Tag Archives: automotive industry

Cars, Turntables & Physical Objects

Last week I had the opportunity to drive a 2022 Honda Civic. It was the top-of-the-line Touring trim. It is an all-new, 11th generation Civic. It has leather seats, Bose audio with 12-speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an array of sensors for safety, moonroof, 180-hp turbocharged engine. . . and a lot more stuff.

It is really an impressive vehicle, and being a Honda Civic, I would imagine that whoever buys one is likely to have it for some years in reliable operation. A value play.

This morning I read piece by Jacob Heilbrunn in The Absolute Sound about his quest for getting a custom reference stand for his turntable. He contacted the chief engineer at a Buffalo, New York-based company, Harmonic Resolution Systems, about getting the company’s VXR stand. As things went, Heilbrunn obtained a custom VXR Zero stand.

It cost $52,000.

The Civic has an MSRP of $28,300.

I suspected that I was missing something.

So I looked at the turntable that Heilbrunn needed this very specific stand to accommodate.

A TechDAS Air Force Zero turntable.

According to Hideaki Nishikawa, who designed the reference turntable, “The goal of the project was to develop a truly groundbreaking product, building on our expertise and knowledge and incorporating new ideas and insights. To achieve this goal, the project had to be cost-no-object. And it had to have whatever technologies would be best suited for sonic performance, no matter how much it would cost.”

The result is a unit that weighs 727.5 pounds and measures 35.5 x 26.6 x 13.2 inches.

According to a recent review in Stereophile, the TechDAS Air Force Zero has a base price (i.e., there are models above it in the TechDAS lineup) of $450,000.

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COVID, Tech & Cars

So Kiss cancels. Paul Stanley tests positive for COVID, then a few days later, Gene Simmons did, as well. Hard to rock and roll all nite when you have a severe respiratory illness.

BTS, quite possibly the biggest band in the world, has canceled the BTS Map of the Soul Tour, a world tour. Although the band is from the South, north of the 38th Parallel Kim Jung Un told the country’s Politburo last week that “tightening epidemic prevention is the task of paramount importance”—and it was announced that he was foregoing some vaccines being offered by the U.N.

Alan Parsons—admittedly, one of the musicians of days gone by that I had no idea still existed, which just goes to show that if you don’t think about things, for you, anyway, they don’t exist (no, not a gloss on Bishop Berkeley)—has canceled his U.S. tour.

Nine Inch Nails? Nope.

The Limited Last Minute Post Pandemic Popup Party Edition tour that Limp Bizkit was going to stage has been limited to nothing because we are no post-pandemic and consequently there is nothing much to party about.

A friend who drives from Detroit to New Orleans each year for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival told me the other day that he was set to go south, the room was booked and the car was ready for the 1,000-mile trip, that it had been canceled because of COVID. But then there was Hurricane Ida, and were it not the virus it would have certainly been the massive weather event. (He is still going down in October: he feels that it is important to support the New Orleans community with his tourist dollars.)

And speaking of Hurricane Ida, Bonnaroo was canceled due to the rain.

Plague. Rain. Whence come the locusts?

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Print Publishing & BTS

It seemed rather strange to me. Yes, I have written before about Rolling Stone offering me a tote bag were I to subscribe, as though the publication founded in 1967 was now taking the route of my local PBS station during a fund drive. What, exactly, would someone carry in their official Rolling Stone tote? Presumably not “Downton Abbey” swag. But maybe that is, indeed, what is carried.

There was a clue, however, in the email solicitation recently sent by RS. It indicated that were I to subscribe before the time was up, I would “Get the BTS Issue guaranteed.” There was a photo of the cover of that issue with the seven Korean boys on the cover with a headline above the logo reading “THE FUTURE of MUSIC ISSUE.” Which seemed to be something of a disconnection: wouldn’t the future provide something like a fan with a USB plug on the end that would allow someone to catch a breeze while getting “Instant Access” to:

–Exclusive interviews
–Award-winning features
–Trusted music, TV, and movie reviews
–In-depth political commentary

A tote bag?

As the pandemic is fading, there are an increasing number of people who are out in the market buying things, which is leading to some rather startling numbers. For example, take the Honda HR-V, a small utility vehicle. In May its sales were up 115.8% percent compared with May 2020. Sure, May 2020 was when many people were inside, calculating how to use the available toilet paper to make it last (this is something that deserves deep economic and sociological analyses: how did an allegedly advanced, 21st-century country like the U.S. suddenly have shelves bereft of Charmin and even off-label bog rolls?).

A stat that is perhaps more remarkable than that is the according to Nikkei Asia, in Q4 2020 Big Hit Entertainment had an increase of 122% year-over-year, as the firm made 52.5 billion won. Big Hit is a Korean company. That number in U.S. dollars is $47 million.

And the biggest contributor to that was BTS. That’s right, the band of the future is making big money for Big Hit, accounting for 87.7% of Big Hit’s revenue for the first half of 2020.

Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook are crushing it.

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Rich Rock Ride

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Ram 1500 TRX is an exaggerated pickup truck. It has a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 engine that produces 702 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque and allows the full-size pickup truck to have a top speed of 118 mph and go from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, 0-100 mph in 10.5 seconds and quarter mile in 12.9 seconds at 108 mph. It has a ground clearance of 11.8 inches and 35-inch tires (if you are rolling in a Honda CR-V know that the ground clearance is 7.8 inches and the tires are a maximum of 19 inches in diameter, more likely to be 17 inches). The interior is exquisite, with acres of suede and leather. And then there is the Harman Kardon 12-channel, 19-speaker, 900-watt audio system with a 10-inch subwoofer and active noise cancellation.

You could drive across a desert and climb a mountain in one of these things in absolute comfort. You could blow the doors off of competitors in muscle cars from a standing start at a stop light. You could drive around town and know that there are very few people anywhere who also have a TRX and feel the pride of exclusivity.

You would spend more than $70,000 on this vehicle (starting MSRP: $70,295).

(And you may be wondering: “Did I somehow get on the MotorTrend website?”)

If there is a vehicle that screams (thanks to the supercharger) and bellows (thanks to that V8) “heavy metal,” then it has to be the Ram 1500 TRX.

It is powerful, raucous and yet tuned and orchestrated to deliver raw power.

Which brings me back to the rich. And rock.

The Lamborghini Urus is an SUV. A sport utility vehicle. It starts at $218,000. It has a 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbo that produces 650 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque.

Clearly, this is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill vehicle that is likely to be in the queue pickup up the kids from the elementary outside of Santa Barbara.

I bring the Urus up because I was surprised to see Lamborghini boasting that one of its owners is “Tony Iommi, guitarist and king of riffs with legendary ‘monsters of rock’ Black Sabbath.”

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Music for Parking Lots

If you’ve gotten into a new car recently, you’ve noticed that there is a change that has occurred over just the past few years. As there is a high likelihood that the vehicle is started by a keyfob rather than a key that is inserted into a cylinder on the steering column or on the instrument panel, the car “recognizes” that you have the fob. In fact, in the case of many vehicles, before you open the door, the car “wakes up” and will automatically unlock the door and if it is dark out, initiate a lighting routine so that your visibility is enhanced.

Upon getting behind the wheel, the car “greets” you. This is where the big change has happened. There is likely to be a message on a screen that welcomes you. And there is a series of sounds that acknowledge that you have arrived in the vehicle.

These sounds are an interesting thing. The beeps and buzzers that have long been characteristic of cars (e.g., seatbelt warning; you’ve left the lights on after you’ve shut off the vehicle; your door is ajar) have given way to more mellifluous sounds. These are not some random noises that have been selected for activation. There are sound signatures that identify the brand (were you to climb in another vehicle of the same vintage from the same brand—say a 2021 Kia Sorrento and a Kia K5—you would hear the same micro melody), as well as the various whooshes and whirs that are to make you think that you’re not just getting ready to go to the store to buy some milk but to be whisked away on some sort of magical adventure.

The company that has made an absolute art of the musical sounds within a vehicle is Lincoln. It didn’t hire some little-known creator of digital sounds that are encoded on a chip that is part of a vehicle’s body control module in order to create the audio ambience. Rather, Lincoln hired musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the automotive soundscape that is part of its vehicles’ signature. The company even has a position called “supervisor, vehicle harmony.”

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