Exhaust; Tone Matters
Noise: in our personal lives, we tend to isolate ourselves from as much of it as humanly possible. We buy noise-canceling headphones and earbuds, sound insulation for our homes, and we go camping in the great outdoors to escape the hustle, bustle, and noise of the city. Automakers do their best to isolate the driver from noise as well. They use thicker glass, more sound insulation, and even acoustic technology to cancel noises, using more noise! All this to ensure you cant hear Karen talking way too loudly on her phone with Bluetooth.
But as car enthusiasts, we enjoy the noise. Nothing quite gets our blood pumping like the sweet, sweet purr of a nicely tuned engine. We pride ourselves on being able to tell the difference between different Japanese sports cars just by the exhaust note. And what’s more American than the roar of a Chevy V8? Many enthusiasts, myself included, modify our car’s exhaust system to make more noise. We install headers, mid-pipes with cat deletes, and we take out the muffler and replace it with what is perhaps the greatest automotive feat of engineering since the 2JZ: a $25 eBay fart can. It’s loud, droney, and a joy to hear at 3 AM. But it’s loud! Unfortunately, many in the automotive community are a bit ‘tone-deaf.’
“Cheap is not always better”
Young car enthusiasts like myself tend to be oft on the verge of bankruptcy. Alternatively, just ask any RX-8 owner. Since money is tight and quality parts are expensive, we prioritize some upgrades over others. Coilovers, wheels and tires, drilled and slotted rotors with bigger calipers, painted to either stand out or match, of course, wings, short shifters, and clutch kits take priority over things like exhaust and interior niceties because they directly affect the drivability and performance of the car. Performance upgrades are much more noticeable. A lower car handles better, bigger brakes stop faster, better wheels and tires mean more grip or better slide power. An exhaust system provides some performance gains, but most are less than 20HP. Therefore we tend to cheap out on them. Why spend $1500 on an exhaust system with the power gained is minimal and I can get the same sheer increase in volume for less than half that price. Tone and quality— that’s why.
A good exhaust is made of quality materials, with quality welds, that will hold up over time. A quality exhaust will also avoid droning— that God awful, trumpet-like noise that, much like Karen, won’t stop while at idle or while cruising. A good exhaust will roar to life while under load and acceleration. Or in the case of early RX-8 owners, every time you shut off the car. This is what you should want. But more importantly, there should be a tone. Something deep and throaty, not just loud.
To achieve this magical and wonderful combination you’ll need to do some research. And by research, I don’t mean going to eBay, searching for exhaust, and filtering by cheapest to most expensive. Get on forums; see what others are using; use Youtube to see what different exhaust setups sound like. You need to decide what material you want to use: can you do a cat delete? Straight pipe? Glass packs or resonators? Muffler or no muffler? Pipe size?
These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself to find the sound you’re looking for.
You also need to be prepared to spend money. Quality exhaust systems, like quality Coilovers, cost money. For example, Racing Beat out of California specializes in Mazda performance parts. They dyno every car before and after they install their parts, and they spend months fine-tuning everything. This means they aren’t cheap. A set up for an RX-8 is around $1500, even an NB1 Miata, without a cat delete, is around $800. This may sound like lots of cash for little performance in return, but trust me— it’s worth it. The minute you hear the noise it makes when you start pulling to redline, that makes it all worth it.
I hope this has helped you understand the importance of a good exhaust. It’s not cheap, and it takes time and effort, but your ears will be rewarded