The Opulence Of This Car Hi-Fi Haunts My Dreams

A good argument can be made for how important — or not — car audio is. It isn’t, because audio in your car is white noise. And it is important, because a car is a relatively small, intimate environment in which you sit for stretches at a time, a place where you can benefit from the stimulation music brings.

Though you can easily go overboard from mere car audio and into car hi-fi. Doing so has produced some opulent audio kit from companies the likes of Focal and McIntosh. And Sony, with its ridiculous RSX-GS9, which I love.

Illustration for article titled The Opulence Of This Car Hi-Fi Haunts My Dreams
Photo: Sony Electronics Inc.
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Of course, I still love MiniDisc head units, but the RSX-GS9 has me captive for now. It’s a single-DIN head unit meant for those who are obsessed with audio. It can interface with a Sony Walkman or any smartphone and can play files with ridiculously high bitrates.

Illustration for article titled The Opulence Of This Car Hi-Fi Haunts My Dreams
Photo: Sony Electronics Inc.

It costs an obscene amount of money for a head unit, even more than a set of my favorite Momo wheels, but it’s the kind of thing that comes along and jolts you into wondering what the limits of your sanity are. And yet, I love this thing. I love the way it looks. I love the prominent volume knob and its spackle finish. I love its plain face and the few small buttons.

Illustration for article titled The Opulence Of This Car Hi-Fi Haunts My Dreams
Screenshot: Sony Electronics Inc.
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Sure, car stereos and amps don’t really matter. Hi-fi sound on a drive is silly. You won’t be able to tell the difference between a FLAC and MP3 file when an ambulance or fire engine wails past. On the road, there is so much else to occupy your attention. Not the least of which is the exhaust note of the car you’re in.

But I have to be honest. Without music, road trips and drives would be less enjoyable. I would argue music is like another form of climate control. Music is air-conditioning for your soul. Car hi-fi, then, is just a reasonable impulse pushed beyond reason. But, damn if I wouldn’t want that GS9 and a set of component speakers in my hatch.

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And consider the “V” in “A/V,” too. Because the visual aspect of a head unit matters. Think of all your favorite dashboards. The wraparound dash in the BMW E30, the cockpit of pre-GM Saabs, the hyper-focused steering wheel of the Honda S-2000.

All of these have a proper feel to them, and a head unit can either add to or subtract from that feeling. Which is all to say that car hi-fi, as a general concept, matters enough that it’s a small problem, but a good one to have. And, certainly, it’s not a problem with a $1,500 answer. Right?

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It wasn’t like I ever seriously considered a head unit worth half the value of my whole hatchback. Even if I did, it wouldn’t matter because the RSX-GS9 is temporarily out of stock. It seems some hi-fi loving Jalop was gifted it this holiday season.

I mean, really. It’s not like I would ever get this overpriced, unnecessary head unit. Not like I wouldn’t stare at it at stoplights, or nearly rip that knob off when Donald Byrd came on. Not me and my hatch. Not us, buddy.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. Periodista automotriz, Naturally Aspirated Stan.

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theanarchistsneedlogisticalsupport
Theanarchistsneedlogisticalsupport

You have not lived if, while waiting at a stoplight with a hangover and mildly murderous intent, you have not seen the rear windshield of a 15 year-old Subaru disintegrate and fall into the hatch after an onslaught of bass. It is one of the few occasions in life where schadenfreude truly is life-affirming. Still cheers me up whenever I think about it.