A SPARKED WOOFER STORY

When we started this little journey of a company, we did not have intentions of producing speakers, subwoofers, or amplifiers. Our goal was to create a platform where we could launch unique and interesting accessories and inventions. Though I have experience in the realm of woofer manufacturing as well as connections, we did not want to step on the toes of friends in the industry and wanted to focus our time on making cool gadgets. After spending the last two years contemplating time spent developing accessories, sales of various products, and speaking with industry friends like Nick Wright of Incriminator Audio, Jonathan Demuth of T3/Prodigy, and Jacob Fuller of Sundown Audio, we concluded that not only would there be room in the industry for us to play, but it could be a way to grow our company and give ourselves the resources to create even more unique products. So, here’s how we got to the point of announcing that we’re going to launch a subwoofer product line. Keep in mind, this is only an announcement of the product, not a launch. We will not be publishing T/S parameters, box specs, or pricing until we are actually in production a few months after this article is published. 

Even though it seems that it took us forever to come to doing subwoofers, the decision actually started in late 2021. We started to look at build-houses to do midrange speakers and tweeters. The overseas build-houses turned out to not fit our plan or vibe of who we were as a company. Luckily, in 2022, we reached out to Brandon and Jacob of Sundown Audio, of whom we were friends, but not yet business associates. We played with a few speaker samples from them and liked what we saw and heard. Though speakers alone did not pop out at us that they would “put us on the map” so to speak. So we drug out the project until the prospect of doing subwoofers with Jacob became a real possibility. That was it, in 2023 we started the groundwork of creating our first subwoofer. The plan was set, Jacob would engineer the function - performance, and structure of the woofer - we would set the general performance goals, target price range, and aesthetic design. 

As the product design lead on this project, it was up to me to lay out the concept and guide it to reality. Though I have a background in subwoofer production, it pales in comparison to the experience of Jacob Fuller. One thing to note is that sometimes there is a factor of control a designer may have in product design. To give up the control of one’s “vision” is a difficult task. After all, I should be capable of designing a subwoofer from the ground up, right? Well, when given access to one of the industry’s top subwoofer designers, only a fool would forgo tapping into their expertise instead of maintaining all engineering and creative control. That would have been ego-driven, and even I am not that dumb. Jacob is world-renowned, with dozens of successful designs of top-performing subwoofers under his belt. With his input, the woofer’s performance, reliability, and consistency would be ensured. This meant that we didn’t have to worry about figuring out how to make it perform the way we wanted, Jacob knew exactly how to get it to where we wanted. I gave Jacob a starting point, and he knew exactly how to execute it. Now I will fill you in on that starting point. It, along with all of my design input, came from a place of heart and passion, from where I started in car audio, in the 1990s. 

 

Before I start listing the specific subwoofers that added some inspiration to our subwoofer, I want you to look at photos and pick out aspects that remind you of your favorite subwoofers from the past. That’s my favorite part about the comments on the social media posts we made. People mentioned dozens of different brands and models it reminded them of, and only a small amount mentioned the actual woofers that I used for inspiration. That warmed my heart. We accomplished our goal of synthesizing design language from our favorite woofers, combining them, and reformatting them into our own design for the modern age. It all started with the motor. I told Jacob that I wanted to use Rockford Fosgate’s early four-inch coil subwoofers as a starting point. These were the Punch Power DVCs and the Power HX2 designs. The reasons were that I liked the aesthetics of the large pole vent, the bumped backplate, and the idea of a smaller four-inch coil motor. If we kept the motor to two magnet slugs, it would keep costs down, and keep a shallower look that matched classic designs as 90s woofers were not as deep as modern equivalents. The four-inch coil would have enough surface area to dissipate high-power heat. Jacob came back with a motor that visually matched what we wanted, with a tapered pole piece that gave more “meat” than the Rockford designs so that we would have the motor force necessary for modern performance. He added a pole cap and gap vents reminiscent of Shocker subwoofers from the early 2000s to give high-velocity heat extraction and ventilation for long-duration play. Our goal for the woofer was to be a low-frequency ground-pounder that could play all day and look nostalgically good doing it. It was our motor, designed and tooled specifically for us, not an off-the-shelf part which is important for our first subwoofer.

The structure of the motor was spot on, but once we saw it, our minds started to expand. One of our favorite brands for design has always been Audiobahn. Yeah, they had quality and legal issues, but very little argument can be made against their design language. Rich and I used to use Audiobahn gear when I sold and installed it at Circuit City. Rich used two of the Flame Q 1208T woofers in his Mercury Cougar. The chrome basket, blue trim, and aluminum cones were awesome, but the best part was the shiny metal mesh over the magnet slugs. Jacob’s design was interesting in that the diameter of the top and back plates was larger than the magnet slugs. This meant a normal rubber boot would not fit the same way. We could still make it work, but I have a bias against rubber boots on this woofer as they were not used much in the 90s. I wanted to go without a cover at all, to show off the slugs. Rich had a different vision, to cover them with the metal mesh. Jacob came back to us with the same motor, now with a shiny mesh directly affixed to the magnet slugs and it looked glorious. Though not my intention, it reminded me of another favorite woofer, the Hifonics Olympus. I am still considering having our logo printed on the mesh as they did. The clean look definitely matches the Audiobahn look that we hold so dear though. 

The prototypes passed all tests. They handled much more power than our target, they played music the way we wanted, T/S specs came out better than I had hoped, and they got the Jacob thumbs up as well as our own. With the motor, coil, cone depth, and compliance of the soft parts set, we could move on to the form factor. See, I spend all day at either my desk at the office or my desk at home where I have classic subwoofers surrounding both. I walk past several Cerwin Vega XL12s every day. They were my first real subwoofer. The woofers I put into my first car and the woofers I first competed with. The signature aspect of the XLs is their orange surround. This became a branding trait for Cerwin Vega. Other brands followed suit. MTX had models with red surrounds, Hollywood Sound Labs had a sea foam green surround, and the fun $20 woofers I collected from Thump, Hot Shots, Profile, Urban Audio Works, and Jensen all had colored surrounds or colored cones. This meant that we wanted to create a signature for our first subwoofer in the same vein. We use two shades of blue in our logo. We also use white and some grays. When deciding which color to go with, we mocked up a few pics and samples with paint. Our light blue was the most bold of any of the choices. One idea of our woofer was to go so bold with a design that it became polarizing. It could be safer, sales-wise, to go with neutral colors, but that’s not what we are known for. Being bold could turn some people away, but it could also make our woofer memorable. So light blue it was. I thought about doing different colored versions, to match more of our 90s favorites, but that would be too costly and diminish the effect of a signature look. Jacob’s concern was consistency. He wrestled with it for a bit but finally had a tooling specific for us and our branding color. It looked fantastic. 

 

The surround was a tough cookie to crack, but the epicness and beauty had to be matched with a frame, cone, and dust cap. In looking more at my Cerwin Vega XLs, they used a hammered gray paint on the baskets. We could do that, or at least match the tone. Then I remembered the MTX terminators I had, the Jensen woofers with the handprint on the dust cap, and the Urban Audio Works woofers. The Jensen and the Urban woofers had white baskets. These were a little common in the 90s, it seems. The MTX had a light gray cone. In thinking about these in combination, I wanted the cone and basket to match each other in color, and be closer in brightness to the surround. So a mid-tone gray was chosen. Black would work too, but would not invoke all of those 90s woofers we loved so dearly. The basket style was chosen for functionality and availability only. It had to fit a four-inch coil, have the depth Jacob wanted for his design to work as intended, and be cost-effective as tooling a new basket would price us out of the market. The basket chosen was one I’ve used before, so it was welcomed to give us a bit of connection to T3 Audio. In extension, it gave some connection to TC Sounds and Alumapro, which are also design icons I’ve looked up to. The basket works in many ways. It also allows us to use an aluminum trim ring instead of a rubber gasket. This has the look of some of the Audiobahn models, as well as 90s woofers that did not use gaskets and the color of the steel basket would be seen from the top. This also allows us to add accessories later on, like illuminated trim rings, handles, and grills. 

 

We have to talk about the dust cap. I’ve seen and used many styles over the years. So I knew we were not limited to the standard polypropylene cap. CV used cloth, Rockford and Urban featured a dish shape, and T3 used a composite full-size cone cover. However, I had at my desk, an aluminum cap from a Diamond Audio D3 series. It was coated in black with exposed polished aluminum in the shape of the Diamond logo. We wanted to explore this and go one step further by printing color in a 90s-themed logo. We can share that artwork, but for now, the samples Jacob made up with the fully raw aluminum cap looked amazing. It matches more of other classic woofers from the late 90s and early 2000s like the Alumapro, Audiobahn, MTX9500s, and the Eclipse Titanium. Perhaps we can laser engrave a single-tone logo onto the cap, but the printed design may have to sit this one out. The shape and size of the cap were tooled specifically for our woofer. Another great addition to the collection of unique parts for our unique woofer. 

 

In designing the artwork for the dust cap, we finally came up with a name for the subwoofer. We went back and forth a few times but settled on something definitely '90s. The logo featured 90s techniques in graphic design using multiple fonts, scripts, and bold colors. The name itself had to match iconic names like Stroker, Juggernaut, Terminator, and Immortal. It had to remain a little cheesy though, because that’s what mid-level 90s woofers were. This is a modern mid-level woofer. Steps ahead of 90s counterparts, but not high-tier like Sundown’s NS or Z series. So the name and styling had to fit. After all, the mid to low-tiered woofers were the ones we could afford and they indeed were the ones I owned and loved most. So our first woofer would be called the BASS BLASTER. We can lengthen or shorten the name. “Blaster” is the most significant part. It’s a blast from the past, it comes from the same era as Blaster from Transformers, and it blasts music. The model number could be Blaster 2000, and it could be known as The Sparked Blaster. However it’s referred to, the name Bass Blaster made us feel the warm and fuzzies. 

So here it is. A culmination of all of the woofers that spoke to me in some way. This is the result of a 90s bass head finally having the platform to take what he enjoyed in his early years, mixing it with modern know-how, and making a real subwoofer from it. It’s an homage to all the designers that came before us. Designers who poured themselves and their expertise into products that gave you joy when you were young. It’s the culmination of all the happiness of seeing subwoofers stacked on gray carpeted boxes or in glass cases at your local car audio shop. It’s the product of hearing your first set of 12s or 15s in a guy’s car at the local car meet. It’s the result of studying every single page of every car audio magazine from 1992 to 2010. Seeing all of those magical woofers that brought joy to the ears of bassheads everywhere. The bold designs, wacky colors, loud graphics, and miles of smiles. We want the Sparked woofer to be a celebration of all that came before it. Generations of bassheads found woofers they loved. The designers of the classics did us a favor and now we do our part to carry on that legacy, to bring smiles and joy to current and future bassheads that see the Bass Blaster from Sparked as something they can truly enjoy for years to come.

 

Eddie Lester

03/31/2024

12vCerwinDesignEngineerIncriminatorSoundSparkedSubSundownVegaWoofer

1 comment

Jesse

Jesse

Looking forward to your subwoofer I’m definitely getting a pair or two
As Iam “old school “ collector I love the audiobahn/ ma audio look
Can’t wait to see what the amps look like?!?!

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