We have had a lot of calls recently from owners of newer BMW 1, 3 and 5 series vehicles complaining about the very poor sound quality of the factory audio system; even those with the Harman Kardon upgrade option. Some have described it as the worst sounding system they have ever heard! We have carefully listened to lots of these cars and can definitely agree. The bass is weak, the midrange is very confused and even where the optional tweeters are installed the treble is dull and lifeless.
Standard BMW speaker.
As if the poor speakers were not enough the problems are compounded by the head unit itself. Since BMW know that their installed speakers are of low performance the head unit is pre-equalised to prevent the user damaging them. This manifests itself as a roll off of bass as the volume increases; amongst other tricks such as reducing the treble when you think you are turning up the bass. All this adds up to a very disappointing performance with poor definition and a dreadful sound-stage.
But help is at hand. At Car and Home Stereo we have developed a 3 stage plan to improve any BMW audio system. All upgrades are specifically designed for the BMW and fit seamlessly with no changes to the vehicle interior. Each stage is a significant improvement and can be performed over time to spread the cost.
Stage 1; upgrading the speakers.
There are 6 speaker locations in the front of the BMW; tweeters either in the door or wing mirror position, mid speakers in the front doors and bass units under the front seats. There will also be two speaker locations in the back of the car.
A stage one system replaces the front speaker set as we are always most concerned with the sound for the front of the car. If your vehicle is not equipped with tweeter locations then the appropriate parts can be obtained from BMW spares. While we can just replace the mid speakers, the tweeters add a tremendous performance boost.
There are quite a few manufacturers producing a BMW speaker replacement kit and we take great care to match the speaker set to our customer’s preferences. Not all the sets have the same characteristics and choosing the right one is important to make sure it suits the application.
We can install the speaker set in as little as 3 hours; we guarantee you will be very impressed. This upgrade may be all you need to satisfy your tastes, but in case you want even better, read on.
Stage 2; amplification.
This is where we can make staggering improvements. It is not enough to just add a simple amplifier because if we did then we would just get a more powerful version of the original signal. This is fairly pointless as we know the signal from the factory head unit is poor with all the problems mentioned above. What we need is a way to overcome those problems and that means we need a DSP, a digital signal processor. These are powerful equalisers that allow us to adjust the head unit output to correct the built in problems.
Ideally the processor and amplifier should be the same unit and fortunately there are a range of very high quality units available from Audison, JL Audio and others. Like choosing the right speakers it is imperative that we choose the right amplifier to ensure we can realise the perfect sound for our customer.
One of our favourites is the Audison AP8.9. This compact 8 channel amplifier/processor is capable of providing power to the whole car system. It can even be enhanced with the addition of dedicated slave amplifiers to increase the system power. The real strength of these amplifiers lies with the DSP. It allows me to carefully tune the sound output to perfectly match the acoustic requirements of the vehicle and the musical tastes of the customer.
A stage 2 system is worlds better than the original and is often enough of an improvement to satisfy; but of course there is an obvious final step…
Stage 3; adding a sub-woofer.
Although the under seat speakers are 8 inch drivers they should not be considered sub-woofers, they are really bass speakers, an attempt to get too much low frequency will drive them to distortion. If you want plenty of deep bass then there is no alternative except to add a boot mounted sub-woofer. That does not mean there has to be a boot full of large speakers. On the contrary, we have many solutions that are extremely compact. Again we will choose the best solution for your needs from Hertz, JL Audio and Audison to name a few.
So there we have it, three simple stages to audio heaven in your BMW. Don’t forget that all of this is removable and can be reused in your next car; try doing that with a factory upgrade!
If you would like to know more about how we can improve the audio in your BMW or indeed any other car, please get in touch. Call us on 01625 432707 or better still call into our shop on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield. We look forward to speaking to you.