Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cascade Audio's VBLOK Automotive Noise Control Products Review

If you want to improve the sound of your car stereo, you could always upgrade your speakers. But a better solution could be thinking outside the box. Instead of improving the sound, through better speakers, you could always improve the sound through noise control. This is typically done using sound dampers. Enter Cascade Audio Engineering.

When you think of these types of products, many people will think of Dynamat. In this regard, Dynamat is kind of like Kleenex. Kleenex is a brand of tissue paper. But many of us will call tissue paper, Kleenex, whether it is the Kleenex brand or just a generic brand. Dynamat was one of the early producers of this type of product, so it is easy to refer to these types of sound dampening products, whether they are Dynamat or not, as Dynamat.

Cascade Audio Engineering makes an excellent product in VBLOK. There are actually many products available, depending upon application and location. They are:
1) Vibration Dampers – help eliminate or reduce structural resonance and vibration. They do not block sound. VB-1X, VB-2, VB-2HD, V-MAX, VB-FD.
2) Sound barriers- blocks sounds like road noise, i.e. exhaust, airflow, drive train and tire noise.
3) Sound absorbers – helps soak up mid and high range frequencies, not damper vibration, TG-1, I-12, VB-TS, VB-TSM.
4) Gasket materials – eliminates squeaks, rattles, and buzzes and to seal speakers. VB-5

They also sell Audio Enhancement products. One such product is the Deflex PowerPads. The audio system in a car is a difficult environment to produce good sound. This is especially true when it comes to the door speakers. A car door is not an ideal speaker enclosure. They can suffer from water exposure. Then there is also the physics behind the speaker and how it functions: In the car environment, sound waves emanates from the rear of the speaker. These sound waves bounce off of the inside door panel and back to the speaker. The sound waves that come off of the back of the cone is equal to that coming off the front. This sound energy causes breakup and distortion. The Deflex PowerPads stops this reflection, thereby greatly improving the sound quality.

The products used here in the review are the VBLOK VB-2, VB-4.5, V-MAX, and Deflex PowerPads. The VB-2 was used behind the door panels with the Deflex PowerPads. The VB-4.5 was used on the trunk floor, and the V-MAX was used on the trunk sides and lid. The rattle from the subwoofer installed in my trunk will benefit the most from the V-MAX.

The VB-2 is a thin lightweight and moldable vinyl based silica-mica and ceramic load suspension vibration damping sheet material that can stretch up to 40%. This allows the VB-2 to mold to the odd shapes of your vehicles door panel. VB-4.5 is a multiple foam layer that reduces noise. The V-MAX product is a CLD (Constrained Layer Damper), which is made up of a lightweight butylene layer loaded with ceramic microspheres. The butylene layer is bonded to a 4 mil. black anodized aluminum sheet.

Installing the products was fairly straight forward. The VB-2 was sticky on the backside. It applied to the door panel rather easily, replacing the cheap plastic vapor barrier applied by the factory. Using a heat gun and more effort, the VB-2 was more pliable. Using your finger or an application tool, the VB-2 can now be pressed into the contours of the door panel.

The installed VB-2 looked great. It appeared as a skin to the door panel. The finish is also very durable. After being installed and the door panels put back on, the VB-2 performed as stated. The vibrations that were previously heard in the door were gone. It did a great job against vibration, and also reduced road noise.

Turning to the trunk, I turned to the help of V-MAX and VB-4.5 products. The trunk is a difficult area, especially if you have a stereo system with subwoofers in the trunk. Subwoofers can produce a lot of vibration. This vibration energy takes away from the potential of your subwoofer. The VB-4.5 works to eliminate the road noise conflicting with the subwoofer. The V-MAX works to eliminate vibrations. Unlike the vibrations that you tend to find in your doors, thanks to a subwoofer there tends to be a lot more vibrations in the trunk. Because of this, the entire trunk area was treated with V-MAX. The trunk floor was treated with VB-4.5 to reduce noise.

Installation was also straight forward of the V-MAX and VB-4.5. Unlike the VB-2, a heat gun is not used since it does not need to be pressed into all the contour lines like in the doors. The V-MAX is also sticky on one side, like the VB-2, and is installed into the panels, trunk lid, and throughout all the trunk. While it can always be professionally installed, it is sufficiently simple for the DIYer. Between the included instructions and installation help tips and instruction video on the Cascade Audio’s website, no experience is needed for the installation.

Sound testing was very rewarding. The VB-2 used in the doors did a great job in getting rid of door vibrations, and reducing some noise. The VB-4.5 also worked well in the trunk. And for maximum vibration control with subwoofers, the V-MAX was excellent in getting rid of the trunk rattles. And last but not least is the Deflex PowerPads. They made a noticeable difference in adding a cleaner sound out of my component door speakers, and reduced distortion.

Cascade Audio produced an excellent product line in VBLOK. When upgrading your car audio system, it is not only about speakers and amplifiers. You can increase the performance of your current system through sound control. And VBOLK products from Cascade Audio perform this function well. Then if you chose to upgrade your speakers later, they will sound even better. For more information and complete specs, check out their website at Based on their performance, Cascade Audio’s VBLOK products have earned our Highly Recommended award.