Audio Upgrade Help

Discussion in 'E46 M3 (2001-2006)' started by Alex5000, Apr 13, 2018.

  1. 13 Apr 2018 at 10:09 PM #1
    Alex5000

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    I've done so much research into this now and read many a forum thread and still don't feel any closer to an answer.

    Looking to upgrade my sound system to something better than present. The speakers in the e46 seem particularly poor and almost any other car sounds better than my supposedly luxury German performance car. Bizzarre.

    Anyway, that's out the way. I believe my car has the base audio 'business CD'. Which seems to be 2x speakers and 2x tweeters in the front doors and 2x speakers on the rear shelf. So six total.

    In the US it seems, they had a Hi-fi option (of which bavsound sell an upgrade kit) and the Harmon Kardon which we also have here. I believe I have the base system which wasn't sold in the US and I have a non-nav car, so just a single DIN unit in the front. When I see a car with speakers in the rear door cards, it must be a US Hi-Fi car, HK, or a cab.

    I want a kit that fits as easily as possible (ideally like the Bavsound kit...) without having to cut up the doors or anything like that.

    With this in mind I was looking at:

    • Full Bavsound kit (no longer do the base audio e46 kit as far as I can tell, maybe I imagined this?)
    • Rainbow IL-c6.2 BMW e46 Coupe - Specific Vehicle Speaker System (no longer available according to Rainbow website)
    • MB Quart QM-165 BMW 3 Series e46 Custom Component Kit 16.5cm (read about trouble fitting this)

    I would like something reasonable but want to keep everything close to OEM and don't want to stretch to replacing amps or anything like that, although I'm well aware it will sound better; I just want something that's 7/10 rather than 1/10 which it feels like the base system is...

    Any advice? Guidance from others who've fitted the MB quarts fronts? Are they tough to fit? Anyone have some rainbows for sale?
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
  2. 13 Apr 2018 at 10:23 PM #2
    Alex5000

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    This has gone and confused me ever further... Are Bavsound and Rainbow the same company?
     
  3. 13 Apr 2018 at 10:37 PM #3
    ExCop530dT

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    Hi,

    I'd say there's no need to consider the Bavsound option as you'll need to import the products personally and pay the VAT/Import Duty/Clearance fees. I'm not sure they offer international shipping anymore either, so you'd have to find someone in the US to get them, then pay the shipping and the above charges once they arrive at UK borders. On top of that, there's other high quality brands offering E46 specific speaker upgrades for the OEM audio modules from the likes of Rainbow, Audison, MB Quart and Gladen (might be others too) that are already in the UK from dealers and retailers.

    I think previously, BSW (Bavsound) did have Rainbow make specific versions of their speakers. Later, BSW either now make their own products or, have them custom manufactured to their spec's by a specialist manufacturer.

    Speak to car audio installers who have experience of BMW's and E46's;

    https://briancarsounds.co.uk/bmw-audio-upgrades.html
    http://www.audiofile-incar.co.uk/audio-upgrades/bmw-e46-3-series

    A speaker upgrade will sound better than OEM for sure, however you're 'expectation' of going from 1/10 (OEM) to 7/10 (speaker upgrade only) isn't going to happen. I'd say you'd go to a 4 or 5 out of 10. To get higher, you'd need to add a subwoofer solution as currently and with the speaker upgrade, you'll still be 'missing' a third of the audio contained in most music i.e frequencies from around 80 Hz (bass) and down to 20/30 Hz (sub bass)

    Cheers, Dennis!
     
  4. 13 Apr 2018 at 10:46 PM #4
    Caveman

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    You may also want to consider an amp installation (not sure how simple it is with the single din radio) to drive those lovely new speakers.

    The Rainbows work really well but do like a bit of power to drive them.
     
  5. 13 Apr 2018 at 10:59 PM #5
    Alex5000

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    Thanks Dennis, you give a lot of good advice on here. Your name came up lots on my searching for answers.

    I think I probably exaggerated, 5/10 would be great! Will look into those links you sent.

    Couldn't find an answer to that particular question.

    I think the Rainbows would be ideal. Only need to find a second hand set, unless anyone knows who would stock them?
     
  6. 13 Apr 2018 at 11:59 PM #6
    7DT

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    I had the same setup as you. I've ended up with rainbows (fronts), MB Quart (rear) and an alpine 10" sub in a visual ice enclosure in the boot run off an alpine pdx-v9. Head unit i replaced with an xtrons octa core that runs RCA's to the boot. Also have the alpine bass control wired into the drivers glove box.

    Not the cheapest solution ever, but it is loud, it is full, and it completely manages to drown out a karbonius airbox and a rather loud miltek exhaust.

    If you really want to get up in the 8/10 10/10 audio I would heavily recommend a dedicated amp and a decent sub in the boot.
     
  7. 14 Apr 2018 at 6:46 AM #7
    Caveman

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    Worst case you could intercept the speaker wires at the point they exit the head unit and introduce an amplifier. Perhaps get a small one that could go in the glove box. With a single din you could easily fit a new or SH decent branded (e.g.Alpine) head unit which will have some oomph so maybe then not get the amp?
     
  8. 14 Apr 2018 at 8:52 AM #8
    Alex5000

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    I think I read somewhere that even the base audio has a Alpine amp hidden away somewhere. 200w instead of the 300w found in the HK. Happy to be corrected on this.

    I think this would be good idea after seeing how I get on with speakers upgraded only.

    Excellent info there Dennis. Audiofile aren’t too far away from me either. I like the idea of having a completely concealed system that looks stock.
     
  9. 17 Apr 2018 at 6:44 AM #9
    Alex5000

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    Well, I’ve managed to find some Rainbow fronts for sale new. Could well be some of the last sets available, and this has pushed me into prioritising sound system upgrades over other perhaps more important jobs, as I don’t want to miss out on grabbing these speakers.

    Rough plan is to see how I get on with these and then probably add MB Quartz rears next.
     
  10. 17 Apr 2018 at 9:07 AM #10
    Caveman

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    You can certainly make do with the standard speakers in the rear and use them as more of a fill-in.
     
  11. 17 Apr 2018 at 9:25 AM #11
    7DT

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    I blew one of the MB quart rears as hadn't realised the numpties that did the install had connected it to the sub out, so have a stock speaker in there whilst I wait for some free time to install the bav sounds I got.

    To be honest, sounds absolutely fine, rainbows in the front are what you hear most.

    Having said that, i drove around with the sub disconnected to get a new battery, and that makes the singlemost biggest difference in quality.

    Definitely recommend a decent sub, you will most likely get more out of that than upgrading the rears
     
  12. 17 Apr 2018 at 10:52 AM #12
    Alex5000

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    The JL-Audio e46 parcel shelf enclosures look good for a sub... Will keep an eye out.

    Did you have the same base audio setup as me for a starting point?
     
  13. 17 Apr 2018 at 12:03 PM #13
    7DT

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    I believe so, single din unit with a tape in the dash, plus cd changer in the boot.

    For a sub enclosure, i got a visual ice one, fits above the battery compartment, and is made of fibreglass. Takes a 10" sub. Is a good solution that doesn't use the parcel shelf, so i can actually still use the bootspace and have a nice sized sub:

    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/E46-3-SE...837757?hash=item239aac49fd:g:gxcAAOSw4BNajyQG

    The alpine amp lives under the floor in the boot (between where the towbar/wheel foam stuff etc lives and the bumper) so it's pretty easy to get to to tweak settings (cross over, amp gain etc)

    I had 6x9 speakers in the HK enclosure, but they're no longer connected or necessary, so I need to remove the basket as it's useless and in the way.

    The sound setup I've ended up with did cost, but, the amp I can keep for a long time so I am not worried about that, same with the sub speaker.

    However, it's been very very much worth it. It's nice and loud, pretty clear, and has a nice kick to the bass. Sound is full, and it is night and day compared to what I started with.
     
  14. 17 Apr 2018 at 10:53 PM #14
    gaza

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    I’m currently in the middle of my audio install and like you want the best possible outcome without cutting up doorcards etc. My intention is to be able to put it back to stock some day with ease. This theoretically has been a compromise on SQ however but my weighting was biased to reverting back to OEM. I’m leaving all the factory stuff in the car untouched which is just added weight but he car isn’t a track car so not to concerned.

    I’ve gone for a xtrons hu (compromise nr1 as a well known brand would be better for SQ), running rcas direct to the boot to a bitone dsp and then to a jl hd600/4 and a jl hd750/1. I’m running 2 jl 10tw3 flat subs in a sealed box. They done need much room so the box is relatively small. For the doors I’ve gone for the hertz esk 130 slim line components and using the factory locations (compromise nr2 as there are better components out there and the factory mounting isn’t great). I have upgraded the tweeters to those supplied with the hertz hsk 165xl as i had them spare from a previous audio build on another car. I’m still undecided whether to run the fronts passive and have rear fill or whether to run the frints active with no rear fill. I think I’m swaying towards the former which will be compromise nr3.

    All in all I’m hopeful for a decent system which should sound quite good. The compromises in a real world none audiophile existence should be negligible.
     
  15. 17 Apr 2018 at 11:01 PM #15
    7DT

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    you know, the xtrons to me actually sounds pretty good with RCAs out to a dedicated amp, so I wouldn't say it's a huge compromise tbh.
     
  16. 17 Apr 2018 at 11:53 PM #16
    gaza

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    True...i shouldn’t judge it until i’ve heard it tbh
     
  17. 18 Apr 2018 at 7:57 AM #17
    M3Chas

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    Some good advice is present here.

    But a few things I do have to mention:

    • Changing the headunit will bring one of the biggest differences. A crap source after all will always sound crap even with great speakers
    • An Amplifier will really help things along with the audio
    • Unless you want it for bragging rights or boasting money spent on rear speakers is a bit of a waste. It won't benefit the rear passengers that much and the sound stage will be wrong for the front passengers. I'd ditch the rear speakers and fit a sub. You'll be in for a very pleasant suprise with a carefully done sub

    In my M3 I've cheated. I'd put a sub output onto the rear speakers and high passed the fronts a little. Someone very wise ages ago said to make a great audio installation

    60% = Installation
    40% = Equipment.

    IMHO alot of people misinterpreted the Installation part. Sound deadening etc. will get you alot of the way but speaker position makes quite an impact. Given that most M3 owners won't want to play with positions it's a compromise we have to make; the E34 & E36 actually had better front speaker positions believe it or not.

    Alot of people however forget processing power crosses between the two. After all, you need the equipment to have the processing power and the know-how for the installation side. The latter can be vaguely attained through trial and error and moreso from experience.

    My M3's had 3 headunits. They include:

    • Alpine CDE-178BT: An easier way to add more processing power and good SQ. Alpine's TuneIt App is awesome on that!
    • Alpine CDE-9887R: This HU simply lacks the convenience of the 178BT; It's older. It does however sound alot better and has the most flexible processors built into a headunit. It's taken Alpine 4 years to add active crossovers to a headunit again
    • Sony XAV-100 CarPlay/Android Auto: The SQ is near enough almost comparable to the 178BT. The Crossovers are the least flexible but I do have options with this headunit; it has built-in crossovers after all. It's also the most convenient for a different matter ;).

      The crossovers and moreso the time-alignment if I am honest are making me consider the Alpine iLX-700, even if the Sony is a quick headunit and a joy to use elsewhere with way more convenience (it does Android Auto, can have a TomTom SatNav bolt on and it does Bluetooth over the Alpine. When you consider that the iLX-702E46 doesn't seem like too much of a rip off. It does both what the Sony (with the TomTom Bolt-on) and iLX-700 can and without the need to mess around with fascias and compromises for not much more when you break it down.

    For most people however, the Sony or Alpine and possibly the Parrot Asteroid Smart will be fine :).
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
  18. 18 Apr 2018 at 1:36 PM #18
    TouringRob

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    I met 7DT recently, and although I didn't get to hear his Xtrons unit as his battery was out it looked really smart as did the rest of the system. However he really did not rate the Parrot head unit.

    For me, a 12 year old speaker is going to be well past it. The speakers have always made the biggest single difference in any install I've done as the OEM's have always been cheap and/or fecked.

    I've designed a number of amplifiers for various projects and ultimately in any situation (home of car audio) as long as the amplifier is low noise and has an output capable of driving your chosen impedance speakers it is the speakers and their placement/install which have the greatest impact.

    To muddy the water, many headunits/amps use various kinds of processing to manipulate sound, I suspect this is what people really hear when switching between different head units.

    One final point regarding rear speakers - I think OEM rears are fine at low levels, the only time they will really make a big difference to you is when they distort (earlier than your nice new fronts). So if like me you potter with normal volumes of music I doubt they would impact upon you.
     
  19. 18 Apr 2018 at 1:48 PM #19
    Caveman

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    I second the comments as to the value of the sub. I'm experimenting at the moment with a free to air but am looking to close the part-box that I built to create a sealed enclosure so I can compare and contrast.

    If you stay OEM and go down the intravee route you can then find an Alpine imprint digital sound processor which really improves the sound coming from the OEM system.

    Cheers,

    David
     
  20. 18 Apr 2018 at 1:56 PM #20
    M3Chas

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    It's a good job I said possibly :). Agreed with quite alot of that.

    But I've bought cars with new speakers and them still sounding crap in the past. A decent HU etc. always made a pleasant difference, the level at which they clip etc. and time alignment works wonders. OK, the latter is a massive cheat to get to your goal, but so what?

    Two things put me off the Parrot

    1)A forum user elsewhere (TalkAudio) who is fairly switched on and respected hated his. The user interface seemed crap he was saying, which him and Dennis (ExCop530d here) discussed at great length
    2) The cost; they're still not a cheap headunit secondhand compared to what else you buy and what else you can get
    3) The pace; They do seem slow now; My Sony is quick once it is fired up and booted despite the 'inferior' resistive touch screen. All of the videos I saw of the Parrot didn't seem that great. Christ, even Pioneer's DA120 isn't that quick anymore!

    I only said what I did above from playing with systems myself and doing similar/different things on cars and an understanding I picked up on the way. For instance, 10 years ago you wouldn't have dreamed of fitting Class D ampifiers into any audiophile's place. I doubt a £50 Chinese amp will sound the same as a £600 Genesis item, unless done under that amplifier test, where you may as well say a Nissan Micra is the same as an M3 given the parameters and testing methods.

    Now the technology behind them has improved alot as has the reliability. I used to compete in certain SQ sectors and still know a number of ex-competitors and speaker/home audio builders and people in between the two :).

    Do you have some stuff on what you've designed? Sounds intriguing. You can PM it to save yet another hijack!
     

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