Rockford Fosgate’s Next Sonic Boom—High-Performance Marine

Rockford Fosgate’s Next Sonic Boom—High-Performance Marine

Last month during a pontoon-boat ride on Lake Saguaro outside of Tempe, Ariz., I rediscovered my love for The Crystal Method, an electronic music duo from Las Vegas that rose to fame in the 1990s. The deep-driving, base-thumping percussion of “Keep Hope Alive” began pulsing the through the 25-footer’s Rockford Fosgate sound system, so I asked my hosts to pump up the volume.

And for the next six minutes I was gone, completely checked out from my hosts and surroundings.

The final act of “Rockford Fosgate Palooza” took the author (third from left) on a pontoon boat equipped with a world-beating sound system. Photos by Brian Edstrom/courtesy Rockford Fosgate

Music has the power to move you, no doubt, but only music played through an amazing sound system can make you forget where you are and why you’re there. Of course, all those pesky details came back to me.

But only after the song ended.

The pontoon-boat trek was the finale of what I’m calling “Rockford Fosgate Palooza,” a full day of experiences that began with a tour of every department at the 40-plus-year-old amplifier, speaker and source-unit company’s Tempe headquarters and included a 30-minute post-lunch Jeep ride to the enjoy the desert in side-by-side off-road vehicles for an hour, and then head to Lake Saguaro for the aforementioned pontoon-boat cruise.

All vehicles, of course, were equipped with Rockford Fosgate sound systems. One of the side-by-sides even had speakers mounted on its underside.

Rockford Fosgate provides the manufacturer-installed sound systems, as well as custom setups, for all Polaris side-by-side off-road vehicles.

Why now and why me? Simple. Rockford Fosgate, which provides all factory-installed sound system’s for Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Polaris side-by-side off-road vehicles is making a push into the high-performance powerboat market. And the people there want to get their message out loud and clear, preferably with a whole lot of spine-tingling base, that they are playing for keeps.

So in the space of 3-1/2 hours, I toured departments including project management, digital printing and RTTI (Rockford Technical Training Institute for installers), mechanical design, electrical engineering, software engineering, speaker design, speaker validation, acoustic tuning, validation and, of course, marketing headed by Tammy Lowe.

It was Lowe, in fact, and Ora Freeman, the senior director of the company’s OEM marine program, who had invited me to RF Palooza during the Miami International Boat Show in February. Knowing that they had hosted a writer from Popular Science a few months back, who surely was far more audio technology savvy but likely less charming, I accepted.










Full immersion at Rockford Fosgate’s Tempe, Ariz., headquarters.

But of all the intriguing, diverse and scary-smart people I met during my tour, only Lowe was willing to join me in the company’s mobile SoundLab, which is fancy language for a van with 11,000-watts of power pumped through 16 speakers into a two-seat “chamber for two” in the rear of the vehicle.

The point? To literally feel the power, translated physically as pressure, created by the sound system for all of 45 seconds.

“Try to breathe with the music,” John Bosley, Rockford Fosgate’s manager of trade shows and events advised as he handed me some brawny hearing protection and pointed to a red button on each side of the chamber. “And if gets to be too much, you can always hit the panic button and the sound will shut off immediately.

“Don’t be ashamed if you have to tap out,” he added and smiled. “It happens all the time.”

Wonderful, I thought, now it’s a freaking challenge. Then the doors closed and the “music”—a charitable description for the evil sounds omitted by those speakers—began.

It felt as if a couple of rhinos were planted on my chest and head-butting each other. I did not tap out, but the thought occurred.

Rockford Fosgate’s mobile SoundLab delivers an unforgettable physical experience.

And that brought us to lunch in a conference room ahead of the Jeep, side-by-side and pontoon-boat adventures. Zach Luke, the company’s charismatic managing director, asked me how my day had been so far. I told him I was blown away.

“It’s a lot to try to absorb in a few hours,” I said, then laughed. “It’s kind of overwhelming. But I do feel like I got a back massage from the van.”

Luke grinned. Like Lowe, he has been with Rockford Fosgate for decades. Like that of everyone I met that day, his passion for the company’s products and Rockford Fosgate’s signature bass-driven sound—in automobiles, motorcycles, side-by-sides and soon high-performance powerboats— borders on manical.

“We want the marine segment, the powerboat segment, to be the next space for us—to do what we do, at the level that we do it, with a partner or partners that will allow us to do so,” he said. “We are all about purpose-built products.”

John Bosley (left), the company’s trade show and events manager—and part-time side-by-side host—shepherded the author through much of his day.

Luke paused and sighed.

“Companies would take car audio-developed products, paint them white, and now they’re ‘marine,’” he continued. “That was a reality, same thing in the motorcycle space and same thing in the side-by-side space. And it still happens today.”

With high-performance marine, Luke knows Rockford Fosgate is pushing into a competitive, niche market segment with entrenched players. But that just adds fuel to his fire.

“We have extremely robust, performance-driven product purpose-built for the marine space—we’re definitely not in our infancy from a product standpoint,” he said “But we haven’t necessarily focused on the marine category. It’s now a priority for us. It’s not just a focus, it’s a priority and we are moving forward accordingly.

“In all applications, the product has to be at or above the performance level it needs to carry that ‘Diamond R,’” he added. “And that’s a big deal. To hold that Diamond R is something we don’t take lightly.”

A journalist could do worse for his first side-by-side experience, especially when the music never stopped.



Boat Lyfe