Sound Choices

A good sound system can make time out on the road more pleasant.

Glen English, the store manager of Joplin, Mo.-based 4 State Trucks, home of the Chrome Shop Mafia, says sound system upgrades rank “about 5 or 6 on the ‘Top 10’ most popular upgrades truck owners make these days.”

Even local car audio shops are finding upgrading sound systems for truckers a growing part of their market. Empress Car Audio & Marine in Gulfport, Miss., for example, is seeing more and more local owner-operators dropping by to have older head units replaced with more full-featured models that provide satellite radio and interface with iPods, USB and Bluetooth. “It’s not unusual for us to see a truck owner come in and drop $800 to $1,500 on a new system,” says manager Michael Taylor.

For trucking audiophiles who want to step to the next level with higher-end speakers, an amp and sub-woofers, the wallet gets tapped a little deeper. Custom installers say mid-level systems begin in the $2,000-3,000 range. The performance of mid-priced audio systems rival the best factory systems found in today’s upscale pickups and SUVs, where 400-500-watt outputs are the norm. Such power and fidelity brings the driver to the front row of the stage – or to the chair next to their favorite talk radio hosts.

How component brands are chosen, matched and installed varies as much as the music pumped through them. But there are more important matters than brand names and aesthetics. Swapping out a factory head unit and factory speakers for those of a higher quality is easy. But when it comes to installing a full array of high-end audio and video, the task is better left to the pros to get it done right the first time.

“Truckers upgrading their sound systems need to pay special attention to two things,” advises Arc Audio’s Fred Lynch. “One is the installation; it’s more important than the components. Two: Get the best head unit you can buy. Price really does reflect quality in that area, and if it’s crap, high-power amps and great speakers just magnify that point.”

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Another aspect to consider is minimizing downtime. English says the guys at 4 State recommend truckers eyeing a mid- to high-end system drop by the installer to have everything measured, then come back on the next trip for the actual installation. “That allows the shop to get a head start on making any consoles or enclosures needed for the custom installation without actually taking the truck out of service. When the customer returns on the next trip, all that’s left is the actual installation of the hard parts,” English says.

Butt-kicking amp
No ultimate truck is complete without an audio system powered by Kicker’s WX10000.1 “Warhorse” amp. It’s the ultimate power play in car audio, producing more than 10,000 true watts. Recommended for use with Kicker SoloX subwoofers, the Warhorse steps in at just short of a yard long, a foot-and-a-half wide and 67 pounds. It’s bad. It also requires the services of eight 12-volt batteries and two 200-amp alternators. Retail: $9,999., (800) 256-5425

iPOD Fusion
With Apple’s release of the new generation of iPod touch and iPod nano devices, Fusion Electronics offers the world’s first iPod-inside stereo units. The innovative Fusion CA-IP500 Audio iPod Receiver is a full-featured head unit with a unique internal iPod dock so you can plug in a touch/nano iPod and motor on., (623) 580-9000

Satellite TV/radio system
AT&T Cruisecast is a new, compact in-truck satellite TV and radio system, available this spring, that promises subscribers 22 satellite TV stations and 20 radio channels (at launch) and far better reception on the go than earlier mobile satellite systems. Cost: $1,299 for the system plus a $28 monthly subscription fee., (703) 584-3770

Speaker system upgrade kit
Vibe Audio’s new all-in-one Slick Pack 2.1 kit provides everything you need to upgrade your truck’s speaker system in one box. It includes the 800W Slick A1 amplifier, Slick SLR enclosure, two Slick 6-by-9 tri-axials and all the necessary wiring hardware. The Slick 2.1 Pack is perfect if you are looking for a quick and easy way to greatly improve your truck’s audio installation. Retail: $620., (888) 622-8423

Mini Arc amp and Foose speakers
Compact amps, like this Arc Audio KS 125.4 Mini, are just now emerging on the audio scene. The new KS125.4 puts out 125 watts per channel from a very compact (11.6-in. long by 5.15-in. wide by 1.7-in. high) yet extremely efficient design. It provides excellent sound quality with very little power loss in heat. Retail $519.

Chip Foose signed off on the new FD6000 Component Speaker system, which is engineered to place you right in the middle of your own private concert hall. The FD Series speakers and components feature Foose-Designed automotive brushed-aluminum and Hot Rod Black aesthetics., (866) 258-1288

Bargain Receiver
The new JVC KD-BT11 features built-in Bluetooth wireless technology for hands-free calling and audio streaming and is updatable for pairing with new cell phones. The unit is equipped for readiness with CD changer, HD radio and satellite radio and is MP3/WMA compatible with front auxiliary input. A wireless remote is included. Retail: $220., (800) 252-5722

Power enclosure
The new APDM 850 power distribution center allows you to instantly connect eight accessories to an easily accessible power source without complicated installation. The APDM connects to the battery and every other connection is done in the fuse box. Includes all wires, fuse holders and terminals., (517) 540-0045

Bargain Subwoofers
Thumpin’ bass sounds great in a truck cab, and the new Sony 10-inch XS-LD106P5 sub makes it happen. It has a peak power of 1,300 watts (350 watts RMS) and features a rigid P5 (pentagonal shaped polypropylene) design, gold-plated 5-way binding posts and mica-reinforced composite woven cone with the Xplod logo laser etched into the capless design. Retail: $110., (800) 222-7669.

Full-featured head unit
All-in-one head units don’t get much better than Alpine’s new IVA-D106. It has it all from a 7-in. QVGA fully-motorized, flip-out touch screen for easy access and control for instant connectivity to iPod, Bluetooth, HD radio, satellite radio, navigation and rear camera inputs. Retail: $1,000., (800) 257-4631