Back in college, I managed a group of party DJs and through some stroke of luck we were asked to be house DJs at one of the major casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. Every weekend, we’d haul down there after classes let out on Friday and wouldn’t sleep until Monday morning. The days and nights blended together: a swirl of neon lights, long pour drinks, hot summer air and glimmeringly expensive toys, all moving in sync to the steady beat resonating from the subwoofer. We, of course, tweaked the casino’s club sound system to produce that kind of bass you feel before you hear. The crowds cheered and the club’s attendance skyrocketed after we took over. What can I say? There’s nothing quite as addicting as good sound.
It’s no wonder, then, that the premier custom marine audio company has its roots firmly planted in the Party Cove atmosphere of the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Justin Wagner and the team at Waves and Wheels have been outfitting boats with custom sound solutions for decades. Finally coalescing into their own business entity in 2001, Wagner’s passion for good sound drives the evolution of his company to this day.
“I live my passion every day,” Wagner says. “It’s a challenging passion, but I love boating. I love audio. I love what I do for a living. My team loves what we do for a living. We couldn’t do it together if we didn’t have a passion for this. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a great experience and at the end of the day we’re really proud of what we do.”
Started From The Bottom
Wagner began his career in marine audio working for a manufacturer and fell in love with the process and the result. When he realized he had an ear for configuring sound systems that could hold their own against the wind and the waves, he struck out on his own. After years of successful custom installations of other’s products, Wagner and the team have begun manufacturing their own line of products.
“We started with pretty humble beginnings here at Lake of the Ozarks with custom installs on everything from pontoons and family boats to power boats, cruisers and yachts. We now have clients from Canada to London and from the east to west coasts of the United States. Just in the last ten years, we’ve developed our own product line called BLUAVE and Waves and Wheels Solutions. We’re our own R&D, which means before the public has seen it we’ve installed it over a hundred times so we can get the perfect product to market.”
In 2017, Waves and Wheels teamed up with PlayCraft to provide the Level Two Premium Sound Package upgrade for any PlayCraft pontoon. The PDB staff tested the PlayCraft Xtreme 3000 last fall at our annual Shootout Boat Test and felt firsthand the difference good sound makes. Two pair of M9.0CX – one set on the transom and the other on the bow – represent the first 9-inch marine coaxial speakers and deliver impressive sound quality, rich mid-bass and clear output, even as we ran wide open with the throttles down on the twin engine PlayCraft.
The PlayCraft also features BLUAVE QAP, or Quad Arch Pod, designed for marine radar arches, which throws sound out of four speakers facing both the bow and the transom. Musical dispersion reaches 50 yards beyond the hull of your boat without distorting or losing strength. The Xtreme 3000 boasted two of these QAPs, loaded with 7-inch BLUAVE speakers.
“There are few systems,” PDB Publisher Greg Larsen says, “packing enough punch to push great sound into such a large open area, while giving you the confidence for max volume without a major meltdown. Impressive.”
The Greatest Invention
To round out the bottom of the sound package, Waves and Wheels addressed the issue of the subwoofer. Typical aftermarket audio installations for boats will find a bench seat, drop the bare subwoofer in and use the boat as an enclosure. The problem is the boat is big enough that the pressure required to produce strong, clear bass just isn’t there. Made of a durable and lightweight, UV-resistant polyurethane material, the Marine Subwoofer Enclosure (MSE) is a vented enclosure designed for the BLUAVE 10-inch subwoofer. Its small but tough configuration allows it to be installed nearly anywhere on any boat.
The PlayCraft sports two MSE enclosures as well as a special grill Wagner built for PlayCraft called the MSP. The grille is mounted below the lip of the seat cushion, just like any other front edge seating on a pontoon. But it is ventilated to allow the booming bass sound to fill the deck and drive the soundtrack of summer.
“We specialize in people having a great time,” Wagner laughs. “I’ve been doing audio my whole life and been a boater my whole life. It was just such a perfect fit for me, my company, and my team to provide audio systems that are just over the top with capabilities beyond what the customer ever expected. They’ll play all day – loud! And that’s what we provide: a rock solid sound system for a great time.”
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Waves and Wheels