The van’s owner, Jon Whitledge, spent the over three years and more than 4000 hours on fanatical design and meticulous craftsmanship to create what must be the ultimate mobile audio system.
I was so impressed by the sound, design, and high-end aesthetic of Whitledge’s “Magic Bus” that I asked him to share with TAS readers details of the system’s design and construction.
Robert Harley Listens to the Magic Bus:
I must say that I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about listening to Jon Whitledge’s van; such systems tend to be demonstrated at hearing-damaging levels, and attempt to impress with sheer sound-pressure level rather than audiophile criteria such as soundstaging, detail resolution, and naturalness of timbre. Nonetheless, I was intrigued after hearing about the system’s extraordinary design and execution.
I’m glad I put my prejudices aside, because listening to Jon Whitledge’s Magic Bus was a revelatory experience. Sitting in the driver’s seat with my portable CD case, I played one familiar reference disc after another. For starters, the system was extremely smooth and well balanced tonally. The treble didn’t exhibit the hyped metallic sound so often heard in cars, and the midrange had a richness of tone color that gave instruments and voices a real sense of body.
What really floored me, however, was the system’s ability to create a three-dimensional soundstage in front of me. It was like sitting down between a pair of well set up loudspeakers in a room. Despite sitting far off axis in the driver’s seat, the soundstage was perfectly symmetrical, with depth and layering that were extraordinary. Listening to Rutter’s Requiem produced a startling sense of disconnect; the soundstage extended far in front of the windshield, with every instrument perfectly positioned and proportioned. The illusion of pinpoint images, surrounded by an expansive acoustic, was outstanding even by home-audio standards.
The bass was fabulous in many respects: pitch definition, extension, dynamics, and the ability to play loudly without strain. Kick drum was taut, punchy, and tight, with no sense of slowness or overhang. Moreover, the bottom end, reproduced by enormous bass cabinets in the van’s cargo area, blended seamlessly with the midrange and treble drivers located in front of the listener.
The Magic Bus sounded like a high-end home system -- and a very good one at that.
-- Robert Harley, Editor-in-Chief, the abso!ute sound®, Issue 188, Dec '08.After the Magic Bus was finished, Robert Harley heard it at T.H.E. Show Newport and had this to say ...
Jon Whitledge showed the latest incarnation of his "Magic Bus", a van that houses what I called "The world's best car stereo" when i heard it five years agao. Since then, Whitledge has taken the system to an entirely new level of performance. The design, construction, passion, and dedication that went into the Magic Bus are unprecedented, and it showed in the sound quality. The system had effortless dynamics, very high resolution of low-level detail, and tremendous timbral fidelity, throwing a soundstage that rivaled that of a well-set-up home system.
Other prominent audio industry veterans have also heard the Magic Bus and commented on its performance ...
The Magic Bus by Jon Whitledge defines a new standard for mobile audio. I had the pleasure, via my company Straight Wire, of being involved with many of the top sound quality competition and demonstration vehicles since the mid 90’s. The Magic Bus is a testament to Jon Whitledge’s vision and great efforts to produce a moveable high end aural experience that will captivate all who have the pleasure to listen.
-- Steven Hill / President / Straight Wire
JON WHITLEDGE has put together a Mobile Audio Concert Hall that surpasses any such car- or van-housed sonic enclave I've experienced previously. The interior architecture of Jon's design is gorgeous. His sound is unimaginably ferocious, detailed, and engaging. I suspect it takes a sort of genius of commitment to such work -- or an absolute nut case obsessively devoted to mobile music fidelity -- to craft such a peripatetic audiophile carnival. With Jon Whitledge's art it makes no difference whatsoever, since once you step inside his hyper-emotional world (with its daring musical insulation from earth's madness) you, too, become an audio nut happily removed from anything that does not romp and sing or rock and roll.
-- Jim Merod / Writer & Reviewer / Positive Feedback & Enjoy The Music
Absolutely phenomenal - both in terms of the result, and also the fantastic amount of work he has put into it. His ‘Magic Bus’ audio van is far and away the highest-performance audio system I have ever heard on wheels, but more importantly, it rivals the best home systems in many ways.
-- Steve McCormack / Designer / SMc Audio
Audio References for me are based on tonal quality, stage height, width and depth and install quality. And until recently, there was not one vehicle that encompassed all of these characteristics. So I guess you could say I had many references. Jon’s van encompasses all of these, and even raises the stakes by smacking around many of the high-end home systems I’ve heard. Jon has worked, and will continue to work, very hard to achieve unparalleled excellence in his designs. This vehicle has been regarded as the best sounding vehicle many of the home and pro audio guys have ever heard, and they are a hard bunch to convince.
-- Paul Messett / Sales and Marketing Manager / Cascade Audio Engineering
It is always a pleasure when you discover someone focused on following his or her passion. As a musician & producer, I have learned to gravitate towards people like this, for there is where you find the single-mindedness necessary to create the very special things in life ... Jon Whitledge loves musical performance. He has devoted himself to creating the ultimate automobile audio system. Armed with his extensive knowledge, ingenuity and attention to detail, along with the dedication of countless hours, he has produced a mobile listening environment that rivals the experience of being present when the music was created ... In these days of minimization, compression and dithering, it is a pleasure to come across someone interested in bringing out all the fullness and nuances of musical performance. On his system, my own recordings sounded as I remembered them in the studio.
-- Chuck Perrin / Musician / Producer
Here are some video testimonials by prominent mobile audio industry experts ...