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01-11-2004, 11:52 AM #1
ICE ICE baby - The Basics
Cut n paste from Motorwerks
The Ultimate Driving Machine, NOT the Ultimate Listening Machine. . . Everyone is an Audiophile. Or so they think. We all “know” what good sound is, right? Well, good sound is purely subjective. However, armed with just a few pieces of the right information, you can certainly become more proficient in defining what actually constitutes good sound. And more importantly, you’ll be able to achieve great sound from your BMW’s audio system.
What makes a car stereo sound great?
It’s not as complex as you might think! Here’s a brief rundown of what makes up a car stereo system that sounds great:·
1) A clean musical signal from a good head unit ·
2) Proper wiring to get that signal to… ·
3) An amplifier (or two where necessary) that will provide a strong signal to your speakers and subwoofer(s) without losing all the nuances of the music ·
4) Again, high quality wiring to get that signal to… ·
5) High quality speakers and subwoofer(s) that provide flat, clean frequency response across the entire range of sound ·
6) Proper speaker placement and layout to create a “soundstage” that replicates a real listening environment as much as possible
That’s really all there is to it, and that’s most of what you need to understand to create a much better audio system for your BMW. But let’s go more into depth about the how and why behind a truly balanced and fantastic sounding audio system. (Note that the order in which we’ll explore the above topics is a bit different than above for a better flow of information).
Developing a Soundstage and the Importance of Selecting Front Components:
What is a Soundstage?
The term “soundstage” is used to describe the musical space you are creating with your audio equipment and it’s placement within your acoustical space. The main point to remember is that humans listen to sound primarily coming from in front of them. For example, in a concert environment, on television, etc. So the best way to recreate a “real” sound is through a soundstage that is biased towards the front of your listening space.
Developing a Soundstage...
When attempting to develop a soundstage, ideally you would want your front speakers to be equidistant from your ears. This ensures that the stereo images arrive to your ears at the same time, and your brain cannot detect that the music is coming from one side or the other. This gives you the impression that you are listening to the music in a much larger environment than the cabin of your BMW. This is fairly difficult to achieve, but luckily most BMW’s position the front speakers either low in the front of the doors, or in the kick panels themselves, pretty close to the ideal locations.
The listening experience, and why front speakers are important...
Just as one would imagine, our primary listening experience happens to our side and front soundstages. Therefore, choosing speakers for your front soundstage which are of high-quality and capable of accurate frequency response (described below) is the most critical choice in developing an amazing sound-system.
This is not to say the rest of your system is not important, as quality source units, amplifiers, and wiring are essential in keeping a quality signal throughout. The old adage “a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link” is never more true than in the world of exceptional audio. We’ll talk more about keeping a clean signal shortly, but for now let’s discuss the basics – frequency response.
In the context of car audio, the term Frequency Response simply refers to the ability of a given audio component to reproduce audible (or inaudible) frequencies, and the accuracy with which it is able to reproduce these frequencies. The audible range for human hearing is typically 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz). In this context, Hertz is a term to describe the wavelength of a sound – the higher the hertz, the shorter the wavelength and the higher “pitched” the sound is.
Understanding Frequency Bands
Your Low End
20 Hz is the very lowest frequency we can barely hear, and sounds/feels something like an earthquake. If you have ever seen a subwoofer move back and forth slowly you were actually watching 20Hz, or thereabouts. From there the bass frequency moves up to the 30-90 Hz range. These are the very low frequencies which you feel in various parts of your abdomen and can give you the effect of almost floating out of your seat. Instruments that play these tones are low-tuned synthesizer or bass guitar notes or the low end of a kick drum.ONLY a subwoofer can produce these tones to any substantial degree, and only an excellent subwoofer in an acoustically sound enclosure (yes, much like the subwoofer/enclosure systems we carry at Bavarian Soundwerks) can produce these tones cleanly and tightly so as to not overwhelm the rest of your frequency range.
From 90-250Hz is the range where most kick drum tones, bass guitar notes, low piano notes reside. These are the tighter mid-bass sounds you can feel in your chest. Depending on where your crossover (circuit that routes frequencies to their respective components) is set, these frequencies will be played by a combination of your subwoofer and your interior mid-bass drivers (the woofers of your front and rear interior speaker components).
The range from 250 to 4 kHz is usually referred to as low midrange or low-mids for short. For example, this is the range for most guitar, piano, horn, tom drums, and male vocalist tones. Though there is some overlap, female vocalists, very bright horns, snare drums, and high guitar notes typically reside in the range around 4 – 8 kHz.When created by inferior components these are also the frequencies which have a tendency to give that painfully bright, sharp, tone that makes you rush for the volume knob to turn it down! As determined by your crossover setup, these frequencies are played by both your mid-bass drivers as well as your tweeters.
And finally, the treble range resides between 8 – 20 kHz. These frequencies are the sounds of hi-hat and crash symbols, the breath of a vocalist, or the grit in a violin solo. These frequencies are played by the tweeters in your system, and if your tweeters are good quality, they will add that extra sparkle and shimmer to your music while sounding open and airy.Aside from plain old distortion, one of the factors that causes low-quality systems to sound terrible is the fact that these systems cannot accurately reproduce the frequency range in the recorded music they are “playing.” What happens is many of the frequencies become grossly exaggerated or underplayed, causing brittleness, interference, listening fatigue, and an overall cheap sound that ends up nothing like the immaculate recording the artists and engineers labored so hard in the studio to create for you.
Choosing Speakers for Your Front Sound Stage
Speakers are the foundation of a high fidelity audio system. Regardless of your other components, without quality speakers, the true potential of your system will never be realized. When you are configuring your front soundstage it is important here to select speakers that are capable of delivering audiophile quality sound while maintaining a relatively flat frequency response curve. This ensures every frequency is equally reproduced in terms of volume and clarity. When you install speakers that can accurately reproduce a source signal, an amazing thing happens: you are actually transported inside the music, free of the wimpy sound that has been warping your music for so long...While it is critical to choose the best speakers you possibly can for your front sound stage, such as the MB Quart Q-Line or Premium Components (don’t get us wrong, the Reference and Discus series are excellent as well), choosing your rear speakers is slightly less crucial.
Choosing Speakers for Your Rear Sound Stage
As audiophiles, we at Bavarian Soundwerks perfectly understand those of you who will settle for nothing less than the very best. A system rounded out with front and rear MB Quart Q-Line speakers (MB Quart’s nicest speaker line) would indeed have the best sounding speakers in the world.But for practical reasons we would suggest to most of our customers that a set of slightly lower-grade speakers, such as the Reference or Premium Series, will round out your system beautifully at a lower price-point. This is because your rear sound stage is your less dominant stage, further away, and less audible because it is behind you. Just think of the smaller surround speakers in your home theater setup, and as such, you can get nearly the same level of sound quality without spending quite so much.
A Clean Signal Chain
Wiring is the most overlooked component within nearly every audio system out there. By using quality cables, you actually get every bit of sound from those high end speakers you paid for.
The Weakest Link
As we have said earlier, an audio system is much like a chain whose strength is determined by its weakest link. Imagine a great Chef having only dog food and artificial flavoring as ingredients for a fine dinner. Imaginably, the dinner will not showcase our Chef’s wonderful talents. Much like this chef, speakers like the MB Quarts or any other high end speaker will be unable to show their greatness if they are being supplied with an inferior audio signal.
It Starts with the Head Unit
Your source signal starts with a head unit playing a CD, DVD, Radio, Satellite, or External Input signal. A high-quality head unit will send a clean, high voltage signal to the inputs on an amplifier via a 2 or 4 channel RCA cable (depending if you are installing 2 or 4 speakers in your vehicle, or are using your rear 2 channels as signal for a subwoofer).
Cabling is Critical
However, the RCA cables that carry the signal from your head unit to your amplifier must have solid terminals and cabling structure to do their job. High Quality RCA Cables will decrease the noise floor (that is, the amount of noise inherent in your audio system that interferes with your music) in your vehicle, increase the transient response of your amplifiers and speakers, and resist any induced electrical interference. Bavarian Soundwerks offers a variety of Monster Cable wiring to suit your needs. Due to its innovative technologies and solid construction, Monster Cable, as you might know, is the industry standard cabling choice for high-end audio.
Enhancing the original signal Once your amplifier receives the aforementioned signal, things are out of your hands for a bit. Aside from sending thick, high-wattage power cables from your battery to your amplifer (we also recommend Monster Cable here, high quality power cables will deliver consistent power to your amplifiers each time they demand it), it is up to your amplifier to, well, amplify your signal while still keeping the integrity of your original signal and maintaining even the most subtle nuances in your music.A less sensitive amplifier will be unable to detect or amplify the lightest sounds, like the sound of a drum kit reverberating off the walls of a concert hall or maybe some undiscovered whisper in your favorite album. We’re not sure exactly what you’ll find, but with any of our MB Quart Amplifiers, rest assured, the signal is there.
The next and final element in your sound system is the speaker cable and respective connectors which send an amplified signal to your speakers. Like the rest of your cabling, speaker cable is equally as important. Using a minimum of 16 gauge wiring, it is highly recommended to run a new speaker wire to each of your new speakers. This ensures the power your amplifier is producing arrives at each speaker with as little resistance as possible. Monster Cable is again our choice for wiring MB Quart speakers, or any speaker for that matter.
Well that about covers the basics...
Hopefully this article has been of some help to you when considering your next audio upgrade for your BMW. Please don’t hesitate to explore our website or contact us for further information on how you can achieve the level of performance you have always wanted to experience in your sound system. A level of performance that finally matches that of your BMW.
The Following User Says Thank You to blackbmw For This Useful Post:
01-11-2004, 07:10 PM #2
Nice simple explanation for a beginning audiophile, Pete! Thanks for the cut-and-paste!
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Bimmers = BMW Cars, Beemers = BMW Bikes
02-11-2004, 04:12 PM #3
Monster cables cost a bomb for most non ICE hardcore. Some argue its less of an issue for ICE than for home audio. Careful not to get fleeced by dishonest installers who charge many $$$ for cables.
Unless with a discerning golden ear, not many can tell the diff between a $20cable vs a $1000 one.
jus my 2 cents worth...
For those who are sticking to stock HU, try not to use more than one Hi-lo converter if you are using more than one amp, and if your amps have output. Our HU has very low signal, <1.5V only as far as i know.
02-11-2004, 04:49 PM #4
Actually the diff between a good cable and a poor cable diff is quite hugh. But you are right...if a 100 bucks cable can do the job...not all can tell the diff between a 100 and a 1000 bucks cable.
For car audio application...most of the time all those good cables go to waste as the termination part is wasted. Installer use good cables all the way from amps to door panel...there it is terminated to use a lousy cable so that it can squeeze thru the door. I saw this kinda install before...IMHO...waste of money. But owner does not want a big hole in the door panel...what to do.
BTW...if bros here going for high end install....do not stinge on the RCA and connectors. It makes a difference especially in the long run.
03-11-2004, 05:58 PM #5
i don't have golden year...so i cant tell the diff much...
04-11-2004, 09:42 AM #6Originally Posted by Azrielsc
04-04-2006, 04:23 PM #7
Re: ICE ICE baby - The Basics
[/COLOR]wow! soo many words...hehe too messy for my eyes!
10-05-2006, 03:01 PM #8
Re: ICE ICE baby - The Basics
Given that all Beemers are now sold with integrated head unit, perhaps we can use this as start point for a few categories of upgrade:
- basic upgrade : change the F&R speakers
we can talk about component in F & perhaps coax in back
cost between $300-$1000
Throw in a 4 ch amp to power the F& R speakers
cost : $300 to $2000 (?)
I dont know about this one.
With stock HU without a DSP, can one install a sub?
Perhaps the ICE experts can advise
12-07-2006, 11:36 AM #9
Re: ICE ICE baby - The Basics
Hello...brother if u want to buy good and cheap cables go to a shop in sim lim tower @ 3rd floor
sometimes what we are buying is the name & brand of the cable make from where we dont know...what we know is expensive is good...
28-03-2009, 10:09 PM #10
Re: ICE ICE baby - The Basics
hi does any one know how good is the GPS that comes std with the E90?
- sorry this is not ICE stuff but is there a discussion about GPS?
By ACS CAB1 in forum BMW Modifications, BMW Parts & AccessoriesReplies: 7Last Post: 18-06-2005, 01:56 PM