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1996 Pontiac Firebird 3.8L V6
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys, I just recently acquired a 1996 3.8L Firebird. I've been browsing this forum for various small things that needed to be worked on, namely the coolant system and new differential fluid. I'm not a super mechanic by any means but I've flushed, diagnosed, and fixed the coolant leak/issue with the vehicle. Now there are no leaks, all new fluids, runs great.

My only real question is, what should I do now?

The previous owner already jacked up the audio system so I was planning on rewiring all of that properly. And adding new speakers. (After reading the forum this seems to be a common problem.) But besides that, there aren't any issues. I've been working on this slowly as I know there is a lot that comes with doing this. I do not believe I have a monsoon system, and I honestly have no idea what the previous owner did, all I know is that whatever they did, they did a bad job of it. I'm wondering how the door speaker/tweeter combo works? Can I throw any old speaker/tweeter in there? I'd assume not? If you know about this please let me know.

I was wondering of anything I should be looking out for that often goes bad with these? I'm big into preventative maintenance so I want to make this thing as reliable as possible. It is a DD, however, I have my own work truck so realistically it only gets driven on the weekends, or ~1 to 2 hours during the odd weekday I get off work early.

Sorry, I know this post is kind of vague and rambly but I'm just trying to figure out what people think about my situation on here before I start doing anything crazy.

Thanks!
 

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Welcome to Firebird Nation ! ! !

Do you have a copy of the 1996 factory service manual? If not, free download here:


That should help with the audio system. Look at your Service Parts Identification label in the glove box to ident the RPO code for the audio system.
 
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DELCO NERD
1993 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, LT1 5.7L V8
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Welcome!

No need to worry about the Monsoon system, as it wasn't available in Firebirds until the 1997 model year. Is your car a convertible?
 

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DELCO NERD
1993 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, LT1 5.7L V8
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So, by the "door speaker/tweeter combo," you mean that your door has separate speaker covers for the tweeter (smaller) and the midrange (larger), correct?
 

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1996 Pontiac Firebird 3.8L V6
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So, by the "door speaker/tweeter combo," you mean that your door has separate speaker covers for the tweeter (smaller) and the midrange (larger), correct?
Yes, it has separate covers for both. I also know it has one rear seat speaker on each side of the car. The only thing I'm not sure of as I'm not able to see the car right now is if it has speakers by the back hatch or not.
 

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DELCO NERD
1993 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, LT1 5.7L V8
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It should have the speakers in the rear hatch, which would make ten speakers. Your system is factory amplified, with the amplifier powering the sail panel (rear seat) speakers as factory "subwoofers." The remaining speakers are powered directly by the head unit. Until you start removing speakers and inspecting the attached wiring, there's no telling what the previous owner(s) did.

Is there an aftermarket head unit in the car now?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It should have the speakers in the rear hatch, which would make ten speakers. Your system is factory amplified, with the amplifier powering the sail panel (rear seat) speakers as factory "subwoofers." The remaining speakers are powered directly by the head unit. Until you start removing speakers and inspecting the attached wiring, there's no telling what the previous owner(s) did.

Is there an aftermarket head unit in the car now?
Yes, it had some cheapo amazon one, and sadly didn't come with the original so I just put a slightly better sony one in so that I would at least have the luxury of Bluetooth 😂. I already bought 12ga wiring to rewire the new speakers as I've seen that 12ga is the perfect amount of overkill for most speakers.

For some more information, the previous owner had ran wires to the back which by looking at them I can only assume was for another aftermarket sub in the trunk. I have yet to take any panels off to see whether any speakers have been replaced or messed with, as I plan on redoing all wiring and speakers anyways so I didn't think it mattered too much what was stock and what wasn't. The previous owner also added some unsightly, approximately 16-dollar, tweeters that you could buy at the dollar store. They are positioned next to the sun visors and sound awful so I will be removing those as well. I've been trying to find some solid information regarding good speakers, but it seems the car audio community across the web is very conflicted as to what is a good brand speaker for anything under $500 per speaker :rolleyes:
 

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DELCO NERD
1993 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, LT1 5.7L V8
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When it comes to speakers, I'd be less concerned about brand and price, and more concerned about the specifications of the speaker. Specifically, things like the frequency response chart (not every manufacturer offers one) and sensitivity are very telling on how it will perform.

Are you planning on powering all of the speakers from an amplifier? If not, 12 AWG wire is exactly that: overkill. Most installers use 16 AWG for pre-amp speakers, and you could get away with 18 AWG, which is what most factory systems use. The shortcomings with factory systems are typically found in the speakers, not the wiring.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
When it comes to speakers, I'd be less concerned about brand and price, and more concerned about the specifications of the speaker. Specifically, things like the frequency response chart (not every manufacturer offers one) and sensitivity are very telling on how it will perform.

Are you planning on powering all of the speakers from an amplifier? If not, 12 AWG wire is exactly that: overkill. Most installers use 16 AWG for pre-amp speakers, and you could get away with 18 AWG, which is what most factory systems use. The shortcomings with factory systems are typically found in the speakers, not the wiring.
No, they will be powered directly from the radio as they are now. Yeah, I went with the overkill 12 instead of 16 because it was nearly identical in price because of a discount going on and because I've seen audiophiles say that it will help with resistance and whatnot. I have no idea if that is true or not, but I figured it was worth a shot since it was basically a free upgrade from 16gauge to 12gauge.

As far as the frequency response chart, sensitivity, and otherwise, I will have to look into this, that is great info thank you. Do you have any recommendations on speakers/brands that have good specs?

Also maybe I missed it, but did we conclude that I could just slap pretty much any tweeter/mid range combo in the doors? I'd definitely like a confirmation on this before I start looking at speakers. I've got a month or two yet before work slows down enough to get working on this project, but I'm very excited to start ordering and watching the boxes arrive lol.
 

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DELCO NERD
1993 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, LT1 5.7L V8
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The factory door speakers are components, that is, the midrange and tweeter reproduce different frequency ranges and are both powered by the head unit. Your typical aftermarket replacement speaker will be a of coaxial (or dual cone - avoid those) configuration where both a tweeter and woofer are present. Assuming your factory tweeters are present and working, you could disconnect those and use a coaxial speaker in place of the factory midrange. If you want a component-style set-up with separate tweeters and woofers, you'd need a simple woofer speaker otherwise your sound image would be too "bright" with treble. They're out there, but harder to find and they don't reproduce midrange frequencies all that well. They are typically designed for subwoofer applications.

If the previous owner replaced speakers and did a poor job of it, I'd be surprised if they did anything with the factory tweeters other than cut or damage the wiring to them when they removed the door panels.

I'm sorry but I don't have any recommendations on specific brands of speakers. The models are constantly changing and I haven't installed anything in years.
 
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1993 6-spd T/A - 1996 C4
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I've been trying to find some solid information regarding good speakers, but it seems the car audio community across the web is very conflicted as to what is a good brand speaker for anything under $500 per speaker :rolleyes:
That is because "sound" is extremely subjective.

You mention those tweeters. ...they were still hooked up, right? Obviously the previous owner liked them. They might even recommend them to you. When it comes to the door and hatch speakers which reproduce all of the midrange and highs, our ears are all very different, and some are more critical than others.

The best advice I or anyone can give you is to actually listen to them before purchase. Walk into a Best Buy or any local car audio shop and demo the speakers you could buy. Connect your phone and play something you know well. Easy "A/B comparison" in-store to instantly hear the difference between sets of speakers. Your ears will choose something for you. Your ears might even prefer a $50 set over a $200 set. Who knows? Not me, so I'd be a fool to recommend anything, right? Seriously, just go listen. It doesn't matter if you buy separates or co-axials so long as they are sized appropriately and you like their sound.

Only you know how serious you are about sound, budget and buy accordingly.

Subwoofers, REAL subwoofers, not those panty-waist things in the sail panels are an area you can kind-of/probably cheap out. Skar Audio, pretty much still an upstart in my eyes is made right here in St. Petersburg, Florida, they seem to be doing well in "reviews". I'm intrigued with their Dollar to Watt ratio. A few hundred bucks in subs and an amplifier from them and you can literally blow your windshield out. Sundown Audio, been around a bit longer, think they are in NC, same deal. Cheap subs and amplifiers, huge results. Taramps, Brazil? is in this class and pretty respectable too. These companies claim high power ratings for very little dollars. Unlike 90% of the "cheap" amp and speaker brands out there though these guys put out their claims and then some. None of that 300w amplifier marketed as 3,000w crap. They say 3kW, they mean 3kW+.

Now, we can debate the level of "control" those cheap but awesome amplifiers have over the subs. I certainly question it and often wonder if I would be satisfied with them overall because I do have a critical ear and at times listen to complex music. So, how well do they transition between frequencies? I have no idea. They are primarily used in SPL competition and as such pretty much play only "one note". I do know that if I paid much, much more for a "comparable" JL Audio amplifier I would not question how "musical" it is, how well it can control a speaker, or if I could be disappointed by it.

The most important thing though with subwoofers is the amount of power and the box itself. The box needs to be sized for the speakers, and low frequencies initially suck a lot of juice at volume. If a subwoofer box is .75 cubic feet, match it with a speaker that is "optimal" in .75 cubic feet. That is so much more important than brand-name really. I had the Firebird/Camaro box that fills the rear well. It was cut for 12" speakers which I had. It hit pretty hard for the kick-drum, and somewhere between 45-50Hz, it came to life for one specific frequency and made your vision blurry. Below and above that one single "optimal" frequency, nothing. Why? My box totaled 1.5 cubic feet and my subwoofers required 4 cubic feet each. Any size speaker designed for .75 cubic feet of air-space would have been louder and hit so much harder over a wider range of frequencies. Even a speaker designed for 1.5 cubic feet would have been a major improvement, but it still would have been far inferior to a matched speaker for the enclosure.

Of course, don't buy 100w subwoofers and a 1,000w amplifier. ...or vice-versa. Buy an amplifier rated somewhere between the speakers RMS and Peak. Make sure the power and ground wires are suitable for for the amplifiers power. Seriously.

The sail panel speakers really aren't worth perusing as/for subwoofers, and that is a crap location for a full range speaker. It is too close to your ear so it destroys all stereo imaging, and God Bless any rear seat passenger.

Subwoofer(s) are mandatory though. It doesn't matter what you spend or what brand you buy for the doors and hatch, they will need complimented with a subwoofer or two. All systems need a subwoofer, and that's not the bass-head in me talking. While my current automotive system will shake your fillings loose if I throw in Pink Floyd's Welcome to the Machine, the Audiophile in me says the best subwoofer is the one you don't hear until it's removed.

I think even a single active 10" or 12" SaS Bazooka Tube would sound pretty good in the trunk against any head units amplifier. I started with two passive 6" Bazookas carried over from my Ford Ranger and a 200w "equivalent" amplifier. They played off the hatch rather nicely and complimented the factory system very well through (not "up to") moderate listening levels. Certainly exponentially better than the factory sail panel subs and at much higher volume levels. Nothing "Earth shaking" of course, but for 6" speakers, they played down into the low 30s comfortably. I could probably have been really happy with the larger SaS tubes myself because I was certainly impressed with the 6's. Got a deal I couldn't pass up though on that Firebird/Camaro box and the 2 wildly inappropriate 12" subs, so, that's what I got stuck with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
That is because "sound" is extremely subjective.

You mention those tweeters. ...they were still hooked up, right? Obviously the previous owner liked them. They might even recommend them to you. When it comes to midrange and highs (door and hatch speakers), our ears are all very different, and some are more critical than others. The best advice I can give you is to listen to them before purchase. Walk into a Best Buy or any local car audio shop and demo the speakers you could buy. Connect your phone and play something you know well. Easy "A/B comparison" in-store to instantly hear the difference between sets of speakers. Your ears will choose something. Your ears might even prefer a $50 set over a $200 set. Who knows? Not me, so I'd be a fool to recommend anything, right? Seriously, just go listen. It doesn't matter if you buy separates or co-axials so long as they are sized appropriately and you like their sound.

Only you know how serious you are about sound, budget and buy accordingly.

Subwoofers, REAL subwoofers, not those panty-waist things in the sail panels are an area you can kind-of cheap out. Skar Audio, pretty much still an upstart in my eyes is made right here in St. Petersburg, Florida, they seem to be doing well in "reviews". I'm intrigued with their Dollar to SPL ratio. A few hundred bucks in subs and an amplifier from them and you can literally blow your windshield out. Sundown Audio, been around a bit longer, think they are in NC, same deal. Cheap subs and amplifiers, huge results. Taramps, Brazilian, is in this class and pretty respectable too. These companies claim high power ratings for very little dollars. Unlike 90% of the "cheap" amp companies out there, these guys put out their claims if not greater. None of this 300w amplifier marketed as 3,000w crap. They say 3kW, they mean 3kW+. The most important thing though with subwoofers is the amount of power and the box itself. The box needs to be sized for the speakers, and low frequencies are very expensive to produce at volume. The lower the bass drops, the more amperage the speakers suck up. 1000w amplifiers almost never hit 1,000w, heck, they hardly hit 300w, but when the times comes to drop low at volume, they will peak momentarily near 1,000w. As they say, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

If a subwoofer box is .75 cubic feet, match it with a speaker that is "optimal" in .75 cubic feet. That is so much more important than brand-name really. I had the Firebird/Camaro box that fills the rear well. It was cut for 12" speakers which I had. It hit very hard for the kick-drum, and somewhere between 45-50Hz, it came to life for one specific frequency. Below that 45/50Hz and from that "optimal" note to the cut-off frequency, nothing. See, my box totaled 1.5 cubic feet. .75 per speaker. My subwoofers required 4 cubic feet each. Even if I removed the divider between speakers, blocked off one hole, and used only one subwoofer, my speaker was still not even close to its "optimal" air volume. A pair of 8" subwoofers in that box would have been superior.

Of course, don't buy 100w subwoofers and a 1,000w amplifier. ...or vice-versa.

The sail panel speakers aren't worth perusing as subwoofers, and that is a crap location for a full range speaker. It is too close to your ear, and God help any rear seat passengers. Subwoofer(s) are mandatory. I ran the door and hatch speakers with a pair of subs, never missed the sail panel speakers in any capacity. I doubt anybody would. Doesn't matter what you spend or what brand you buy for the doors and hatch, they will need complimented with a sub(s). You might even get away with a 2.1 system. Door speakers and a subwoofer.

A single 10" or 12" SaS Bazooka Tube would sound pretty good. I started with two 6" Bazookas from my Ford Ranger and a 100w "equivalent" amplifier. They played off the hatch rather nicely and complimented the factory system very well.
Very well put and very informational, thank you! I guess I will take your suggestion and go check out some speakers after the upcoming holiday. So you're saying that it is worth putting a sub in similar to the way the previous owner did, because even good speakers in the rear won't produce the right/quality sound? I'm not looking for crazy bass that is going to "rattle the tin can" but I would enjoy some nice deep base so I may look into this as well, so thank you for the clarification to check the space required for the subwoofer. I also plan on temporarily gutting the interior as I am rewiring and putting new speakers in to also add sound and vibration deadening. Idk if you have ever done something like this, but I feel that it would compliment a new audio set-up nicely. What are your thoughts on this?

1993 it is all good, thank you for all your help! I want to keep the separate mid-range and tweeter idea if I can, so I will try to find separate units as you suggested. Previously you explained that the back speakers are powered by the stock amplifier. Should I be worried about putting new speakers in but leaving the old amplifier? Should I take this stock amplifier out and replace it with a new one? What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks a ton guys you are helping me out a lot here (y)(y)
 

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DELCO NERD
1993 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, LT1 5.7L V8
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Assuming the factory amplifier is still there and working, it should sound good with a quality speaker that has (1) an appropriately low frequency response, say around 60 Hz or lower and (2) has a smooth roll-off on the low end of the frequency response chart. Avoid sharp drop-off on the chart, as it will produce linear distortion and there's no fixing it unless you choose a different speaker.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Assuming the factory amplifier is still there and working, it should sound good with a quality speaker that has (1) an appropriately low frequency response, say around 60 Hz or lower and (2) has a smooth roll-off on the low end of the frequency response chart. Avoid sharp drop-off on the chart, as it will produce linear distortion and there's no fixing it unless you choose a different speaker.
Copy. I will look closely into the frequency response charts. I'm looking forward to the search! Thanks for all your help.
 

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Ramblin' Wreck
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For what it is worth, my 98TA still has exact replacement original (eBay) speakers and I love them with the original amp. I tried aftermarket brand expensive ones once and threw them away.
 
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Subwoofers, REAL subwoofers, ... are an area you can kind-of/probably cheap out. Skar Audio, pretty much still an upstart in my eyes is made right here in St. Petersburg, Florida, they seem to be doing well in "reviews". I'm intrigued with their Dollar to Watt ratio. A few hundred bucks in subs and an amplifier from them and you can literally blow your windshield out. ... Unlike 90% of the "cheap" amp and speaker brands out there though these guys put out their claims and then some. None of that 300w amplifier marketed as 3,000w crap. They say 3kW, they mean 3kW+.

Now, we can debate the level of "control" those cheap but awesome amplifiers have over the subs. I certainly question it and often wonder if I would be satisfied with them overall because I do have a critical ear and at times listen to complex music. So, how well do they transition between frequencies? I have no idea. They are primarily used in SPL competition and as such pretty much play only "one note". I do know that if I paid much, much more for a "comparable" JL Audio amplifier I would not question how "musical" it is, how well it can control a speaker, or if I could be disappointed by it.

Well... I'm putting my money where my mouth is and I'm about find out how well a Skar Audio SKv2-1500.1 actually performs. I keep recommending the company because I've seen their amps perform on various dynos. I've seen what kind of loads they can drive. I've seen Skar systems shatter windshields and watched doors flex away from the chassis as the waveform rolled over them. ...seen all the hair-tricks. They definitely and without doubt are heavy hitters in the SPL arena.

They seem to get a lot of hate though. Even I'm someone who would think poorly of them if I was considering them as an Audiophile grade contender, and I don't think I'd appreciate one of their amps for mid-bass and above in my system under any circumstance; but as something to push hungry subwoofers within a very limited range of frequencies?

How bad can it be?

Worse than the 160w Circuit City MTX amp I paid nearly as much for 18 years ago that I'm using today? Equal to the "High Current" 50w MTX amplifier I paid over a thousand dollars for more than 25 years ago that actually laid down nearly 1,200w? I know for a fact this amplifier is almost 10 times more powerful than the current MTX, and, it's as matched to my current speakers as an amplifier can get. They are 1,000w RMS / 2,000w Peak. The current MTX is nowhere near that obviously, but, it will shake your eyeballs.

I've been debating buying a properly sized amplifier since mid-July when I got the speakers. It's supposedly not good to drive hungry subs with such little power, even said so earlier in the thread; but, again, eyeballs. Haven't smelled any voice coils yet but the MTX has been running really hot though. 10 years of subwoofer duty and I never knew it had a fan until I bought these subwoofers! Now, for the 3rd time in two months it didn't "make boom" when the music began. Wiggling wires? Nothing. A good smack? Boom! ...well, more like wub-wub-wub in this case, but still, time to seriously consider a new and properly sized amplifier; but which one?

Kicker, who makes the speakers and enclosure, would recommend the KXA1600.1 (1600w peak / 75dB SNR) for $830
JL Audio would sell me the RD1500/1 (1500w RMS / >82dB SNR) for $780
MTX would want me to get the Jackhammer (1650w RMS / 70dB SNR) for $600

I would likely buy the JL Audio RD1500/1. Maybe I'd seriously look at the Orion HCCA3000.1DSPLX for $700 and lean on it because of the 90dB SNR; but then there's this Skar SKv2-1500.1 (1500w RMS / 2200w Peak / 95dB SNR certified) for $265. W H Y N O T?

So, I did. Yesterday at 12:30p. Straight from Skar themselves, and UPS just delivered it.

...as I sat here last night, I read a lot of what people have to say about Skar. The hate is real, but there is an equal amount of love. Digging deeper, it appears both camps have some merit. Skar's RP series is Chinese, and the SK series is Korean. The SK series is built/spec'd to a higher standard. Google will tell you Skar is an American company who makes car audio products but it appears more like "imports and rebrands", but even then, I have no issue with Korean electronics. Got a few choice words for Chinese products though.

I'm going to go throw it in the car now and see how long it takes to blow the fuse. This amp calls for a 160A fuse and I think what I have now is 40A. I also need to upgrade from the 8ga wire currently in service to 1/0 here in a few days.

Wish I had a way to compare this amplifier against my MTX Thunder 225HO (the 1200w "50w" competition amplifier) but It burned up 10 years ago, and while pushing speakers of similar size and power, they were in a box 8 times smaller than they needed so they didn't do much of anything. I couldn't even tell I "downgraded" so far when I swapped it out for the 160w MTX. The speakers I have now though are in an "optimal" enclosure. Even at only 160w, these subs are orders of magnitude better than the old setup, and size should matter. Worst case, it's the same as the MTX. ...minus the need to smack it to make Boom.

OK... Boy just told me I'm taking him and Mom to Blaze Pizza, guess I'll get back on this in an hour or so.

...can't they tell I'm too excited to eat!?
 

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Ramblin' Wreck
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Do the right thing....and don't annoy the rest of us with your ridiculously loud music. If you need 1500 watts, you should visit an ear doctor before it is too late. My boat has a 2000 Watt sub amp and I never use it.
 

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Ridiculous? Yeah, that about sums up the looks I get at stoplights when Sing, Sing, Sing is turned up to "11". Krupa on those drums though, how could I not?
 
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Ridiculous? Yeah, that about sums up the looks I get at stoplights when Sing, Sing, Sing is turned up to "11". Krupa on those drums though, how could I not?
Odds are the OP is too young for Krupa. Try Tommy Dorsey's Hawaiian War Chant.
Kinda music my parents played and I grew up on.
Perhaps he'd prefer the In A Gadda Da Vida drum riff. LOL!
 
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