Young male drivers targeted Car stereos becoming louder and more powerful

By Sean L. McCarthy

The Arizona Republic

Nov. 8, 2002

It's not your imagination.

Factory-installed car stereos really are louder and more powerful, and companies such as Tempe-based Rockford Fosgate are helping carmakers target the young male drivers most likely to install a bigger stereo system in their cars and trucks.

"They just keep making it bigger, adding wattage," said Dan Fazio, new-car director at Pinnacle Nissan in Scottsdale.

But the noise only goes so far. Some cities and police departments have tried to tone down the volume on car stereos, drawing up specific ordinances for noise that comes from cars.

In Phoenix, drivers whose stereos disturb the peace may be fined $50 the first time, more for subsequent offenses. In Peoria, drivers face a civil fine of at least $250. Gilbert passed a law in August setting decibel limits on sounds that cause a disturbance, including car stereos that create "unreasonable noise."

Tempe has a loud party ordinance that imposes fines of $250 for each responding officer, up to $1,000. According to the law, the definition of a party includes people sitting in parked cars with their stereos turned on full blast.

But the new city laws haven't stopped carmakers from pumping up the volume in cars.

While the normal factory-installed stereo has 100 watt s, car systems can go as high as 7,500 watts, or as loud as a jet engine.

"People want something that can be heard way out there," said Brandon Neu, a salesman at Audio Express in Glendale. "Whoever has the baddest system, that's how it goes."

New cars generally come equipped with a stereo powered by about 100 watts. Several carmakers offer Bose audio systems more than twice as powerful - the Nissan 350Z, for example, has a 240-watt Bose system - while 2003 Ford Mustang offers stereos with as much as 1,140 watts.

Earlier this year, Rockford Fosgate unveiled a demonstration model Nissan XTerra that featured a whopping 7,500 watts of power and subwoofers, registering at 155 decibels.

That's a lot of woofer.

At Sanderson Ford in Glendale, new car salesman Loren Clifton said the Mach 1000 system, which produces more than 1,000 watts of power with low distortion levels, is a new feature on Mustangs. Other Mach systems, such as the Mach 460, have been available for a few years and can be adapted for the Focus and Taurus.

"We get it in sparingly," Clifton said of the Mach 1000. "The people who buy it are usually Mustang GT convertible buyers. It's just more powerful, and it's a distinctive look when you have a Mach 1000 in the trunk. It's quite a system."

It also requires patience. Clifton said buyers have a normal wait time of six weeks for a new Mustang with a Mach 1000 already installed.

The 2003 Nissan SE-Rs offer an "Audio Fanatic" package, with a 300-watt Rockford Fosgate system complete with nine speakers in seven locations throughout the car and a truck-mounted 8-inch, sealed-enclosure subwoofer.

"Subwoofers are for the feel of the music," Fazio said. "Some people like to have everyone feel it."

Even Fazio, at 44, likes to feel the vibrations. To a point.

He drives the 350Z with a 240-watt Bose system.

"That's usually sold to people in my generation," he said.

Reach the reporter at sean. or (602) 444-6938.

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