Corey Hicks is a champion for his Local 400 sisters and brothers. An electrical instrumentation technician at the Lipton plant in Suffolk, VA, he was a leader in organizing the workers in 2016. Ever since, he has served as a shop steward, fighting for his fellow members’ rights and their jobs, and helping them address other issues and problems.
But Corey is also a champion in another arena: car audio sound pressure competition. This past September, he won his 17th National Sound Pressure League (NSPL) world championship, putting him front and center in the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) conversation.
The NSPL is a competition to generate the greatest sound pressure out of a car audio system. Using his electronics expertise and knowledge of physics, Corey has rigged up his 1991 Plymouth Grand Voyager with four 15-inch subwoofers powered by four 10,000-watt amplifiers. His vehicle also has two high-output alternators and 96 military grade ultracapacitors to push the power to its absolute limits.
But that’s not all. Corey’s Grand Voyager has hundreds of pounds of sound deadening material to keep it from exploding under the pressure produced. Altogether, the equipment weighs more than 3,000 pounds, nearly doubling the vehicle’s weight.
As a result, it can produce sound pressure levels in excess of 167 decibels — roughly the same volume produced by a space shuttle rocket taking off at Cape Canaveral!
Corey notes that in these competitions, the sound is only generated for three seconds. “Anything longer and you’d do some serious damage, like breaking glass, splitting the metal or the subwoofers burning up,” he said. He always stands outside the vehicle during competitions or when testing the sound to prevent hearing loss.
He describes the NSPL as the audio equivalent of top-notch drag racing, where vehicles are rigged to hit 300 miles per hour, but only for a few seconds.
Corey’s Grand Voyager is not designed to be used as transportation. All the seats have been removed and it’s too heavy to be driven anyway. Nor is the audio system designed for listening to music. When he travels to competitions, which are held anywhere from Florida to New York and from Alabama to Indiana, he puts it on a trailer and tows it with his pickup truck.
He has rebuilt his van at least six times and is constantly working on it to exceed past performances. “Everyone else is improving and you have to stay ahead of the competition each and every year,” he said.
Corey doesn’t just work on his own van — he has also built NSPL competition vehicles for others. “I built a Honda and a truck and got them pretty close to my own at 163 decibels,” he said. “Each one takes about six months with constant testing. It’s a lot of work. But it’s very fulfilling.
“I’ve met a lot of people over the years,” Corey said. “It’s been really enjoyable. Along with my Local 400 brothers and sisters, it’s like having another family.”