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I Got More Than I Expected

It can be an unwelcome surprise to order something online and not get exactly what you expected. That was Dan Blacktowhite’s* experience with a Zapco limited production Z-LX amplifier. Open the previous part of this story in a new tab with this heading:

I Didn’t Get What I Paid For

If you haven’t read Part 1, the short version is Zapco had updated components inside the Z-LX amplifiers without making an announcement. On June 9 the Zapco official Facebook page posted the following:

Zapco Facebook update Electrolytic Capacitors
Zapco Electrolytic Capacitors FB update

Critical to the development of Zapco products is a continuous search for new technologies and better components to enhance sonic performance. Our engineers are audio guys, with years of experience in amplifier design, but also in car audio competition as both participants and judges in IASCA and USACi in the US and Europe and in CAN (Car Audio Nationals) in Italy.
Components are evaluated first on the relative specifications, and if they look good, they are evaluated in listening tests.
All parts are initially tested to verify the reliability of published specifications, but final choices are based on actual tested data and the listening tests.
There are many factories In the market producing electrolytic capacitors, some old and well known, some new and un-known. We look at, and we test, them all.
We continuously look for any better components that comes along, since it is impossible to improve without change.

Testing by our engineers showed the new Zapco capacitors to be superior to what we have been using in the past as below:

1) Higher operating temperature: Up to 105℃ instead of 85℃ (only Panasonic matched that value)
2) Better capacitance tolerance than the others: -10%~+20% instead of -20%~+20% (tighter tolerance is higher quality)
3) ESR and dissipation factors are the same in all
4) Max Ripple: better value than Elna capacitors, similar the other two
5) Max leakage current: same in declared values, but much lower in actual testing
6) Endurance the same (1000 hours) except the Panasonic that is 5000 hours. Note: the value of the endurance is with capacitor at the maximum rated data: ie. temperature, voltage, ripple current, etc.. In with normal use the average endurance is up to 5 times more
7) The new Zapco capacitors are little smaller than all but the Nichicon.
The superior numbers demanded further consideration, and after the listening tests we decided to make the change on all future Z-series LX production.

For more on capacitors and the actual numbers on these caps, see here

Zapco products sold by Rubyserv are shipped directly to you from Zapco’s warehouse. We are unable to guarantee that your Z-LX amplifiers purchased now will have the updated capacitors. However, we are committed to delivering maximum value in our products and services. We hope this information assists you in making a decision, whether that includes Rubyserv in your life or not. 


Shop Top Tier SQ Amplifiers at Rubyserv

Zapco Z-150.6LX at Rubyserv 1

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What Music Are You Listening To?

We asked one of our customers what music he’s listening to. Jovan, from Southern California, shared his current favorites. Listen and enjoy!

    Text 701-620-1124 with your first and last name and 3 (or more) artists.

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I Didn’t Get What I Paid For

All I know is I paid for this amp knowing it had those good parts in it only to find it did not. Zapco better have an explanation.



Dan Blacktowhite(alias) is a car audio enthusiast. He works hard to have some extra funds to be able to support his hobby with nice things. He has good taste in equipment with a bit of an adventurous streak, and he seeks out the best. This was his reaction after opening his new Zapco Z-150.6LX 40th Anniversary series amplifier and finding an unexpected surprise. 

What did Zapco set up as the expectation?

Zapco ZLX Internals - Rubyserv

Open an LX amp and you’ll find Elna Silmic II RFS caps and Nichicon KZ caps, designed specifically for high end home audio use. The Op-amps in the LX amplifiers are all Analog Devices OP275…

Did Dan get ripped off?

John Borges, Director of Sales & Marketing at Zapco, responded after comments began piling up after several days of speculation.

John Borges

First: I HATE SURPRISES. I was highly tweaked to discover yesterday that a change was made that I wasn’t expecting until the new version of the LX came out. But don’t panic! Listen to the amps!
I committed when we first brought out the new Z series in 2012 to continue searching new ways to make every run sound better than the last.

I spent 3 months over there with the Italians last year working on the new DSP and the next version of the LX amplifiers. We did a lot of testing on caps, op-amps, and other things to see how they affected SQ and noise. When I left we had pretty much settled on some new caps, replacing the OP275s with a new TI op-amp, as well as some changes that I can’t share at this time.

Since then I’ve been consumed on the new DSP and wasn’t aware that they decided to make a change in the current LX. But that change is consistent with the commitment we made in 2012. A new run of amps and an opportunity available to make improvements and they did it.

I will get you more info on the Caps and other items shortly. But we will continue to make changes as we find new ways to put better sound quality and reliability into our products.

I sincerely apologize for the lack of communication. Our marketing and communication have never been very good and it is certainly past time to correct that.

But again: Listen to the amps!

Thank you,

Rubyserv is proud to offer Zapco car audio products, including the full Z-LX line-up of amplifiers. You will be delivered current models, always.

Shop Top Tier SQ Amplifiers at Rubyserv

Zapco Z-150.6LX at Rubyserv 1

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Car Audio SAQ – Should Ask Questions

questions Tony Robbins quote

Should Ask Questions

I’ve listed some questions I think people ought to be asking car audio experts. 

Q: Is speaker replacement on my new vehicle necessary to get the sound improvements I want?

A: Most times the answer to this is “yes”. 

As some car makers push the limits with more and more speakers in their premium audio packages, it does naturally get more complicated to decide how to proceed. Call Rubyserv at 701-620-1124.

 premium audio package example


Q: I want more bass, but do I need to lose all my cargo space?

A: Bass is still the most popular part of car audio that people are drawn to, the go-to first upgrade, and for many people louder = better. The myth that bigger = louder still lives on, but a lot of work can be done with a less massive subwoofer put into a better engineered and constructed(ie. more efficient) enclosure.

Let’s break this down into 2 simple cases. Sealed or ported.

Case #1 The Sealed Subwoofer Enclosure: Sealed enclosures are the easiest to design and build. If space is really tight we will probably have you run a sealed enclosure. It generally is more costly to try to get significant bass out of sealed subwoofers as compared to case #2, the ported subwoofer. Power(amplifier watts) and number of subwoofers must go up rapidly to get louder.

Case #2 The Ported Subwoofer Enclosure: The port and the subwoofer split the job of making sound. Watt for watt, this is the best bang for your buck. The space required is larger than a sealed enclosure. All ported enclosures need to be designed carefully to make the speaker sound a certain way. 

Ported subwoofer enclosure
10″ Subwoofer in a ported enclosure


Q: Is there something else I need to do while I have the car apart?

 Q: Will I need to upgrade the charging system?

A: The alternator powers the vehicle when the engine is running. The battery supplies power to start the engine. There are several large gauge wires that are responsible for carrying power throughout the vehicle to fuse panels and other central areas of distribution.


There are special charging system testers that some shops will have. At minimum a shop should be able to test with a volt meter if your alternator and battery are good. If you can get a computerized diagnosis with a printout that’s even better.

Learn More: How To: Size Your Audio System To Your Electrical System

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Digital Signal Processors – What and Why?

DSP Software on MS Windows

We want you to have an outstanding audio experience in your vehicle, and the speakers and amplifiers form a solid foundation. What about when you want to take it to the next level? What do you need to do to go all the way? You will need a Digital Signal Processor, or DSP for short.

Have you wondered any of the following?

  • How do I add amplifiers to my (Bose, Sony, Alpine, etc.) system the right way?
  • I want good imaging and staging. What do I need?
  • Can my car sound as good as my home stereo?


imaging and staging Rubyserv
Imaging and Staging – Put the band on the dash

The folks at have put up an excellent article to introduce DSP. Here is a teaser:

A Hostile Environment

If we were to take a full-range home speaker into an open field and measure the frequency response, we’d see a fairly flat and smooth response curve. If you take that same speaker into a small room and measure the response again, you will see peaks and dips at various frequencies. This change in frequency response is not caused by the speaker, but by the room itself.

Digital Signal Processors Take Your Audio System To The Next Level

DSP Software on MS Windows
DSP Software on MS Windows

Let Rubyserv help you decide if a DSP is right for you. Most of the software requires a laptop or tablet running Microsoft Windows. You will also want a calibrated microphone and some form of audio analyzer to make measurements. We use Room EQ Wizard and recommend Dayton Audio microphones.

Barry Schanz
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Clarifying 2-Ch Stereo Vs Surround Sound

Beware of false information.

There are 2 misconceptions about surround sound in cars that need attention if there is any chance of this wonderful concept to ever become widely accepted in this industry.

1. Misconception #1 – Multichannel surround sound in the car is only worthwhile if you have specially made recordings. DVD movies and audio qualify. Because DVD Audio is a dead format there is no good reason to build an aftermarket surround system.

2. Misconception #2 – If you decide to add surround sound to your car any 5.1 DSP will get the job done.

These 2 points go hand in hand. Really effective multichannel audio reproduction in the car needs a DSP which creates a discreet center signal and rear speaker signals which add ambiance and increase the illusion that you’re listening in a bigger space than the car’s interior. The center signal and the way the DSP steers sounds is critical. Today this requires on-chip software which has licensing attached. The associated license costs are one reason proper multichannel DSP options are sparse today. Lack of understanding of how this technology works and lack of understanding of how to sell, install and tune these systems is another major hurdle.

I will use the term “multichannel” in place of “surround sound” at times.

Stereo vs Surround Sound

Stereo has been around since before most of us were born. Multichannel surround sound in the cinema came about in the 1940s; multichannel in the car is much newer and is the focus of this post. Before we can talk about multichannel we have to have a basic understanding of how this differs from the stereo sound that we all have grown up around.


The source is Between Monophonic, Stereophonic and Surround Sound.

Stereo or Stereophonic sound is created by two independent audio channels or speakers and provides a sense of directionality because sounds can be heard from different directions.

Multichannel sound, also known as surround sound, is created by at least four and up to seven independent audio channels or speakers placed in front of and behind the listener that surrounds the listener in sound. Multichannel sound can be enjoyed on DVD music discs, DVD movies and some CDs. Multichannel sound began in the 1970s with the introduction of Quadraphonic sound, also known as Quad. Multichannel sound is also known as 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 channel sound.

5.1 Multichannel Car Speaker Layout Diagram
5.1 Multichannel Car Speaker Layout Diagram

Multichannel Music in Your Car 

Multichannel sound reproduction is found in many premium factory sound systems, or it can be added with a DSP. The scope of this discussion is the way multichannel in the car is useful for getting better sound for 2 or more seats, not just 1 seat at a time. Some factory premium systems have a setting for the listening position, and if you’ve tried this you have probably heard a significant change in the sound. Some aftermarket multichannel DSPs do a good job of this; others fall short. Aftermarket head unit manufacturers have tried 5.1 surround sound, although a “listening position” setting is much more common.

Improving the sound of music for more than just the driver’s seat requires 2 front left and right speakers, a center speaker, 2 rear left and right speakers, and a subwoofer. Some form of multichannel digital signal processing is required, and the DSP needs a way to “upmix” 2 channel audio into 5.1 “better stereo”.

If you have questions about multichannel audio or anything else on the topic of car audio, feel free to contact me.

Barry Schanz
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New 2015 Car Audio Products by CDT Audio

QEX 10″ and 12″ Super Small Box Subwoofers

CDT Audio QEX-1020 10" Subwoofer
CDT Audio QEX-1020 10″ Subwoofer


QEX-1020 and QEX-1220

Sealed from 0.1 to 0.25 cubes.

Ported from 0.25 cubes to 1.0 cubes plus the vent.

500W RMS

Dual 2 ohm

Fiberglass cloth cone

MX-69S Shallow Convertible 6″x9″ Woofers

Measuring in at under 3″ for mounting depth, these were requested by us to fit virtually every vehicle that comes equipped from the factory with 6×9 speakers in the doors.

CDT Audio MX-69S
CDT Audio MX-69S

What makes have 6×9 speakers in the doors?

  • Toyota
  • Lexus
  • Dodge
  • Chevrolet
  • Chrysler
  • Jeep
  • Nissan
  • Mitsubishi

Did we leave out your vehicle make? Let us know. As you can see, this 6×9 speaker really opens up our vehicle coverage, which was already substantial.

The new subwoofers and shallow 6×9 sets will be listed on our CDT Audio web store after CES in January. Until then, please contact us for further details. Bear with us as there may be a delay in replying due to the holidays.

Welcome to CDT Audio Factory and Dealer On-Line Store

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2015 Car Audio/Video Product Launches and CES Predictions

What’s new and upcoming for car audio in Q4 of 2014 and the beginning of 2015? Some manufacturers have adopted “early” releases to grab the attention of holiday shoppers, and there have been leaks ahead of the International Consumer Electronics Show, which is held annually during the 2nd week of January in Las Vegas, NV. Let’s quickly take a look at what’s new and what to expect in the near future.


New head units have been released by Pioneer in Single DIN Mechless, Single DIN CD, and Double DIN CD and DVD formats. Siri Eyes Free and Android Music Support have been rolled out to most of the new models. All models are shipping now. Keep us in mind for your Pioneer car audio needs.


Mechless – MVH-X370BT


Single DIN CD – DEH-X8700BH, DEH-X8700BS, DEH-X6700BS , DEH-X6700BT , DEH-X5700HD , DEH-X4700BT, DEH-X3700S ,DEH-X3700UI, DEH-X2700U


Double DIN CD – FH-X520UI , FH-X720BT, FH-X820BS

Massive Audio


Massive Audio Nano amplifier with Bluetooth
Massive Audio Nano amplifier with Bluetooth

Established in 1999, Massive Audio has been pushing the envelope for increasingly smaller high power amplifiers. Coming soon is a line of Nano BLX amplifiers featuring Bluetooth. This comes in a 4-channel, 2-channel or mono size. Read the press release here:

Massive Audio Intros Its First Bluetooth Amps

What Might We See Of Smartphone Connectivity in the Dash?

If you’ve bought a new in-dash head unit recently or you’ve been researching a future purchase, you possibly know about Apple CarPlay. This year we saw Pioneer debut CarPlay with an October release of a software update to their NEX line of high end double DIN head units. Alpine has followed suit with their first CarPlay head unit, ILX-007.

Pioneer AVH-4000NEX with CarPlay
Pioneer AVH-4000NEX with CarPlay
Alpine ILX-007 with CarPlay
Alpine ILX-007 with CarPlay

Naturally, we should see a larger selection of CarPlay compatible head units next year. That’s fine, but what about Android? Google is preparing their own automotive platform to connect your smartphone.

Android Auto

Because this is so early in the development cycle there is nothing we have been able to find regarding Android Auto coming soon from Pioneer, Alpine, Clarion, or any other aftermarket head units. What we can do today is read this article by Chris Ziegler of The Verge, who recently tried Android Auto in a 2015 Hyundai Sonata.

Android Auto is great, but automakers are holding it back

I personally hope there will be some exciting announcements made during CES in January, 2015, regarding Android Auto aftermarket support. I’m in the Android camp, so CarPlay does nothing for me, and I’m not about to buy a new car. What do you think about Android Auto? Please leave us a comment!

Barry Schanz
513 4th Avenue
Langdon, ND 58249

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Do I Get Worked Up About Rear Speakers?

I have opinions about rear speakers in vehicles. Others have their conflicting opinions, and a lot of them suck. It’s rant time.

Rear Speakers
Rear Speakers

I’ve spent several years building a presence online in different car audio discussion groups. Forums, subreddits, Facebook, if people are talking car audio I’m interested. However, there is only so much nonsense I can tolerate.

Rear speakers. What’s the big deal? Here’s a common scenario:

New guy here, I’m looking for help deciding what speakers to buy. I like this brand and I like Speaker A to go up front and Speaker B to go in the back. I have my kids in the car a lot and I take my friends on trips, too. I don’t know a lot about car audio, so I’d appreciate some help.

Thanks in advance.

What happens next?

  1. Rear speakers suck. I disconnected mine. It sounds amazing now.
  2. Ya, rear speakers take away from the sound. If you’re at a concert you don’t stand with your back to the band, do you? That’s dumb.
  3. I recommend you take the money that would be spent on rear speakers and put that into the budget for front speakers. You can keep the factory speakers for now and upgrade them later if you want to.
  4. Rear speakers are a Commie plot.
  5. Sound quality competitors never use rear speakers, and neither should you!

Since when do you get to dictate what they want? It’s their decision, their money to spend, and they asked for it!

  1. The first reply is parroting a common belief that has very little substance. Waste of a post.
  2. Nonsense. Live music comes to us from all directions and anyone who has attended just one live performance can hear this.
  3. Decent advice I have given many times.
  4. Is this serious?
  5. Another “forum” generalization. It makes me roll my eyes every time.

There are good and better ways to use rear speakers to improve the sound for all people in the vehicle. There are times when rear speakers are not good.

Want to get my thoughts about different ways to make good use of rear speakers? Leave a comment below.

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Knowledgefest 2014 Photo Gallery

Rubyserv attended our first Mobile Electronics Knowledgefest trade show. This took place in Dallas, TX, from August 16-19.
What Is Knowledgefest?

Knowledgefest is an intense show focused on gathering dealers, manufacturers, and distributors for showing off products, demonstration vehicles, and classroom sessions with an emphasis on the specialty retailer and building strong client relationships. We came back with a reignited passion and new ideas to put in place in our store. Enjoy the photo album for a brief look at what we experienced in “The Big D”.

trumpet187's Kfest 2014 album on Photobucket

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