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Crutchfield: The Podcast Ep. 11

Chris, his dream home audio system, and his Jeep Wrangler audio system

In this episode:

Chris, Crutchfield training manager, chats with J.R. about the in-house demo system he designed for our Southwest Virginia call center. It lets Crutchfield Advisors get hands-on with new home audio gear as often as possible so they can share their listening experiences with customers.

Want to demo our wide selection of home speakers too? Check out our online SpeakerCompare tool.

Some of the home audio gear discussed in this episode includes:

Chris and his Jeep

Chris also talks to J.R. about the system in his Jeep Wrangler. If you’d like to see his '06 Wrangler Unlimited and follow along, check out his vehicle profile.

Some of the car audio gear discussed in this episode includes:

After the interview, J.R. and Eric answer a customer’s question about whether he can use an Alpine Power Pack amplifier in his Wrangler.

If you're interested in upgrading your car audio and have compatibility questions, find out what fits your vehicle by using our online vehicle selector.

Explore more episodes

Read episode transcript

Welcome to Crutchfield, the podcast. I'm your host, jay are joined in studio with my good friend and co host ERic. How are you today? Eric doing great. Happy to be here. Crutchfield the podcast. One thing we try to do on this show every week, every episode is talk to a Crutchfield employee about why they bought what they bought. We have access to the coolest gear in the industry. Uh, so TVs, stereos, cameras, car stereos, amps, subwoofers, all that stuff. We've got it all. We look at it and talk about it all day every day. What cool stuff are we choosing to buy for ourselves and why? And with hundreds and hundreds of Crutchfield employees to choose from. We're picking one and talking to them about why they bought what they bought. So in today's episode, I had a nice interview with chris. So here's the deal. I am the training manager here in Crutchfield, which means all of our advisers, they go through a long training with me before they hit the phones and then an ongoing series of trainings that I'll do with them throughout the year. Uh, and chris does the same thing in our southwest Virginia contact center. So we are co training managers were constantly working together. We talk to each other talk to each other all the time to make sure we're training our people basically the same way. And so I get to go down there. He gets to come up here. It's a nice long road trip down 81 interstate 81 down the, down the western half of Virginia. Not the speed in which you travel. Of course. No I don't go that slow. So we visit each other a couple times a year. And the last time I was there I sat down with chris and talked to him about some of the stuff not only stuff that he's bought, we're actually gonna get really into his jeep and the sound system that he. Yeah exactly. But before we start talking in depth about his jeep we're gonna talk about the room. We're actually recording the interview in which is like our big training room down in our southwest Virginia contact center. And one of the things he does all the time down there is he has a system set up a really amazing home audio system. It's a two channel system. Uh And you're gonna hear all the all the gear, he's going to rattle off some model numbers and if you're keeping track at home you're gonna notice it's not a cheap system. He's got set up in there. Exactly, bingo. And that's kind of the idea is that all the advisers in that context center can go in that room, play some music using whatever streaming app they want, if they want to play vinyl that they want to play C. D. S. If they want to hook up with their phone. Bluetooth they can really just play about just about whatever they want uh and experience it and they don't just leave it like that they swap speakers out, they swap electronics out so that it can be it's kind of like a playground for high end two channel audio and it's a lot of fun. He does a really good job with that. We do something similar here. We have several several people including myself that set up different systems here. We call it demo days and it's really to get our advisors as much experience as possible with the best of the best. So that's the room where sitting in and that's why we start the conversation there. So we're gonna get right into the interview, we'll talk about that room and then we'll get into chris's jeep and learn how he upgraded the sound in his I believe it's a 2006 jeep Wrangler, unlimited two door that system. Um Well from start to finish we have the blue sound vault too. I um that's a network streamer, works with Cohibas title, you can rip cds onto it, it's a bit for bit transfer which is pretty cool. The blue sound vault. Blue sound vault. And then from there we run digital output into the Cambridge audio. It's a black magic plus man, that black magic plus is pretty great. I love it. That's one of our best selling dax and there's a good reason why, I mean it's a headphone amp works off computer you can hope Bluetooth up to it. Yeah it's it is a great dad. And from there we go balanced outputs with X. L. R. S. Using audio quest Mackenzie. Okay. And then goes into Macintosh C. 47 pre amp balanced inputs there. Uh And sources, the only three sources really we have is they got blue sound vault of course and we've got Dennin um I think it's A. D. P. 4 50. Pretty slick turntable. I really like that too. And then we've got uh U. S. B. So I actually customized all the inputs on there so you can't really screw it up and you know get into the wrong input. They're all labeled like this is blue stone vault and then turntable actually has the denim model number. And then USB so you and those are the only options. One of the cool things about the Macintosh is you can customize it all through the input button there and label everything, remove input. You're not using that kind of thing. Does the preempt the Macintosh Preempt. Is that a deck as well? It has one but I'm choosing not to use it. You're using the Cambridge instead of the deck in the Macintosh. Why is that just experimental? Really? We had the um Cambridge here and we did a lot of training, you know Charles came up and we did the training there in Charlottesville so um it was just really an experimental thing. I was doing an A B. For a while and that's like $400. 3 50 50. There was some diamonds in the rough out there that really outperformed the price tag and in my opinion that Cambridge is one of them. Um So from there you get we go balanced outputs into macintosh uh M. C. 1 52 I think it is. Yeah. Yeah. Hard to keep up with all these model numbers but yeah it's 100 and 50 watts by two channels and we've cycled. I don't know how many pairs of speakers through here. Um Currently the sbs we've used uh P. SB and those were the imagine T. Two's. Yeah standards and those are those have been pretty much the go to speaker for demos for most of us here in the southwest call center. Um Everybody seems to love them. They're kind of a jack of all trades were yet to find any music that they don't sound really great with. Its been a cool experience to have this gear in the house and you know, be able to get people in here and really get some critical listening because you know, that's something that is really important. If you're helping people choose things, you need to be able to tell them what you hear. You know, it's a personal experience type of thing. Um And then finally we got a firm and long conditioner slash power protection unit and uh yeah it's a really really fantastic system. So I mean your your days are spent training people on like new hire training classes and stuff like that when you're not doing that, you're you're doing stuff like this. Like building a dream system is part of the job pretty much. That's pretty awesome. Alright, let's talk about a couple of things that just went on in that conversation. That's why we're gonna unwrap that a little bit. Yeah, please first, let's talk about the Blue Sound vault. Yeah, that's a pretty cool piece. So Blue Sound is one of those connected home wireless uh ecosystems, but not really for it's not entry level, right? In fact, Blue Sound is built into a lot of N A. D. Products. Uh And so these are premium brands. Absolutely. And so if you know anything about like wireless multi room audio systems, Blue Sound takes it to the next level by doing a couple things very differently For one, you can really stream hi res music throughout your home on some incredible sounding gear. And not only does Blue sound have like powered speakers and things, they also have blue sound nodes that you can connect to your existing system, Like an existing high end two channel system that you might already own. You want streaming music in there. You can do it with Blue sound, you hear the term lossless when you're doing. Exactly, yeah. So they focus on that. And in addition to that they do something none of the other wireless music systems offer. And that's the vault on the front of the vault is a slot where you can put a cd in. And so if you still have a huge collection of C. D. S. You might really want to vault because they don't want them just sitting there doing nothing. You want them at your disposal and you don't want to actually have to put a disc in something to make it at your disposal. So you spend some time with the vault when you first get it putting a cD in and ripping it to the internal two terabyte hard drive on the vault. Right? So that you have a lossless quality copy of your cD available to you using the app on your phone in any room of your house. Right. And so you basically end up with the jukebox uh composed of all the music you already had. You don't have to go and repurchase that and lossless quality and it's a pretty cool thing. And it's unique like you said it's very unique in the industry. And there is a newer version of the vault. I'm not sure if chris had the vault or the vault to eye ball. To eye ball to eye. So that is the current version with the most recent release of the blue sound software which works better than ever. Like it's it's really smooth, really sleek. And so I think you're gonna like that if you are interested in the high res music solution that might be one way to go chris also talked about a Dac. What is a Dac? That's a digital to analog converter because we don't hear digital, we hear analog, but our music and these days mostly is in digital form. So it takes those ones and zeros, smooth it out and makes it sound beautiful. That's what Dax Dax are in. Everything that's on your iphone XR and anything that pretty much produces sound these days, but not all decks are created equal. Um, and just like a lot of things, you know, if you really want to focus on that one particular aspect of your system, you can really improve the sound on your digital sources these days with a better deck and there's a number of them out there. Yeah. So the deck in your phone, in your computer, uh, in anything that is responsible for taking digital music available from streaming services, from the heart drive on your computer, from anything that's digital and converting it to analog. The quality of that dak, it's kind of vital, right? The quality in your phone isn't great. They don't put great awesome Dax, A really good Dac is gonna take up some space. It's gonna have higher quality components. It's gonna need some power to do what it does and uh, and some sophisticated software and technology that, you know, there's some really smart people, some really nice tax. I feel like we should break in here and explain what a firman is. Yeah, we just kind of threw that out there, right? Yeah. It's actually a brand name for a product that we highly recommend. You buy anytime you're buying anything that plugs into the wall of your home. And that is simply a, you could think of them as a surge protector, power protection line conditioning. There's exactly, go buy a bunch of different names. But if you're just plugging your electronic gear and the more expensive, the more important this is uh if you're just plugging directly into the wall, you're you're probably compromising performance uh and you're opening up yourself to the possibility of uh weird electrical stuff killing your equipment and you don't want that. So it's like a good insurance policy to buy a good surge protector and furman's one of the best. Would you agree with that? I would absolutely agree with that. It's actually Panamax, which is another great brand for us. Uh And furman are the are the same company and uh ferman kind of uh starts where panamax finishes off both of you can make some great pieces. Afirman certainly considered borderline pro uh and uh and high end and the line conditioning, I think that's where you get your performance benefit, which is different from a surge protector where you're just kind of, you know, crossing your fingers and you know protecting against the lightning strike, right? And the line conditioning is uh you know, in some cases is regulating the power coming in, but basically cleaning that power, that's something they like to talk about so that the power supplies on your equipment are seeing constant clean stream power. And what that means is better performance over a long period of time. And today's products, one of the places, you know, TVs are a perfect example. They've gotten thinner and thinner and thinner. Well, they require less and less power, which is great. But those power supplies for them have gotten smaller and smaller. Having worked in our returns facility in the past, I can tell you one of the issues that customers are more likely to have issues with these days when it comes to our high end television is that power supply, you know, they're more, we're susceptible to, you know, uh, spikes in the electricity which can manifest in other ways other than just surges. Right? It can be uh, an appliance or a power tool, something the neighbors got going on, you know, uh those things can affect our high in equipment and uh, this helps protect against that and improve performance over the long haul. So I'm a big believer in in line conditioning in particular. Uh and I might say uh it kind of helps organize the all the wires behind maybe Iraq, right, because you're plugging everything into it and they kind of look cool and I'm just going to say that I don't mind that aspect of the nicest ones have meters and yeah, blue lights, love some blue lights, good stuff. And you know, our electrical grid, our system of delivering power to our homes and businesses was developed way before there were TVs with, you know, super advance microprocessors in them responsible for, you know, up converting your VCR tapes to four K video, Right? That's a processor can do that. But not if it's being fed dirty power. And there's one of the things we talked about like E. M. I interference, R. F. I electromagnetic radio frequency interference. Look at us with, oh yeah, I don't, it's not like I have notes right in front of me to help remind me of some of those. I don't have any notes. I just knew that. Yeah, but they do some other cool things with some uh, 12 volt switching where you can have one item or one of your pieces of equipment, uh, effectively turn on the other pieces of equipment. So there's some neat other benefits to them and the firm and will have things like a separated banks of power so that your amplifiers are not uh connected electrically to the other things in your system, like the, like your CD player that might have a motor that spins that could create noise. And so they, it isolates them. That's the attention to detail you get with a firm in and it's the kind of thing you would want when you're hooking up macintosh pre amps and blue sound vaults and things like that, which is why chris used it in that system. How does, how does it sound with the turntable? It's spot on and that turntable, just super dynamic. I've got three head shells that are already set up with cartridges that I'm gonna cycle through and I'll be able to do an A. B C and D. Stock versus uh, got an Audio Technica, I've got a um music hall mojo and I'm trying to think, I've got a black pearl that we're gonna cycle through here and see how they all compared to the, yeah, so chris and I sat in that room surrounded by that system for for about 30 minutes, 45 minutes, something like that. We didn't only talk about that system earlier that day. We had gone for a ride in his, he took me out to lunch while I was visiting his contact center and I gotta say his jeep was awesome. Now I'm, I'm more of a ford f 1 50 guys myself and, and of course, ironically enough here at Crutchfield, our two most searched vehicles happened to be f one fifties, which makes a lot of sense. It's the most popular selling vehicle in the world and the best and, and jeep Wranglers. Yeah, so those are the two, they kind of take turns, you know, they kind of alternate as to who's on top of uh, those are two of the those are the two most popular search vehicles here at crutchfield. So we talk about those a lot and uh it is kind of interesting that you know, both of our training managers here, that's their vehicles. Was that a requirement was it? Had to buy one of those promoted to training manager. We both had to decide which one of us was going to have number one and number two top search vehicles on crutchfield dot com. I of course went with the ford because I like to carry stuff around with me when I'm driving and he went with the jeep so that he could go anywhere. He wants to look cool. So we're gonna talk about the system chris installed in his jeep and we'll come back to explain a few things here in a few minutes. It's no six. It does look pretty good. I get a lot of compliments on it to show and it's you know, a little bit unique and it's and it's and the fact that it is a two door unlimited which was only available 405 and 06. Does that mean longer back section than your typical jeep? But it's still only two doors. Exactly. So it's basically it's a jeep TJ but longer. Just a little longer. Yeah but yeah it is for no six, just barely over 100,000 miles. And uh I've taken good care of it, garage kept and I plan on keeping it for a while so, but as far as the stereo goes, I still have the Alpine in there and it's a little outdated, I'm probably gonna replace that. Uh And then you've got uh and and all that kind of stuff in there too. Yeah JL audio, three channel amplifier drives, uh four are actually the amp uh the front two channels drive Infiniti cap of five and quarters from the dash and then the radio is powering the five and a quarters and the sound bar, which I fade those mostly out, you know, because there's and those speakers are so close to your head that you know, they can overpower your system. And you know, the analogy I always use with customers is you don't go to a concert and turn your back to the stage. So you know, I don't want you coming from the back so uh I failed those mostly out and probably wouldn't even have them in there if it wasn't for my daughter, but you know, her friends right around with me and transporting practices and things so they like to jam so you know, they can get a little sound out of that. But yeah, I keep it mostly faded to the front timeline for the driver's seat. Um and then the sub, I have a six and three quarter inch kicker. Um it's the uh C. R. T. Series, the thin Wolfers six and three quarter a custom installed the console and I've got the J. L. Mono channel of that three channel amp running that one. Yeah yeah it's pretty slick it's it's really stealthy which is important in a jeep soft top. Yeah if you want to see chris jeep and where he installed the app I think you can you can do that on the website right? You can in that article I had an additional sub in the back and another amp installed where the glove box used to be. Um And I've since taken that out. Call it summer mode you know cause you don't want to sub really visible in the back. Um So I don't have that in there right now but it's easily you can easily put it right back in. I made some custom brackets and stuff for the that for where the glove box was luckily the glove box shell that you can get the door and then there's a shell that is actually what your stuff sits in. You can unbolt that shell from the back of the door. I don't think a lot of jeep owners realize that but when you take that shell out you've got plenty of room for a small lamp in there. Yeah I saw that's where you put your and I didn't realize that was how you did it was so you can take the the actual pocket part of the glove compartment out but the door stays like you can still open and close it. It latches, it looks like a glove. We can lock it. And then but behind that now you have quick access to your amps. So if you need to adjust something, it's not hard to do nice. And if you, if you look up uh like towards the firewall, once you've got that glove box out, there are two um studs that attach evidently the firewall to the panel and those have, they've got nuts on them, but there's probably an inch left of the studs sticking out there. So I used um what they call back straps, the universal back straps we sell for a dollar apiece. I use those put another nut, I slipped that on there, put another nut over it, tightened it down good and then you bend those uh back straps to however you want. And then I bolted that to the amp and that's what held the Hampton place. It was, it looked like a super professional job but in fact I did it in my garage in about an hour so it worked out pretty good. Do you do you go off roading in this jeep? Not much. Yeah, I would say my off roading is more trail riding. I don't like mud mud, it's just, I don't like having to come home and get underneath with a pressure washer because if you don't take care of it once you get in the mud, I mean you're talking serious rust issues and things like that. So I've never been a fan of getting any of my vehicles like through mud holes and deep water holes and stuff like that and it's my daily driver. So I actually have to kind of take care of it. But I do like getting off road and riding the trails you know through the woods that you know old logging roads, things like that. We've got all kinds of forest service roads around here that you can just you know leisurely stroll and uh yeah that's that's kind of what I like having the top off and smell the woods and stuff around. You see the wildlife. Yeah that's cool. Alright let's talk radios at the time of this interview, chris still had the same Alpine that was installed in this jeep in the article that we did about his jeep which is actually a few years ago now. So uh so he's loved that Alpine for a long time but he did change it up. That's right. He has since moved on to a sort of a high res music sound quality focused pioneer. It's called the 80 P. R. S. He did a little research on that, is that right? Yeah. So that's a sound quality sq product, right? Um I didn't ask ask him today actually to you know to kind of sum up why he went with that one and he said it just really gave him the ability to dial in the sound exactly the way he wanted it. So, um, you know, chris, of course is one, is one that would, you know, tweak the sound endlessly. He just likes to experiment with one of the reasons that he's gone through a couple of head units recently as he wanted to get his hands on so he could better educate everybody about them as well. Um, and he's really happy with his, with his new choice, the pioneer that he had. So I was looking around at some of our articles on these jeeps and I noticed that for a long time you really only have the option of putting a single din receiver in there. And that's what chris has in there currently is yet another single din receiver. It is possible actually to put a double din receiver in there. All that really means is the receiver, the chassis, that piece of equipment that goes in your dash is about four inches tall instead of two inches tall. And so there's a kit that makes that possible. It does require a little bit of modification, modification. It's one of my favorite words, uh, modifying the, the inside of your dashboard and there's not a ton of room in the jeep to do that. So, chris was not looking for like a big touch screen radio. He wasn't looking for one of the ones with like carplay, android, auto, any of that stuff. Let's talk about amps and stuff now. Yeah, let's do that. So, did I hear, he said he had a three channel amplifier. Yes, he did. That's an unusual one here. Right? I mean we still carry them, but it's not the most popular solution. Exactly. They've they've never really been the most popular solution to channels have been around forever. That's what we used to use for most subwoofers. Now, we just use a mono sub four channels still very popular for powering your front and rear speakers. You can get five channels that combines a sub and a four channel all into one chassis, but three channels. Why would you want three channels in an amplifier? So he talks a little bit about the front stage of his g being the most important thing to him, Right? He's he wants to feel like he's in a concert and he's looking forward to enjoy it. And he talks about, you know, having kind of background sound uh for those back speakers. So he's made the decision. He doesn't need as much power for those rear speakers, which is a really smart way of handling it. So we don't see it very often, but it makes sense in a in a vehicle that you have space um to make sure you have a good power for that front soundstage and then good power to a sub amplifier. Exactly. Go to the show notes for this episode and click on it. You will see a link to the article that we've done about his jeep called stealthy jeep. Uh And there's there's that article there's also uh several other articles about jeep because we get it a lot of you have jeeps and wanna do stuff to them. And so if you go to our website, Crutchfield dot com and enter your vehicle into the outfit, my car section of the site, you're actually gonna see the article to chris's jeep. There's another jeep that was outfitted with a stereo as well as just our vehicle profile page which we kind of go into what it takes to put a stereo system in a jeep. Uh and because jeeps are so popular, I mean this vehicle is really getting the full treatment on the website. There's pictures uh from our research files uh and links to all the different stuff that are custom made for jeeps as well as what we know fits and works and jeeps. So we've got a jeep, we've got you covered. Uh And on that article we've actually got questions from real customers looking at our website and we thought why not answer one of those questions right here and now. So um this question is from La Ludwig, he asked the following, I have in 2004 jeep Rubicon with the seven speaker system. When I bought the jeep it had the Alpine C. D. E. 1 43 B. T. Receiver. And so just to set the stage that is a singled in C. D. Playing receiver. Kind of like you're just a normal car stereo which you might have thought of for its car stereos for the last 30 years. Very similar to that. Uh recent enough that it would have bluetooth and AM and FM and Cd. Probably a USB connection for an iphone. Right? But it's not a fancy new stereo with the big screens and all that. Just sort of a normal car stereo. My question is can I add an Alpine power pack amp to it since I have the powered subwoofer? So let me clarify that as well. An Alpine power pack is a small amp that can often be installed in the dash and even maybe connect to the power wire that powers your radio. So unlike a much bigger more traditional amplifier that needs like separate wiring to the battery. This is more power your speakers sound better and louder without having to install a big fat amplifier. He wants to know if he can use one of those but is wondering because his jeep came with a seven speaker system that means he's got like a powered factory subwoofer in the center console of his jeep and probably some tweeters up front some component speakers maybe for the exact doors. Actually it's not for the doors. Energy but actually for the dash, the dash. Yes that's exactly right. That's the six speakers, tweeters and midrange is up front, The two speakers in the sound bar in the back so that's six total speakers and the sub. So the seven speaker system. So he wants to know, Ludwig wants to know do I need a special wiring harness? The wiring harness has already been modified to fit the stock harness, meaning when the radio was replaced by the previous owner, he says I have replaced all the stock speakers including the subwoofer with kicker speakers like to hear that. Yeah, that's great. I've got kicker speakers in my F 1 50 as well. So I've got good news for you Ludwig. I did a little research, I talked to chris uh the owner of the jeep we were just talking to, I've also talked to a different chris chris and our tech support department and I've compared notes and we have all agreed that it is absolutely possible to use the Alpine power pack in that jeep. One of the notes on the power pack is you can't use it with an amplified factory system. This one's a little different though because the amp in this particular jeep only powers the subwoofer. There you go. So the speaker wires that come from the factory radios harness, go to all the speakers and they are sort of for lack of a better word tapped into and fed in parallel on speaker wires down to the amp that powers the sub. And so if you put a power pack between the radio and the O. E. M. Radio harness right there in the dash the power pack the case. T. P. 4 45 P. Or four, sorry 4 45 A. From Alpine comes with the plug and literally just plugs into the Alpine radio, plugs into the power pack. You do need to connect it to the wires that connect to your factory radio harness. You can do all of that and get your speakers. Those kicker speakers will be getting double the power they were getting from your Alpine radio. Absolutely. Because you got so much vehicle noise to deal with wind engine, all of that stuff, tire noise, it's all there. So you gotta have power to compete with that. If you want to jam to music going down the highway at 65 you need power. And the power pack is certainly enough to get you there and it will not make your powered sub will first stop working. So you can continue to have the base right there in the center console. You said you have an aftermarket radio if you want to add more amps or uh subwoofer, separate subwoofer like kristen in the back of his of his jeep, you can do all of that. You have outputs available to do that with that radio. So uh little big. You've got options, my friend, you can definitely make your jeep sound even better than you already have good job replacing the speakers. Might as well take it to the next level now. What a fun episode. Thank you so much for being here with me. Thank you everybody that's out there listening. If you are listening to and enjoying our podcast, please tell your friends they might enjoy it as well. Uh and give us five star reviews on on Itunes, Spotify, wherever you get your your podcast, please don't hesitate to rate us, write us little notes about how wonderful you think we are. Uh if you hate us. Uh well, we were. I don't know that to uh that that will help us make this thing better. I don't want to hear that. And uh we we will be looking forward to reviews and questions and feedback right on crutchfield dot com slash podcast. Where you'll also find show notes links to cool stuff that are related to everything you heard about us talk about today. So, thanks once again for listening everybody. I'm jr over and out.

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