Rob Oxford: Taylor’s 4 Runner and THE subwoofer

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Taylor's 4Runner
Photo by Rob Oxford
By Rob Oxford

Life is made up of a collection of very special moments. Sadly, many of them are forgotten over time.

For years I have been threatening to write a book. For admittedly selfish reasons, the book would be a collection of my own “special moments” and for the sole purpose of remembering them when the ability to do so becomes more difficult.

In essence it would be a memoir.

Now considering I’m not famous, haven’t invented anything and haven’t a great deal of worldly advice to impart, exactly who would be interested in reading such a memoir is a valid question. I can only hope that when I am laid to rest, whoever comes after will find what they read mildly amusing.

This Christmas I wanted to do something special for my eldest son. While my youngest is still happy with video games, clothes and $350 sneakers, Taylor’s tastes have become a bit more refined. 
Each year we ask both boys to give us a Wish List. Often times it is received after many of their gifts have already been purchased so it’s used more as a barometer. Exactly how well do we know our children and exactly how well were we listening when they started sharing their Christmas wishes with us.

Taylor has been spending a great deal of time modifying his 1999 Toyota 4Runner. He purchased new tires and wheels, added a lift kit (basically a device that makes the vehicle virtually impossible for his Mother or I to get into), mounted a custom rack to the roof and, among other things, installed fog lights and a new muffler which signals to us that he is on his way home yet still several blocks away. All of these things I might add he has purchased with his own money.

This year he asked Santa for a new car stereo.

In the past, having had some experience with cars and car stereos myself, I figured I had this handled. Santa would be free to concentrate on how to deliver my Harley Davidson (I wanted a Harley Davidson when I turned 40… I got a Taylor instead).

One afternoon I stopped by our local car stereo dealer and explained what I had hoped to accomplish. I said I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a stereo for a 20-year-old “Monster Truck” and settled on a moderately priced name brand “in-dash” and a pair of 5.25 speakers for the doors. I scheduled the installation (which cost 3x’s as much as the stereo) and felt confident and proud of my purchase.

Upon completion of the install, Taylor and I excitedly drove to the dealer to pick up his vehicle. While I happily paid the bill, he fiddled with his new car stereo. After joining him in the parking lot, I could immediately sense something wasn’t quite right. In all honesty, I had been expecting delight and immense satisfaction. Instead he was reticent, hesitating to elaborate on exactly what was wrong. I was disappointed. Not sure as to what was the problem, I suggested he take the truck for a spin and we would discuss things at home.

We pulled up to the house together and he asked me if I wanted to hear the stereo? As he preceded to turn up the volume, I began to hear a fuzz or as the salesman would later identify, the speakers “washing out”. This concerned me. Did I purchase an inferior model? Were the speakers inadequate? Had I just wasted a bunch of money? All I wanted was for my son to be happy with his Christmas gift and I was determined to make sure he was.

The next few days were spent trying to figure out why the car stereo wasn’t exactly what either of us had envisioned. Was it the antenna? Was there a problem with the installation?

The very next Saturday Taylor had to work. I agreed to return to the dealer and find out why the stereo sounded the way it did and what if anything could be done.

Needless to say, I was loaded for bear. Raring to go. Prepared to walk in and give them a piece of my mind. How could they charge me so much for something that sounded so bad?

Now on the way there, I was listening to the classic rock station where I work and to me the stereo sounded fine. So, what was I going to tell these guys? How was I going to describe the fact that my son wasn’t happy?

I pulled up a few minutes before they were to open and began rehearsing my speech. Once inside I started to explain that I had spent what I thought was a considerable amount of money and that my son wasn’t overly impressed. I then asked if someone could come outside and listen to the system to see what might be the problem? After asking me a few questions and pulling up my account, a very nice young man replied, “Sure, let’s go check it out”.

Once outside, his first question to me was, “How old is your son?” I replied, “He’s 19”. After turning the volume way past what was comfortable for my 58-year-old ears and hearing what again appeared to be nothing but distortion, he turned to me and said “You need a subwoofer, your speakers are washing out”.

"You need a subwoofer"
Mind you that’s exactly what my wife said; “He needs a subwoofer.” No offense, but what did she know? I’m the one who plays in a band. I’m the one who works at a radio station. Why in the world does he need a subwoofer?

The car stereo specialist went on to explain that kids these days need that bottom end, that THUMP.

He said “it’s all about dat bass, ‘bout dat bass,” to which I replied “we don’t play that song on KZOK." 

He then went on to explain that a subwoofer splits the bass and treble, diverting it from the speakers in the door and evenly distributing it to something called the “sound table."

After assuring me that by adding a couple extra speakers in the back doors and a subwoofer, the stereo would sound exactly how my 19-year-old wanted it, I shelled out the additional cost and they went to work.

Now I thought I had done my homework. It was bluetooth compatible which is what he wanted and you can make the digital display any color you wanted. Cool! What more could a kid possible want? I would soon find out.

Later that afternoon Taylor and I went to pick up his 4Runner.

After paying for the additional speakers and installation, we walked out to the parking lot and Taylor got in the driver’s seat. The salesman from whom I had made the initial purchase joined us and began to demonstrate how the system worked.

Upon hearing the initial THUMP of the bass coming from the subwoofer (a box mounted in the very back of the vehicle) and the high end only coming from the additional door speakers, the corners of Taylor’s mouth began to curl upward ever so slightly until he smiled a smile I will not soon forget. Success! It was absolutely priceless. I could tell that I had knocked it out the park.

Like his Mother, I think he knew early on that he needed a subwoofer, but didn’t want to appear ungrateful or unappreciative.



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