FOUNDER OF HYBRID AUDIO TECHNOLOGIES
The Latin translation of the word Legacy is Legatia. This very word is well known and respected in the world of mobile electronics speakers and auto sound competition, due to one man’s endless passion and decades-long pursuit of excellence in his lifestyle. The man is Scott Buwalda from a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. One man, twelve International Auto Sound Challenge Association (IASCA) North American Championships and many vehicle features have passed, but who is this man that has accomplished so much?
The year was 1986. Scott Buwalda was a junior in High School and known for being a talented musician. Having played the drums since fifth grade, music, and the love and appreciation of all things music, emanated from every fiber of Buwalda’s being. Buwalda was also a self-described car nut – having spent many hours helping his older brother restore muscle cars, particularly the Oldsmobile 442 and W30 platform. Where does a teenage musician/car freak gravitate? You guessed it: car audio and electronics.
In March of 1987, after having spent the months previous designing and installing his first car audio system with the help of high school buddies, Scott drove to Jupiter, Florida, then competed with his 1984 Nissan Sentra in the Car Audio Nationals Prelims II event. A fourth-place finish was enough to hook him into what would become a lifetime journey into sound and music reproduction, which, even at one point early in life, included a recording contract in Los Angeles, California. Being a young talent, he was faced with the decision to move to LA for possible fortune and fame or head off to college to earn a well-respected education.
Choosing college over possible fame and a Rock-n-Roll lifestyle, Scott decided on Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, leaving the balmy South Florida climate in search of higher education. The year was 1988. It was here that he was introduced to the art department on campus. Fully equipped with every saw and material needed, he used these resources to continue his passion for car audio and sound quality at loud volumes. Feeling the emotion from different genres of music and realizing that it was a motivating, driving force within, Scott set out to hone his skills in both listening and craftsmanship in car audio. Buwalda was also able to woo his future wife Patti while at Calvin and convinced her to move back down to South Florida in the spring of 1991.
Buwalda continued in his car audio passion and began working on his new vehicle, a 1990 Ford Mustang Steeda GT. Having secured a sponsorship from the MTX Corporation through his home shop Sound Advice in Boca Raton, Florida, work began on a competitive pro-level installation. No longer in the amateur ranks, Buwalda knew he’d need to step up his game. It was Spring Break Nationals (SBN) in 1993, at Daytona Beach, Florida. He unveiled a trend-setting installation with the first sixth-order bandpass subwoofer enclosure, made entirely of acrylic, making it fully transparent. The vehicle was a success at this event, winning the show in IASCA’s Pro 1-150 watt class, Buwalda’s first outing as a Pro. With this accomplishment, Buwalda sought sponsorship to continue development in audio and to progress in his journey as a competitor. Over the following years, through collaborations with companies such as MTX, Precision Power, and Rockford Fosgate, his experience was being developed with many World Finals top-5 accomplishments in his class. In 1998, he traveled to Dallas, Texas, to enter his newly built Nissan 240SX SE into the Expert Class at the IASCA Championships. Much to the amazement of his competition, Buwalda debuted the industry’s first motorized speaker system, a set of infinitely-adjustable kick panels where the listener was able to choose from a set of preprogrammed angles, as to achieve the best performance for imaging and sound quality results. The hard work paid off, and Buwalda won the Expert Division that year. As he recalls, “like a shark, once you have the taste of blood in your mouth, you want more and more!” The next few years went by with decent results from that vehicle, but no championships, so the car was retired from competition in 2002 with its lone Championship in 1998.
Moving on to a new vehicle, a Nissan Altima was chosen to showcase an installation that would set itself apart from the competition. With most every high caliber car flaunting stereo systems full of painted fiberglass and Plexiglas, the Altima was a completely different animal. Opting for a more reserved install with a purpose, Buwalda mounted amplifiers to a welded in amp rack with the wiring exposed but ran neatly for viewing. His front stage was a rarely seen 3-way setup, not very common for that era of car audio. Purpose produced results, and the Altima won the IASCA Expert Division in both 2003 and 2004. All the whole campaigning the Altima, Buwalda had a “little secret” project that he had begun working on in February 2003; Buwalda’s fourth planned competition car in an already storied car audio history. Playing possum, Scott purposely lead his opposition to believe he was retiring from competition. Teaming up with friend Dwayne Blackwood, Scott opted for co-pilot in Dwayne’s Mustang project that earned a Championship at IASCA Finals in 2006. During this same time, Scott debuted his new secret project, but at a decidedly non-electronics venue, his Nissan Silvia show car, the product of three and a half years of continuous labor up to this point, was debuted at the Atlanta International Auto Show. Represented as a show car and demo vehicle, the Silvia was a massive success with enthusiasts and the media, earning numerous articles about the car and the attention to detail and labor put into the project. With the Silvia used as a beta tester in Scott’s ongoing development of his soon to launch speaker brand, Hybrid Audio Technologies, it was just a matter of time before Scott would reveal the goal in all of his efforts.
Taking the Nissan Silvia project back to the shop after twelve months of campaigning, including fourteen full-length articles, several enhancements were undertaken to ensure the car would deliver a knock-out punch at any show where it competed. A year and a half later, in early 2009, the rumor mill was churning with what Buwalda was building. With SBN as one of Buwalda’s favorite events, and for many years being a “local event,” the newly enhanced Nissan Silvia was released, this time in a decidedly black exterior color theme. The car quickly became known as “Black Betty,” the scourge of its competition from coast to coast. Buwalda’s greatest achievement emerged with new paint, and monster engine build. Including McIntosh amplifiers and Alcantara suede/ leather interior, all of which were contributing factors in earning the highest ever points earned at IASCA finals at 921.5 points; Scott’s efforts had paid off by winning the Expert division, again (that makes five times). The Silvia continued to dominate the world of sound quality competition with Championships following in 2010 as well, this time with yet another high-score of 996 points. In a letter dated April 15, 2011, IASCA confirmed that the score of 996 points was the highest ever recorded by any competitor, in any organization, and any part of the world. Black Betty was and is the most exceptional car audio system ever built, and was recognized by most and feared by all in her path (for those keeping score, that’s six IASCA Championships). You’d think that would have been enough, right? Think again. Having earned the nickname “Dr. Buwalda” many years prior by fellow Team Hybrids members, Buwalda began work on yet another new vehicle. Buwalda wanted to prove a point to the people accustomed to seeing a $300,000 vehicle win the Championship, primarily to show that good design and product can stand on its own. To this end, Buwalda designed and built what he calls “a functionally creative” car audio system in his daily-driven Infiniti G35. The first and only show for this new installation was the 2011 IASCA Championships, held on the weekend of March 24-25, 2012. When the dust settled, Buwalda once again stood alone atop the leaderboard, winning the 2011 IASCA Expert Solo Sound and Expert Install divisions, with the highest points in each category and highest points of the entire event. When details began to leak onto the car audio forums, many could not believe that the vehicle had won having no tweeters and using Class D amplification, both commonly thought of as exceptions to the rule of sound quality. With this win, Scott Buwalda earned his seventh and eighth-lifetime IASCA World Championships in the Expert Division, and capping more than one hundred lifetime wins, head and shoulders above all who share in his arena. Later in the same year, he would repeat the feat, earning his ninth and tenth-lifetime IASCA Expert championships with the same vehicle.
Following an eight and a half year hiatus, Scott returned with the infamous ‘Black Betty’ to compete in the 2019 IASCA North American Championship.
What pulled Scott and his championship car out of their almost decade-long slumber? It was the inauguration of IASCA’s ‘Extreme Open’ division, a new class aimed at getting the heavy hitters of yesteryear off the sidelines and back into organized competition.
The format includes an “extreme” installation format of 437 available points (80 more than IASCA’s expert division), combined with IASCA’s sound quality format of 261 possible points, which evaluates the cars in this class the akin to IASCA’s founding, where sound and install were required of all competitors.
After the dust had settled, Buwalda earned the Championship with a whopping 663.5 points — the highest overall sound quality score and the highest install score of the event, and the highest combined percentage of 91.1% in the 2019 Championship.
The vehicle had initially been refreshed with added subwoofers and other minor upgrades to compete in the Aggieland World-Class Sound Quality Championship earlier this year. However, due to an unforeseen mandatory surgery, Scott couldn’t join the vehicle at that event. So, planning began to bring the car to the IASCA Championships, and further adjustments made to maximize its abilities were the subject of hundreds of hours of labor during the summer months.
Because of ‘Black Betty,’ IASCA retired the rules in 2011, which allowed for unlimited installation creativity points to be awarded. Only this year has a format been reintroduced, giving a place for extreme vehicles, like Buwalda’s, a place to compete again in IASCA.
The “next step” for Scott and ‘Black Betty’ will be to compete at the 2019 European Multimedia Association (EMMA) Finals in Salzburg, Austria, in March 2020. The car is prepared and already underway on the 4,800-mile journey to get there, making Buwalda the first competitor to compete a North American car at the Euro / Eurasian Finals.
Legatia. Remember that word from the beginning? In 2005, as Scott was preparing to start his own speaker company, he was faced with his mother being diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. Already having named his company Hybrid Audio Technologies, he was searching for the name of the first speaker he would introduce to the world. In a bedside visit with his Mother in April 2006, Scott told her that he was going to carry on life as her Legacy, her Legatia and that the speaker he would build first would be named Legatia in honor of her and her life. Two months later, his mother went to Heaven, but a Legacy was born.
The Legatia brand has since become recognized around the world as some of the finest car audio speakers available, at any price. Likewise, Buwalda’s company, Hybrid Audio Technologies, has grown tremendously since 2006, with record growth and sales in 2019. Hybrid Audio Technologies products are sold in forty different countries around the world, including right here in the USA.
The idea sparked in 2005 has turned into a worldwide phenomenon. Many view the resurgence and appreciation of sound quality over the past five or six years to a renaissance inspired in whole by Buwalda and Hybrid Audio Technologies. Buwalda, in his typical modest demeanor, smiles and says, “I am truly fortunate.”
For Scott, offering a quality product on a worldwide scale is now a reflection of choices made over the past thirty-five years, but Scott knows that a family legacy is what truly drives his lifestyle today.