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2011 Chicago Auto Show: Fender Puts Guitars in Cars


Cars and Guitars at Chicago Auto Show

Cars and Guitars at Chicago Auto Show

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Two Guys, One Loud Fender Sound System

Two Guys, One Loud Fender Sound System

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During the Chicago show's press preview, Panasonic's Jim Viola and Fender's Brian Tedeschi demonstrated their latest musical collaboration: a Fender-branded premium sound system designed for VW's Jetta GLI, Passat and New Beetle successor. Viola says this audio system recreates Fender's secret sauce: clean bass, punch and sound that's not harsh yet cuts through highway noise.

So how does it sound?  Pretty good.  The Viola played a selection of music from rock to classical (live concert recordings) pointing out subtle and some not so subtle (cannons for instance) examples of what the system does.  It's loud, proud, but never muddy.  Want to here the hum from Stevie Ray Vaughn's guitar amp in "Little Wing?"  It's there.  Female vocals were breathily believable despite ear-splitting dance-oriented thumps.

Hardware:  nine loudspeakers, 400 watts of amplification, and an eight-inch subwoofer mounted in an acoustical chamber under the rear shelf.  They chose this location rather than the spare tire well; it sounds better and allows a flat floor.

The front-door loudspeakers have two voice coils.  This design permits separate amplification channels tailored to provide sudden low-frequency punch.  With volume cranked up, I noticed some sympathetic panel vibration.  Nonetheless, Panasonic's "proprietary" technology delivers low distortion and accurate instrument timbre.

Remarkable: the sound field.  Vocals and instrumental work come from a stage at ear level.  Your legs feel air pushed from the door's speakers.  Those in back get a stage-like sound field with subwoofer-induced back massage.

Putting a "Fender" inside a VW creates an interesting marketing scenario.  It proves, says VW's Jonathan Browning, that VW can customize its common global engineering modules to meet American consumer needs.  Viola says, "German engineering for all" is now "acoustically tuned for all."

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