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Discussion Starter #1
Although I am new to the forum, I am not new to car audio. My first car quickly became victim to audio modifications.

I had stopped modifying car audio systems after college, and now find myself playing catch-up as many things have changed in the past 6 years.

I no longer find myself wanting to DIY everything as a job now gets in the way, but I cannot erase the memories of horrible"professional" installs my friends and I had undergone--leading us to learn to DIY.

Now to the reason for this post. The consumer could benefit (not to mention the quality audio shops) from a guide explaining how to determine if a shop is hacking or aligned more closely with professionalism and experienced knowledge.

The many upstarts and "discount shops" around each locality coupled with the internet lead to consumer confusion.

The consumer is left not knowing who to trust. And the budgetary constraints often lead to a smooth talking hack convincing consumers to buy "their" equipment and go with "their" installer teams.

So as this is a meeting place of consumers, professionals, and DIYs, perhaps an understanding can be developed regarding picking the "best" equipment from the "best" shops and the "best" installing options.

As noted almost everywhere on this website, "best" is a relative term to the consumer asking the question.

Let's get this thread going, because as we all know knowledge is power.
 

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thanks bud. it is specifically for this reason i started this forum...in the hopes that overtime it can form a useful database for car audio enthusiasts seeking a quality professional.

having said that, as you mentioned, there are a lot of difficulties facing this agenda...IMO internet reviews are almost uselss because unless say...food, peoples tastes, understanding and recognition of quality vs hack jobs is very much lacking...as a result, a lot of hack shops have acutally sterling reviews on the web, this is why i also dont every plan on listening my business for review on the generic websites.

here are my initial thoughts:

1. try to get quality referrals from people on car audio enthusiast websites, such as ths one. I see you are in Houston, well, make a post asking for quality installers in Houston and you should get some responses.

2. once you have a list of shops you want to visit...the frist thing to do is go in with open mind. there are a lot of differing opinions in car audio, you can state your case, but dont automatically believe a different opinion is wrong or stupid. hear them out. acting like a "know it all" is a quick way to get a shop to want you to just leave asap and stop wasting their time.

3. so guages for yourself how knowledgable the installer is, a good installer shouldnt know everything, instead, he or she should admit that they dont know of certain things but promises to research and get to know them. someone who just goes oh yeah i know and yeah i got that...without coming up with more specifics to back up their claim, should ber avoided.

4. try and talk to the specific person who will actaully be doing the work on your car, not neccessarily the sales person.

5. ask to see their work, and not in a picture book, ask if you can check out a car they are working on right now. a quality shop with nothing to hide shouldnt have a problem with this. and when you do, dont just look at the superficial stuff, the best is if you can look at a car that is 80 percent done, so you can see how everything beneath the surface looks, the wiring, how things are organized, laid out, is everyhting secure or can you take a piece that is suppose to be solid and shake it around with ease...but wiring is a good indicator, someone who wont clean and organize their wiring usually have very little attention to detail and should be avoided. if they dont have cars to show you, as when they do, if they can let you take a look, or a detailed install log showing what it looks like underneath would be good as well.

5. dont EVER use price as the determining factor. infact, if you encounter someone who refuses to match a cheaper rate, that usually is a good sign that they are confident of their work and knows that they dont need to lure people with pricing. of course, be nice and professional with them and do a lil haggling, but again, dont use that to determine who to go to. cause a few hundred dollars saved whcih cuases your prized car to get hacked on is NEVER worth it.

6. once you have figured out who to go to, try your absolute best to not buy things on your own and support them, and if you do end up buying gear, make sure that you are okay with paying them additional labor to make up for their lost profit. if you want a specific gear that they dont carry, they may want to sell something comparable to you, be open minded about this and do some reserach on your own to see if they are indeed offering you the same quality, such as morel vs focal, audison vs mosconi, or if they are just trying to push a gear they have sitting around on you and its not even close to the same thing.

7. once the deal is made, be as professional and friendly to them as possible, ask for updates from them every few days if possible but dont hover of them and ask every few hours how its going. cause you are just going to get t hem annoyed, and thats never a good thing.


8. mention to them that you belong on a large car audio forum and will be posting results in the form of a review on there. so ask them to take pictures of the stuff underneath it all, the wiring, hte sound proofing , how the speakers are installed etc. do it under the idea that a positive review will help them, with the unspoken understanding that a bad review will hurt them...this will keep them honest.


in the end, this is for me, what you need to do...does it gurantee a good result evreytime? of course not, but IMO it will help a lot.

b
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, Simplicity. Thats exactly what I was looking for as a base to this discussion. And after this response, I am going make a post asking for reviews of Houston area shops.

5. ask to see their work, and not in a picture book, ask if you can check out a car they are working on right now. a quality shop with nothing to hide shouldnt have a problem with this. and when you do, dont just look at the superficial stuff, the best is if you can look at a car that is 80 percent done, so you can see how everything beneath the surface looks, the wiring, how things are organized, laid out, is everyhting secure or can you take a piece that is suppose to be solid and shake it around with ease...but wiring is a good indicator, someone who wont clean and organize their wiring usually have very little attention to detail and should be avoided. if they dont have cars to show you, as when they do, if they can let you take a look, or a detailed install log showing what it looks like underneath would be good as well.


I never knew this was acceptable...I always thought that this would result in the shop thinking you were a "know-it-all" or "hovering."

As much as I like the cheaper prices, I find myself trying to stay away from them--cheap=hack....as this may not be the case, its more of a mental thing.

I try to use (however bad this is) the information I learn on this forum to talk to the shop--an informal quiz on their knowledge? However, I am very detailed oriented, and avoid shops who start throwing numbers and facts, that through my research, I know to be incorrect. I would much rather the installer tell me they didn't know, but would check into it. I know this makes me come across as a know-it-all, and I am definitely not--but I am not a schmuck either.

Lastly, and please explain why this logic is wrong (as I am sure it is), I find myself asking how long the install will take to judge the quality and attention to detail a shop prides itself with. Shops that claim to install a complete starter system (h/u, 2 amps, door speakers, subs) in a few hours strike me as sloppy. I am sure they are just telling me what most consumers want to hear, but I would much rather hear it would take 2 or 3 days and then get my truck back early if no problems arise.

Thanks again for the reply, as I continue to learn things from this online community.
 

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Thanks, Simplicity. Thats exactly what I was looking for as a base to this discussion. And after this response, I am going make a post asking for reviews of Houston area shops.

5. ask to see their work, and not in a picture book, ask if you can check out a car they are working on right now. a quality shop with nothing to hide shouldnt have a problem with this. and when you do, dont just look at the superficial stuff, the best is if you can look at a car that is 80 percent done, so you can see how everything beneath the surface looks, the wiring, how things are organized, laid out, is everyhting secure or can you take a piece that is suppose to be solid and shake it around with ease...but wiring is a good indicator, someone who wont clean and organize their wiring usually have very little attention to detail and should be avoided. if they dont have cars to show you, as when they do, if they can let you take a look, or a detailed install log showing what it looks like underneath would be good as well.


I never knew this was acceptable...I always thought that this would result in the shop thinking you were a "know-it-all" or "hovering."

As much as I like the cheaper prices, I find myself trying to stay away from them--cheap=hack....as this may not be the case, its more of a mental thing.

I try to use (however bad this is) the information I learn on this forum to talk to the shop--an informal quiz on their knowledge? However, I am very detailed oriented, and avoid shops who start throwing numbers and facts, that through my research, I know to be incorrect. I would much rather the installer tell me they didn't know, but would check into it. I know this makes me come across as a know-it-all, and I am definitely not--but I am not a schmuck either.

Lastly, and please explain why this logic is wrong (as I am sure it is), I find myself asking how long the install will take to judge the quality and attention to detail a shop prides itself with. Shops that claim to install a complete starter system (h/u, 2 amps, door speakers, subs) in a few hours strike me as sloppy. I am sure they are just telling me what most consumers want to hear, but I would much rather hear it would take 2 or 3 days and then get my truck back early if no problems arise.

Thanks again for the reply, as I continue to learn things from this online community.
1. this may be a point of debate with other shop owners...but to me, i dont see the issue. dont state it like you are an inspector, just say you appreciate good work underneath the surface fluff and ask if you can check out their quality of wiring, neatness, integrity...thats all...again, i personally think its a strong selling point for shops IF they do a good job underneath. maybe this not acceptable 20 years ago, but i think in this day and age where people need to be frugal wtih their money, they should allow it.

2. the thing is, most of what we learn on this forum doesnt really affect your car tuning into a hack job. for example, most of the hack jobs i see results from just pure and simple, lack of attention to detail. broken panels, clips, parts, miles of loose wiring, poor looking fibeglass molds, improperly fit panels etc. and thats what you should be most concerned about. sound theory, you can chat with them a lil to get an idea if your installer is really a SQ oriented person or just a plain custom fabber...is good, but again, i think the focus should be on the insatllation side itself. once you established the guy is a good fabricator and have good attention to detail, then sure, you can say, i wsould like to aim the tweeters like this, or have the speakers here...but again, take his objections, if any, into account...

for example, i have met so many people who want to use a certain speaker in the car cause the review backs it up, and it is often a great speaker, but they dont realize that the speaker has no chance of fitting int he location they want to fit without a lot of cutting, or even the fact that a speaker of that size in that car wont allow say...the door to close becuase the distance between the dash and the door sill is too small for an 8" driver..etc etc things like that :)

3. you are abolutely correct, if someones claiming they can do a fulls ystem in a few hours or even in two days, dont go...its not possible to spend the time and effort on it. tell them you would rather have them take extra long and do a good job than rush...give me a soft deadline...tell them no problem if it takes longer, but please dont let it just sit there collecting dust. (hence the time to time updates)

you can also feel free to ask on here when you get a time estimate, if it is reasonable, and we can all chime in to help you determine that.

:)
 

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1) Asking for pics is key. Who cares if the installer gets irritated? Our job is to do the work AND to be effective at convincing people we can do the work. I ask for references from my plumber.

2) Be clear on what you're looking for:

- System design?

- Install of your design?

- Fabrication of what you can't do?

- Tuning?

Be clear on what you're willing to do and what you're relying on the installer to do. If you're expecting the installer to make your design work with your gear, expect to pay for the time. Our business plan says that for every install, we have to make a certain profit contribution to make our nut. If we don't sell the gear, we are going to charge a higher hourly rate for install to support that. Not punitive, just how the calculations work out.

3) Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick any two.

4) Meet and converse with the installer directly. Antisocial is fine. Most installers talk a great game so don't go by that. Nervous and hesitant is usually a sign that he's not that experienced.
 

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Another thing I strongly recommend, and do personally with customers, is just sit down and talk, not necessarily ONLY about what they want. The biggest research questions I ask are what have they had before, what are they hoping to get, what kind of music do they enjoy, time frame, and budget. A good conversation can almost always yield far more information that just random questions.
 
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