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      04-21-2013, 01:56 PM   #1
mact3333
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MusicarNW Level 2 Upgrade From Base Stereo Review:

First of all, thanks to Ken and Tom at MusicarNW for coming in on a Saturday to do my install yesterday. From the get go, Ken gave very detailed answers explaining his level 1 and 2 systems. I was really surprised how long and detailed his emails were and thought for sure they were "canned" email responses but he included several personalized details which meant that his email was specifically for me.

At first I was unsure whether I really wanted to spend this kind of money for the upgrade, but if you have ever heard the base stereo on these BMW's you will know why it must be upgraded if you care about music at all. It is ludicrous that BMW could put in a system so thin, weak and muffled into a 50K car. But in the end, I thought the extra 300-400.00 to go from level 1 to 2 was worth it.

Also, I have had very high end stereo equipment in my car in the past(granted awhile ago) and I have high end home audio so my perspective on this upgrade will probably be very different than most people. I am probably more critical when it comes to music than most.

OK, some details on the upgrade. Level 2 gets you the JL Audio CL441DSP Cleansweep, ARC Audio KS125.4 amp(75w X 4), Jehnert 8 inch woofers, Morel Ovation 4 inch woofer and 1.1 inch soft dome tweeter. I got upgraded to the Morel hybrid 4 inch woofer for free.

The Cleansweep is needed to flatten out the output as the base unit jacks up the highs and lows to mask its flawed system. the ARC amp is class G and is supposed to be slightly more favorable to the JL Audio amp(another popular choice). We also get the proprietary harnesses and the door trim to house the new tweeters and a plastic tray for trunk.

Ok, so I get into the car and start listening to a CD once install finished. Something didnt sound right from the beginning. It was biased way too much to drivers side. I played with the balance and it was one notch to passengers side which was perplexing. We quickly realized the balance was backwards. After Ken swapped the right and left at the Cleansweep it was balanced correctly. I can see why he had it one notch to passengers side otherwise it would have been to biased to drivers side too much(this is with right and left balanced correctly).

1. Put on my reference Dire Straits Brothers In Arms from hard drive...for first time in this car, there was air and openness in the mid range voice. I heard proper imaging and soundstage depth. I heard that cracking sound this song has that tests the tweeters. I think the open air feeling will continue to get alot better after proper break in of at least 6-10 hrs. It has high end sparkle but was it as detailed as a high end home audio probably not but for car audio it was good.

Once I drove around town it sounded much better as I turned up the volume. No more ear fatigue from distortion and grittiness. It opened up quite abit more at higher volumes. I was surprised how smooth the top end was with the Morel's even at loud volumes. Music from the hard drive and CD I will give it a 8.5/10.

The only modest disappointment was the bass. For getting 75w a side, I would have expected abit more bass from the 8 inch Jehnerts. For bass lovers, perhaps the SWS would be a better choice. While the bass wasn't deep(ok, they are woofers and not subwoofers after all), they are fast and musical. But if you listen to hip hop you will want more. I will give the Jehnerts a 7/10.

I wont comment on the rear deck speakers which werent swapped out and was being run with oem head unit, they sound pretty bad but they are just being used for filler at this point anyway.

2. I then went to streaming BT with Spotify using my Belkin BT unit and iPhone. Before my upgrade, this sounded beyond bad. It was so muffled and thin it was barely listenable. I was really shocked how much more depth and air there was now. I thought music couldn't sound good using BT streaming but now I realize it was really the base stereo that was the culprit and not the Belkin BT unit. Does BT sound great?. No. But doesn't it sound tolerable now, YES! I will give this upgrade a 8-9/10.

3. Then I went to Sirius radio. This too sounded really muffled before. It was barely tolerable but with the level 2 upgrade, it now sounded more open, detailed and not as fatiguing. Could now turn up volume without sounding distorted. I will give Sirius a 8.5/10.

4. Then went to radio(HD radio station). This sounded better but not as uch of an improvement. Now HD radio still sounded abit grainy and thin at top end and I didnt feel I could turn this up as loud with ear fatigue. I will give this a 7/10.

Havent had time to plug my iphone into armrest jack directly yet but I would think this should sound decent but probably less so than a CD or music from HD.

All in all, I am happy with the level 2 Musicar system. It sounds a ton better than the base system I had and although it is spendy, I think there is value here. It has more clarity, top end airiness, good imaging and soundstage and delivers it smoothly without any graininess to it whatsoever. The ARC amp delivers. Morel's are smooth and airy which I like. Vocals which I like to listen to the most isnt fatiguing anymore and you can listen to music at louder volumes without annoying distortion.

Lastly, I think there is probably more value for me personally cause I live across the river from Portland so its easy for me to get to Ken and his shop and I can also get his help with adjustments in the future. I also know when I sell this car(as I never keep cars for more than 2 yrs) Ken can remove it easily and I can go back to stock in a few hrs.

I recommend!....






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      04-21-2013, 02:18 PM   #2
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Almost forgot, the wiring was clean and top notch as the pics should show!












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      04-21-2013, 02:27 PM   #3
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Nice pics & write-up. Looks like a factory installation.

As for the bass, give the Jehnerts a couple of weeks to loosen up. I've got the JL amp, and I have no complaints about the bass.

It started out 'better than before', but not really impressive. After breaking in, the performance is greatly improved. Not "turn heads at the stoplight" bass, but more than respectable, and well-balanced with the rest of the system.
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      04-21-2013, 04:22 PM   #4
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I told you you couldn't go wrong! I am jealous of your morels!
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      04-22-2013, 10:32 AM   #5
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      11-15-2013, 07:30 PM   #6
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I am writing this 7 months after my initial install thread as it deals with my last paragraph in original post.

I wrecked my 335D last week and replaced it with exact same 335D this week.

I was planning to pull the stereo out of old car and put it in new car since new car is exactly the same with same base stereo.

Ken said during install that if I ever wanted to pull out stereo system that it would cost 2 hrs of labor at 100.00 per hr(see original post) just for removal.

Well, after 2 emails and 2 phone calls, Ken didn't respond to either.

But his assistant did call me today and surprisingly, the cost to do this is much beyond what I was initially told.

It will cost 5 hrs labor to pull the system and 5 hrs labor to re-install(re-install labor cost has nothing to do with original quote obviously) system into same exact car....so 1000.00 to do de-stall and install...not really worth it imho...so I will prob. just leave the MusicarNW stage II stereo in my old car and will sell it with the car when fixed...I am not expecting to get any value from stereo when i sell the car...not worth the 1000.00 when considering the value of the equipment used is prob only worth 1000.00-1500.00.

I post this to the un-handy guys like myself who depend on others to do the labor, as the cost of removing stereo equipment can be substantial.

So in the end, will I upgrade my stereo including the MusicarNW system in my new car?... the answer is no...part of the reason is based on value as you can't really take it with you unless you do the destall/install yourself. The other reason is due to the communication issues. I would expect at least a phone or email reply from the guy who I tried to contact and not his assistant considering the money I spent like 6 months ago. But this is all personal choice as some are just results oriented while others like me are results oriented but also take communication and customer service related issues a lot more seriously...but as I stated, everyone is abit different.

So in the end, I will just listen to the POS base system in my new 335D, but surprisingly, it doesn't sound quite as bad as I remembered.

Please note my experience described above are completely my own and has nothing to do with anyone else's experience.
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      11-15-2013, 11:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mact3333 View Post
I am writing this 7 months after my initial install thread as it deals with my last paragraph in original post.

I wrecked my 335D last week and replaced it with exact same 335D this week.

I was planning to pull the stereo out of old car and put it in new car since new car is exactly the same with same base stereo.

Ken said during install that if I ever wanted to pull out stereo system that it would cost 2 hrs of labor at 100.00 per hr(see original post) just for removal.

Well, after 2 emails and 2 phone calls, Ken didn't respond to either.

But his assistant did call me today and surprisingly, the cost to do this is much beyond what I was initially told.

It will cost 5 hrs labor to pull the system and 5 hrs labor to re-install(re-install labor cost has nothing to do with original quote obviously) system into same exact car....so 1000.00 to do de-stall and install...not really worth it imho...so I will prob. just leave the MusicarNW stage II stereo in my old car and will sell it with the car when fixed...I am not expecting to get any value from stereo when i sell the car...not worth the 1000.00 when considering the value of the equipment used is prob only worth 1000.00-1500.00.

I post this to the un-handy guys like myself who depend on others to do the labor, as the cost of removing stereo equipment can be substantial.

So in the end, will I upgrade my stereo including the MusicarNW system in my new car?... the answer is no...part of the reason is based on value as you can't really take it with you unless you do the destall/install yourself. The other reason is due to the communication issues. I would expect at least a phone or email reply from the guy who I tried to contact and not his assistant considering the money I spent like 6 months ago. But this is all personal choice as some are just results oriented while others like me are results oriented but also take communication and customer service related issues a lot more seriously...but as I stated, everyone is abit different.

So in the end, I will just listen to the POS base system in my new 335D, but surprisingly, it doesn't sound quite as bad as I remembered.

Please note my experience described above are completely my own and has nothing to do with anyone else's experience.
Sorry to hear that man, that sucks. Maybe see if there are any other shops around you that will charge less labor?

By base stereo do you mean the hifi with tweeters in the door? If so you can do what I just did yesterday for under $500 and it definitely makes the music much more tolerable. Right now i'm on stock speakers but just swapped out the oem amp for the JL XD600/6. You can definitely do the install yourself if you get the technics harness. Look at the pics I took of my install, it's farily simple

http://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=911595
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      11-16-2013, 06:39 AM   #8
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If I lived close to you I'd help you get it all swapped out. I think the uninstall will take 2 hrs max for someone who knows what they're doing. If you think about spending $200 to recoup $1000 - $1500 worth of equipment, seems worth it to me! The reinstall should take longer, but even at MusicarNW it'll only cost $500. I think it would be a shame to leave all this nice stuff in the car when you don't get any additional money for it. Down the road, you could potentially get fed up with the base system again and be faced with spending beaucoup money again to do the upgrade. At least pull everything out of the car and spend a few hundred bucks so that you have the equipment at hand if/when you will need it. Either way you will save money.
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      11-16-2013, 12:44 PM   #9
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I recommend trying to keep the system, I believe you'll regret if you don't. I'm sure you can work something out w/ Ken
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      11-16-2013, 02:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taibanl View Post
I recommend trying to keep the system, I believe you'll regret if you don't. I'm sure you can work something out w/ Ken
You think… after slamming his operation here in this thread (not to mention revealing the free 4" Morel upgrade that was probably supposed to stay between them) that Ken is gonna do cartwheels to give him a deal on a de-install?

fwiw when I was looking into this, Ken told me that a de-install would be about 4 hours at $100 per, and I think that is probably realistic. Restoring the stock system - I don't see how that could be a 2 hour job if the initial install is a 6 hour job. Have to take apart all the same stuff.

Anyway, I think if you come on here and slam a vendor like this, it means you're done trying to "work something out".

If I lived closer I'd get the upgrade, intending to leave it in the car when I sold it. But I live too damn far away (Sacramento) to make it worth while, and the local installation option is more expensive… so I've just , sadly , gotten used to the base stereo.
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      11-16-2013, 02:10 PM   #11
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+1 There has to be someone in the area that knows what they are doing and is willing to help. Have you considered DIY?
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      11-16-2013, 02:18 PM   #12
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Here is whats funny...it is abit more involved to put the car back to stock given I have base unit and most of the equipment is in the trunk...but it should take 2 hrs to remove everything but another 3 hrs of labor to put back old stereo back in the when the car has been totally taken apart and everything is already exposed???...hmm...that doesn't make any sense to me.

I know I can just pay the 500.00 and take my old system out and come out financially positive by selling the equipment but its not about the money for me...for me its all about customer service and the hours of my time I would waste trying to get this done....not worth the hassle.

With time, anyone can figure out how to best configure a car and get good equipment in the car, but in the long run, its about relationship building and taking pride in customer care and communication no matter what field you are in...this is how you separate your yourself from the field and I am sure we can all agree on that....a 30 second phone call or email is all it takes.

So I am done with this subject and thread...will end by saying that I am done with MusicarNW and stereo equipment for the BMW in general.
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      11-16-2013, 02:23 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coyote95667 View Post
You think… after slamming his operation here in this thread (not to mention revealing the free 4" Morel upgrade that was probably supposed to stay between them) that Ken is gonna do cartwheels to give him a deal on a de-install?

fwiw when I was looking into this, Ken told me that a de-install would be about 4 hours at $100 per, and I think that is probably realistic. Restoring the stock system - I don't see how that could be a 2 hour job if the initial install is a 6 hour job. Have to take apart all the same stuff.

Anyway, I think if you come on here and slam a vendor like this, it means you're done trying to "work something out".

If I lived closer I'd get the upgrade, intending to leave it in the car when I sold it. But I live too damn far away (Sacramento) to make it worth while, and the local installation option is more expensive… so I've just , sadly , gotten used to the base stereo.
$100 an hour x 10 hours is pretty ridiculous for what needs to be done. The install of these systems is very easy, they are just plug and play. I understand Musicar is a business and they have to make money but they already made quite a bit off him I'm sure. Also it affects future business both from the op and people that read this thread. Nothing against Musicar but that's just my opinion. I'm not saying they should do it for free either.
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      11-16-2013, 04:07 PM   #14
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I would do it in 2 hrs and have time for coffee and cake!
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      11-16-2013, 05:55 PM   #15
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Interesting turn this has taken.

First off, the quote I asked this client to be given was for three hours reinstalling the stock gear and pulling the Stereo harness from under the carpet, and 5 hours installing the new system, at our standard hourly rate. The install amount is consistent with the amount we list on our website when you buy a system installed, or not installed.

Some of you guys have said you think our standard hourly rate is too high. We maintain an installation facility equipped to do world-class fabrication. My partner has been ranked as one of the top 12 installers in the country, twice. We insure our facility, and everyone working in it, sufficiently to cover multiple premium vehicles. The level of capability and experience we bring is consistent with our hourly rate.

Kai is claiming that he could install this system, which I'm pretty sure he hasn't installed for anyone before, in two hours. Kai, I don't think you could. His system will involve prying the woofers out, running harnesses under the carpet back to the trunk, on top of the standard speaker swap process in the front doors, and the amp installation.

Three hours of removal and five hours of installation isn't irrational or unfair. It might be more than someone wants to pay, and I understand. Some installers aren't worth what we are.

So if there's a misunderstanding about 2 hours for removal versus 3 hours, I'm not going to quibble over an hour. Fine. We will remove the system for 2 hours worth of time, no problem.

But we're not going to install it into the new car for free. We're going to charge what it takes to do. We tell pro shops who haven't done this before to estimate it as one hour a door, one hour a seat, and two hours in the trunk, which is 6 hours, and we charge for 5 hours. I guess I don't understand why that's an issue.

However, I will say this. This customer originally didn't even pay retail for the Level Two system. He paid less than retail in a terrible judgment I made to give him a discount in exchange for an objective review on the system. Well, this thread starts with that review. We can call that fulfilled. There's no more discounting, though. As I explained to him in the first place, we're not for everyone, and that's OK. We've helped a good number of local BMW owners, and we've helped some who went elsewhere, had their wiring hacked and their plastic panels broken. I'm not going to compete with those jokers on price until they can compete with us on quality.

If you'd like your system removed for two hours of labor, we will take care of that for you. If you'l like it installed, that's five hours.

Regards,

Ken
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      11-16-2013, 06:11 PM   #16
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No, I'm just talking about ripping everything out and returning to stock.
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      11-16-2013, 06:41 PM   #17
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See Ken, this is why I don't have a shop anymore. No one cares that we've spent decades refining our craft to the point where guys like Tom are among the best in the world.

I guess I'm lucky the customer you asked me to help is a nice guy who loves the system.
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      11-16-2013, 07:46 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaigoss69 View Post
No, I'm just talking about ripping everything out and returning to stock.
I also think this is a job that could be done in a couple hours. I think 5 hours total would be a fair estimate.
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      11-16-2013, 08:00 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VP Electricity View Post
Interesting turn this has taken.

First off, the quote I asked this client to be given was for three hours reinstalling the stock gear and pulling the Stereo harness from under the carpet, and 5 hours installing the new system, at our standard hourly rate. The install amount is consistent with the amount we list on our website when you buy a system installed, or not installed.

Some of you guys have said you think our standard hourly rate is too high. We maintain an installation facility equipped to do world-class fabrication. My partner has been ranked as one of the top 12 installers in the country, twice. We insure our facility, and everyone working in it, sufficiently to cover multiple premium vehicles. The level of capability and experience we bring is consistent with our hourly rate.

Kai is claiming that he could install this system, which I'm pretty sure he hasn't installed for anyone before, in two hours. Kai, I don't think you could. His system will involve prying the woofers out, running harnesses under the carpet back to the trunk, on top of the standard speaker swap process in the front doors, and the amp installation.

Three hours of removal and five hours of installation isn't irrational or unfair. It might be more than someone wants to pay, and I understand. Some installers aren't worth what we are.

So if there's a misunderstanding about 2 hours for removal versus 3 hours, I'm not going to quibble over an hour. Fine. We will remove the system for 2 hours worth of time, no problem.

But we're not going to install it into the new car for free. We're going to charge what it takes to do. We tell pro shops who haven't done this before to estimate it as one hour a door, one hour a seat, and two hours in the trunk, which is 6 hours, and we charge for 5 hours. I guess I don't understand why that's an issue.

However, I will say this. This customer originally didn't even pay retail for the Level Two system. He paid less than retail in a terrible judgment I made to give him a discount in exchange for an objective review on the system. Well, this thread starts with that review. We can call that fulfilled. There's no more discounting, though. As I explained to him in the first place, we're not for everyone, and that's OK. We've helped a good number of local BMW owners, and we've helped some who went elsewhere, had their wiring hacked and their plastic panels broken. I'm not going to compete with those jokers on price until they can compete with us on quality.

If you'd like your system removed for two hours of labor, we will take care of that for you. If you'l like it installed, that's five hours.

Regards,

Ken
.

Last edited by mact3333; 03-04-2014 at 12:24 AM.
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      11-16-2013, 08:08 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by superjay View Post
See Ken, this is why I don't have a shop anymore. No one cares that we've spent decades refining our craft to the point where guys like Tom are among the best in the world.

I guess I'm lucky the customer you asked me to help is a nice guy who loves the system.

Way to deflect from the point of my post...you do realize a simple answered phone call or email would have avoided all of this right? What does Tom have to do with anything?. Seriously. Please show me where I said the install or fabrication wasn't worthy. Tom seems like a nice guy and I have nothing but praise for him.

The reason you don't have a shop anymore is probably because it wasn't financially favorable for you no?..
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      11-16-2013, 08:18 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coyote95667 View Post
You think… after slamming his operation here in this thread (not to mention revealing the free 4" Morel upgrade that was probably supposed to stay between them) that Ken is gonna do cartwheels to give him a deal on a de-install?

fwiw when I was looking into this, Ken told me that a de-install would be about 4 hours at $100 per, and I think that is probably realistic. Restoring the stock system - I don't see how that could be a 2 hour job if the initial install is a 6 hour job. Have to take apart all the same stuff.

Anyway, I think if you come on here and slam a vendor like this, it means you're done trying to "work something out".

If I lived closer I'd get the upgrade, intending to leave it in the car when I sold it. But I live too damn far away (Sacramento) to make it worth while, and the local installation option is more expensive… so I've just , sadly , gotten used to the base stereo.


Save the white knight BS for another thread pretty please....

You see, I actually have bought a system from him and have been to his shop and have actual experience...you have nothing!.

All you have are a few exchanged emails and phone calls after your 5th attempt am I wrong?.

Tell you what, come up to PDX and get the install done...I will pay for your gas up here ok...being dead serious...I am a man of honor and wouldn't joke about this....dont let 600 miles come between a nice sounding system and your stock base system...otherwise you're just all talk.
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      11-16-2013, 10:41 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mact3333 View Post
Save the white knight BS for another thread pretty please....

You see, I actually have bought a system from him and have been to his shop and have actual experience...you have nothing!.

All you have are a few exchanged emails and phone calls after your 5th attempt am I wrong?.

Tell you what, come up to PDX and get the install done...I will pay for your gas up here ok...being dead serious...I am a man of honor and wouldn't joke about this....dont let 600 miles come between a nice sounding system and your stock base system...otherwise you're just all talk.
Round trip fuel + Two nights in a decent Portland hotel, and $250 lost wages for the Friday off work... And your on! I'm serious too.

There is no "white knight" syndrome. My observation was correct right??? Your scorched earth email precluded "working something out" didn't it?

Let me know if you want to host my Portland visit ok?
Appreciate 0
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