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Boom Boom

My brother-in-law was at one time involved in drag racing. I was intrigued when he recounted the level of sound of these cars even when idling – that clothing would move due to the incredible sound pressure generated by machines running literally on rocket fuel – nitromethane. Since that conversation, I have always wanted to attend a race just to experience once what he described.

However, I am not a lover of boom cars which cruise the streets of New York City. Perhaps you have encountered the Boom Car. These ear-splitting machines are old news. From the New York Times in 1990:

Young people are converting cars into rolling radio stations by stuffing them with dozens of speakers, compact disk ”jukeboxes” and amplifiers capable of booming rock and rap music at decibel levels powerful enough to rattle neighbors’ windows, ruin their own hearing and assault their captive audience on the street. They are being spurred on by technological advances in automobile sound and by national competitions with names like ”Sound Quake” and ”Thunder on Wheels.” The equipment is being installed by shops with slogans like ”We Build Ground Pounders.”

Unfortunately, these vehicles are the bane of most New Yorkers, the deafening sound being enjoyed primarily by the occupants of the car. The phenomenon is certainly not limited to the city. It’s a nationwide phenomenon that has citizens in an uproar and keeps legislators busy. Some of these systems boast over 1000 watts, powerful enough to shake the windows, the china, and the walls of home owners.

Yesterday, while leaving my office at the corner of Spring Street and Broadway in SoHo, I saw a large Cadillac with curtained windows, looking more like a hearse than a regular passenger vehicle. I only had seconds to capture a photo of the sound mobile. I reached for my camera, snapped one photo, and got a few seconds of shaky video. I made my photography deliberate and obvious. As the car sped off when the light changed to green, the passenger smiled and acknowledged what he perceived as my tacit approval.

According to noiseoff.org, an organization devoted to fighting noise pollution of all types, “People who drive boom cars consider it their right to play music at any volume they please. They regard their car as an expression of themselves and the louder it is, the bolder the statement that they can make. Boomers are typically lower-middle class males in their teens and twenties with some disposable income. They assume that their car will attract women and improve their social standing among their peers.”

Technology is only going to make the problem potentially worse. Some are calling the enterprise the “noise industrial complex.” The advertising slogans, not typically familiar to outsiders, is unapologetic:

“Disturb the Peace” (Sony)
“All New Ways to Offend” (Sony)
“Performance they’ll hear a mile away”(BoltOn)
“Shake the living; Wake the dead” (Cerwin Vega)
“…achieving the sound your neighbors fear” (Sony Xplod Car Audio)
“Disturb, Defy, Disrupt, Ignite” (Pioneer Electronics)
“Head-Splitting, Heart-stopping, Ear-shattering, Mind-numbing, Retina-detaching MX Audio Thunder 9500  Subwoofer” (MTX Audio)
“Put the over forty set into cardiac arrest”(Prestige Audio)

This type of noise, like the roar of the non-muffled straight pipes of motorcycles, is difficult to control, and prosecuting offenders is tricky – the varying sound level is difficult to measure, and the source is a moving target. So, as long as the appeal is there and big money is to be made selling the equipment, it looks like it’s going to be a Boom Boom :)

More on noise: As Usual, Grace of a Boombox God, Too Too New York, Deaf Jam, Men Making Noise

2 Responses to Boom Boom

  1. My young niece tells me the sound inside the car isn’t as deafening as it is outside. It’s all “show off.”

  2. Cheri Boyer says:

    I loved the post and the tour of the fair! Thanks for sharing.

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