor and retail partners. Otherwise, someone will not feel they are getting their fair share. It’s been a great blend to make it a win for both sides.” Meeting of Minds Unlike other trade shows, the M.E.S.A. Summit is unique in how attendees interact. Rather than use classroom settings, the majority of the educational opportunities are one-on-one, vendor-to-retailer or retailer-to-retailer. Attendees would gather in a meeting hall that housed around 150 people, which was filled with round tables, where they could interact freely with each other. The structure, while loose, offered topics to discuss based on a universal theme, which changes each year. “The main thing we focused on in general this year was reminding our members to work on their business because we get caught up working in our businesses and not on them,” Gunter said. “Make the time to work on

your business and not get caught up so much on the day-to-day.” Among the attendees this year was Dean Magnesen, owner of SoundWarehouse of Utah, former Mobile Electronics Retailer of the Year. Being one of the first members of the buying group, Magnesen has a deep connection to the organization and belief in its core values and benefits to 12-volt business owners. “The original enticement was it being a buying group that was independent. We were built by the factory—whatever discounts we earned, we took. The entity didn’t take the profit, the dealer did,” Magnesen said. “Then it got to the buying group with best practices, with only one member per market. I thought that was a great idea. We’re all willing to share with each other. As a group it grew into a very powerful marketing arm too. We’re not just a buying group. We’re a buying, best business practices and marketing group.” The three-day event began with a general session day, featuring the best business practices theme that all attendees would discuss with each

Pioneer Electronics provided four different retailers with their new Z and D series speaker lines, vehicles, and other product and materials needed to compete with each other at the event’s first ever show floor expo which resulted in creative uses of product that impressed attendees

other. Another subject featured was how to turn unwanted inventory to sales or cash, with manufacturers included in the discussion, according to Magnesen. “Then manufacturers would have PowerPoint presentations on their fall and Black Friday specials. That takes up most of the day,” he added. “Then we visit each manufacturer’s booth. This year was kind of unique in that regard. There were lots of new product releases, including Pioneer’s new series of speakers.” Magnesen called the event, “extremely valuable,” especially coming into the fall season, given the litany of information provided to help retailers sell during the biggest season of the year. “For some people, it’s a strong enough deal that they wouldn’t have to go to SEMA or CES unless they chose to,” Magnesen added. “Here, you get to talk to national sales managers, regional sales managers and sometimes the   15

 what’s happening

“It’s literally three days of people talking with each other. It’s like if you went to your buddy’s house for the weekend. That’s what the summit is.” Ryan Gunter, Executive Director, M.E.S.A. CEO of the company. It’s not a situation where you’re there with the rep and they say they have to check with the factory and get back to you on a product. The factory was there. I’m sure 90 percent of our volume is derived from the M.E.S.A. manufacturers. I think that’s common.” Kimberly Trainer, owner of CarTunes, Inc. from Greenville, Miss., shares Magnesen’s enthusiasm for the event, having attended three times so far. She chose to come this year over going to France for a Focal factory tour. “There’s nothing like sitting down with the vendors. Each year we change our format a little bit. We have small focus groups. The interactions with the vendors allow us to get information we normally wouldn’t get. It’s great for the industry too,” Trainer said. “In 12-volt, if we can rely on one another and progress going forward, it just keeps us strong. You hear about shops closing every day, but in our industry we’re needed and necessary and always going to be relevant.” Friendly Competition One important feature of the show floor was the inclusion of a car build competition, sponsored by Pioneer

16  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

Electronics in an effort to showcase its new Z and D series speakers, which were officially announced at the summit. The build included four retailers working on Toyota Highlanders, all furnished with the same vehicle and product to allow each retailer to showcase their creativity. The only criteria given to the installation teams was that the car be drivable. Included in the build was Magnesen’s Sound Warehouse. “We totally rebuilt and sound dampened the vehicle, built gorgeous bass enclosures, put all the new speakers in but it was definitely a big-time custom job. We also re-fabricated the doors and the back of the vehicle. We used new Z series speakers, components, full range and subwoofers, Pioneer amplifiers and an existing Pioneer head unit. It was a lot of labor; I bet we put in about a month’s work,” Magnesen said. “Ours was more trying not to alter the seats or the interior. I think we used more etched acrylic logos. Our techs have had extensive training at Mobile Solutions so we incorporated a lot of knowledge and technology from our install team. We tried for a cleaner, factory look.” A variety of strategies were used to help builds stand out,

including LED lighting, fabricated enclosures and custom interior designs. “It was my favorite part of the show. To be one of the four we considered to be an enormous compliment, but all of the shops did a great job,” Magnesen added. “The build competition was Pioneer’s idea. The car build competition was part of the global launch for Pioneer’s new speaker line,” Gunter said. “Basically we had four members, two Platinum and two Gold, from different ends of the country, who built their cars and competed with Pioneer product. Now those cars are going to tour M.E.S.A. member retail locations for the next couple of years.” Beyond the Peak As 2017 heads into its final quarter, M.E.S.A. has gained yet another partner in Harman, which adds its technology offerings to the membership group, including the popular heads up display product, Navdy. Gunter believes this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what members can look forward to in the future of the group, considering the success its seen with the summit and other manufacturer partners who’ve signed on over the years.

The event featured its first ever show floor due to the need for manufacturers to show off and sell product for the fourth quarter holiday selling season.

“I would say that if anybody is interested in being a M.E.S.A. member, the key thing they need to understand is that members support each other and our vendor partners. Doing those two things together has helped everyone grow their businesses and be more successful,” Gunter said. “We have lots of marketing materials we provide members, from templated websites to our ‘Sale in a Box’ program, which includes in-store printed materials for Black Friday, Rockin’ Holidays, Max Your Tax, Garage Sale, Tune Up Your Ride and the Super Summer sale. Those are just the printed ones.” In addition to the marketing materials and educational elements, one member told Gunter that the trade show was such an important new element to the show that they only hoped they could use it to write purchase orders for next year. He agreed that it’s a good idea.

“The best way to describe the M.E.S.A. Summit: we use the phrase, ‘The M.E.S.A. Family’ a lot. From breakfast to dinner and drinks afterward, everybody stays together. Nobody leaves and goes out to dinner alone. Everyone stays together at the summit,” Gunter said. “It’s literally three days of people talking with each other. It’s like if you went to your buddy’s house for the weekend. That’s what the summit is.” Magnesen sees the benefits of the organization as being nearly unlimited, considering the company has increased its revenue between 30 and 40 percent since joining. “We’ve been able to incorporate more in sales. Our Black Friday sale is huge. Before, we didn’t even use to play. Now we do big business,” he said. “If you have the ability to join, it would be the best move you’d ever make. It is the best move we’ve made.” ✪   17

 retail news

Large in the Margin Most of the products and services that Lynx Customs offers yield high profit margins thanks to its focus on a specific customer base and how it uses social media. WORDS BY LAURA KEMMERER

Being a mobile electronics retailer can garner high-end customers and the associated pay grade, but for Colorado-based Lynx Customs, the store’s high profit margin has come from other avenues: catering to a more mid-range market and keeping social media in-house. According to Luke Farley, of Lynx Customs, these margins stem from the fact that all the things the store installs are service-based. “We do mobile electronics with installation sales,” he added. “We also do installations of builds and things like tint and vinyl wrap and those are really high margin products as well, so our profit margins are really good.” To stay competitive against other online retailers, Lynx Customs runs its own website, which allows the store to remain very current, affording to Farley. Changes can be made

18  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

immediately, and by advertising locally, customers are encouraged to come check out the shop. “There’s a lot of people who like to buy and shop local,” Farley noted. The downside to social media, however, is that it has proved challenging for the shop to convert social media into sales. This was due at least in part to high cost of what the shop sells. Despite this, the shop continues to use Facebook to engage with other industry professionals and to have another channel to keep customers updated, giving them an inside view of what they’re doing in-house. Farley went on to add that this has increased credibility for customers doing research before making a purchase. “People go onto our Facebook and see we have all good reviews, and I

think that goes a long way with customers because most people will do their research before they go into the storeor they purchase something online,” he said. For Lynx Customs, the shop keeps the website updated with pictures of customers’ vehicles, while also promoting the diversity of the products they offer. “We offer a lot of different products, and I think that goes a long way to separate us from the competition in our area, which is usually big box stores,” Farley said. “They’re not as flexible; they don’t offer the wider array of services and customization we do.” Part of what makes Lynx’s website successful is feedback gathered from customers. Findings indicated that customers thought the Colorado-based mobile electronics retailer only specialized in high-end products


Who’s Who The shop uses strategically placed vehicles in and around the property to show off its work. and services. Given that Lynx’s financial bread and butter were more “average joe” customers looking to spruce up their daily drives, the shop decided to reformat a bit to suit everyone. “Last year, we kind of reviewed that stuff and wanted to find ways to make it better and convey a couple of things on the website we do in-house—products and services. One big goal we had was to make it easier for people to purchase from us online,” Farley said. “So when we sat down to make a strategy that would make it easier for people to purchase from us, we kind of looked at short-term and long-term. Being able to make a jump from a brick-and-mortar retailer to an online retailer is just kind of a big step, so we’re taking baby steps to try to get there.” So far, the shop has had a good response for listing its services online: it’s proven to be educational for customers, as they can review prices and other information as needed. Additionally, the shop has been doing its own in-house social media for six years. “When we come up on Black Friday and things like that, being able to sell services on the website makes it a lot easier for people to buy during the holiday shopping rush,” Farley said. “If they can just purchase directly from the website and we’re running specials and stuff like that, it has a much better reach during that key retail season.” As for the future, Farley indicated that Lynx Customs is shooting to sell nationwide, but there are some obstacles that need to be overcome first. “We don’t have the big purchase power to just buy a bunch of products and start listing online. We’re trying to work our way up.”

Ron Hoser Tier One Motoring LLC City Oaks, Pa. Years of industry experience: 26 Hobbies: My dogs, playing guitar, mountain biking What you’re really good at: Creative subwoofer enclosure applications

Jim Hergesheimer Streamline Audio Vancouver, Wash. Years of industry experience: 25 Hobbies: BMX racing, working on cars What you’re really good at: Trouble shooting and customer relations.

Jimmy Norton Norton Car Stereo Florence, S.C. Years of industry experience: 35 Hobbies: Church, family What you’re really good at: Selling

Ernesto Ruesta OEM Autosound Kissimmee, Fla. Years of industry experience: 29 Hobbies: Cars What you’re really good at: Electronics and engines

The shop’s storeroom is a key ingredient in selling high-margin product and services like window tint and vehicle wraps.   19

 retail news

Absolute Sound Smackdown In early September, Absolute Electronix held its first car audio competition, which was well-attended, despite the rain.


For Ata Ehdaivand, nothing compares to the excitement of competition. He can’t get enough of it, also being a competitor himself. On Saturday, September 2, his shop, Absolute Electronix, hosted its first ever car audio competition. About 35 people attended. The shop is located in Rockville, Md., and the competition attracted people from all over the east coast, according to Ehdaivand. Competitors and judges came from locations ncluding North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.

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Due to the rain, the judging was moved into the install bay but didn’t impact the effectiveness of the event.

“I have an interest in car audio competitions,” Ehdaivand said. “I reached out to the guys around me who are more into the competition scene. They helped me get in touch with MECA and IASCA. They advertised. It was last minute.” Absolute Electronix had two weeks to prepare. “The judges were Steve Weigner, Keith Turner, Mic Wallace, Allen and Heather Shaffer,” Ehdaivand said. “Allen and Heather are from MECA, Mic and Keith are [to my knowledge]

approved IASCA judges. I literally didn’t have to do anything. All I did was get [the] trophies, I got donuts and gave everyone some shelter and we had some manufacturer reps out here. It was just a fun day.” Customers who attended were impressed by the number of cars and the execution of the event, considering everyone was moved inside due to the rain, where the judging was carried out in the bay. Ehdaivand added that customers

who came inside were able to learn more about what a car audio competition was all about. “It’s notjust how loud it is, but how delicate or accurately it can play.” Initially, Ehdaivand wanted to make the event family friendly, including face painting for children and a bounce house. With such a limited window to plan and execute the event, it just wasn’t possible, and the rain was a surprise that would’ve put a damper on such activities.

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 retail news

Competitors brought vehicles of various makes and models from different states, including Pennsylvania and the Carolinas.

“I’m going to do four shows next year, all at my place,” he said. “My shows will be on Saturday. Chris McNulty from Driven Mobile Electronics, who had a show this past Sunday, will have [his] on Sundays. Once a month there will be two car stereo shows for these competitors to raise awareness about shops [that] compete, DSP, tuning, all the other stuff that goes along with competing.” Those who missed this event can mark their calendars for the next one. Milbert Amplifiers, local to Maryland, also attended the competition. “Chuck from Opus Marketing was here to represent Focal and Viper,” Ehdaivand said. “They were all here to talk to clients.” The event became an open house and raised awareness among customers regarding what defines car audio. People were able to come in and get

22  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

“People were excited to come out and show off the sound systems they worked so hard to build. Many of the competitors were already asking about the next event.” Ata Ehdaivand, Owner, Absolute Electronix an idea of what Absolute Electronix is all about. “We’re not a shop that’s all about loading up the back of your car, taking your face and smashing it into the windshield with bass,” Ehdaivand explained. “We’re 100 percent about getting in the car, enjoying music, reimagining the music you’ve heard, realigning yourself with good music and people who know how to reproduce it in a vehicle.”

The shop has three competition-level demo vehicles that belong to staff. “I decided I would build demo cars for every last one of our employees,” he said. One of the vehicles is outfitted using Focal; Ehdaivand’s own vehicle has Audiofrog equipment, and another is Sony gear top to bottom. “People were excited to come out and show off the sound systems they worked so hard to build,” he added. “Many of the competitors were already asking about the next event.” Ehdaivand would compete no matter what. “I would race shopping carts if I could,” he said. “I allowed customers and competitors back in the bay. Everyone was everywhere. Competitors were in the bay, installers were working in the bay. Installers got to see what I’m really excited about: sound quality and competition.”

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 hot sellers


AUTUMN With fall selling season in full swing, Kimberly Trainer believes in using one product to sell another while Jim Hergesheimer takes the fight to the customer with a focus on a product’s features compared to other products in its category.

Rockford Fosgate PMX-8 Punch Kenwood DDX9904S Double-DIN Monitor Receiver with Bluetooth & Marine/Motorsport Full Function Wired 5-inch TFT Display Head HD Radio Submitted by: Kimberly Trainer, Car-Tunes, Inc., Greenville,

Submitted by: Kimberly Trainer, Car-Tunes, Inc., Greenville,



Main Selling Features: “Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are

Main Selling Features: “Element Ready, IPX6 certified, 4Zone,

the big ones. Having the glass screen is a huge sales feature on this unit.”

Primary Objection: Labor cost to install How to Overcome: “We sell the labor and how our techs perform it and what the customer’s outcome will be.

4Source control, B/U cam ready, Bluetooth, SiriusXM. Perfect for any outdoor toys that need amazing sound & functionality in the elements!”

Primary Objection: Size, color and style How to Overcome: “Offer another one of the PMX family! PMX-5 or three will do the trick in tighter locations.”

24  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

DD Audio 6.5-inch SL Series Subwoofer Submitted by: Bryan Turvaville, 806 Autoworks, Amarillo, Texas

Main Selling Features: “Small space saving design; it

hits harder than when you miss the nail with the hammer and hit your thumb.”

Primary Objection:

Size, color and style

How to Overcome: “Dynamite doesn’t have to be the size of a skyscraper to bring it down, does it?”

Sony XAV-AX100 6.4-inch Media Receiver with BLUETOOTH® Wireless Technology

Submitted by: Jim Hergesheimer, Streamline Audio, Vancouver, Wash.

Main Selling Features: “Value! Not too many bells and whistles. Easy for the customer to understand.”

Primary Objection: Size, color and style How to Overcome: “Educate them on the value of the product and show them options at different price points that offer larger screens. Usually price/performance wins over screen size.”

NAV-TV M650-GM Audio/ Video Interface

Submitted by: Ethan Blau, Sound Wave Customs, Virginia Beach, Va.

Main Selling Features: “It eliminates the need for summing

devices or removing the factory ANC mics. It’s the first of its kind to market and always gives many options with or without the aftermarket amplifiers and DSP. It also allows you to retain all factory functionality and gives you the ability to adjust the door chime.”

Primary Objection: Price How to Overcome: “Having the client understand the need for this part to justify its cost-honestly have not had any issues with that once we explain in detail.”

Sound Skins SSPRO-1 Sound Deadening Submitted by: Martin Branch, Lafayette Custom Automotive, Lafayette, La.

Main Selling Features: “The idea of better sound with a very small investment. It also provides less intrusive road noise.” Primary Objections: Learning curve. How to Overcome: “Educating the customer on how sound

deadening works and the difference of the product materials and the old types of materials that have been around for so many years.”   25

 hot sellers K40 RL360i Radar Detector Submitted by:

Elias Ventura, Safe and Sound Mobile Electronics, Chantilly, Va.

Main Selling Features: “In the

state of Virginia, having a radar and laser detector is seen as a huge forbidden no-no. We educate our customers to the positives of having a system of this sort in our state. If you are caught doing 20 mph above the speed limit, it’s seen as a wreckless driving ticket which isn’t lightly ticketed.”

Primary Objection: Labor cost to install How to Overcome: “We have multiple personal

demo vehicles with systems installed and we show how we install them. Having the ability to showcase our installations puts things into perspective. We don’t just slap something together and send you on your way. We have a system, a method and a standard.”

JL Audio Microsub+ ACP108LGW3v3 MicroSub+™ 250-watt 8-inch Powered Subwoofer

Submitted by: Luke Farley, Lynx Customs, Centennial, Co. Main Selling Features: “It has a great fitment in Toyota Tacoma and non-invasive install. The brand name mixed with our personal recommendation make it an easy upgrade.” Primary Objections: Price How to Overcome: “Use the brand name and recommendation as an easy upgrade.”

Firstech Moments M5 Dash Cam Submitted by: Ron Hoser, Tier One Motoring LLC, Oaks, Pa.

Main Selling Features: “Demonstrating the extensive feature set of this model shows that it’s a great value.” Primary Objections: Price How to Overcome: “Demonstrate the unit’s comprehensive feature set.”

26  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

Sony XAV-AX100 6.4-inch Media Receiver with BLUETOOTH® Wireless Technology

Submitted by: Ata Ehdaivand, Absolute Electronix, Rockville, Md. Main Selling Features: “It looks like it belongs in the dash of the car they are driving” Primary Objections: Price, learning curve How to Overcome: “Explain the value the product brings to the table.”

ZSTAT ZST1222/1244 12-Inch Subwoofer

Submitted by: Jimmy Norton, Norton Car Stereo, Florence, S.C. Main Selling Features: “Quality of the product.” Primary Objections: Learning curve. How to Overcome: “I compare products against other brands in the marketplace.”

Alpine iLX-207 7-inch Mech-less Multimedia Receiver with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Submitted by: Shane Douet, Lafayette Custom Automotive, Lafayette, La. Main Selling Features: Most customers say they don’t need a navigation radio because they use their phone so we ask them ‘How would you like to see your phone’s nav on your radio?’ Primary Objections: Price How to Overcome: “Ask the customer how much they spent on their Smartphone. Chances are it was more than this radio.”   27

real world retail

True Grit It took Sound Connection, Inc. 22 years and countless mistakes to learn, grow and conquer all obstacles on its way to becoming Mobile Electronics Retailer of the Year. WORDS BY TED GOSLIN

It was the middle of winter. The temperature was 10 degrees below zero. Two men were outside in a dirt parking lot, working on a remote start install with a blanket draped across the door to keep out the snow. An electric heater was pumping warmth into

28  Mobile Electronics November 2017

their makeshift cave to offer the only sliver of comfort they’d get on this cold, cold day. The two men had no experience with remote starters, their only guide being a printed installation manual. Nineteen years later, those two men—owner Ben Larson and his

brother John—would see their store, Sound Connection, Inc., become Mobile Electronics Retailer of the Year, Store Chain. “The moral of the story is that every day I come to work and I feel blessed and grateful for all that we




Number of Stores: 2 Address: 49 2nd Ave, Waite Park, Minn., 56387 and 15808 Edgewood Drive, Baxter, Minn. 56401 Facility Square Footage: Baxter - 6,000, Waite Park - 5,000 Store Type: Boutique Number of Employees: 10

-= KEY STAFF =Benjamin Larson CEO John Larson COO Mike Schwitz Bay Manager Derrick Brasel Sales Manager

Sound Connection has two locations in Baxter (bottom) and Waite Park (top), Minn. to help maximize profits throughout its region. have achieved. It really did start from absolutely nothing. We had no prior experience in car audio or business and we just pushed our way through it,” Larson said. “If anybody ever wanted to start a business and was worried they didn’t have enough money or knowledge I can tell them otherwise. All you really need is grit.” Since 1995, Ben Larson has been in business as a retailer, but his journey really began when he moved to Minnesota with his parents at age five, witnessing their journey as small business owners. “My parents where in retail for as long as I can remember. They had a store called Snoop and Save. They sold everything from food to furniture,” Larson said. “One day I saw an ad for amps and speakers in a catalog they used to order from. I tried to put amps and

speakers into my car. I had no idea what I was doing. I took apart an old dog house and used a jig saw to make a speaker box. It looked like a beaver made the cuts. It was awful. Then I started reading articles in a car audio magazine and a friend asked me to do one for him. With each install I got a little bit better. So I thought there might be a market for this and opened my first store.” With only 300 square feet, no cash register, no accounting system, no install bay and no Internet to turn to at that time, Larson knew he had a long way to go, but pressed on regardless. “I bought $1,000 worth of product from M&M. I kept growing the business, read every car audio magazine and did as much research as I possibly could. In 1998, I brought my little brother on. He had just graduated   29

real world retail

A Special Day

"One of our best marketing campaigns has been our Black Friday Event, which we've had great success with since joining M.E.S.A. The goals are to gain new customers, increase bay traffic and have the community see us as a real retailer capable of offering deals better than the big box stores so the next time they think about a purchase we are at least a contender on their shopping list." "Most of the prep work was done weeks before while we were at the M.E.S.A. Summit. We contacted the newspapers and got the best rates between the two markets, contacted radio stations to negotiate rates well in advance, had our newspaper insert designed and printed, had our email blast designed and pre-scheduled, and had all our Facebook posts designed and pre-scheduled to post at certain times of the day of the event and leading up to the event. We also had huge 8x24-foot banners designed and printed, scheduled our digital sign to have specials scrolling across it the day of the event, pre-made all of our price tags, printed a “hot sheet” for all our sales people that had add-ons as well as the specials, bought all the food and drinks and set them up in the garage and spoke to vendors to see what products they were willing to clearance out." "We had a large line at the register and started hand-writing receipts and went back in after the sale to enter them into the computer. That was the biggest challenge. We exceeded our goal by 18 percent. This year we will have more salespeople and more registers open."

30  Mobile Electronics November 2017

CEO Ben Larson (left) and his brother/COO John Larson (right) have been running the business since 1998. high school,” he said. “That was my life. I ate, slept and breathed car audio forever and just kept getting better and better. I invested every penny I had and it grew from there.” Today, the two-store chain, which has locations in Waite Park and Baxter, Minn., is doing better than ever, having just moved to Waite Park earlier this year from a location in St. Joe. The move was caused by a leasing issue but the company is all the better for it. “Business is great right now. We ended up buying a building, completely remodeled it, and moved in less than 60 days. Now we own a building in a very busy part of town. Our other store is in another fantastic part of town in Baxter. We’ve only had one down year since inception and since joining M.E.S.A. in 2013 we’ve seen consistent double digit growth,” Larson said. “We’re looking to expand to a third store and have gotten into different revenue streams like window tintin, PPF (paint protection film) and truck accessories.”

All in the Process With trial and error comes a world of experience that Larson and his team have taken to heart by crafting

detailed written procedures, which include how customers are to be treated. On the company’s website, visitors are given a detailed explanation of what to expect from the customer experience at Sound Connection. “We hold ourselves to a higher standard than most. The Sound Connection standard,” the site said. The policies and procedures we have painstakingly implemented and follow every day on every install ensure you are getting the highest standard of work completed anywhere,” the policy states. Thanks to this and other detailed information provided on the company website, customers are well-educated prior to entering the store, according to Larson who knows his customer base well. “They do their research. When they step in the door they are usually fairly comfortable and look around,” he said. “We don’t always do the whole store tour thing. A lot of other retailers are keen on taking them through the shop and building value but our customers don’t always have that kind of time and we respect that. Our customers generally have more money than time.”

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real world retail

The website and social media pages are updated constantly to keep up with the latest sales promotions.

Bad Dads “The worst marketing campaign we had was our “Crumby Father’s Day Gift” trade-in. The goal was to sell audio gear to disheartened fathers. We didn’t plan well. Most of this event was promoted on social media. The plan was to have fathers bring in crumby gifts they didn’t want in exchange for a discount on new audio gear. We only received two crumby gifts. We’re going to run this promo again this year but make sure fathers know that we will have total anonymity.”

32  Mobile Electronics November 2017

Larson’s team instead works to provide solutions based on a pressure-free evaluation of each customer’s problem. “We always go out to the vehicle with them and paint a picture of how it will be done,” he added. “It’s a friendly, laid back atmosphere. We try to help them accomplish what they initially came in for.” Sales staff also avoid speaking ill of other shops. Instead, when a customer winces at something like price and wants to go to a different shop, staff tell them that’s fine but make sure they understand what the difference is between both stores and the value they’d get if they stay with Sound Connection. Techniques were largely influenced by sales guru, Eddy Kay, which have been implemented as part of the company’s training program. Most of his techniques revolve around listening to the customer, being kind and providing a great experience. While a vehicle is being worked on, customers are treated to a waiting area, complete with comfortable chairs, a flat screen TV (which is equipped with Netflix), free Wi-Fi, a water cooler, a Keurig machine with various K-cup options, and a snack basket with cookies, crackers, chips and fruit gummies for the kids. Each store is in a central location to the city it occupies, with various stores nearby for customers to visit while waiting for their

vehicle. Stores include Hobby Lobby and Kohl’s. “There’s also a runner available to drive them home, to the mall, or anywhere else they’d like to go locally. We offer pickup and drop-off for dealer vehicles and get a special rate for anyone who wants to rent a car with Enterprise. It’s only $35 a day,” Larson added. To help with presentation to customers, all employees wear freshly laundered uniforms, which include pants or shorts and shirts with each employee’s name embroidered on them. “They put clothes in a basket every week and pick up a new shirt. Faded shirts get replaced,” Larson said. “All shirts are made by Red Kap, which is similar to Dickies. Technicians wear button-down shirts while product specialists wear a polo and khakis.” The final steps in the customer comfort process are performed in the install bay. Each vehicle is checked in and out using specially made sheets. The check-in, check-out sheets include all preferences given to the sales staff by the customer, including radio presets, taking out any CDs and returning them at the end, where they want the Bluetooth, USB or auxiliary-in set up, and anything else requested. “We make sure to print a work order before the customer leaves their vehicle. We do that so there are no surprises when they pick














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real world retail

Work that comes in is primarily centered around high-end clientele, which requires strong procedures and careful execution to adhere to company standards. it up and it meets their expectations,” Larson said. “Every car gets a steering wheel cover, seat cover and floor mat. The floor mat has our logo and gets left in the vehicle. There is also a six-bynine card left behind that has a list of all services we provide on both sides. A lot of people that come in to get one thing installed don’t realize we do all these other things. When they leave, we fold the invoice and put it inside of an envelope. It says ‘Thank you. Your feedback means a lot to us. Please leave a Google review and let us know how we did.’” Installers have their own set of guidelines, according to Larson. “Everything is soldered and heat shrunk as part of our use of best practices. All systems are tuned using an oscilloscope and RTA. Everything

34  Mobile Electronics November 2017

Icy Hot

is done to the utmost professionalism,” he said. “We don’t want to just have a car audio shop but a real facility with standards equal or better to a dealership. We want to advance the industry, not be the home of the one dollar wire fire.”

Knowledge is Power As Larson has learned more over the years about how to manage his staff, he’s developed a company policy manual that outlines most employee-related matters, including information for new employees. “A few key things it covers are wages, how they get paid, how they move up, how the computer works for punching in and out, days they work, time off requests and how the employee purchase program works,” Larson explained. “The shortest term employee we have is around six months. My brother has been with me the longest, the entire time we’ve been open.” All staff are dedicated to their respective departments but are cross-trained to do both sales and installation and be ready if needed. Those with IRA retirement accounts are offered a matching incentive for any money they put in. Since all employees get commission, paid vacations are offered based on

seniority and are based on the yearlong average hourly wage. “I think we pay pretty well. It’s a close-knit group of guys. The atmosphere is good,” Larson added. Employees are given discounted rates for any products sold in the store. Once per year they are given the accommodation to purchase directly through the vendor. There is also a discounted labor rate for immediate family and friends. “If their mom wanted a remote starter, we could put it in for a third of what the retail price is,” Larson said. “We’re not looking to make any money off of our employees. We want them to have the product we have so they can play with it and be an ambassador for the Sound Connection brand.” In-house training is conducted by John Larson using a video PowerPoint presentation. “It shows where we started, how we got to where we are, our vision and why we’re here,” Ben Larson added. “Every year we go to manufacturers trainings, including JL Audio and Compustar. If any new technique comes out we will train guys on how to do it. We have Pretty good reps that come by to keep us up on new products.”

"Compustar is our largest vendor and we have been selling their products since inception. I believe we sold our first unit in 1997. We have a great long-term relationship with the vice president of the company, we've been invited to the owner's home for dinner and a boat ride, we get along great with all the techs and have been friends with the local rep for decades." "The last six months have seen very little action as we are just coming into the busy season. We predict that the Pro T11 remote start will be one of our best selling units again this year. People love the range and that it's almost indestructible." "They have hands-down the best tech department in the industry. They give me a product with the lowest defect rate of any manufacturer regardless of category so I never worry that it will boomerang. After we hit a goal that the VP and I agreed upon, they gave all my employees remote starters one year so all the new guys could become comfortable with the way they function. They have great training every year and give out great prizes to keep the installers and salespeople coming back year after year. They give all the employees branded swag just for showing up to the trainings, provide me with lots of digital media for running and designing ads and have some great videos done up that I have playing in the showroom above our remote start display for customers to see. They make products that make sense from a business and inventory management perspective but also that have features that consumers want."   35

real world retail

Customers are treated to a strong one-two punch of top-notch sales techniques (right), followed by well-trained installation techs (left) who use quality tooling to meet customer expectations. All installers are required to have MECP Basic certifications but nothing beyond that level. “I think that had I required them to have more than basic I might have lost some guys or not been able to attract the guys I have so far,” Larson said. “I think the certification is great and would love the guys to take it more seriously but it’s not needed to do a good job. I look it from a customer’s perspective. It doesn’t change the outcome of the customer experience. As long as they are able to meet the Sound Connection standard I’m fine with them.” Larson also ensures that his staff regularly attend KnowledgeFest to stay up on the latest industry trends and techniques. “I try to take several of the guys to each KnowledgeFest. About half the guys went to Indy, half went to Dallas,” Larson said. “I think KnowledgeFest is important. There are so many knowledgeable people there.”

Selective Wording To reach its target audience, Sound Connection, Inc. employs a focused marketing program, utilizing radio as its key outlet. “We have

36  Mobile Electronics November 2017

about five different stations we use between two markets. I quit doing it for a while because I thought I was smarter than everyone else. I thought since I didn’t listen to it that it was dead technology,” Larson said. “Then as I got older and more mature I felt disconnected to my community. I realized it’s more important than ever because we’re such a disconnected society.” To properly utilize radio as a marketing tool, Larson trades new product to radio station hosts to get them familiar with the product so they are able to talk about it, and the company, on air. “They will make an ad for us about our products. Now people call up and say they want the remote starter that the host has,” he said. The company is now the number one dealer of Compustar Pro T-11 in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. “It’s because we’ve educated customers on it. Radio has helped us do that by getting these personalities to endorse our product. They didn’t just endorse it because we traded them stuff. We made sure they liked it, then they en-

dorsed us for it,” Larson added. About three percent of the company budget is spent on advertising, which includes a large amount of Facebook and Instagram posts. Build posts, giveaways and photos are posted regularly. Google Adwords is also used, along with regular updates of the company website. “A big key is that everything is uniform. When we have a sale, we’ll put it on all social media, change the website header, put out a radio ad and will make sure everything matches,” Larson explained. Seasonal promotions are conducted using M.E.S.A. marketing materials. “Every month we’ll have a different sale and put it at the end of the month. Right now we’re running a garage sale to free up cash dollars to buy remote starters. They’ll send us out a kit that has all in-store price tags. There’s also digital stuff like a banner for Google Adwords, Instagram and everything else. Now that we’ve been a member so long we have all the supplies. I can grab a kit off the shelf and be up and running with sale in one or two days.”


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The company also promotes its work at local events, including Wakefest, a wake surfing event. “All these boats come out and there is lots of exposure to people,” Larson said. “We go to the Minneapolis boat show to market to them, then go to the Brainerd International Raceway to drag races and market to those people. We do a lot more marketing now. It’s a big reason how we got to the next step.”

When It All Clicks If 22 years in business has taught Larson anything it’s to be grateful for what he has. Before deciding to make a video for Retailer of the Year in 2017, Larson weighed his options to make sure it was the right time. “Every other year we’ve submitted for Top 50 because I didn’t feel we were at the level of where a top retailer should be. This year I felt we were on the right track so we made the video,” he said. The fateful decision proved wise for Larson, who believes the shop won largely thanks to his team. “I think my guys were a huge part of

why we got it. Mike Schwitz, who was a Top 12 Installer this year, pushed really hard. Other guys were really supportive of me. I didn’t want to let them down for not submitting,” he said. In addition to the award, the company has been the Compustar dealer of the year since 2005 when it first launched that program. Sound Connection has also improved its physical presence in the past year with the opening of its new location. Larson believes overcoming selfdoubt has been his biggest challenge over the years. “There were a lot of years gutting it out, almost quitting because of self-doubt. It’s just been a slow, steady progression for us. Going to KnowledgeFest and the M.E.S.A. Summit helps a ton to find out what other guys are doing,” Larson said. “My advice to other retailers would be to just do something. Don’t sit around and do nothing. Even if it’s wrong, you’ll be further ahead than you were yesterday. At the very least you will know what not to do.” 

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 The Support Team

Perfect Aim

Directed strives to connect with all of its customers while backing its installers and delivering for its dealers. WORDS BY JAMIE SORCHER

From its modest beginnings in Cleveland, Ohio as a vehicle security company to its leadership position today in the connected car world, Directed has grown tremendously while keeping a sharp focus on consumer service, tech support, and dealer relations. According to James Turner, senior vice president of product and technical services, who will mark his 16th anniversary with the company this month, it was about a year ago when Directed made a critical change to fuse

38  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

back together several departments—namely tech support and product development—that had been operating independently of one another. “It made sense because product design depends so much on the voice of our customer and the techs have the closest relationship to the installers,” Turner said. “I view installers as our first customer and the end-consumer as the second one.” Today, there are three legs of support to address dealers, consumers, and installers.Directed’s dealer customer service department handles dealers and sales reps. “This group

addresses warranties, processes orders, sets up new dealers with our reps, gives reporting information on different customers, and follows up on satisfaction issues,” Turner said. Consumer service handles calls from end users. “We get contacted about SmartStart—maybe a consumer has a remote they want to reprogram to their system or they might have an inquiry about one of our systems in general.” The technical support team, (not surprisingly) the largest group in the company (operating with a staff of more than 20 people), is split

Directed’s support departments focus on dealer, technical and consumer support. between Montreal and Vista, Calif., where Directed is headquartered. “Our office in Canada focuses on sales and mostly engineering product development while the office here in California is some engineering but mostly sales.” Tech support is a busy department and has weekly meetings to stay on top of it all, Turner said. “Every Tuesday we go through the escalations to talk about the top issues our team is hearing about on the phone,” said Turner. “Yes, we have lots of written reports, but it’s better for people to be face to face to talk through these things. We also have PSRs in the field—Product Specialist Representatives. There are seven—two here in California; three are based in their own regions of the eastern, western, and central U.S.; and there is one for each side of Canada. We get these groups together two times a year to go over what our plan will be in the field, but we are getting feedback from them on an every-other-week basis. “They are doing trainings in the field (we train about 5,000 installers per year), visiting install shops and going back into the bays and spending quality time with the installers Then they provide us with feedback of whatever they are learning.”

It All Clicks and they can have a conversation with While phone lines used to be the them about the issues that they are dominant way to field questions, encountering and go through the trouthat’s no longer the case. What has ble-shooting to rectify it.” become a big deal is click-and-chat. The company plans to continue “We have two different applications working on app development, accordof support look-up solutions: flashing to Turner. “Within an app, if an ing and changing configurations with installer goes through a specific vehiDirectechs Mobile, then we have cle and configures all of the settings, another app called DirectLink that and they have a specific matter, they is used on our new DS4 product,” can save it to their favorites, and the Turner said. “These two apps put next time they see that vehicle it will an immediate solution in someone’s remind them that they already did hands. The benefit is that a vehicle like this,” an installer doesn’t have Turner said. “Ultito go back to a computer mately, it will save and search for something. the installer time and It’s right there so they can having to remember look it up immediately. what they set up on a Once they go back to the car they worked on 45 installation in the car, they days ago.” can stay in the car. We Clifford 2-way LCD Another popular found that even though the Remote Start way for Directed to solutions are much more handle support issues complicated—because they is online. “Directed are all so vehicle-specific—we are dealers can process all of their using apps to make the user or the orders and RMAs online, see their installation experience much easier. order history, and check when their Turner believes that it’s much more payments are due—there is a lot of intuitive to walk through the proinformation,” Turner said. “We also cess step by step with screens. Within have Directechs and a subset of that the apps, there is click-to-chat so an is DirectWire. We are the industry installer can instantly contact one leader in all of this information that of Directed’s agents right when they we have amassed. We have dedicated have a problem while still sitting in folks who do nothing but go through their car. “A chat option will pop up service manuals for all the different   39

 The Support Team vehicle types and we list out all of with one of our authorized dealers the wire connections for where they in their area to upgrade their Smartneed to connect in the car. It’s not Start module and get their system just our security-remote start, it’s working again.” also for audio. It is the premiere Then there is routine maintedatabase in the entire industry.” nance that gets done on the back Social media is another option. end that supports the company’s Directed has a private Facebook apps and controls. “We try to let group set up for installers. “You people know when those things are have to be approved to get access going to happen as well because to it, which means you need to be someone may be out at 4 am trying an installer and then we check to to control their car and all of make sure it’s a person who should sudden it won’t work because that be in there,” Turner said. “We don’t is the time we’re doing the maintewant random content showing up nance,” said Turner. or things being written that aren’t pertinent to the information that Red Line Means Code Blue should be posted. Installers can go Tech support, due to how dynamon there and comment, they can ask ically things have changed in the questions about an vehicles, continues installation issue to evolve at Directed, that they’re dealing which results in new with and the whole solutions being develgroup across the oped internally. U.S. and Canada can “We used to be an respond.” analog box and you Email is used to would connect wires reach out to consumall over the car to coners with notifications trol door locks, trunk and updates like release, all these difwhen there is a ferent things—even migration from one Viper Smartstart with remote start, you technology platform VSM450 GPS module would actually interrupt to another. For examwires all over the place,” ple, about 18 months Turner said. “Now interago Directed SmartStart’s 2G faces do more of that work. You’re wireless platform was shut down, making solutions that are very vehicaused by the various wireless cle specific and you flash firmware companies transitioning to 3G. to a device that controls that vehicle. “We had a 2G sunset on SmartThere are a lot of different vehiStart,” said Turner. “We had a lot of cles out there and then within each folks who had to migrate over to a vehicle type there are different trim different technology. We sent out all levels that have different operations the notices we can through social so we publish firmware to support media and email—all of the ways all of these cars.” you would try to contact a customer, Every year, Directed upgrades but you can’t always get to all of and creates new firmware to cover them. While we executed a large the new makes and models that outreach campaign to notify users of come on the market. As the soluthe required upgrade, our commutions for vehicles become more nication effort did not reach some specific, the number of potential of the users. Unfortunately their variables for a system increase. systems stopped working. Our cusThese variables, Turner said, are tomer service agents worked hard not just specific to the model year to get these consumers connected of the vehicle, but can also be

40  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

influenced by the trim level. Based on this there are instances where a vehicle-specific application that Directed offers may not be compatible with a given trim type. “There is always an odd case where a vehicle needs to have some other kind of update and it doesn’t work as the installer expects,” said Turner.

Service Offerings for Retailers Technical Support Resources: Online: Directechs, DirectWire, Facebook. They also create instructional videos and demonstrations using Facebook LIVE. Email: Support Hours: 24/7 forums/ email. Phone support Mon-Sat covering all time zones. (Mon-Fri 8AM-9PM EST, Sat 8:30AM 6:30PM EST) Forums: Facebook Direct Techs Click to chat: Online and in app. Web Site: Directed Dealers for Dealers, DirectTechs for installers, for consumers. Technical installation Apps: Diretechs Mobile and DirectLink Trainings: Infield trainings: Conduct nearly 100 group trainings a year and train more than 5,000 installers per year PSR: Product Specialist Representatives (PSR): During the off season (March-Sept) Directed has seven product specialists that travel the country to perform group technical trainings as well as individual shop trainings. While visiting, they show the benefits of Directed’s products and relay feedback to the product teams to continuously improve the products. Train sales reps 2x per year. Once at CES and in the summer, at corporate headquarters.

“We are the industry leader in all of this information that we have amassed. We have dedicated folks who do nothing but go through owner’s manuals for all the different vehicle types and we list out all of the wire connections for where they need to connect in the car. It’s not just our security-remote start, it’s also for audio. It is like the premiere database in the entire industry.” - James Turner, Senior Vice President of Product and Technical Services, Directed Two years ago the company stepped things up by implementing a process called Red Line. “When we get a call into tech support, if the person on the line cannot deal with the issue, then they escalate it to the lead in their area,” Turner said. “The lead will take that and work through whatever the problem is. They will check all the installation points, all the wires, and ask detailed questions about how the product was installed. If they cannot resolve it then it escalates to the Red Line which is one phone number that dials into five different engineers who at any point in time pick up the phone. Then they go through the code that supports that vehicle specifically and will make modifications to it and post it to the installer right away so they can get that car out.” Equality for All Directed has also made it a high priority to address how it works with its dealers and offers support to everyone as an equal. “We have a significant amount of our business with direct retailers—ones who carry us exclusively, ones who carry us and other products, ones who are high volume, and ones that are low volume,” Turner said. “Then you have distributors and then different levels of distributors and the customers that they sell to underneath them that we also support. So we had a lot of segmentation, but now we have removed all of that. Every customer is important. We need to help each one equally.” The company has also changed its staffing configuration with its

PSRs. “They are all in the field from March to September doing trainings, seeing the dealers, waving the Directed flag, and showing all of the new products and the technology that we have going on,” Turner said. “But when we get to October, those guys are back in their chairs, taking phone calls and answering clickto-chats for all the installers as the remote start season ramps up.” Build And Buy One initiative that Turner is especially proud of is what is known internally as BYOS—or Build Your Own System. On the web site ( ) it is the place where consumers can go and build their own system. “Our online analytics tell us that most people research remote starts before they’ll go to a retailer to purchase one so they try to understand exactly what it is and what options they want,” Turner said. “We implemented this tool about three years ago which allows the customer to go through and build their own system based on the preferences they have.” The way it works is a consumer selects the make, model and year of the vehicle—because everything is much more vehicle specific these days—and then chooses what kind of remote or phone control they want. “They go through this whole process and pick all the accessories. It builds the system for the consumer and then sends all of that information to a retailer who is closest to them. We prioritize these dealers—the ones that are preferred because they have

a high ranking among consumers who have gone to them,” Turner said. “All of the consumer’s information is passed to this dealer—they have a log of it. We are passing the consumer from our website right to the retailer. We are giving that retailer all of the control for the product and are telling them, ‘Here, this is the consumer, these are the features and functions they want from the system,’ and we are connecting those two together.” The retailer can then reach out to the consumer and give them information about costs and other options if there are some additional ones available to them, Turner added. “We have a person here who just keeps track of this whole exchange, making sure the consumer gets contacted by the retailer we designated. Our person acts as the go-between to make sure that everything is handled and then they follow up to make sure the consumer was satisfied in the end.” Turner, whose pivotal role handling issues day-in and day-out can be challenging, loves knowing that he is able to affect changes once he is on top of what needs to be improved. “Since I have the ties to the product side, what I like best about this job is hearing from an installer who is putting in a product that we should change this or update that or tweak this,” he said. “Then I can come right back around and have it implemented in the product in a relatively short amount of time. That is the most gratifying thing for me.”    41

 strategy & tactics

TIS THE SEASON Business planning and operations can be truly daunting. Retailers share what works for them, including five tips that can be used today to help focus and narrow down planning efforts. WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA

42  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

Knowing how each phase of the year will be handled in terms of marketing, advertising, finances, general business operations, promotion and sales is essential to the success of a business. However, everyone has different approaches depending on a number of factors, such as location, categories and both short- and long-term goals. Carlos Ramirez of NVS Audio in Linden, N.J. has changed his strategy a few times in the last several years. “As the market changes, the trends change and I try to change my strategy,” he said. “In August, we gear up for remote start season as car audio dies down and we look for the best deals from remote start companies we deal with and

see what makes the most sense to us.” Ramirez also noted that manufacturers will change their own strategies, as well. “On the east coast we’ve had two or three warm winters,” Ramirez said of the last few years, “so we stopped stocking heavy.” Having a lot of remote starts in stock, and then getting a warmer winter, meant being stuck with extra inventory. For Bret Hall, owner of Mobile Sound Solutions in Angola, Ind., the safety category tends to drop off during autumn and remote start season begins. The same is true at NVS Audio. However, since Hall runs a one-man operation, things become stressful quickly. “I take it

While a 15 year veteran, Bryan Turvaville of 806 Autoworks, puts everything he has into his young store, which includes multiple in-store promotions for each time of year, including remote start season. day by day,” Hall said in regard to seasonal planning. “If I’m not selling radios, I’m selling remote starts.” Since the shop is in lake country, marine audio kicks in during the springtime months.

The year-round marine audio display captures the attention of customers, and even though the category drops off when it’s not in season, the showroom reminds customers that it’s available whenever they’re ready.

Because The World Never Stops Tip Top Customs in Morris, Ill. first opened in November of 1999 and has been going strong ever since. Sean Davis, president of the company, has seen a lot of changes over the years. The shop plans for each season by watching the numbers, studying trends and paying close attention to any changes in what customers are looking for, according to Davis. “I think a major part of planning for a season is marketing and advertising. Yes, they are different,” he added. “Having a plan for both of them is key to any season going the way you want it to.” Each year—multiple times—Davis concentrates on how, what and when Tip Top Customs will handle planning and operations in each season. “I like to do this for the first time each year by the middle of January. Because the world never stops, your plan needs to overlap. If I’m looking at what we are   43

 strategy & tactics Balance Planning With Focusing On What’s Before You

For each shop, making up money lost in other categories wasn’t a large concern; focusing on remote starts and making income on that category during the fall and winter made up for the loss in other categories. During the busiest time of the year, NVS Audio has a few part-timers who are called in to help out. Ramirez noted there was nothing they could do about losing money in other categories. “We focus on remote starts and the volume we do makes up for any shortfall in any other category,” he said. “We stop spending in those categories before it gets cold because the inventory just sits there.” Rather than keeping items in stock during the winter that won’t be used, NVS will order equipment only as needed, if a customer makes a deposit for an audio build during an off-season. “During the summer, we have it in stock,” Ramirez added. Depending on where a shop is located, the demographics of the area, and what sells from season to season, planning during the fall and winter months may be different. Tip Top Customs has a similar approach to NVS Audio. “We don’t see a loss because other categories have dropped off,” Davis said. “We concentrate on what our customers needs are, push hard and deliver as much as we can. The amount of remote start sales we do more than cover for the lack in other categories.”

Write A Basic Plan For Each Season

Keeping a basic plan for each season is a good way to stay on track, though each business will handle it differently. Sometimes it’s harder to plan and juggle everything, especially when a business is a one-man operation. Hall of Mobile Sound Solutions plays it by ear, for now, and plans promotions for tax season. When it comes to remote starts, “I can’t give them away in the summer, but as soon as the windows frost over, I get busy,” Hall said. “Mid-November, I start doing specials.” During the spring and summer, Hall handles marine audio and dealership work. Once remote start season begins to slow, he may hire an employee. “I’m thinking about a person coming on for this upcoming season,” he said. “I have a person in mind. It’s very hard to find [someone].”

44  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

While Making Plans, Embrace Change

Tip Top Customs remains busy almost year round, according to Davis. “Our staff knows that this is a busy time of year for us,” he said. “Everyone expects to put in a few more hours if needed and we do have blackout dates for requesting time off. Everyone knows that November and December can be crucial to the next several months following and the health of the business. We don’t have issues with the staff in place stepping up and doing what is needed to make sure we have a great season.” Davis added that the frequency with which they examine their plans and make changes has in itself changed over time. What’s involved in the plans has also changed. “Changes in social media, a new player in the game, or even a simple update can make the way we market, interact with customers, or deliver what we sell change from what we did last month,” he explained.

Network And Learn From Colleagues

Business planning can be a tricky beast to tame, but learning from colleagues is always a good place to start. Younger shops can especially benefit from the trials and lessons learned by those who’ve been open longer. Ramirez recommended that business owners join as many industry-related Facebook groups as they can. “A lot of people add me to groups and I try to help out as many people as I can,” Ramirez said. “We had an issue where we needed a head unit. I called and they’re on back order, so I went on the forum, made a post and I have another head unit coming from another retailer in California. Without social media, I would not know who to call. This connects me to everyone in the US.” Turvaville echoed the sentiment. “There is a wealth of knowledge out there in the minds of industry veterans. They are willing to share if you are willing to learn.”

Stay Top-Of-Mind

Hall’s best laid plans involve being repetitive, ensuring the business’s name is out there and that people are aware of its presence. Mobile Sound Solutions has been open for three years, but Hall has been in the industry since 1999. “It’s been rough for everyone,” he said, adding that vehicle manufacturers have integrated a lot into cars that were once designated for the aftermarket. Hall said that he tackles whatever the factory might have left out. Being new to ownership means continuously learning, evolving and changing plans. “I must continue to listen to those who give advice and help guide me to be successful,” he added. “This is not without its ups and downs.”

going to do for the year from January to January, I’m two months or more late on the current January. So our plan needs to go at least a few months past the month we are starting a new plan.” Since 806 Autoworks in Amarillo, Texas is still a very young shop, owner Bryan Turvaville stated that he is basing his planning on past experiences. Turvaville, himself, is beginning his fifteenth year in the industry. “Planning is vital to our success, and each phase of the year brings forth different challenges,” he said. “When the season hits for remote starts, we stock up on those parts and accessories. When that dies down and warmer weather hits, we gear up for more audio work.” Creating Unique Solutions All of this carries a different weight when in the midst of switching gears from installer to shop owner. Turvaville said his perception changed. “Being in the owner’s seat now, I must make sure that I have the parts I need to serve the customer base,” he explained. “I need to be able to offer them solutions that are unique to my store and are profitable. Before, as an installer, those things never crossed my mind so I wasn’t planning for it.” It’s important for each shop to create its own unique solutions when engaging in operations and

Tip Top Customs uses Facebook and other social media to help promote planned sales events throughout the year, to great success. business planning. 806 Autoworks gains inspiration from other shops across the nation, according to Turvaville, who bases strategies off what he sees through his own personal experiences in the industry. He experiments with various ideas and develops them along the way. “Some work, some don’t,” he said. “My main strategy is the same as always and that is a heavy amount of web promotion and presence.” While this has worked well to build the




business, Turvaville is always looking for ways to improve on his methods. Like many other shops, 806 Autoworks is currently focusing on remote starts. “Fall and winter rely heavily on remote starts in our area. While we don’t do the volume the guys up north do, we still do a fair amount of them and that is our bread and butter during the winter months,” Turvaville explained. “We are going to offer some new incentives this year. We are also planning


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our first anniversary celebration and will have a Cars and Coffee event in November which we’ll be promoting heavily online over the next month.” Much like looking at a road map to find the right path to a destination, proper business planning and operations helps a shop to succeed and be prepared for the future. Davis advises putting the plans to paper so that a business has something to follow and track progress. “I remember a time when this was good enough, and if it was something your business did, you were miles ahead of the competition. With the way the world is today, planning [only] once a year will put you behind,” he warned. “Technology, news, our customer’s needs and wants, all change way too fast. Today we are constantly planning and have to be prepared to adapt and change the plan.” 

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 tech today

All Mixed Up

JoeyKnapp and David MacKinnon discuss how to avoid issues when dealing with multi-seat OEM integration and the use of upmixers. 46  Mobile Electronics November 2017

Introduction by Joey Knapp The excitement and anticipation of KnowledgeFest Dallas has come and gone. Following along and observing the competition this year was exciting for me. It seemed like this year had very strong contenders for every award area. Congratulations to all the winners and runners-up. You all deserved it! I consider myself fairly well-versed in a majority of things car audio related. I try to stay informed on the hot topics that face installers and owners. One subject I seem to be hearing about more is that of upmixers. Being unsure of exactly what an upmixer is and how it works, I decided to phone a friend and find out more details. The first person on my list to call was one of my Canadian buddies, David MacKinnon. David is not only a smart guy, but he can take complicated material and explain it in a way that is very easy to understand. After learning a bit from David, I asked him if he would like to share some of his knowledge on the subject with the Tech Today readers. He is Canadian, so of course, he agreed. Follow along as we learn more about upmixers. There was a time not so long ago when factory sound systems sounded pretty bad. Those of us in the aftermarket had it great. Installing new speakers and an amplifier would generate big performance gains, and our clients would be happy. About 10 years ago, this started to change. Now, even mid-level sound systems from the factory sound okay, and the premium versions, supplied by companies like Panasonic, Harman and Bose sound downright good. So, what is a mobile electronics specialist to do when a client with premium sound system wants something better? Read on and you will find out.


Why Modern OEM Audio Sounds Great I know you are frustrated that I keep saying factory audio systems sound great. Stay with me, and I’ll explain. There are several criteria used to determine the quality of a sound system. The simplest and most critical criteria are tonality and placement. Equalization makes it easy to get a system sounding good from the standpoint of frequency response and overall level balance, even with speakers of modest quality.

The expectation for a vehicle manufacturer is that everyone in the vehicle should be able to enjoy his or her music equally. This means that both the driver and passenger should experience good instrument and performer placement across the soundstage. OEMs are great at this. The aftermarket is not. How We Determine the Source of a Sound Let’s look at how our brains determine the source of a sound. There are two important criteria required to

determine the lateral arrival time of a sound—amplitude and arrival time. Imagine, if you will, a circle around your head at a distance of three feet. A speaker is placed on this circle and it slowly follows the round path. When the speaker is directly in front of you, the sound level is equal at both ears and the signal arrives at the same time. As the speaker moves to the right, the audio signal will be louder in the right ear and arrive there slightly before it arrives at the left ear. When the speaker is directly   47

 tech today to our right, the difference in amplitude will be the greatest, as will the difference in arrival time. Our brains are very powerful information processing tools. We use our experiences to improve our ability to locate sounds even further. Reflections off surfaces and changes in frequency response contribute to our ability to judge height, distance and a sound’s position in front or behind us. We can acknowledge attenuation in high-frequency content in one ear relative to the other, and again as compared to our brain’s ‘mental image’ of what something should sound like. Stereo Car Audio Systems As a very simplified example, let’s talk about a stereo system in a car with a radio and a set of door speakers. Nothing fancy—no signal delay, no phase adjustments and no equalization. Both speakers reproduce mono information equally. Of course, left-biased information is louder in the left speaker as is right-biased information in the right speaker. If this sound system was installed in the McLaren P1 with its centrally located seating position, it might sound great! In a conventional lefthand drive vehicle, we are sitting much closer to the left speaker than to the right. As such, we hear the sound from the left speaker first, and the signal is louder because we are closer. Our brains can’t be fooled. It takes these cues and tells us that the source of the audio is closer to the left side of the car. If the left speaker is far away at the bottom of the door, the center image of the music may appear over the steering wheel. If the speaker is up higher in the door and closer to us, the center image may, in fact, appear to come from the left side of the dash. How We Can Fix Stereo Imaging One option to distribute our music evenly across the interior space of the vehicle is to include a signal processor in the system. If we set up our

48  Mobile Electronics November 2017

The JL Audio XD800/8 Amplifier provided the eight channels of speaker amplification, while JL Audio HD amplifiers powered the subwoofers. RTA mic in the listening position and attenuate the left speaker so that it is equal in average amplitude to the right, the perceived source of the music will move toward the center of the vehicle. We have now addressed half the problem. If we listen to a well-recorded piece of music with instruments and performers in distinct locations left to right, we will find those locations are blurry and unfocused. Why? The sounds reproduced by the left speaker are arriving at our ears before those from the other speaker. How do we fix this? We apply some signal delay to the left speaker.Get back out of the car, take your tape measure and measure the distances to the two speakers. Subtract the shortest distance from the longest. Let’s say the left speaker is 18 inches closer. There are several handy tools available to convert that to a time measurement. Bottom line, we need to delay the output of the left speaker by about 1.3 milliseconds. Apply that delay in your DSP and you find that the imaging suddenly comes into focus. Instruments will be more precisely located across the soundstage and the frequency response may improve due to a reduction in interference patterns. Andy Wehmeyer covered system

setup and tuning in great and generous detail earlier this summer across multiple issues of Mobile Electronics magazine. Give those a read; that information directly applies to the upmixer upgrade process.

Tech Tip: The easiest way to figure out signal delays relative to distance is to download the owner’s manual for the Clarion DRZ9255. They include a chart on pages 32 and 33 that show delays for a given measurement. Yes, the measurement is in centimeters. You can convert inches to centimeters by multiplying by 2.54. 10 inches = 25.4 cm.) The One-Seat Tune Congrats! You have made the car image well from the driver’s seat. So, what does the passenger hear? Almost all the music will seem to come from the right door, except for signals that panned all the way to the left. I’ve been in that seat for hours, â&#x20AC;&#x201A; 49

 tech today heading to sound-offs all over the country. It’s no fun. How to Make Everyone Happy Home and movie theaters have left, center and right speakers to locate voices accurately relative to actors’ positions on the screen from any seating position in the room. You will find that most premium factory audio systems use a center channel in conjunction (but not always) with an upmixer to place sounds accurately across the dash or windshield for all the occupants of the vehicle. Considered in simple terms, the center speaker reproduces audio information that is in the center of the recording. As such, the amplitude and phase of the information will be equal on both tracks. The left and right speakers handle sounds at the left and right boundaries of the recording. Sounds between the center and outer boundaries are reproduced by the center and the appropriate left or right speaker. What is an Upmixer? In terms of a dictionary definition, an upmixer takes some number of audio channels and converts them into a greater number of channels. In most OEM applications, the result of upmixing two-channel audio is either 5.1 channels or 7.1 channels. There are two types of upmixers commonly used in automotive applications—matrix or non-matrix. How these systems work determines the accuracy of the instrument placement on the soundstage. Understanding how they work will play an important roll in determining how you can upgrade your client’s audio system. Rear Speakers – an old habit, communist plot or just for special effects? We haven’t talked about rear speakers yet. For many of us, any mention of a rear speaker and we instantly envision a set of Jensen 6x9s in openback boxes in the rear window of

50  Mobile Electronics November 2017

Audiofrog components were used for the speaker upgrades. The center channel utilizes the new Audiofrog OEM replacement tweeter. a Monte Carlo. The reality is, rear speakers are often larger than front speakers due to available space. This means they can reproduce great bass. In most modern premium sound systems, the sounds reproduced by the rear speakers is a combination of left and right information with some emphasis on information that the upmixer has determined is a reflection from the back of the studio or recording venue, or information that has been encoded into the recording for playback through rear speakers. Done right, rear speakers can add a sense of space to the listening environment. Done wrong, and it can show limitations of the processing technology. Matrix Upmixer In a matrix upmixer, the left and right audio channels are combined to create the center channel. The level of the center channel is the sum of 70.7 percent cause instruments to move around the of the left signal

and 70.7 percent of the right signal. In some newer systems, active level controls are used to make up for the reduction in stage width caused by summing the center signal. Unfortunately, this active level adjustment can soundstage based on the level of the audio being reproduced by the center channel. For rear channels, most matrix mixers use a left minus right configuration with some mixing to create the rear signal. As a result, the rear speakers produce any content that is out of phase on one channel relative to the other, at full amplitude. This encoding method allowed the sound producers for movies to encode surround information into a 2-channel audio track that could be stored on a VHS tape. The signal going to the rear speakers often includes some amount of signal delay so that the position of the soundstage is not altered. Common applications of matrix upmixers are Pro Logic 2 from Dolby

Soundstage Maps Here are some slightly exaggerated examples of how different upmixers and tuning philosophies present the soundstage. You can see Peter Criss (Drums) is located in the center of the stage. Gene Simmons (Bass Guitar) is standing in front of him. Ace Frehley (Lead Guitar) is just to the right of Gene. Finally, Paul Stanley (Lead Vocals) is standing about a quarter of the way in from the right edge of the stage. If you were listening to a high-quality recording of this performance on a home audio system while sitting equidistant from the speakers, you should be able to perceive the positions of each performer.


Left Matrix: From the driver’s seat, a matrix upmixer will typically create a center image in front of the driver, or slightly to the right. You will hear Peter and Gene directly in front of you. The left side of the stage is heavily compressed.

Left Non-Matrix: With a properly tuned non-matrix upmixer, the center information has been separated from the left and right channels. Gene and Peter will be in the center of the windshield, just above the radio. Paul should be performing just above the passenger side airbag.

Left One Seat:With level and signal delay settings applied in a one-seat vehicle, the soundstage should be similar to that of the non-matrix mixer from the driver’s seat. The sound will be evenly distributed and nicely focused.


Right Matrix: From the passenger seat, the center of the image with Peter and Gene will be in front of you, maybe slightly to the left. Paul and Ace will be squished to the right side of the windshield.

Right Non-Matrix: From the passenger seat with a non-matrix upmixer, if tuned properly, Gene and Peter will once again appear to be performing just above the radio display. Paul should sound like he is directly in front of you.

Right One Seat: The poor passenger in a one-seat vehicle hears almost all the music coming from the very right side of the windshield. Only the left-most information is spread across the dash.   51

 tech today and Logic 7 from Harman. In most cases, these systems produce a center image in front of the driver and passenger. Perhaps not ideal from a purist’s standpoint, but certainly better than having the center image at the nearby window edge. Non-Matrix Upmixer The center channel in a non-matrix upmixer is a combination of in-phase information from the original left and right channels. Where a non-matrix mixer separates itself is in the removal of that mono information from the left and right channels. In simple terms, only left-only information is played back through the left channel and the right-only information is played in the right channel. Mono information is reproduced exclusively by the center channel. The rear channels are created in several different ways. Some systems extract reverberated information in the recording and mix in varying amounts of left and right information. Clearly, the encoding process is far more advanced in a non-matrix upmixer. As such, information produced by the rear channels is less prone to errors and abnormal results. Examples of non-matrix upmixers include Harman’s Quantum Logic Surround, Bose centerpoint and Audiofrog multi-seat. These systems typically produce a well-centered image in the middle of the windshield from both seating positions. The use of side channels (often in the rear doors of a vehicle) can help add to the width of the perceived soundstage. A Note about Signal Delay In an upmixed system, there is no signal delay amongst the front stage speakers. Yes, if the midbass speakers are buried deep in the kick panel and are farther away than your midrange s peakers are, there will need to be compensation for that. In terms of left to right processing, there is none.

52  Mobile Electronics November 2017

Adrenaline Autosound used the Mosconi 8 to 12 Pro DSP to handle the signals in this multi-seat audio upgrade. The Aftermarket Upgrade Process Before you begin the upgrade process, it is wise to invest a few minutes into researching how the factory system works. Does the vehicle have an upmixer? Can you determine what kind of upmixer it is using test tracks?

Tech Tip 2: A selection of upmixer test tracks are available in the files section of the Educar Integration & Acoustics Facebook group. Instructions for how to use these tracks and interpret the results are in the same location. The information you gather from this research will determine the upgrade process. In short, if the vehicle has an upmixer, chances are that the audio system supplier has

invested hundreds of hours into tuning that factory audio system and thousands of hours into the development of the hardware. While there are some integration solutions that allow us to extract a simple 2-channel audio signal either at the preamp stage or from a matrix upmixer, it is counterproductive to build a system that won’t impress every listener in the vehicle. Here’s your homework: Download those test tracks and the accompanying instructions. Listen to them on a selection of OEM systems that include center channels. If you don’t have access to a vehicle with an upmixer, try listening to different surround modes on a home theater receiver. In the next issue, Andy Wehmeyer will return to explain the details of the testing process and explain how best to upgrade these systems to create an amazing audio experience for everyone in the vehicle. The process is easy and reliable. 


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 installs

Thanks to Orca Design & Manufacturing, world-renowned 12-volt fabrication training company, Mobile Solutions, hosted a special three-day training that featured a live build hosted by four of the best fabricators in the business.



n response to its popularity earlier this year, Mobile Solutions and Orca Design and Manufacturing teamed up again September 9 through 11 to host a live build workshop for 25 installation techs from around the country. The training was sold out and featured 2017 Installer of the Year Chris Pate, past IOTYs Tom Miller and JT Torres, Top 12 Installer Sage Weir and Bryan Schmitt, owner of Mobile Solutions. The vehicle used was a 2017 Volvo V90 XC Cross Country, owned by

54  Mobile Electronics November 2017

Mobile Electronics Editor-in-Chief, Solomon Daniels. “We basically had three different components to the class, which was blended in with our Master Tech class. We talk about OEM integration, signal and how to add audio to modern vehicles,” Schmitt said. “We did a classroom theory, how to use test tools like the oscilloscope and RTA, then talked about it in a real world fashion. I thought it was great for guys to see live demonstrations on a real build while they were there. Trying to stick with the threeday time period was a challenge. We did a great job managing it.” The participants were thrown into the mix with no preparation after an initial sketch of the design was created by Tom Miller. Each person found something of interest to them and began working on that element. “The most difficult part was building something that someone else drew,” Weir added. “It was my first time out there at Mobile Solutions. I didn’t have any assigned tasks per se. I just started running wires into the doors, then showed interest in the sub enclosure.” When I fabricate and build stuff I basically freestyle. I’ve never really built anything from paper to reality. It was a rewarding challenge in the end.” All products used were provided by Focal and included Focal Kevlar K2 tweeter speakers, 6-inch mid bass and 3-inch mid range speakers in the doors, two amplifiers and a controller for the console. “The whole project was a real world install. It’s something that we would actually do for one of our customers in any of our shops,” Miller said. “The process that we used is called ‘Design, Engineer, Fabricate.’ It’s a three step process. The idea there is that by breaking down the project to three separate steps it allows us to get a better result.” Miller, who served as design director for the project, likes to use the design language of the vehicle he’s working on to give him ideas. In the case of Volvo, he is already familiar   55

 installs with the designer and previous work, which is Scandinavian in style and includes straight lines, with a clean, uncluttered look. “In this project, the areas where we had an influence were with the tweeters and subwoofer enclosure. With those, I’m trying to reflect the existing design language without doing anything too contrived where I’m just pulling a shape off of the car that’s already there and just trying to emulate that,” Miller added. While it was a team effort, each portion of the build was managed by a different person. While Weir handled the sub enclosure, Miller worked on the A-pillars, Pate handled the wiring and amp mounting and Torres handled the controller. All acrylic materials were used for fabrication of the A-pillars, which were moved higher than the factory location to provide a wider sound in the front stage. The vehicle design element of muted chrome was used with the acrylic as an added touch with the tweeter housings. A custom amp rack was built by Pate to keep the amps out of sight and well-mounted. All speakers and components were installed using machined PVC baffles. Each instructor had something different to say about the experience. “I’ve done a lot of classes with Mobile Solutions and this was my first time doing a live build. Been out there probably a dozen times teaching classes,” Miller said. “This was an eye-opening experience for the students. The application of how they could apply this to their own shops was my favorite part.” “Working with Bryan, Tom, JT and Sage was amazing,” Pate said. “Being a part of the design and build process with this crew is nothing short of special.” Torres added to the idea. “Everybody’s got their own ideas on something should be built. To get four guys together and get something done in the short amount of time we did it is pretty cool and to get it done at the level it was done was awesome.” 

56  Mobile Electronics November 2017

“. . . if you’re hitting the racetrack, or just the expressway in an R8, the Waylens is the way to go.” — Autoweek

Introducing the Ultimate Automotive Camera System from Waylens The Waylens Horizon was designed for the auto enthusiast. More than a dash cam, the Horizon represents years of passionate design to capture the fun behind the wheel, integrating the vehicle’s performance. Precision, high-performance camera: The Horizon system includes a state of the art HD camera that captures the drive in crystal-clear video. Its elegant design looks at home in any vehicle. Its custom lens and highspeed processor captures every moment, even in low light conditions. A quick-release windshield mount makes it easy to install or remove. Wireless Plug and play vehicle data: The wireless data module plugs into the vehicle’s OBDII port and communicates vehicle performance data, including G-Force, Pitch and Roll, Boost and other critical parameters to the camera. The result is the total driving experience, including vehicle performance, in brilliant 1080p.

Capture the best moments: We’ve made it easy to instantly highlight your customer’s best moments during their drive with our one-touch remote. They simply tap it during a hair-pin turn or other event and the system will file it separately for easy retrieval later. Application Features: Our free app allows us to continually add the features drivers want. Waylens GO lets users post 0-30 and 0-60 times to our cloud-based leaderboard in real time. And, our LapTimer feature uses GPS to map out a track or course and automatically track lap times.

Gauge the progress: The ultra-bright display provides optional information at a glance.


Easy editing and sharing: Video is stored on a high-performance SD card, but our unique mobile app allows easy access and sharing of the best moments without removing it. Editing on a larger screen is also made simple by removing the card or camera and reviewing the video with our desktop application software. Comes complete: The Waylens Horizon Automotive Camera system comes complete with everything your customers need to capture their total driving experience.. Visit for more product information or for dealer inquiries email us at

Pitch and Roll WAY-4-007-Camera-Jul2017-2.0

Nothing Left to Learn? If you’ve achieved all the success you can handle, I challenge you to take one more step. It is easy to become complacent with your success. Doing the same thing year after year that produces the results you expect is a glorious thing, and we should all be as blessed. The question I ask of you today is what determines that you are as successful as you can become? How do you measure it? If your measurement is solely on your own merit and you feel confident that you are doing your best, then your perception may be that you have nothing left to learn. Or do you? Learning all of life’s lessons takes more than a lifetime. Working every day to become better than you were the day before requires a discovery mindset. If you approach your day and thus your life without this, you are doing yourself and your business a disservice. Why do people stop learning? Too busy, maybe a bit lazy or just apathetic towards learning new things. There is also another, and frankly more dangerous reason. You think you know all you need to know and no one else’s experience can provide you a benefit. This last one is usually tied to a couple of issues: people who are very prideful and those who are insecure. If either of the last two reasons fit you, then I would humbly ask you to reevaluate your motives, let down the walls and find someone you trust to help you grow and learn. You will be glad you did. If you are thinking about your next step to learning, think no more. When it comes to the Mobile Electronics industry, there are many great opportunities. You could join Facebook groups dedicated to a topic that peaks your interest. You could invite your vendors to visit your store for a training event. Maybe attend a local distributor event that offers some training prospects. Take a few minutes out of your day to read some great business articles, like those you will find in Mobile Electronics magazine. You could also take a few days away from your store to attend a KnowledgeFest event. If you have not been to KnowledgeFest or not attended in the past seven years, there is a lot that can be learned to benefit your store and you personally. You may be thinking, “KnowledgeFest? How am I going learn anything from others in our industry?” I hear this at every KnowledgeFest event. The same story from many who were eventually proved to be wrong. Retailers that said they had nothing left to learn. Their stores run perfectly and regardless of the topic, they were the expert. This is one of the top reasons retailers choose not to attend an event that teaches them to be better. When I speak to retailers sharing their experience after participating in a KnowledgeFest event, the testimonies are much different. 58  Mobile Electronics  November 2017

For example, I spoke to a retailer from Southern California after our most recent event in Dallas. He said that a retailer friend of his guilted him into attending in 2016. He left the event with a renewed passion for our industry and his business. In 2017 he made a greater investment by bringing his staff with him and even closing his store to do it. He now encourages others to do the same. One dealer in the Texas market left the event and completely redesigned his store. He said he had been doing it all wrong for years. His business is experiencing growth that he never thought was attainable. I could go on telling you testimonials of retailers who are doing well and attribute much of it to what they have learned at a KnowledgeFest event. MEA recently announced that KnowledgeFest will be coming to the West Coast, more specifically, Long Beach, in February of 2018. The challenge in this market will be getting local retailers to realize the value and to attend the event. Vendors have shared with me that the Southern California market is not one to turn out for education and training. Southern California is a very mature market. Our best estimate puts nearly 750 retail locations within 300 miles of Long Beach. With those numbers, one would expect that any event in the area could draw a crowd. So here is my challenge to the Southern California retailers. Take the time out of your store on February 23-25, 2018 to discover what other great retailers across North America have found; that what they learn at KnowledgeFest is invaluable to their future success in our industry. Not just for the education and vendor training, but also for the great networking and idea sharing that is part of every event. If I am wrong about this, I challenge you to prove me wrong. With that said, feel free to contact me, or any retailer you know that has taken valuable time away from their store to grow their business to the next level. Take five minutes now and go to to review some of the great education topics for the Long Beach event, then register. I hope to see you there!


©2017 VOXX Electronics Corporation

Mobile Electronics Magazine November 2017  

The Industry's #1 Resource

Mobile Electronics Magazine November 2017  

The Industry's #1 Resource