By on August 25, 2012

If car racing is not for you, you can always compete for who has the loudest and most expensive car audio system.  From April through September contestants congregate at the Columbus Motor Speedway for a race of the biggest and baddest sound systems. 

Levels of 140 to 160 decibel are the goal, writes the Columbus Dispatch. Pain begins at 125 dB, 140 dB are considered the highest recommended exposure, even with hearing protection.

The race has four different sanctioning bodies. One of them, the Mobile Electronics Competition Association, sanctions 112 events in 18 states.

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33 Comments on “My Car Radio Is Louder Than Yours...”

  • avatar

    Having my own worthless hobbies, one of which is flying light aircraft, I try to be accepting of others’ interests. I accept that some amount of bother to others is generally involved. I think it’s great these guys go to a speedway to make noise, but God help me, I approach a murderous rage when an irresponsible one stops near me and makes me stop talking, listening, figuring out a solution, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t fly light aircraft, but I consider that hobby far from worthless. I took my niece for flying lessons when she was a kid, beginning when she was 7. She told me years later it gave her a lot of extra confidence.

      As for the audio systems, why don’t they just keep ’em in their man caves?

    • 0 avatar

      “Having my own worthless hobbies, one of which is flying light aircraft…”

      Au Contraire, mon ami! Flying light aircraft… in fact flying any aircraft is a noble pursuit and definitely worthy of your time.

      Carry On!

  • avatar

    As a person not born with full hearing it saddens me that people deliberately “upgrade” their car to hurt their own hearing…

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Yah My $ 70 Dual is plenty for me.

  • avatar

    Well to each their own, won’t behoove anybody their passion (within reason)

  • avatar

    God help me that is still my favorite body style of the FWD H-bodys.

    On stereos it stickens me to see a nice car on eBay or AutoTrader just to find out someone has filled the trunk with sound equipment or hydraulics or compressors. If I buy a big sedan one of the major reasons is to have a big trunk!

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    Budget 10,000 dollars. Of which car 200 dollars.

  • avatar

    I’d say a 160db audio system is no more unreasonable than a 240mph top speed — each can only be used in very specific circumstances and with elaborate safety gear, and to get either you’re probably going to have to give up some of the day to day practicality of the car.

    • 0 avatar

      You’d be surprised how many loud stereos (which are PROBABLY bad for your hearing even if not 160db) I can hear (and I have degenerative hearing loss!) 10 car lengths away without my hearing aides in….

      On the other hand I’ve never seen someone going 240mph and probably not even more than 120…

    • 0 avatar

      They different in that the ridiculous sound system is always hurting the user and people around them when it’s misused, and it’s likely misused a lot.

      OTOH, the suicidal 240 mph users generally realize they are being arses, as they break the law.

      Fines and community service should be applied more liberally to both groups.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        I figure between bass that shakes the car parts and never gets turned down at a stoplight and ear buds, most of these guys will need hearing aids by the time they’re 50. I mostly see guys driving cars with sound systems that make the car next to them vibrate. Sadly, super bass sound systems mean more to most of the younger generation than how fast their car goes.

  • avatar

    What’s odd to me is how the loudness side of the competition utilizes test tones and not real music to determine the winners. It’s all about amplification and nothing about musical fidelity, which strikes me as the antithesis of what aftermarket manufacturers provide: an experience better than the often mediocre systems provided by OEMs. It appears that there is also a set of fidelity categories, but the take a back seat to the sheer noise component.

    • 0 avatar

      It is better than the OEM solution, it’s just that they are chasing a metric than what most people would consider pointless at some point. Sort of like drag-racing, a top fuel drag-racer is probably the worst kind of cars ever built, it can basically go nowhere, it runs out of fuel in less than 10 seconds and cant even turn, but still it appeals to some as straight line performance is the only thing that matters for them.
      Their is fidelity classes, the sound is pretty awesome and they also judge the cars based on install quality. Even if the aesthetics displayed by the top competitors are not my cup of tea I can’t avoid admiring the workmanship that goes in to some of the car.

      • 0 avatar

        As someone who competed in such “sound offs” years ago (collecting a thrid place trophy for my efforts) I can tell you there are in fact multiple classes with different goals in mind. The dB drag-race class is as described: max loudness using test tones. Its stupid to me… just as stupid as real drag racing compared to circuit racing. To each his own, I don’t understand people who spend money on 4×4 trucks/jeeps to go “mudding” either.

        My current aftermarket audio system is plenty loud, but was designed to be completely hidden and reproduce actual music by covering the full range of tones, with dynamic range, while maintaining the best possible imaging.

      • 0 avatar


        Sure, was just trying to point out that Big bad bass isn’t the only thing they compete in.

        I’ve been to a couple of EMMI (?) sanction competitions years ago and I truly admire the amount of work some of the competitors put into their rides. From the guys competing in classes with low spending limits to the no holds barred guys with sponsors, from the guys who put in hundreds of hours to make the car look as close as possible to stock to the guys who put in the same time and effort to make the thing look anything but stock.

        Those guys are craftsmen, some in the JDM, gaudy wings and neon sense, some in the mint condition NOS rebuild sense. I think they should not be ridiculed any more then guys who rebuild engines every other weekend so they can race for a couple of seconds the other weekends, or any more then the guy who frets over what kind of fasteners that where used for the hidden glove box hinge in the car that he has been restoring for the last decade.

  • avatar

    My home stereo doesn’t even have tone controls. You can’t “turn up the bass”. My “preamp” is a passive control box, my FM tuner glows in the dark, my CD player uses a dedicated outboard DAC. So I think I know something about good audio.

    My favorite part about super loud car stereos is when you can hear body panels buzzing and rattling as they go down the street.

    There was a time when all but the cheapest aftermarket car stereos were better than OEM units. Now that car companies have hooked up with audio brands, there are some genuine audiophile systems in cars today. Jaguar’s Bowers & Wilkinson systems are superb. Still, much as people recognize the brand name, I think it was stupid for VW to apply a brand known for its distinctive distortion, not high fidelity, Fender.

    • 0 avatar

      I would pretty much be ready to put money on the fact that the “Hi-Fi” companies that provide the logos for the manufacturer provides no components for the vehicles, I would also be ready to wager that most of the times the “Hi-Fi” companies – that provides the possibility for VAG and others to charge a hefty premium – contributes little or no engineering. Pretty much the same thing as with in-dash “Breitling” and “Cartier” watches.

      • 0 avatar

        B&W has their own brand to protect. They’re not likely to slap their brand on something that doesn’t sound good. The VW/Fender deal, though, I’m sure is something close to what you described.

      • 0 avatar

        @Ronnie Schreiber

        I truly remain doubtful, HiFi in cars are always a heavily flawed affair anyway. I’m confident that the car manufacturer has more than ample engineering, design and marketing resources to develop the things in house and to a superior standard (as does the regular oems, I’m pretty sure Siemens, VDO and the other can produce and engineer products to superior standard if asked)and most often does. What they can’t manufacture is the added brand cachet to get buyers to happily fork over the extra cash for Bose, B&W, Fender, B&O, ML, Dynaaudio and many more.

      • 0 avatar


        Have you ACTUALLY listened to some of these premium factory setups? Even some of the more “run of the mill” setups are way better than they ever used to be.

        Go back to the 1990’s and many factory OEM audio systems still sucked bit big one.

        My current car, a 2003 Mazda Protege5 still has its factory speakers, with separate tweeters up front and a small, sub with a bass tube to extend the lower frequencies, and is powered (100W max, or so Pioneer touts) and with a decent, moderately priced JVC double DIN head unit with burr brown dacs, sounds great. True, I could improve on that, but for my needs, its more than adequate.

        I know that Infinity supplies the top end systems in many Chrysler stereos since the 1980’s, though I don’t know if they still do even now, but did for about 20 years or so, meant that they supplied the speakers, not the HU, which is an upgraded version of the standard HU, often with improved pre-amps, and had separate power amps, sometimes attached to each speaker, earlier units had reparable speakers so if you found a 2 way speaker out of a junked Chrysler, and found that the tweeter was shot, there was a chance it could be repaired/replaced, and were WELL built of quality at one time.

        Still though, I would agree that the aftermarket setups often were superior. These days, the gap is much smaller than it used to be for many factory systems, so much so that a good, stock unit can be more than adequate for most people.

      • 0 avatar


        Well obviously not all of them, but I’m not disagreeing that the current car stereos are better then they ever used to be, I’m simply stating that all the premium branding has little to do with those improvements other than making it possible for the manufacturer to charge the extra coin. I’m totally with you that you probably don’t need to upgrade your run of the mill premium sound system unless your demands are higher then most peoples.

        I very much doubt that any HiFi company actually supplies any parts at all as most of them doesn’t even produce their own speaker elements (I’m a bit unsure if that’s the right word, the actual cone, basket and magnet is what I’m referring too here) and have very limited manufacturing capabilities (Infinity could, perhaps be an exception as they are part of a much larger group, on the other hand one could argue that infinity isn’t hifi).

    • 0 avatar

      My “no name” Premium Audio in my Accord actually has the best factory door speakers I’ve ever heard. I’ve owned the car over a year and so far all I’ve done is bypass the factory amp in favor of my own, and put a sub in the trunk. Treble is brighter than I care for, but it has been pleasantly acceptable. I have some nice aftermarket 6.5’s, but the fact that I’ve yet to install them speaks volumes about those Honda speakers.

      Anything with the word “bose” on it has brought nothing but tonal disgust to my ears. Next time I buy a car and the salescreature brags about it having bose audio, I’m going to demand an additional $1000 discount.

  • avatar

    Does nobody like peace and quiet?

  • avatar

    Your LOUDNESS passes through my closed windows, doors and walls.

    The ONE spot on Earth where I should be able to escape man-made noise.

    YOU forced that unwanted annoying trespass upon me.

    I can still hear YOUR noise two and more blocks away.

    I sincerely hope you impact a sturdy tree and have vehicle pieces penetrate vital organs and you slowly and painfully depart this life.

    And do not even think about driving upon the shanty’s weeds and dirt.

  • avatar

    Look at all those attractive girls who turned out for the car audio competition … oh, wait.

  • avatar

    The credit crisis KILLED the rim industry and the after market audio industry. Both of them are ailing now – not to mention auto makers are putting better quality audio and wheels on their cars now.

    Best ghetto blaster you can simply add to a car is an amplified KICKER L7. If you have the space: 2 Kicker L7’s.

    works best in an SUV cause the cabin magnifies the sound.

  • avatar

    With the introduction of integrated audio and climate systems this little hobby’s days are numbered. There are a few aftermarket radio adapters which allow DIN chassis to be installed but for most cars this is not an option.
    Speakers and Amps can still be replaced.
    I’ve built a number of complicated, expensive, and very loud systems for people, myself included. To each his own as to the practicality of it.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s best to leave the factory audio alone and run piggyback equipment. Factory CDmp3s have impressive sounds when tuned only for highs. Or bypass the dash altogether and go from Ipod/smartphone/internet radio straight to the amp.
      When you trade in the car (or if it gets totaled), just snip some wires and take it with you.

  • avatar

    Turn that crap down and get off my lawn about sums it up.

  • avatar

    I’ve never cared for truly loud audio, ie, a system that’s capable of doing over 50-100W max peak as it’s often not necessary in most situations.

    That said, if in an especially noisy car, then a bit more power to handle what you are listening to, especially if its bass heavy techno, then more power will allow your system to handle the extra heavy bass, which uses much more power than most mid or treble frequencies, as too little power at high volumes will create distortion within the amp, and the speakers may not be able to properly reproduce those frequencies accurately.

    That said, most aftermarket systems built in recent years do fine with 18-20W, to as much as 25W nominal, 50W max through all 4 speakers and do so cleanly. That’s all I have in my setup, as far as I know as I have a JVC head unit I bought back in May to replace an older aftermarket Alpine HU that replaced the factory HU before I even bought the car, but still retained its factory speakers. The HU is I think 20W nominal, 50W max x4.

    I have satellite tweeters in the sail panels up front, mated to 6×8 full range ovals in the doors and I think 6.5, though some sources say, 5.25″ full range rounds in the rear doors, and a small, spare tire mounted Pioneer sub, with port base tube) for the low frequencies and it sounds fantastic.

    It’s clean, provides decent bass oomph, especially if the bass recorded is deep, and rich, such as the Stax track, Time is Tight by Booker T and the MG’s, from the late 60’s at moderately loud volume, and it remains pretty clean with little resonant buzzing going on.

    And it’s loud enough to overcome the noisy environment in my car when on a noisy freeway surface at speed.

    With DSP, I have great imaging, as can be produced in an automobile that is and when just sitting there listening, lots of detail is present and no, I don’t compress my music within an inch of its life. Yes, it’s MP3, but at 320mbs compression via a thumb drive, and yes, the music sounds a bit dynamically compressed, it still sounds quite good.

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