Friday, February 24, 2012

The HiFi Car Stereo Oxymoron

Oxymoron: a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms.

Threre are a few classic oxymorons I can think of off of the top of my head. Some of these make sense when you think about them but literally they are direct opposites.  For example:
  • The same difference
  • Old news
  • Holy war
The list goes on and on and a few would even add the Central Intelligence Agency.  My next nominee is Car Hi-Fi.

Yesterday I bought a brand new car whose name shall remain anonymous since all new cars pretty much without exception, fall into this category. I understand that there are a few esoteric exceptions, but regardless the VAST MAJORITY of automobiles have total junk equipment they dare to categorize as automotive high fidelity. Again we are presented with the dilemma of economics and audience.

Marketeers know that the best place to fish for cash is in the mass market. Thanks to Apple and their wildly successful i-whatever product line, the masses are thrilled to background noise in non-musical accuracy. I have grown to accept this nonsense and even installed an i-Pod in my old 07 Yaris attached to my Pioneer AVIC-D3. Yes, it was elevator music and yes it was terrible, but the road noise of the old Yaris drowned out any hopes to hear high fidelity.

Enter the new car. This is the first time I have ever purchased a non-high-mileage vehicle in my life. I did so for the space and the ability to tow a trailer so after comparing the minuscule mileage differences in this class of car I selected one specific American made SUV. I also felt hugely supportive for our struggling economy in doing so, something that money in this case actually can buy. During the test drive, I was focused on the location of controls, the temperature of the A/C, how much wider the vehicle was than the Yarius, and items like that. Satisfied with the deal, I drove off the lot.

But then it came time to listen to some music, so I turned on the FM radio. ARGH! What the heck was that? The built-in unit had such bass over emphasis that the system sounded like one of those imports rolling up next to you at a stoplight those boom box literally shakes your car windows. I was appalled and realized that this was the mass market. What the heck have we trained our children to listen to?

Every channel was the same, even NPR. Unfortunately, the radio design is integrated into the system display so there is no chance of ever getting out from under the radio's terrible sound (did I mention a bandwidth all the way up to about 5KHz?). What the heck to do. I've driven off of the lot, and now I am literally stuck with a unit that occupies the space of the stereo and I cannot swap it out because of the integration with the other car's systems. Shucks!

After a few miles, I decided to turn into Radio Shack and reconnect the old i-Pod (it has a USB port for the radio but there was no cable provided despite this car's upper $20,000 price range). I was getting tired of all of the nonsense commercials anyway and the thumping bass would just not go away despite the fact that the equalizer was set at -6 (it was +10 when I jumped in as was the treble setting; obviously someone from the mass market was listening to it before I sat in it).

Well, in a word, I was relieved to know that the FM radio circuit was the culprit and that the i-Pod actually sounded pretty good, much better than in the Yaris rig. But what the heck was that boomy bass? The only thing I can figure out is that the marketing folks know that the mass WANTS IT so they give it to them. But what about us lunatic fringe folks who actually know what music sounds like? We have to take a back seat here and just tolerate the junk that marketing tosses at us.

So much for the benefits of boundless free enterprise. Seems to be an oxymoron in there somewhere.

Yours for higher fidelity,
Philip Rastocny

I do not use ads in this blog to help support my efforts. If you like what you are reading, please remember to reciprocate, My newest title is called Where, oh Where did the Star of Bethlehem Go? It’s an astronomer’s look at what this celestial object may have been, who the "Wise Men" were, and where they came from. Written in an investigative journalism style, it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.

My other titles include:

No comments:

Post a Comment

To comment on this blog, you must first be a member. All comments are moderated.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.