Del Mar craftsman converts van to ‘mobile audio concert hall’
By Diane Y. Welch
Audiophile Jon Whitledge recently completed what he refers to as his “rolling curriculum vitae,” a mobile sound system that officially debuted in April at the San Diego entertainment and restaurant venue Tango Del Rey.
“Music is one of the greatest things in life we have to share and enjoy,” according to Whitledge. “And as our lifestyles become more pressed for time, the solitude of our cars may be the only place where we can enjoy music to its fullest.”
With this in mind, Whitledge, a scientist, engineer, and craftsman set out to design and build a sound system capable of being compared to the finest home audio system, and one step closer to live music. It represents the culmination of a 22-year industrial career and it took 9,000 hours of labor and six and a half years to complete.
The system’s two-channel stereo includes nine loudspeaker transducers powered by 4620 watts of amplification and is designed with state-of-the-art components using industry names such as Dynaudio, Genesis, Kimber Kable and more. Power is provided by a giant marine battery from Lifeline Batteries. Installed in a retrofitted Mercedes Sprinter cargo van, with form following function, it has been dubbed, “a mobile audio concert hall” by recording engineer Jim Merod. Whitledge calls it his Magic Bus.
Whitledge decided to take on the project because he was looking for an opportunity to “Make an impact, even be the best at something,” he said. “I took stock of my talents and decided that this was doable. And most things in our life are dictated by a lack of time and a lack of money but the Magic Bus was the first time in my life where I was free to make something with no regard for difficulty, time or money. And I think that’s why it turned out so well.”
The skills required to design and build the Magic Bus drew from Whitledge’s numerous disciplines, including mechanical and electrical engineering, acoustics, loudspeaker design, computer-aided design, metalworking, woodworking, advanced composites, automotive and industrial coatings, interior design, subjective listening skills, and more.
In addition to its technical marvels, the Magic Bus is also the only audio system that is extensively autographed by Grammy Award-winning and other famous musicians. More than 200 musicians’ signatures increase both the value and the interest in the Magic Bus.
Men, passionate about audio, have told Whitledge that he has done a great favor to mankind. “They tell me, ‘When our wives complain to us, we refer to you, and say, ‘It could be worse!’”
Whitledge, an Ohio native who grew up on a farm, lives with his Brazilian wife Jeaneth, in Del Mar. “She is one of the most highly regarded women in audio because of her patience and support. I literally could not have done the project without her, she’s been a big part of this,”he said.
Support was also offered by corporate sponsors. Initially Whitledge sent out technical proposals, some 20 pages long, which were subsequently “ignored,” he said. But as the project moved along sponsors agreed to provide their products in exchange for visibility.
The Magic Bus was exhibited at The Home Entertainment (T.H.E.) Show in Newport Beach last month. Robert Harley, a noted national audio reviewer, reported accolades for Whitledge’s system. “It was thrilling to get that honor, as technically the Magic Bus is not an in-home audio system,” said Whitledge about Harley’s blogged review, which reads in part: “The system had effortless dynamics, very high resolution of low-level detail, tremendous timbral fidelity, and threw a soundstage that rivaled that of a well-set-up home system.”
Today Whitledge specializes in the design, installation, and tuning of custom, high-fidelity mobile and home audio systems. In looking ahead, Whitledge would love to take his Magic Bus to Brazil to be a part of the opening ceremonies for Carnivale and would also love to be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, he said. For avid audiophiles, visit www.whitledgedesigns.com to learn more about the technical specifications of the Magic Bus sound system and for other information email firstname.lastname@example.org
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