❝ ... I heard the latest Magic Bus, which he calls Version 5.2.3, last week and must say that he’s achieved some kind of breakthrough.
... The first thing that struck me was the tautness and pitch precision in the bass. From the Sony WM1Z portable player, I cued up 'Glamour Profession' from Steely Dan’s Gaucho, a track I’ve listened to on more than a hundred hi-fi systems. I heard every note of the bass line more clearly than ever before. The low end had a crispness and clarity that were world class by any measure, even when judged against the most ambitious high-end systems in dedicated listening rooms. The bass’ textural details were perfectly articulated rather than sounding smeared, and the starts and stops of each note lucidly communicated.
... The system was a totally effortless in its reproduction of dynamics, as though its headroom were limitless.
... The Magic Bus is an amazing achievement, technically and musically. The engineering innovations, and their implementation, are extremely sophisticated. Jon Whitledge’s fanatical ten-year pursuit of better and better performance has culminated in this latest iteration, which to my ears represents a breakthrough. You’d have to hear the coherence, the pitch precision in the bass, the transient fidelity, and the effortlessness of the dynamics to believe it. That these qualities were achieved in a mobile system make it all the more impressive. Jon Whitledge and his Magic Bus exemplify the ethos that is the core of high-end audio: unwavering dedication to advancing the state of the art in music reproduction.
-- Robert Harley / Editor-in-Chief / the abso!ute sound®, Aug ‘18
❝ Perfection on wheels!
-- Earl Zausmer / mobile audio legend
❝ 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
❝ Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Jon, and listening to his bus for a minimum of least 2 hours. I am extremely impressed with what he has accomplished. The first thing it does better than any vehicle I have ever listened to, is that it so easily shows you the differences that exist between various recordings, whether subtle or readily apparent. Jon played a disc that had two songs on it (Rebecca Pidgeon's 'Spanish Harlem' & Patricia Barber's 'Smash', each back to back ... each recorded in standard 16/44.1 resolution, and 24/176.4 resolution. The higher rez versions displayed an openness and transparency that the redbook offerings simply couldn't match, and Jon's Sprinter easily showed the differences.
The listening environment treatments that Jon was able to incorporate into the bus, really shows up in the lower regions, where there is simply no masking whatsoever of the fundamentals of various instruments, allowing you to hear the notes in their entirety, all the way up through the harmonics, with not a hint of blurring.
Also very notable was how delicate cymbals were reproduced, with the detail and proper decaying that I would expect from a carefully assembled home rig, but so rarely have heard from a car. This bus can do delicacy and thunder in the blink of an eye ... and do so without a hint of effort.
The stage was rear-view mirror height, width was pillar to pillar when the recording called for it, front to back imaging cues were easily discernible. Even though the left A-pillar pod was fairly close to the listening position, it never once gave away its location ... in fact, none of the drivers gave away their physical locations.
The lower bass was superlative. It was as deep and tight as one could hope for, never calling attention to itself, simply blending in with the rest of the spectrum. The imaging of the mid-bass drivers never once pulled down the height of the stage, yet all the while adding just the right touch of body to the fundamentals of the notes being played or sung.
I really could go on and on here, and probably have ... but you get the idea. He's really got something special here.
Lastly and most importantly, I was very thankful to Jon for allowing me such a lengthy listening session in the midst of a show like that. He was very gracious, informative, and surprisingly very humble when it came to discussing his creation ... probably more so than I'd be if the situations were reversed. lol
I climbed in with some pretty high expectations, and all of them were met ... and then some.
-- Bob Smith / respected car stereo competitor
❝ Absolutely, positively the best bass I've ever heard in a car.
…The noise floor in the system is as low as it gets.
…It sounds like you're listening to a stereo in a bank vault. No electrical noise, and the isolation from the rest of the world is remarkable.
…the Magic Bus isn't about bass, or soundstaging, or tonality. It's about EVERYTHING. So there are certainly car systems which will get louder, but I've never heard one that was as pitch-perfect in the bass. And there are systems with 'stealthier' installs, but none that can image like this. It's made me think about what's important in audio reproduction.
…definitely a system for the most discerning listener.
-- Patrick Bateman / respected DIYMA.com forum member
❝ Jon's attention to detail is on par with the best I've seen, and I enjoyed his unrelenting no-compromise approach in the materials used.
... the binary amplitude diffusor panels and other acoustic treatments were effective in balancing the decay times of the listening space. I don't think many people would immediately notice this because the treatments simply do their job, and it is difficult to notice the absence of problem. Simply talking to each other while sitting in the front seats is plenty to notice this.
… The noise floor was undetectable even during quiet passages at high volumes and there was not a hint of distortion or strain. The words effortless and transparent come to mind, as the system did not seem to contribute anything onto the material being played.
… It has a level of transparency that is uniquely high, and I was able to hear new details (and new artifacts) on tracks I am very familiar with.
-- Justin Zazzi / Acoustic Product Design Engineer / Eminence Speaker
❝ Finally, a chance to listen to the famous Jon Whitledge Magic Bus. I have to say thanks to Emilios (from Dynaudio) who set up a special uninterrupted time for me to listen to the Magic Bus which allowed me to have plenty of time to be hyper critical and run the Bus through its paces. First up Jon walked me through the Bus explaining all the details and he didn't leave anything out. Just from viewing the Bus I could tell that nothing was overlooked and the attention to detail on all things was above and beyond. Being a stickler for attention to detail myself in my own installs it's nice to see someone else in the car audio industry willing to go to the lengths Jon has. I could type up pages on this alone from a technical aspect … hope this gives you an idea of how well built this is.
Now to the listening portion of my experience. Some vehicles are good at doing somethings and excellent at doing one or two things right. Well. The Magic Bus does something no other vehicle does … it does everything EXCELLENT … not just right top to bottom and at all volumes, just excellent!! Keep in mind I have plenty of car audio experience and in my time I have had the opportunity to listen to some pretty incredible vehicles and Jon's Magic Bus takes the cake. As the owner Octave, I pride myself craftsmanship, system integration, and with Steve Head's tuning, I have produced some incredible vehicles myself. Before delivering vehicles to clients I have to run them hard and identify any problems. I wanted to run the Magic Bus through its paces to find any weaknesses (running it harder than any of my installs - that you can be sure of). I used the Audionutz Ultimate Eval Vol 3 CD; if anyone knows the Steve Head Collection it is SERIOUS! Emilios at the Dynaudio suite just ranted and raved about Steve's 'amazing' CDs. I agree they are the perfect evaluation CDs and Vol 3 will find the weakness in any system; including weak fabrication and installation that you might not see or hear except with this CD. Steve can chime in on how he reflows the binary magic on his CDs I just know they are superb and use them in my daily business as a reference.
Starting the audition with 'Introduction To Also Sprach Zarathustra' I experienced what staging width and depth should do, but the real surprise came in the response of the lower frequencies. This track has a low frequency range that if reproduced correctly gives you a back massage. I love these lower frequencies below 25 Hz because you can feel them without hearing them but the catch is can a system recreate these lower frequencies without the sacrifice of the upper midbass impact? Auditioning this track in the Magic Bus, I can say YES it's possible and the detail in the layers of the lower frequency range was just amazing.
Next up was 'I Can See Clearly Now' by Holly Cole. I love this track for a couple of reasons. First reason is it hits frequencies just right to cause any vehicle to resonate finding any weakness in the installation. In fairness, I warned Jon first before playing the track so he turned down volume. The track started and nothing, then Jon started turning it up and nothing, turned it up further, much further and still nothing, effortless with no hint of strain. At this point Jon asked if it was loud enough and I said yes because it was getting to a rock concert volume level without any signs of resonance. I knew there was yet another test in this song to come, which is reason number two for this track selection. Towards the end of the track Holly increases the volume of her voice and I have found when she transitions from one volume to the next, combined with the increase in the background music volume, most vehicles have a problem with it and her vocals begin to break up. Didn't happen in the Magic Bus, just awesome that I could experience this song's capabilities at full volume with all the details produced correctly.
After that I played 'Too Rich for My Blood' by Patricia Barber. This track has a great test for high highs and low lows. The symbols in this track come in with great attack but slowly fade away into the distance, those Dynaudio Esotar² 110 tweeters handled this transition beautifully without calling attention to themselves. The lows on this track when reproduced right fill the cabin with unlocalizable warm bass and man this was nice in the Bus. The system is seamless and the transition of the Esotar² 1200s to the Esotec MW182s is on point. To test for proper center image and tonality I love 'Fever' by Jeanie Bryson. She came in loud and clear smack dead nuts center. The other thing about this track is if her voice is off just a touch be it in the lower range or upper range it is audibly noticeable. The Bus didn't have a problem with this at all, it was quite freaky how clearly she came through and very well balanced.
I wanted to test the sound stage and the separation further so I played 'The Boxer' by the King's Singers. The stage was flat from left to right and each singer was defined. Now I mean defined to the point where you could audibly hear a space between each singer. I've never heard that track reproduced like that before, EVER.
Now a personal favorite of mine is 'Night Train' by Christian McBride because I'm a sucker for the upright bass. The Magic Bus didn't disappoint with this track either. There's so much going on in this track especially all the tiny details of finger work and plucking of the strings. All these tiny details were there and not muffled in the background, vivd and correct. The low end was warm and filled the cabin as if I was there in the studio. Just overall great and that was the Magic Bus just effortless, addicting and the best I've heard. With over 4,700 watts, full Dynaudio Esotars and top notch everything, results in transients that are replicated effortlessly, even at very loud volume levels. The system does not lose anything, use audio addiction and gobs of detail. The system left me inspired, motivated and with a new reference for which I can't wait to experience again. I hope he will be at CES again next year.
Now on to Jon Whitledge himself as a person because I've heard/read things that people have said about him. If you're reading this and you're one of those people who have posted or verbalized negative comments regarding the Magic Bus don't even start with me. Jon is one of the most humble people I've meet in the car audio industry. He did something magical (sorry pun fully intended, LOL) with the Bus and my God the work, the science, the build quality, oh and the musicians signatures on the massive subwoofer enclosure .... you can't help but respect him. To expand on that he spent the better part of an hour and half talking with me on sound reproduction theory, fabrication of the Magic Bus and other topics. Now, it wasn't him just running off at the mouth as a 'look at me' or 'listen to me', no, not at all. Instead, humble and generous with his time and knowledge; he answered every question I had and I had a ton of them! To close all this up I would like to say thank you to Jon for building the Magic Bus because he brought into the world something truly special and thank you again for letting me listen to it. I would have to say this is #1 on my list of vehicles I've listened to and it is by a decent margin. I don't really care who gets butt hurt over the words I just typed, but if anyone knows me I don't blow smoke and I don't embellish. I speak from experience and this is one experience that was just awesome and I will remember for the rest of my life. The Magic Bus is a reference ... PERIOD. I am proud to be a car audio dealer because if I can build an affordable high-end systems that are 60-70% of the sound quality of the Magic Bus for my clients ... well then I know high end mobile audio will be around forever ... Jon and the Magic Bus are the real deal, if you get a chance to hear and experience the Bus do it and leave your ego aside.
--Russ Balaz / Octave Audio
❝ I spent 20 years of my life as a professional car stereo installer in Denver, Orlando, and San Diego. I have built many competition systems for manufacturers and private customers. I have competed with my own cars. I now have my own Home theater company in San Diego going on 17 years. I judged some car audio competitions in the early 1990s. I have sat down in front of $250,000.00 Home systems all too many times. I can say without a doubt that the Magic Bus is the best automotive sound system that I have ever heard that rivals the best home systems. I seems ridiculous doesn't it? It is a big tin can! But Holy crap! You have got to hear it to believe it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sure there are cars that get louder and have amp racks that spin around or blow out windshields. Having been in the car audio industry so long I found many competitors to be whiny little ego kids that pound their fists when they lose. Ignore the Haters! If you are a competitor, go listen to some Magic!
-- Clark Dahlman
❝ Thanks again for the impromptu visit, we had a great time! If anyone has not had the honor to listen to this amazing creation, you are missing out! I spent over 20 years in hi end 12v, as a retailer and avid competitor. Back in the "hayday" of car audio competitions, I was able to hear all of the legend's cars (hours of seat time in Earl's car) and I personally took trophies at world championship events. I must admit, I have been out of 12v for the past 10 years or so, but I would be willing to bet that this system is the best out there currently. If the Magic Bus was around back in the 80's and 90's, this thing would have easily kept up...or even surpassed many of those systems. Austin and I had so much fun talking audio and listening to the bus. Jon Whitledge, you have reinvigorated my personal drive to build a great system! Hopefully someday you can enjoy my demo as much as I enjoyed yours. Keep in touch, talk soon!
-- Mike Michne
❝ My favorite sound system [at The Home Entertainment Show 2018] was the 'Magic Bus' built by Whitledge Designs. It has been featured in many magazines and on the internet. I spent almost an hour demoing Hi – Res music mostly from AIX. Jon Whitledge Owner/Designer of the system Really liked the songs I played him from Peppino D’Agustino. I have to say it was Amazing listining to Hi-Res in his Sony Van and i’m sure you would have been amazed as well. everything was crystal clear and no distortion to be herd.
-- Mick Emery
The Magic Bus by Jon Raymond Whitledge