What are the first products you think of when the topic of car audio pops up in conversation? Sure, some of you will say something different than what most say, but you probably had the most common items on your mind in some fashion. The answer most people will give is subwoofers, speakers, amps, and head units. I suspect they would be in that order too. Left to deeper thought is the less exciting, less understood, but I say just as important, accessories. The types of products that aid the main stars in performing their best, that keep everything functioning, that add ease of use, and that make the entire installation look its best are often overlooked. I’m here to tell you that no accessory should be forgotten and they all deserve as much attention as the main products get, if not more.

I’ve been designing, building, and selling car audio accessories for Sparked Innovations since 2017/2018. In that time, I’ve learned a lot. One thing is that brands that focus on the “meat and potatoes” of car audio often grow fast when successful, or collapse to competition when not. The competition in the market adds risk, though risk is always present. The rewards when successful have got us thinking here at Sparked, we started down the path of developing a few key items to be the meat to our already marvelous side dishes. This all comes after a lot of time analyzing the market and getting inside the mind of the consumer, but I still wonder why accessories are almost forgotten while subs and amps are always on people’s minds.

The lesson concluded is that subs and amps are exciting because they make the power, move the air, they are the business end of the audio world. I get it, a 12-inch piece of paper flexing windows from over 100 feet away is one of the most impressive acts I’ve come to experience, but there is more to the story. Subs and amps couldn’t do their job as impressively without fans to keep them cool, switches to turn them on, wires and terminals to connect them, and meters to monitor them. Part of what my goal has been, in this business, is to make accessories live up to the appeal of subs and amps and to show just how important they are.

Part of the effort in making accessories as appealing as subs and amps is to make them visually stunning. Using what we know of aesthetic design, we try to make design choices that will draw the eye to our products in a favorable manner. Take the Illuminated Switch Panel for instance. Since we started, we’ve offered illuminated switches. We went through numerous iterations, choosing the best illumination style, the most robust aluminum push-button head, and the best finish. To match the quality and look of the switches, we made the switch panel illuminate around its border, layered over an aluminum base plate, with the soft glow of the labels, all while retaining a thin mounting profile. When the panel and all four switches are illuminated, it looks like nothing else on the market. We gave it three layers of finishes and tones in the aluminum, illuminated lens, and face plate. The accent lighting is adjustable by the user to really set it off.

In the sense of importance, I’ve identified two major categories of products. There are products that people are using, then there are products people should use. The latter is what we will discuss here. Fannie was one of the first cooling fans designed specifically for car audio use. Though it was designed to look fantastic and catch the eye, it has an important function made evident by our customers. At the Slamology show of 2022 in Indiana, several customers rushed to our booth to purchase Fannies directly off our display. It was around 100 degrees Fahrenheit at the show. Amplifiers were going into thermal protection all over the show. A few of the customers who bought our display Fannies ended up being able to demo the entire day once they installed the Fannies and let their amplifiers breathe. Scott Dilbeck of Southern Thunder had this exact experience. It was a great field test and a testament to the importance of a cooling fan accessory such as Fannie. I can write much more on the importance of monitoring electrical parameters without voltmeters and The Conductor ammeter, but I’ll discuss those in another blog.

Long story short, I feel that accessories can be made to have a similar appeal and excitement that subwoofers and amplifiers have in car audio, though the psychology of the consumer will mean that people always be drawn to the main gear. That’s why we are working on a few secret projects to have some main gear at Sparked Innovations. Also, the importance of accessories is such that a fully fleshed-out and well-rounded car audio system will feature high-end accessories that accentuate and enhance the entire install. The key is to highlight some of these accessories along with the main gear as opposed to hiding it all under panels or the seats. We make good-looking gear in hopes that users are proud to show it off and love every moment of it.

Can you relate to any of these sentiments? I write based on my experiences and views of the topic at hand. I hope that there is a value there that others can benefit from. I have passion for what I do and I’ll use it to the best of my ability. Always think deeper and take in all you can from what you are experiencing in life, catalog it, and pull from it when it comes in handy. Dream, plan, build.

Eddie Lester 02/19/2024

AmpAmpsAudioCar audioDesignFanSubSwitch

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