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Elite Audio Kicking It In The Desert

The main man behind some of the automotive world’s outrageous sound systems, Jeff Cuvelier thought he was out of the custom audio game when he sold his ownership stake in Southern California-based Syndicate Automotive Concepts and moved to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., in the late 2000s. The Boston-born, 50-year-old audio wizard’s work has appeared in the pages of magazines such as Hot Rod and Lowrider as well as on the popular Ovehaulin’ television program and more.

Not everyone needs a $100,000 Kicker Marine Audio sound system with 28,000 amps of power in a 26-foot deckboat, but it’s nice to know what’s possible.

Vehicles with Cuvelier’s sound systems still appear regularly in the annual Specialty Equipment Marketing Association show known simply as SEMA in the automotive and powerboat worlds, and his celebrity clients have included Travis Barker, Ice Cube, Paul Wall, Leander Jordan, Shane Olivea and Sean Merriman.

But by the time he sold his share of the business and relocated to the desert, Cuvelier was done with that—or so he thought. Just three months ago, he and fiancé, Christyne Kappeli, and friend/business partner Shawn Lander opened Elite Audio, which creates and installs custom sound systems with Kicker Marine Audio products, “98 percent” of which are installed in powerboats.

“We are doing probably five boats a week now,” said Cuvelier. “We don’t want to be huge, we only want to have fun. And we only want to do boats.

“I originally moved here to retire,” he continued, then paused to chuckle. “We all work here. I have taught Christyne to do installations. Even my five-year-old, Jayde, pulls wire.”

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A signature project for Elite Audio, this 26-foot Rinker deckboat is a showcase for Kicker Marine Audio, the four-year title sponsor of the Desert Storm Poker Run.

In his prior professional life, Cuvelier worked with products from Alpine, JL Audio, Sony and others. He got to know Kicker Marine Audio through its four-year Desert Storm Poker Run title sponsorship, which led to him designing and installing a showpiece sound system for the company in his 26-foot Rinker deckboat. Now he installs custom sound systems exclusively created with components from the Oklahoma-based company.

Complete with Kicker Marine Audio-inspired graphics from Ontario, Calif.-based Gator Wraps (which also has a location in Lake Havasu City), the deckboat is a calling card for Elite Audio.

Cuvelier, Kappeli and Lander have installed sound systems in go-fast offerings from DCB Performance Boats, Doug Wright Designs, Eliminator Boats and other builders of note. The common denominators among those systems, explained Cuvelier, who returned from a training session last week at Kicker’s Oklahoma City home-based headquarters, are value and reliability.

Elite Audio has installed Kicker Marine sounds systems and in high-performance powerboats such as this DCB F-29 catamaran owned by Rod Voegele of Gator Wraps.

“When you compare Kicker Marine Audio-built systems to other brands, you get a lot for your money and they’re bulletproof,” he said. “I have a $100,000 stereo system in my boat and you can play it for 10 hours without an issue. It never lets you down.

“The key with these systems is they have to be bulletproof,” he continued. “People who come out here to the lake generally have a limited amount of time. Their time is worth way more than being let down by their boat or its sound system. They just want their stuff to work, and with Kicker Marine Audio it does.”

Of course, not everyone needs 32 speakers, 14 amplifiers, six subwoofers and 28,000 amps worth of power in a 26-foot deckboat. Nor do most clients have the means for such an outrageous sound system that can be heard in other ZIP codes.

Cuvelier said that Elite Audio’s “average” customer spends $5,000 to $7,500 on a sound system.

“You can do a great Kicker Marine Audio system in a boat for under $10,000,” he said. “And as I said, the stuff is bulletproof. Kicker never lets you down.”

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