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Thread: Car Stereo...revisted

  1. #1
    Member Mythos's Avatar
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    Car Stereo...revisted

    As mentioned in the Vinyl Thread, I recently sold off my entire record collection, turntable, cartridges, 70’s rock mags, rock buttons, ticket stubs, rock t-shirts, posters and promo stuff for a tidy amount of cash.

    I really just didn’t listen to LPs anymore and have an extensive CD and digital collection of music, which I primarily listen to in my vehicle. So I took the majority of my cash and completely upgraded my car stereo. I seem to recall a previous thread whereas a popular opinion was that you cannot get good sound in a car, and well, I’m sorry to have to say, that, that opinion is not entirely correct….

    I started with a 2019 Honda Passport Touring model, which has an 8” touch screen, a factory CD player, and special sound reducing glass, then I:

    1) Had sound-deadening materials installed throughout the entire vehicle.
    2) Had a custom fiberglass enclosure molded into a rear cubby and mounted a 8” Audison Subwoofer in it.
    3) Mounted an Audison AP F1D Mono Subwoofer Amp to power the Sub (500w x 1). This was mounted behind the rear quarter panels and is not visible. This Sub amp is fed into the (next) DSP Amp, so it can be adjusted digitally.
    4) Installed an Audison AP F8.9 Eight-channel DSP (Digital Sound Processing) Amp, which is sending 130w to each of the (4) Woofers and 85w to each of the (4) Tweeters. This is also mounted behind the rear quarter panel.
    5) A separate Audison controller is mounted under my center dash to control the Amps.
    6) For my front speakers, I went with the Focal Utopia 165W-XP (2-way) set up, with the Beryllium Tweeters mounted in the stock A-Pillar locations and the Woofers mounted in the stock (front) door locations. These Focal’s are hand-made in France and retail for $2k a pair!
    7) For my rear speakers, I went with the same 6.5 Focal Utopia Woofers for the (rear) doors and Audison Thesis TH 1.5 Violino II Tweeters in the stock location of the rear C-Pillars. These Tweeters are hand-made in Italy!
    8) A computer is hooked up to the (main) Amp and a custom software program is used to adjust the front & rear sound stages so that in the driver seat EVERYTHING is properly balanced, with time delay and the crossover frequencies determined without the use of actual crossovers. Then the file is uploaded into the DSP Amp and multiple sound files are created and stored, which can be selected thru the Controller.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking, “did he fire 5 shots or 6?” oops, sorry a little Dirty Harry flashback..lol, You’re thinking: “How does it sound?”

    It sounds unbelievably clear! I played the remastered Dark Side of the Moon CD (LOUD) and the music invades my head & soul! I played Roundabout and was left breathless, ELP’s From the Beginning is so freakin’ awesome, the acoustic guitar, Greg's vocals and the synth solo near the end on the are SO CRYSTAL CLEAR, it’s like they are in the back seat playing live! I have a remastered Led Zep CD and Stairway to Heaven, Black Dog, Dazed & Confused all sound as good as any home stereo I have ever heard them on in my life. Deep Purple’s - Sweet Child in Time send chills down my spine! And there's many more songs that rock on this set up...

    Who would have thought that selling my entire music collection would have re-energized my love for all my music…!
    Last edited by Mythos; 04-11-2021 at 04:14 PM.

  2. #2
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    I'm very impressed.
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

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    That’s something else.

    My questions:

    1. How much time do you spend driving?

    2. Does the processing compensate dynamically for road and engine noise under changing conditions?

    3. Does the system completely isolate you from the road, and if so is that a safety issue (horns, sirens, etc.)?

    I upgraded the crap factory system in my Forester to a decent entry system a couple of years ago — Sony HU, Focal Auditor component speakers — and really enjoy it, but it’s only about like a decent bookshelf stereo compared to your mansion-class mobile theater. Congrats on being willing to unabashedly make yourself happy!

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    Quote Originally Posted by rdclark View Post
    Congrats on being willing to unabashedly make yourself happy!
    I do that too and it's FREE! (Sorry, but somebody had to say it.)

    Cool, that does sound like a very enjoyable upgrade!
    "Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart...not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!"

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    Member Mythos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdclark View Post
    My questions:
    1. How much time do you spend driving?
    As I said, I spend more time listening to music in my car, than at home, next month going on a 4 day road-trip...

    Quote Originally Posted by rdclark View Post
    My questions:
    2. Does the processing compensate dynamically for road and engine noise under changing conditions?
    There is certainly more road noise when driving than when parked, but the Honda 6-cyl engine is very quite, the windows have a sound-proofing layer applied to them and the sound deadening is awesome, it really quieted down outside noise/rumble even when the stereo is off! Lastly, that is the beauty have being able to turn it up loud enough to fully drown out outside distractions...

    Quote Originally Posted by rdclark View Post
    My questions:
    3. Does the system completely isolate you from the road, and if so is that a safety issue (horns, sirens, etc.)?
    It does if you want it to, the windows still roll down and its not like I live/commute in areas with police/ambulances/fire trucks constantly responding to calls. I am also a very alert driver, I am constant observing all vehicles and situations around me. The only wreck I have caused (or even been in) was on my way to HS graduation (in 1976), - that's 44-1/2 years and a half million miles of safe driving...!

    Quote Originally Posted by rdclark View Post
    I upgraded the crap factory system in my Forester to a decent entry system a couple of years ago — Sony HU, Focal Auditor component speakers — and really enjoy it, but it’s only about like a decent bookshelf stereo compared to your mansion-class mobile theater. Congrats on being willing to unabashedly make yourself happy!
    I can relate, we bought our daughter a Forrester and I have driven her back and forth from So. Cal. to Colorado a couple of times and the stereo was just OK. Sounds like you did a very nice upgrade over the stock system. There is no way in heck, my wifey would have let me do a upgrade to this extent, with our combined/household money, but since I had the records years before meeting her, she couldn't say much...

    Cheers!

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    My car is still my favorite place to listen to music. I bought a 2018 Impala a few years ago and got the upgraded stereo set up (I also still have a CD player which is becoming more and more rare). I am sure mine does not compare to your system, but I still can get completely lost in my head driving down the road and listening to music.

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    Must be nice. I'm just trying to keep my 2004 Honda running. The CD player still works most of the time. I don't play my "good" CD's in the car; I bought cheap second copies of a lot of favorites or used burned CD's of others (which the car player often won't play); I don't want to lose a cherished CD to theft or heat (when I eject a CD after playing it, it's REALLY hot), or there's the possibility that a CD might get stuck in there forever if the player finally dies. I really can't get the same enjoyment in the car that I get at home. There's road noise, driving distractions, and the fact that you're not sitting directly in between the speakers!

  8. #8
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    I really enjoy listening to music in my car but have a factory installed system. The weird thing is my bluetooth only works some of the time. I won't miss my CD player when I get a new car next year.
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  9. #9
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soundsweird View Post
    Must be nice. I'm just trying to keep my 2004 Honda running. The CD player still works most of the time. I don't play my "good" CD's in the car; I bought cheap second copies of a lot of favorites or used burned CD's of others (which the car player often won't play); I don't want to lose a cherished CD to theft or heat (when I eject a CD after playing it, it's REALLY hot), or there's the possibility that a CD might get stuck in there forever if the player finally dies. I really can't get the same enjoyment in the car that I get at home. There's road noise, driving distractions, and the fact that you're not sitting directly in between the speakers!
    Yes, my previous Saab CD player (a Saab factory stand alone unit) used to heat up the discs, but the current Saab, the CD deck is included to the GPS (and other stuff) and I don't have that problem anymore. However I have sometimes issue about popping the CD out, but also recently found out that it depended about where in the laser head was standing at the time of ejecting. So if the reading head is at the center (first two tracks) it hasd a problem ejecting it... However if FFWD to the last tracks, the laserhead is on the outside of the disc and it pops out no problems.

    I've had problems popping out CDs on other decks, but always managed by fooling the unit trying to insert another CD (make sure it's a scrap disc, because the mechanism could scratch the surface tryiing to reject it) and usually the stuck-inside CD popped out no problems afterwards.

    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    I really enjoy listening to music in my car but have a factory installed system. The weird thing is my bluetooth only works some of the time. I won't miss my CD player when I get a new car next year.
    well, I had sonic problems which I'd diagnosed (wrongly) coming from the amplifier, but it ended up being the speakers.
    Coupled with another rare-part (my Saab is from 2007 is also an intermediate model), I was fearing it was over. Thankfully both issues are solved, but soon or later the CD players in a new cars will be an big issue for me.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

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    When I upgraded my Subaru I realized that in five years of ownership, I had never played a CD in the player. I was using the slot for a phone mount. So the new head unit has no CD player.

    My first car had an AM radio. I added an under-dash cassette player and rear-deck speakers from Radio Shack around 1975. It was a '68 Rambler.
    Last edited by rdclark; 04-13-2021 at 10:49 AM.

  11. #11
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    ^^^From the early 80's onwards I always had more than a radio - though I used the FM band quite a bit as well.

    in my 60's Impala and Firebird or 70's jap crap cars (mostly Honda) and 80's Mustang, I had a radio cassette deck : in the early 80's, they had those brutal push buttons for radio selection, but also a brutal cassette ejection - lost many tapes that way.
    In the later 80's, I had fancy Clarion or Kenwood system but managed to hide it away from view to avoid theft and better speakers, though I tried to keep them from view as well , whenever possible.
    In the 90's, all of my European cars had cassette decks as well, but they were gentler upon the casettes
    Only the 00's and 10's did I have a CD player in the cars I drove.

    But TBH, I never went the extra mile to try to get great sonic performance in my cars. It's a lost cause, IMHO.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by soundsweird View Post
    Must be nice. I'm just trying to keep my 2004 Honda running. The CD player still works most of the time. I don't play my "good" CD's in the car; I bought cheap second copies of a lot of favorites or used burned CD's of others (which the car player often won't play); I don't want to lose a cherished CD to theft or heat (when I eject a CD after playing it, it's REALLY hot), or there's the possibility that a CD might get stuck in there forever if the player finally dies. I really can't get the same enjoyment in the car that I get at home. There's road noise, driving distractions, and the fact that you're not sitting directly in between the speakers!
    My old car sounds similar to yours. My CD player got to the point where it would sometimes stick and sometimes skip. It would also heat up the CD's.

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    My 2019 Mazda 3 has a Bose factory system (no CD - BOOOO!!!) but it's pretty good - I'd give it a solid 8.5/10. I can crank it and go and enjoy it. My '14 BMW that I traded in for the Mazda had a pretty killer system - so good that I would never even think about altering it in any way. I do miss that system but not the credit card gas station charges.

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    I had what I hope is my final DSP tune today, approx. 30 days after the full install was completed. Newport Sound (Costa Mesa Ca.) did the work and did a great job (highly recommended!).

    With the Audison DSP Controller (DRC MP) you can save multiple Music Profiles, and I had two:
    1) Front Sound stage with Rear-Fill (which is the typical recommended set up with the emphasis on the Drivers seat).
    2) Primary Front Sound stage with Rear Speakers turned WAY up. (For more sound from the rear Audison Thesis Tweeters and Utopia 6.5 Woofers)

    I wanted to some songs that I am very familiar with, songs I have heard for 40 years or songs that are well produced, well remastered, songs that have instrumentation that excels, great singing, rad guitar, drums that pound, synth's that sizzle and here were some that I played during my drive afterwards:

    1) Simple Minds: New Gold Dream - 2003 Remaster: The entire CD is awesome, but there are some stand out songs like: Big Sleep and Hunter and the Hunted that are outstanding, the bass is so clear and thumping, anyone who likes 80's alternative should have this release...

    2) Led Zep: Mothership (Remastered): Stairway to Heaven & Black Dog: Stairway to Heaven, opens with acoustic guitar and you can hear the strings resonate as Jimmy's finger nails clip across the coils of the guitar strings, and when Plants' vocals come in and gently speak the lyrics in the first half of the song, it's like he is right there in the car! As Black Dog starts and stops and vocals pop and the drums pound, for an early seventies song, somebody did an awesome remaster!

    3) ELP: From the Beginning (Remastered): Another old 70's song, masterfully remaster, most of the song is acoustic guitar with vocals, super clear and mesmerizing, then near the end of the song a mellow synthesizer takes over zigging and zagging weaving its way thru my tweeters - Listening to this song, on this stereo, makes it ALL worth it...!

    4) Yes: Roundabout (Remastered): There is this sonic crescendo at the beginning of the song that seems to flow from the left to right and the bass is powerful, the entire song is a true classic and it sounds awesome on my stereo!

    5) Kiukla: Die Yaman: This is an Armenian folk song, recorded many time over the years, I have it on CD and it is wonderfully recorded, super clear, with various instruments, I found a review that described it as: a psychedelic-world music-fusion instrumental, which I think fits nicely! Super hard to find.
    Here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK7zo0P-pGU&t=1s

    Ok, for another change of pace:
    6) Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel: White Lines (Don't Do It)! This is just a FUN song, made at the beginning of Rap, before it became gansterized! It has a super heavy beat that simply pounds! Hearing it convinced me that (as crazy as this may sound) - I don't need anything MORE than one 8" Subwoofer powered by 500w!

    7) Peter Gabriel: Don't Give Up: Back in the 70's - 3 out of 5 Dentist agreed that Peter Gabriels voice is /was every bit as awesome as David Bowie's! And in this song you get Kate Bush too! Beautifully crafted, their vocals - even though I do not have any midrange drivers - just shine so crystal clear!

    8) Pink Floyd: Time (Remastered) - could make this one with Apple Watches! The beginning of this song, will all the clock, alarms, bells, ticking, just explodes (in a good way) through the Utopia & Thesis Tweeters and then the bass thunders in and the drums and guitars and the song is on its a way. Again this is a song I've heard a thousand since it came out and it has NEVER sounded better or clearer!

    9) Projekct Two: Happy Hour on Planet Zarg - Huh? What? Never heard of it? Well have you heard of Robert Fripp? King Crimson? Well this is a more recent recording, one with simple awesome bass, drums and guitar!

    10) Korai Orom: 1. - Sorry, another band you're gonna say "WFT? to, but it is a great song to hear blasted on a car stereo!

    Overall, I'm super happy with everything and will leave more updates, as warranted...

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    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    If you dig Cardiacs you should try Sing to God in there

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    In addition to material like that, I also like to test systems with music that has a lot of "air" in it. My all-time top "first play" of new (or newly calibrated) systems is Joni's "Court and Spark." The piano, the bass entrance, the cymbals, the nylon-string guitar... and that voice. On a system that sounds right, it's chills every time.

  17. #17
    Yeah, the only problem with equipment like this in your car is you have to hold to the car "forever" and hire a security guard to watch it over 24 hours a day ... regular car alarm won't do. Perhaps an easier solution would be to buy a Lexus or similar car as they have already built in most of your improvements. Read somewhere that Lexus has even a turntable for the car, but since you sold out your collection of vinyls no need it for it
    Joking of course, enjoy
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  18. #18
    I used to work in the high end car audio business, managing a store on Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica, and designing many high end systems, custom molded enclosures, amp racks, DSP, etc, etc, etc.

    From my standpoint, even though it is possible to get great frequency response, high SPL with low distortion, dynamic range will always be compromised. The average noise level of a good modern car is about 68db (an average home is about 35db). That increase in noise floor is a big detriment to music with a lot of dynamics. And most prog, does have fairly high dynamics. Classical is completely unlistenable in a car for me. I can't listen to classical in the car without a constant need to turn the sound down during forte passages, and up during pianissimo passages. But even with adjusting volume, things like attack and decay, fine detail, ambient cues, will get lost in that 68db plus noise floor.

    But for me, the biggest problem with audio in the car, is very poor imaging and soundstage. Even with DSP, there are too many problems with phase and timing in a car (drivers mounted at different angles, facing each other, tweeters too far from mids, tweeters facing one direction in the front, in another direction in the rear, etc), to be coherent enough (for me).

    Going from even the moderate home system I used to own (I'm sure less $$ than a system like the one the OP describes), where I could sit and hear musicians extend beyond the outer edges of my speakers, hear then extend far back in the soundstage, and they all sound as if they have the correct relation to each other in the acoustic space. Or if I switch to a single musician in the center of the stage, I can hear how far they are from the mic, I can even tell if they are sitting or standing.

    I have not doubt that the OP's system sounds full, with low bass, clear highs, low distortion. And, from my past experience with the systems I used to design, I am sure he is enjoying the hell out of it. But for me, there is too much loss of all those great spatial cues I mention above to fully enjoy anymore.

    Not meant to rain on anyone's parade (not sure I even have that ability with the OP), but I had to include my .02 cents...
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    I agree with the basic premise that a car system can't replicate the sound stage of a good home system, but at the same time if you spend a lot of time in your car, what's the alternative? Headphones are illegal while driving in most states. (It makes no sense to me; any modern car system can drown out all outside sounds. But there it is.) If you spend two hours a day in your car and music is important to you, you do the best you can.

    For me, that stops short of complete isolation from the outside world, which just makes me uncomfortable. But there's no reason that whatever you do have shouldn't sound as good as possible.
    "I have not yet begun to procrastinate."

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    Quote Originally Posted by PCMusic View Post
    Yeah, the only problem with equipment like this in your car is you have to hold to the car "forever" and hire a security guard to watch it over 24 hours a day ... regular car alarm won't do. Perhaps an easier solution would be to buy a Lexus or similar car as they have already built in most of your improvements. Read somewhere that Lexus has even a turntable for the car, but since you sold out your collection of vinyls no need it for it
    Joking of course, enjoy
    Great points, I thought of all that and everything is stealthy and stock looking from the outside, the only thing visible is my A-Pillar speakers and those are hidden when I put up my windshield sunscreen! I live in a super safe area, park in a locked garage and can leave my windows down at work if I wanted to as I work on a military base and to get in you need to get past armed guards!

    Cheers!
    Last edited by Mythos; 4 Weeks Ago at 09:25 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by simon moon View Post
    I used to work in the high end car audio business, managing a store on Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica, and designing many high end systems, custom molded enclosures, amp racks, DSP, etc, etc, etc.

    Not meant to rain on anyone's parade (not sure I even have that ability with the OP), but I had to include my .02 cents...
    All true, there is probably no car stereo anywhere that is going to sound as good as an equally priced home stereo!

    Was just on an 800 mile road trip and REALLY enjoyed the system..

    Hey, if you are ever down towards Long Beach/ OC on the 405, lemme know, I'd love for you to hear it...!

    Cheers!

  22. #22
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PCMusic View Post
    Yeah, the only problem with equipment like this in your car is you have to hold to the car "forever" and hire a security guard to watch it over 24 hours a day ... regular car alarm won't do. Perhaps an easier solution would be to buy a Lexus or similar car as they have already built in most of your improvements. Read somewhere that Lexus has even a turntable for the car, but since you sold out your collection of vinyls no need it for it
    Joking of course, enjoy
    Do thieves still steal hi-fi stuff from cars i n the last couple of decades anymore??

    I know that went out (at least in Continental Europe) when GPS and Coyote and cellphones installations were visible and became easy preys. I thought I had solved the problem by having a removable façade cardeck system, but I still got broken in (few people actually took the façade with them) and counterfeit façades appeared on the illegal markets.

    So I just solved the problem by leaving the good in-built system (Saab didn't put low-end stereos in their models), so the car player unit would not be fittable in other cars, except another Saab. My main problem being that Saab being bankrupt for 10 years (this year is the anniv), parts could get tricky to find, unless hitting the junkyards (not that many Saab abound in those parks >> tough little buggers).
    Better speakers can be installed, but they will be visible like dung will attract for shitflies. Installing them in the regular speakers places may hide them from sight, but that means taking panels out and once these have been taken out, soon or later the screws will come loose producing vibrations in the dashboard and pannel doors.

    Quote Originally Posted by simon moon View Post
    From my standpoint, even though it is possible to get great frequency response, high SPL with low distortion, dynamic range will always be compromised. The average noise level of a good modern car is about 68db (an average home is about 35db). That increase in noise floor is a big detriment to music with a lot of dynamics. And most prog, does have fairly high dynamics. Classical is completely unlistenable in a car for me. I can't listen to classical in the car without a constant need to turn the sound down during forte passages, and up during pianissimo passages. But even with adjusting volume, things like attack and decay, fine detail, ambient cues, will get lost in that 68db plus noise floor.
    Working partly as a safety/prevention man, I have access to a decibel meter and your values are more or less correct compared to what I measured (both at home and in the car), though let's face it: road surface noises will be dictated by the state of the tarmac/macadam/cobblestones you drive upon, no matter how good the soundproofing of the car is.

    indeed, it is illusory to try to achieve real hi-fi conditions in the car.
    At home, installing expensive speaker cables will give you results (though some experts dispute that it's more subliminal than real), but doing that in a car is wasted money.

    Quote Originally Posted by rdclark View Post
    I agree with the basic premise that a car system can't replicate the sound stage of a good home system, but at the same time if you spend a lot of time in your car, what's the alternative? Headphones are illegal while driving in most states. (It makes no sense to me; any modern car system can drown out all outside sounds. But there it is.) If you spend two hours a day in your car and music is important to you, you do the best you can.

    For me, that stops short of complete isolation from the outside world, which just makes me uncomfortable. But there's no reason that whatever you do have shouldn't sound as good as possible.
    The best way to enjoy music in the car (I make two "big" trips/week commuting between North Holland and Brussels - 280 km) is to choose music you will enjoy, too bad if the sonics are not living-room hi-fi standards.

    More than being isolated from traffic noises (which I'm not a fan of either), what I really think should be outlawed however is road noises (including horn honks and brake screeches and such) banned from music (especially in prog music, as this is not valid anymore for The Beatles' Drive My Car) . I've been sometimes almost fooled by and panicked thinking that there was a major accident alarm/alert that doesn't exist and deconcentrated from what's ahead of me for what's besides or behind me and be a danger to others, because of that.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    Do thieves still steal hi-fi stuff from cars i n the last couple of decades anymore??
    that.
    Back when I was in my 20's I had my car stereo and speakers stolen out of my car twice. It really sucked. I lived in an apartment complex that was kind not in the best of neighborhoods at the time. No problems in recent years though.

  24. #24
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    ^^ I used to drive a 95 Saturn which at one point was stolen, and missing form about a week and a half. The thieves tried to steal the stereo, but couldn't figure out how to remove it. It was a custom install job, done by me. I didn't follow the standard installation practices, which turned out to be fortuitous. They also couldn't find the registration and insurance card because I hid them in the fuse compartment, not the glove box.
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