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6. Competition

This section describes the competition branch of the car audio world - what it is, and how to get involved.

6.1 What is IASCA, and how do I get involved? [JSC, HK, IDB]  
6.2 What is USAC, and how do I get involved? [HK]  
6.3 What are the competitions like? [HK, CD, IDB]  
6.4 Should I compete? [CD]  
6.5 What class am I in? [HK, JSC]  
6.6 Where can I find out when these Sound-Offs are? [IDB]  
6.7 How do I get sponsored by a manufacturer? [CM]  


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6.1 What is IASCA, and how do I get involved? [JSC, HK, IDB]

IASCA is the International Auto Sound Challenge Association, a sanctioning body for car audio competitions held throughout the world. Competitors earn points at each competition, and those that perform the best each year can advance to the finals. Prizes (trophies, ribbons, and sometimes cash) are usually given out to the top competitors in each class at every competition.

IASCA memberships can be purchased at your local car audio retailer, if they are an IASCA member. You can call IASCA at 602/437-4678 to get a list of IASCA shops in your area.


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6.2 What is USAC, and how do I get involved? [HK]

USAC is another sanctioning body, similar to IASCA. However, USAC places greater emphasis on SPL measurements than IASCA.


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6.3 What are the competitions like? [HK, CD, IDB]

[HK writes:]

They are much like loud car shows: a lot of cars parked with their hoods/doors/trunks open showing their audio systems. There are two types of judging styles: 1) drive through - where competitors drive their own vehicles to judging stations to be judged, and 2) walk-arounds - where the teams of judges will walk around the event site and judge vehicles that fit within their judging assignments. Typically SPL is done first with the mic stand in the driver's seat and the competitor in the passenger side adjusting only the volume. Hearing protection must be worn. After SPL measurements are completed, RTA measurements are performed by playing pink noise. When the volume level is within the specified "window" around 90db-110db, the RTA judge will signal you out, and at that point you must exit the vehicle for the actual scoring measurements. The next area for judging should be sound quality where two judges will sit in your car and judge the sound quality based on IASCA's reference CD/tape. The next area is installation judging where the competitor has 5 minutes to explain and show the installation of his/her vehicle. It is very useful to have a picture book/album of photos of the installation that may not be visible to prove that items not visible do exist. When that is completed, the competitor can park the vehicle and show spectators the vehicle. These procedures may differ from show to show, and at the regional/final levels they are very strict in what can and can't be done, e.g. a judge will make sure no adjustments are made after SPL until after sound quality judging is over, ear protection, etc.

[CD writes:]

Most involve a lot of waiting around. Thus, they are perfect for meeting other people interested in car audio, and seeing some installations which may give you some ideas. They're also perfect for listening to some cars that sound a lot better and a lot worse than your own. In IASCA competition, the cars are judged on:


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6.4 Should I compete? [CD]

You should compete if:

  1. You have an okay sounding stereo

  2. You have an okay installation (i.e. no amps/changers sliding around in the trunk)

  3. You'd like some pros to comment on your system

  4. Your feelings won't get hurt if you don't get first place

  5. You've been to a contest and talked to competitors about it

  6. You've read the rule book

  7. You've listened to a test disc in your car, and understand what the sound quality judges are listening for

You can compete even if you don't do all of the above, but the recommendations will help you understand and gain the most from competing.


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6.5 What class am I in? [HK, JSC]

This section is mainly geared toward IASCA.

[HK,JSC write:]

There are three classes: novice, amateur, and pro. The novice class is intended to be an unintimidating level where beginners can start out; however, a competitor may only be in the novice class for one year, at which time he is automatically moved to the amateur class. Most competitors stay in the amateur class indefinitely, unless they become affiliated with a car audio shop or manufacturer, at which point they are moved into the pro class.

[CD writes:]

Are you or were you employed by a car audio manufacturer or dealer?

Yes:
You compete in pro

No:
Is this your first year of competing?

Yes:
You compete in novice for the first year

No:
You compete in amateur

Note that modifying your amplifiers, buying your equipment below retail, or being sponsored by a manufacturer or dealer will get you kicked into pro.

Also note that any home built active gear in the signal path (e.g. custom built equalizers, crossovers, or noise gates) will get you kicked out of novice.

Once you know what group you are, you next need to know what power category you are in. Add up the 4-ohm non-bridged rating of all your amplifiers, including your head unit if your head unit is powering speakers (rather than exclusively feeding amplifiers). Then, find the category you fit into:

 
Novice             1-150       151-300     301-600     601+        
Amateur            1-150       151-300     301-600     601+        
Pro                1-150       151-300     301-600     601+        
Expert             1-600                               601+        

Thus, if you had a Rockford Punch 4040 (20Wx4) and a Punch 60ix (30Wx2), with a head unit that put out 6Wx2 (powering, perhaps, a center channel) you're in the 151-300 class. It does not matter if your amps are bridged down to .002 ohms; it's only the 4ohm rating that counts. If you no longer used your head unit to power speakers, you would be in the 1-150 class.

Competition is usually most vicious in the 151-300 and 301-600 categories at typical contests.


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6.6 Where can I find out when these Sound-Offs are? [IDB]

The best way to get the most current list is to call either of the sanctioning bodies (IASCA or USAC). They can be reached at 602/437-4678 or 601/939-7828, respectively. You can also visit the Official IASCA and USAC pages on the web at the following URLs:

IASCA -- http://www.iasca.com

USAC -- http://www.soundoff.org


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6.7 How do I get sponsored by a manufacturer? [CM]

Ah, the green grass on the other side of the competitor's fence; sponsorship. Sponsorship is not the easiest thing to obtain. And it might cause more problems than you anticipated. Obtaining sponsorship really depends on how much dedication you show for competing and finding the right manufacturer sponsorship deal at the right time.

Keep in mind that car audio manufacturers consider sponsorship a form of advertising. Each manufacturer has a different policy concerning sponsorship. They are looking for a competitor that has shown they are committed to competing for a long time. They want someone that has shown that they know how to win, but also, how to handle defeat gracefully. They want someone that is well known in competition circles, someone that new competitors can come to and ask questions about the system and the manufacturer's products. They are basically looking for people that will put their product out there for people to see and help sell the equipment.

As a competitor, you must show that you are committed by to going to as many shows as possible. You must open up your their vehicle and show off the system. Manufacturers want a show system, which often means turning your vehicle into a "trailer queen." That may require you to buy a trailer and tow the vehicle to the shows you compete in (this also means that you may need a new daily driver). And of course, if your bought equipment below retail or were given the equipment, then you will be forced to compete in the Pro or Expert class.

There are different levels of sponsorship. It usually starts with manufacturer technical support. The manufacturer will give direct technical assistance to the competitor. At larger shows, they may reserve a space for you in their "tweek and tune" area.

Next, the manufacturers may let you buy equipment from one of their dealers or the factory and a discounted price. This will definitely put you into the Pro or Expert class. Some manufacturers will let you mix and match equipment from different manufactures. Others want you to use their equipment only.

Then the manufacturer might start giving you equipment and providing some or all of the installation costs.

The holy grail of sponsorship is when the manufacturer provides the equipment, installation, and pays some or all of your competition expenses. It takes a lot of money to travel to shows. By the time someone reaches this level, they are frequently hired as an employee of the manufacturer. This is a good way of making the car audio business your career.


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This document was generated by Ian D. Bjorhovde on February, 7 2006 using texi2html