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8-9-2017, Mobile Electronics -- People sure do love their toys. Hot tubs, Harley-Davidsons, and Hunt yachts are a few on that list of disposable income pleasures. For Aquatic AV, outfitting those products with the best sound possible is its specialty.

The San Jose, Calif. -based company, founded in 2005, focuses on three categories—spa, marine, and Harley-Davidson motorcycle stereos and speakers. While the spa lineup is still the core of the company’s business—it supplies spa stereos, speakers, power supplies, and wiring harnesses—Aquatic AV is currently focusing on strengthening its marine business and Harley-Davidson line.

“The majority of our business is definitely with the spa industry,” said Kyle Aeschliman, vice president/national sales manager for Aquatic AV. “But marine and Harley are right behind that. We have been trying to build up the marine part of the business for the last eight years.”

Aquatic AV marine stereos are not only fully featured like many premium traditional car stereos, but come with marine grade environmental protection which is essential considering the exposure to salt, sand, and sea. Each is designed and built to withstand the harsh conditions associated with use in marine and boat applications.

For instance, the newest marine stereo, the AQ-MP-5UBT-S, is not only waterproof and IP55 rated, but offers Bluetooth, USB, and built-in SiriusXM receiver which grants access to more than 170 satellite radio stations. It features an onboard 288 Watt amplifier that can power up to 8x speakers.  

The lineup also includes BC, or Bluecube Hide-Away Marine Stereos. The AQ-BC-5UBT plays music wirelessly via a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, USB, or MP3 device. It is IP65 rated for use in any environment that is dry, wet, muddy, or damp.

“We also have 61/2-inch speakers which are doing really well for us,” Aeschliman said. “The line also includes a 10-inch subwoofer and waterproof 4-channel amplifier.”

On the Harley side, the first stereo was introduced three years ago, according to Aeschliman. “Since then we have released another Harley stereo so we currently have two head units in the market,” he said. “We have a set of Harley-Davidson speakers and there are plans to have another one released this summer.”

The big draw with the Harley products is that the head units are easy for anyone to install. “They are a plug-and-play replacement for Harley-Davidson motorcycles for years 1998 to 2013 so it’s a pretty wide market there,” Aeschliman said. “Harley-Davidson didn’t change any of their connectors on those years of models so one of the reasons those models have been doing well is because the stock stereo doesn’t have Bluetooth.”

Adjusting a stereo while riding a motorcycle can certainly present some serious challenges which is why, Aeschliman said, the integration with the hands free control is so important. “If you’re cruising down the road, you don’t want to be looking down at buttons on your stereo,” he said. “With our head unit integrating with the hand controls, it’s just as seamless as the stock Harley-Davidson stereo was to use, but with the added features of Bluetooth and the added power of our built-in amplifier—it’s all around a better system.”

Aquatic AV also added a two-year warranty. “Sometimes these stock stereos aren’t the most reliable so if someone has had a bike since 1998, a lot of these guys want to update to a newer and improved product,” Aeschliman said. “We use the stock 23-pin connection so all you need to do is remove your stock stereo, the wiring harness that is already on the motorcycle plugs directly into our head unit, and then there are four bolts to mount the inside of the Harley facing. It’s a really simple installation. It retains all of your hand controls. Some folks are using aftermarket car stereos but when you do that you have to buy a separate module to integrate with the bike’s wiring harness and enable your hand controls. With the 23-pin connector everything is easy—just plug-and-play with the wiring harness.” 

Read the rest of the article HERE.

8-31-2016 -- Legendary martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee once said, "Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

The power of water is undeniable in the natural world. But in the retail space, it can be even more powerful. Especially if one put Lee's concept into practice. Luckily for Mark Fung, owner of Stereo Solutions in Redding, Calif., both the philosophical and physical elements of water have helped land his shop in the Top 50 two years in a row.

Located on the Sacramento River, and close to multiple lakes, including the vast Lake Shasta, Redding is home to a strong boating community that acts as the foundation for Stereo Solutions' business. Due to the recent drought in California, Fung had been concerned about the possibility of a slow season, but luckily, thanks to a surprise rainy season, business is booming.

"It's been our second busiest month ever. California has been in a drought. Our lakes are full now. Mt. Shasta has a bunch of snow. People are investing in new boats," Fung said. "There was a point where people thought we were a boat dealer because we had a lot of boats here. The bay has 2,500 square feet with four bay doors, two on each side to pull vehicles through. We squeezed eight or nine boats in there at one time. Marine is a big portion of our company but it's not all of it."

The shop also works with the local fire department and highway patrol, installing navigation, Bluetooth, backup cameras and specialty remote starts.

"Some of the highway patrol cars would come from probably 300 miles away," Fung said. "What started it was we work with a lot of dealerships here in town and they were handling a lot of fleet programs. They got on board with highway patrol and we jumped on board with that."

Liquid Thoughts

Becoming a community's go-to place for vehicle upgrades isn't a guarantee, even in a place like Redding where there is a need. It's a good thing that Fung is immersed in all things 12-volt and always has been throughout his career.

"It's the only job I've ever had. I worked sweeping car audio shops when I was 15 and a half, right when I could drive," Fung said. "The first shop I worked at was called Speed of Sound in Redding. I was sweeping floors and getting to learn installs by shadowing." After spending two to three years at Speele Audio, Fung moved around to around six shops in town. The experience helped Fung identify the do's and don'ts of the business, preparing and inspiring him to open his own shop.

"All the shops I worked at in town are no longer in business. I think one of the biggest reasons was the owners of the shops were not car audio guys. They all had financial backers. None of them could install. They all had to rely on someone to get a job done," Fung said. "When it comes down to it, I can sell a job and I can turn around and install it. It's hard for me to hire a salesman without an installation background because if he doesn't know what he's selling and the car it's going in, it won't turn out right. That's a unique thing here. I have six employees and every single one of them has an installation background."

The shop does not have a dedicated salesperson anymore. Instead, Fung uses a unique approach, allowing as many installers to populate the sales floor as is needed at any given time to handle customers.

"People can buy this stuff anywhere but can't get it installed anywhere. There's a guy in town now that just sells product," Fung said. "That's how we focus the shop, around the install."

Part of Fung's unique approach comes from his background in self-sufficiency. The shop has no traditional financial backers. It started thanks to a generous loan from Fung's grandmother in 2007. 

Read the rest of the story HERE.

8-30-2017, Mobile Electronics -- I hope you enjoyed last month’s article looking at the manufacture and design of loudspeakers. I also hope you reviewed the previous article where Andy provided some basics on audio for us. This month we move forward with Andy showing us the basic necessities of tuning. Hold on, though, this ride might be a little shaky. Andy goes after things that I have heard said many times, and things that I have said before. What I suggest is keeping an open mind and be willing to learn from this industry veteran.

Let’s see what Andy is sharing with us this month.

Andy Explains

I’m going to commit heresy right here at the beginning so we can get beyond it as quickly as possible. This is really easy. Understanding why it’s easy isn’t so easy and I’ve provided some of those explanations in a previous article and in countless Facebook and forum posts.
System tuning isn’t really optimizing, it’s troubleshooting. If it was about optimizing, then we’d all be able to provide pretty good performance by just hooking stuff up. Anyone who’s serious about autosound knows this isn’t the case. This isn’t about taking what you have after it’s hooked up and making it a little better in 20 minutes. This is about a realization that once the product is hooked up, the job is only partially completed. Tuning a system isn’t an add-on or an extra service we provide for our favorite customers, just like programming an alarm for a particular car isn’t an option.
I hear the following statement all the time after listening to cars when I visit shops: “Not bad for the twenty minutes I spent,” and it makes me want to drown myself in the bathtub. What if you were demoing a recent security system installation for the guy from the company that makes that system and at the end of the demo in which nothing worked properly and several features weren’t enabled, you said, “Not bad for the five minutes I spent programming it”?
This isn’t about doing a better job. This is about finishing the job.
If you only have 20 minutes to finish a job in which you’ve spent a week making panels, upholstering them, adding lighting and accents, running wires and arranging them for FB photos, you’ve spent two hours shooting, then two things need to change: 1) you need to bill more time to finish the job and 2) you need a more efficient and predictable process for tuning. That’s what this article is about.
Before we go there, I want to talk about a couple of other statements I hear too often. The first is, “sound is subjective”. This is often proffered by people who, in a discussion about audio principles and their application, are suddenly out of their comfort zone and are looking for a quick exit. The idea that some customers prefer more high frequency content or more bass, a well-defined image or more spaciousness at the expense of image definition doesn’t mean there are no rules. A stereo system is, by design, supposed to do specific things and in order for it to work, some stuff just has to be right. Once you get those things right, changing the system performance for your customer’s preference is straightforward.
The second statement is, “I listen to everyone and I use all of those tips and tricks when I tune.” This is dangerous if sound quality, speed and predictability are important. If you’re an enthusiast working on your own car, then experimentation is part of the fun. Experimentation on a customer’s car is just a money pit.
Tips and tricks are tools. Many of them work, but they don’t all work in every situation. Knowing when to deploy them is important. What if you had one of those giant Snap-On tool boxes and all that was inside was a set of screwdrivers? You know how to use screwdrivers so you bought those. You’d have a lot of other drawers to fill. What if a bunch of people from every tool manufacturer and even some DIY guys give you a new tool every time they stop by. Every time someone gives you one and says, “this one is magic, you should try it to see if it works,” you put it in the drawer. Then, when you encounter a situation in which your screwdrivers don’t do the job, you start pulling other “magic” tools you don’t understand  out of the box to try them? Is that a process designed for success? Is success even likely?

Tips and tricks, shortcuts and workarounds are good for experts. You have to know when to use them and what they do or else they’re just a barrel of monkeys likely to make a big mess. The usefulness of tools depends mostly on the user’s understanding of what they’re for and how to use them. If the guy who gives you one can’t explain why it works and when to use it and you don’t know either, then it isn’t a tool. It’s a monkey.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

8-2-2017, Mobile Electronics - This year's class of Top 12 Installers includes veterans like Chris Pate of Mobile Toys and relative newcomers like Miguel Vega, with the top prize of Installer of the Year up for grabs to all. 

Chris McNulty

Driven Mobile Electronics

Chantilly, Va.

Years installing: 25

Other duties: All of them. I am essentially a one-man show with some bookkeeping help and some install help at the shop, as needed. I do all sales, ordering, marketing and more.

Proudest moment, besides this award: Being asked, then asked again, to present at KnowledgeFest.

Biggest mistake ever made as an installer: Leaving a car in neutral, whose emergency brake was inoperable, in the parking lot. It eventually started to creep and rolled into a fire hydrant in the parking lot.

Three favorite activities besides work: That's obvious. I like to embarrass myself [by] making rap videos.

Biggest influence with regard to expertise, professionalism and work ethic: John Brettle.

Vision of life five years from now: I'd love to bring in a few employees to unload some of my burden at the shop, on the sales floor especially, allowing for more family time. My daughter will be in college or performing as a dancer somewhere else at that point, and I'd hate to have to miss those moments in her life.


Chris Pate

Mobile Toys, Inc.

College Station, Texas

Years installing: 24

Other duties: I am also the head project designer, engineer, fabricator, chief product specialist, teacher/training specialist and one of the owners. As a project designer, I am tasked with working with clients to design installation concepts and interiors that excite our clients. As an engineer, I am required to design and machine most of the parts we use in our installations.  This requires the use of engineering software packages like AutoCAD 2017, Solidworks, CorelDraw and Mach3 Mill. I machine all my custom parts on our Shopbot PRT96 3-axis CNC and our Universal VLS 60 Watt laser. I build custom interiors and panels that encompass audio, video and vehicle design cues that make the driving environment enjoyable and fun for our clients. As our chief product specialist, I have to stay on the forefront of technology in our industry and relay that to my fellow employees. I do this by attending KnowledgeFest, CES, SEMA, traveling to France and Asia to visit vendors, as well as countless hours of research and testing on new products. My favorite duty is being a teacher and trainer at our stores. We have a priority as elders to the younger generations to train the next generation of installers. I do this by holding monthly trainings after hours and going over new fabrication and installation practices. [I am also] owner and chief bottle washer at Mobile Toys, Inc. This requires me to talk to reps and coordinate our employees. I run the install bay at our College Station location as well as coordinate projects with our Bryan store.

Proudest moment, besides this award: My proudest moment to date in my work career was being named the Runner-Up for Installer of the Year in 2016 by Mobile Electronics magazine. Although I did not win, it lit the fire in me that has driven me this year to push the envelope. I have worked harder, smarter, faster and better than I ever have. This award is what ignited that flame to pursue excellence.

Biggest mistake ever made as an installer: The biggest mistake I have made as an installer is waiting too long to make changes and expand my skill set. I could have done what I am doing eight years ago when I moved back from Tulsa (where I managed the install bays at Car Toys of Tulsa). I chose to stay safe in the practices I was comfortable with at the time instead of learning more advanced techniques like what those I've acquired in the past three years. Those years feel wasted and I'm now trying to make up for lost time. Fellow installers should never get comfortable, never stop learning, and listen to the people around them. There is always valuable information to be ingested into your mental toolbox.

Three favorite activities besides work: I enjoy collecting gems and minerals from all over the world. We have a vast collection that includes crystals, minerals, fossils, a two-million-year-old Russian black bear claw, and even a prehistoric crocodile jaw. I have also sung lead vocals in a touring rock band for the past 20 years. Although I don't tour as much as I did 10 years ago, I still enjoy writing and recording music. My favorite pastime of late has been training and mentoring younger installers. Whether it’s on the Internet, Facebook or at a training class, it has become my priority to help nurture and bring forth the next generation of installers.

Biggest influence with regard to expertise, professionalism and work ethic: Picking one would be impossible, so I will narrow it down to three. Jeremy Carlson has helped pioneer the use of machines and automation in the everyday install bay. I came up learning these practices and looking for ways to intertwine them. Jeremy's advice has been instrumental in that. He influenced me to look past the title of installer and realize that we are really engineers and should approach our projects in that manner. Secondly, I would say JT Torres for his exceptional ability to connect, teach and help our industry. Watching him over the past three years has motivated me to join that same cause and help our industry learn and grow. My third choice is Gary Biggs. He is the first installer/fabricator to actually sit down and show me how to design and execute a complete idea in an automotive environment. It is because of his help and guidance while I was working in Tulsa that I have become the designer/builder I am now.

Vision of life five years from now: I would like to continue to grow as an installer/designer/fabricator and engineer. I want to learn new techniques and pass them on. It is my priority to begin training many fellow installers to help them grow and expand their skill sets. To be a part of the generation that helps train the next and to help close the gap in our canyon of qualified installers would be an honor.

Read the rest of the feature HERE.

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