12 Volt:: The Places Mobile Audio Goes
In the Antelope Valley high desert community of Lancaster, Calif., the year-round warm weather means there are plenty of folks with toys like boats, off-road side-by-side vehicles, golf carts and motorcycles.
Specialty 12-volt retailer Meece Car Audio (MCA) is taking advantage of the diverse range of installation opportunities those toys present. Along with a wide range of every-day cars and trucks, the shop has garnered a local following for putting great audio in just about anything that drives or floats.
“When we opened just over a year ago, I’d already honed a great reputation for providing innovative installation services in the community from my previous employer,” said MCA Owner and MECP Master Installation Technician Jeff Meece. “So when they closed their business, clients were literally waiting in line for us to open our doors.”
With the blessing of his previous employer, Meece purchased the customer list and some of the other shop fixtures to get the doors of MCA open quickly. Meece also benefited from displays and kit/harness inventory purchased from a local Circuit City that had also recently closed. “We had a fantastic momentum when opening the doors, even on our first day,” said an enthusiastic Meece.
Meece and his two-man crew have extensive experience with installations in some of the less-common recreational modes of transportation. In particular, the side-by-side vehicles that frequent the nearby California City desert recreational area are regulars in the Meece Car Audio shop. Since the Antelope Valley is also home to a fair amount of golf courses, MCA sees plenty of those as well.
Interestingly, side-by-side vehicles such as Rhinos, Gators, Rangers, etc. are not electrically similar to golf carts, so each has its challenges. In addition, the exposure to sun, dust and moisture is also a concern for equipment choices and placement.
“We developed an approach on both types of these four-wheel machines that provides customers a high degree of reliability,” commented Meece. In addition to retail customers, Meece has also built several side-by-side audio systems that have appeared at CES and SEMA shows.
For side-by-side vehicles, Meece uses either low-cost coaxial speakers that provide good sound for the money or move all the way up to more costly speakers with motor assemblies completely sealed from dust/dirt and water penetration.
“With those side-by-side vehicles off roading, dust eventually gets into the voice coil gap and that’s shortening the life of the speakers significantly,” said Meece. Instead of adding a lot of cost with a super-premium, sealed-up speaker on the magnet and spider, Meece finds it is easier to have customers get something cost effective that sounds good, but let them know every few years they’ll need to consider replacing them. “This crowd expects to have some degree of maintenance and replacement of certain things with these types of machines, so it’s not really a source of objection,” added Meece.
Side-by-sides at MCA generally get a second battery with a high-current relay (a contactor) that isolates the batteries when the engine is not running. According to Meece, “We quickly found out many of these owners were using the audio systems to pull up into the campsites and function like an outdoor sound system, so the addition of the battery eliminates any issues with starting the vehicle later on.”
Meece finds locations for the amplifiers that are out of harm’s way if the vehicles get wet or washed and also says that the majority of them don’t even get a head unit anymore.
“People are literally much more comfortable with just plugging in an iPod or MP3 player as their source, so we’ll add those input jacks/cables and a dedicated volume control knob for them. Head units just got beat up, dirty and sometimes wet (even with marine covers), so the iPod as the source is something that has been much more reliable,” commented Meece. “We even use a Scosche steering-wheel remote iPod accessory for navigating the tracks in many of the installs,” added Meece.