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DFW Local Car Audio Shops Thoughts and impressions

First, my background - I am mostly a home audio guy, but have had "systems" installed in my vehicles in the past. (about 13-23 years ago)

Next - my goal for this is just to provide some positive and helpful thoughts about some local car audio shops I was able to visit in DFW.

For my birthday gift I was given some time to myself and able to visit some local car audio shops to see what was out there - following are my thoughts and impressions in no particular order below, with the goal being to provide some positive and hopefully helpful thoughts/impresssions about some local car audio shops I was able to visit in DFW:

Soundscape Car Audio in Plano, TX (Purpose to demo Hertz, Hybrid Audio Technologies and Audison) - This shop was the best looking in presentation. (granted the other 2 shops I visited were in transition) I was able to hang around the shop for over an hour and really enjoyed listening to the audio offerings on the sound board (which was the best looking of the day with the other 2 stores being in transition) I talked with Dan (the owner) and a salesman who were both very courteous and knowledgeable. The shop was very clean, including the install bays. Dan took car audio installs seriously and considered this a form of artistic expression (which I wholeheartedly agree with). I was able to listen to my demo music and had a lot of "free reign" during the visit to listen to my music. The salesman also allowed me to sit in his car and demo some music in his car which I really appreciated. I believe this shop would be an excellent place to go for your car audio needs.

Earmark Car Audio in Plano, TX (Purpose to demo Dynaudio) - This was an interesting experience. I walked in the store and a salesman in the store that was talking to another customer turned to me and started guessing about the radio I have in my current vehicle and then said, "I can take care of both of you at once" - referring to me and another customer. I told the salesman that I was in the store primarily to demo Dynaudio speakers. He immediately referred me to another salesman, Todd Miller. Todd is really a home audio salesman that has been "pulled" into car audio sales. I sat and talked with Todd for about an hour - we listened to my demo disc, but the room was not set up correctly as the subs had just been put in phase, but the room had not been setup up yet. Todd Miller was a great guy to talk to, he was serious about good sound and would be able to help anyone with their musical car audio needs I believe.

Mobile Sound Solutions in Arlington, TX (Purpose to demo Morel) This turned out to be a very educational experience. When I entered the shop I met Nick, who it turns out is going to be the owner of the shop. (currently he is a partial owner) At first Nick was just trying to "sell me stuff", but when he realized that I was "serious about sound", am into home audio and brought in Opera music for a demo he seemed to totally change his mind and had an instant "respect" for me. This changed the tone of the visit and Nick let me demo his vehicle as well. Unfortunately, the shop was in transition and was being rebuilt when I was there, so it was hard to hear a good demo and Nick said they are going to cut the Morel line, more than likely. (Nick said the shop should be rebuilt in Fall around September or so) This would be a good shop to go to as the original owner of the shop seems to be passing down his knowledge to the next generation (being Nick) and I find this to be a good thing. I saw one of the installers/fabricators come out of the back and he was a gray head - which means there is a nice mix of youth and enthusiasm and age and experience at this shop. I would recommend going to this shop and believe they could fulfill your car audio needs.
 

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Re: DFW Local Car Audio Shops - thoughts and impressions

Sweet reviews, subscribed for more as am in the DFW area.
 

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Re: DFW Local Car Audio Shops - thoughts and impressions

DFW Local Car Audio Shops Thoughts and impressions

Earmark Car Audio in Plano, TX (Purpose to demo Dynaudio) - This was an interesting experience. I walked in the store and a salesman in the store that was talking to another customer turned to me and started guessing about the radio I have in my current vehicle and then said, "I can take care of both of you at once" - referring to me and another customer. I told the salesman that I was in the store primarily to demo Dynaudio speakers. He immediately referred me to another salesman, Todd Miller. Todd is really a home audio salesman that has been "pulled" into car audio sales. I sat and talked with Todd for about an hour - we listened to my demo disc, but the room was not set up correctly as the subs had just been put in phase, but the room had not been setup up yet. Todd Miller was a great guy to talk to, he was serious about good sound and would be able to help anyone with their musical car audio needs I believe.

First, thank you for coming into our store to audition some equipment, and let me apologize for the less than perfect experience that you had. Unfortunately we started some reconstruction of our third soundroom (the really high end room) and we got so busy during the upgrades that the room was not ready for demos for quite some time. I have finally got the room 100% functional and tuned to perfection.

I'd like to invite you back to the store to take a listen to the systems that we have in our high end room. I realize that you may have already made your choices a long time ago (this thread is several months old) but as a fan of high end audio I think you will enjoy demo'ing some great sounding systems even if it's just for fun.

You're right about Todd, he has been in the home audio business for quite some time. However, Todd actually started The Car Stereo Store on Greenville Avenue in Dallas back in the early 1980's about the same time we were staring the original Earmark Car Audio. Todd came to work at Earmark in Plano earlier this year and he has quickly immersed himself in the high end automotive sound category. As an expert in car and home audio as well as a musician, Todd is a wealth of knowledge in all things audio and can speak in great depth about audio, sound, music and getting the most from your system.

I'm sorry about the DynAudio demo, Earmark carried DynAudio for many years but in recent years we have moved in other directions. We are still an authorixed Dyn dealer and can get their products but we don't keep them in stock anymore (I always like their speakers, personally).

In our 3rd soundroom we now have 2 discrete system that have been tuned to perfection. Each system represents a very nice high-end system that showcases different products.

Both systems use a Pioneer DEH80PRS source unit for CD's and Aux input, but both are also set up for great sound thru an iPod via an optical connection into a Pure i20 or via HD bluetooth streaming into the SpDif input.

System One is an Audison Bit One processor into an Audison AV Quattro powering Hertz Mille components and Hertz High Energy rear fill coaxials, and an Audison AV UNO powering 2 Hertz High Energy 12" subwoofers in ported enclosures.

System Two is a Mosconi 6to8DSP processor into a JL Audio 300/4v3 powering Focal 165KRX2 components and Focal PS165 rear fill coaxials, and a JL Audio 1200/1v3 powering 2 JL Audio 12W6v3 subwoofers in sealed enclosures.

On both systems we can demonstrate the system (a) with no DSP processing, no time alignment and no EQ, and (b) with DSP processing, time alignment and very mild EQ to optimize the system. We can also demo each system with rear fill in a 4.1 setup or without rear fill in a 2.1 setup. The demo will show the amazing difference that a properly setup time alignment processor can make for your system.

Again, I'd like to welcome you back to take the high end room for a spin, even if it's just for fun. Sit down in the room with some great music and crank it up and experience the best sounding car audio demo room in the metroplex. We have some demo material that really shows off the systems well, and you're free to bring in some music that you like as well.

For the best experience you really want to talk with Todd or myself. We are both long time musicians, audio engineers and both have decades of experience in home and/or car audio and we can show off the various aspects of the soundroom in a way that lets you hear all of the possibilities.

If you're into the technical stuff we have the Audison Bit Tune equipment and a full array of high end equipment such as real time analyzers (old school Audio Control and modern 1/24th octave computerized), oscilloscopes, true RMS DVM's, distortion detectors, crossover calibrators, etc. and we are the best at not just installing but setting up and tuning a system.

Hope to see you (and anyone else that loves great sound) stop by the store and take the high end room for a spin.

Odin
 

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Re: DFW Local Car Audio Shops - thoughts and impressions

moved here to the more appropriate forum.

now if we can get some more pics of installs by these three shops posted here, either by the OP or the shop owners themselves, i can pin this as an official review :)
 

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Re: DFW Local Car Audio Shops - thoughts and impressions

Sounds like I'm gonna have to go check out Earmark again. Sounds like they've really stepped it up.

I can certainly echo the OPs comments on Soundscape.
 

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Re: DFW Local Car Audio Shops - thoughts and impressions

I have so many install pics I don't know where to start.

Here's a different take on install pics...this is a car that a customer took to one of our competitors because they were "cheaper", and then brought to us because he wasn't satisfied with the 'cheaper" installation. In the end he would have saved a lot of money by bringing it to us first.

CTSV
 

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Re: DFW Local Car Audio Shops - thoughts and impressions

Cadillac CTS-V Audio System Rescue



This 2009 Cadillac CTS-V was brought to Earmark by a DFWAC forum member and sponsor after the customer had a complete audio system and sound dampening installed by another local shop. Earmark technicians inspected the vehicle and we immediately discovered the installation was a mess and would need to be completely redone in order to satisfy the customer.

The customer complained that the audio system would make loud popping noises long after the stereo was turned off, the subwoofer was not centered in the enclosure/port, the "custom" tweeter installation looked terrible and the general cosmetic fit & finish of the installation was not acceptable.

A detailed explanation with photos will show the problems we found and what we did to solve them.



TWEETERS

First, the "custom" tweeter pods. The previous installer built in the tweeters using lots of bondo and left a very rough, uneven surface to the door frames which was simply spray painted black. Bondo is OK as a filler, but it has no structural integrity and will not adhere to molded plastic. The result was a rough, unfinished look that did not fit in with the refined interior of this Cadillac and would definitely not last very long before separating and cracking. Also, the driver and passenger side tweeters were not pointed in the same direction due to sloppy construction of the tweeter mounts.







Earmark rebuilt the tweeter mounts to be correctly aligned and recovered the entire door frames with black suede to match the interior of the vehicle.








DOORS

Next, the door speakers and sound dampening. The sound damening material had been applied randomly/haphazardly and was covering the power window motors and much of the factory wiring. It was not properly applied and was falling off the doors in many places.




Look carefully at the door speaker crossover. It appears to be mounted to the door.....




.....but when the sound dampening material is pulled back we discovered that the door speaker crossovers were not mounted at all!




The previous installer had mounted the crossovers to the sound dampening material ONLY with a piece of metal back brace and clips. This crossover would soon fall into the door cavity, scratching the window and damaging the crossover.




Here's another look at a door with the inner skin sound dampening material removed (it mostly fell off). Note the exposed wire connectors in the top left of the photo, these went to the tweeter. The speaker wiring was draped loosely in the door panel with crimped connectors exposed to the metallic backing of the sound dampening which sould easily cause a short in the speaker wire.

Also, the 3-layer wooden speaker baffle that adapted the speaker to the door was barely screwed together, but not glued together, and was only painted on the face. This baffle would not last and would soon be moisture damaged and come apart.




And a look at one of the rear doors, with sound dampening material placed randomly over factory wiring and power window motor.





Here's a shot of a door after Earmark technicians applied Blackhole Tile to the outer door skin and Hushmat to the inner door skin (the Hushmat is black, not silver, so it blends in on the black painted surface of the door). The Blackhole Tile is a coated water-resistant multi-layer high efficiency acoustical absorbtion pad applied in a "checkerboard" pattern to the outer door skin. The Hushmat, a sound deadening and absorbing material that also insulates against heat, is neatly applied to the inner door skin surfaces. These door speakers will show a noticable improvement in sound quality with this treatment, and the interior of the vehicle will be noticably quieter on the road.

Note the wiring - Earmark's speaker wires are soldered and heat shrunk and tied neatly to the factory wiring path. Also, the crossover is securely mounted to the door with a metal bracket that our technicians fabricated.




A closeup of the crossover mounting.




A closeup of the speaker wiring.




Earmark also added a set of speakers to the rear doors. Note that the crossovers are securely mounted directly to the door panel and all wiring is neatly run and connections are soldered and heat shrunk.




All 4 doors received Blackhole Tile to the outer door skin and Hushmat to the inner door skin.







SUBWOOFER ENCLOSURE

The subwoofer enclosure that was installed in the trunk took up a lot of trunk space and did not allow the customer access to the spare tire well which contains the emergency air pump in case of a flat tire. It was not possible to remove the tire well cover panel to access this storage area.

And now I'll let these photos of the subwoofer enclosure tell the story.....











Earmark fabricated a new enclosure of correct internal displacement that was wider and shallow enough to allow access into the spare tire well area.







The finished product is very clean and blends into the Cadillac trunk, giving no indication that there is a high end audio system hidden inside. The facade that covers the front edge of the amp rack has a plexiglas window backlit by white LED's to allow viewing of the amp rack, and the JL Audio and Cadillac logos were added to the window for an etched glass look when lit.







INTERFACE & AMPLIFIERS

The Cadillac CTS-V has a factory installed audio & navigation system with a motorized LCD monitor in the dash and audio controls integrated into the steering wheel and dash cluster. The customer understandably did not want to replace this system so he needed an interface device.

The previous shop installed an Audio Control LC6i interface, which Earmark replaced with an Audison BIT TEN D interface after cleaning up the wiring and returning the factory wiring to stock specifications. The previous shop had left factory control modules hanging by their wire harnesses, attached with sound dampening material or just shoved behind a carpeted panel. There were bare exposed wires, wires that had been cut and spliced many times, and just a general mess.



This was the mess we encountered when we removed the trunk panel to access the speaker wiring. The audio interface was hanging by a zip tie and was in close proximity to several factory modules, which could cause interference or noise in the audio system.





Earmark re-wired the audio system and properly mounted the Audison BIT TEN D interface to the amp rack, where it was away from any possible interference from the vehicle's electrical system. Note that all wires are neatly routed and secured with strain relief cable clamps.

The customer also upgraded to the new JL Audio V3 Slash amplifiers.







A factory neutral or "stealth" installation, at which Earmark excels, typically does not show all of the detailed work that goes into an involved, high quality installation. So what looks good on the surface can be ugly on the inside, and what looks simple on the outside can be very complex on the inside. This is why it's important to take your vehicle to a qualified specialist with a proven reputation for excellence.

And this doesn't even take into account how different an audio system can sound when the installation is done by a qualified expert as opposed to someone who just knows how to hook up the wires. At Earmark the job isn't considered finished when it's playing, we take the time to properly set up the gain structure of the system components, adjust the crossovers to suit the vehicle and equipment, and tune the system with select program material so that the end result is a system that not only looks great but also sounds great. That's why you bought the system in the first place, right?


 

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