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      09-08-2010, 08:37 PM   #1
munich_fanboy
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2011 E92 Base/Stereo OEM Audio Upgrade

I've been doing a lot of research on these forums and have read pretty much everything. If Technic and/or VP_Electricity can respond here, that would be great, as they seem to be the masters of this domain.

What I have:
2011 BMW 328i Coupe (E92)
iDrive Navigation System
Base/"Stereo" OEM Audio System (as defined by VP_Electricity's guide: no tweeters, 4" fronts, 4" rears, 6.5" underseat subs, built-in CIC amp in HU)

What I think:
"Holy crap?!?! $45,000 car and no tweeters plus a built-in cheap amp? You've got to be kidding me BMW!"

What I've done:
Had a local shop (Pacific Stereo, in SoCal), upgrade the 4" fronts and add tweeters with factory/OEM triangular sails+foam using a kit made by Focal called the Polyglass 100 VRS.
Link:
http://www.crutchfield.com/s_091100V...RS.html?tp=106

I had the whole job (equipment+labor+tax) done for $560 USD. I think it was a good price.

The quality of the mids and highs has improved quite a bit. But the volume is horrible. When raised to max, I can still hear myself speak (without yelling). So then I thought: how bad can the amplification be?

Reading these forums, turns out it's a built-in IC amp!!! No wonder.

Then I got worse news from another thread:
Quote:
The problem with adding a tweeter to the Stereo system is that the 4" full range and the underseat woofer are connected in parallel, already at 2 ohms total impedance. If you add the HiFi tweeter (4 ohms) the way that you describe then you will effectively will be lowering that 2 ohms to 1.33 ohms... the iDrive CIC outputs are stable to 2 ohms, lower than that and eventually you will burn its internal amp IC.
Beyond dealing with the possibility that I might now burn my HU's built-in amp, I need to get the volume up, and fast, and without spending too much.

So then I researched ways to boost the amp, but it turns out there's this whole complicated spiel about how since the factory config. is so barebones, BMW's tweaked the EQ's out of the HU so you can't really tap into that for an external amp and this and that and I'm just overwhelmed.

Here's my deal:
I want to do one final upgrade to the sound, this time addressing the amplification. The speakers are already an excellent pair and the highs and mids are now more rounded and crisp, but the built-in IC amp won't let me get any decent volume out of them.

I love having a super-stock, clean looking car, with minimally invasive procedures done. It is a LEASE, after all, and things need to be REVERSIBLE.

How can I add just a little more juice to the system, by way of an amp, to complete this upgrade?

I hear solutions that could fall into 2 broadly defined categories:
1) Buy a special PnP harness that Technic ships out for ~$65, connect that to the HU. (is that the unit with the volume knob underneath climate control, or is it behind the iDrive screen? The thought of messing with these components really freaks me out.) Then run it to the trunk where you'll buy an amp, like the JL XD600, and then you'll need to figure out the problematic factory EQing. Sound processing? I don't know what. It's technical, it's complicated, it's expensive.
2) Buy the new JBL MS-8 component (also expensive) and use that. This also its myriad downsides, etc...

All these options, presently, seem scary. Is it easy to pop out the HU and connect Technic's harness and buy an amp for like $300-400?

I'm so overwhelmed here guys. I just want an easy and inexpensive solution to complete this upgrade. Shoulda paid the $875 to get the HK sound upgrade....
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      09-08-2010, 09:08 PM   #2
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I would start with a MS-8 for several reasons:

- you need to do something about the EQ front OEM signal. Just amplifying crap will give you bigger crap. The MS-8 will make that OEM signal flat and then apply several layers of processing depending on your musical taste.
- you can power all your speakers with the MS-8 first, and if you feel that you need more power then you could add an amp to only those speakers that you feel need more power or to all of them.

My Stereo harness will make the install easy, non-intrusive and 100% reversible.
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      09-08-2010, 10:23 PM   #3
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If you don't use an MS-8, you will need some other means of signal normalization. We also use Zapco DC amps with DSP built in and preprogrammed settings.

I don't recommend ANY amplification in that car without signal normalization.

I now have some LA-area install resources if you want an MS-8 based upgrade... we are doing an E92 base Stereo upgrade this week. Maybe when the guy gets the car back you can hear it. I will send him an email and ask him.
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      09-09-2010, 02:09 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Technic View Post
- you can power all your speakers with the MS-8 first, and if you feel that you need more power then you could add an amp to only those speakers that you feel need more power or to all of them.
The MS-8 is ~$800 on its own, not including installation. Is there no other option that falls around the $300-500 range?

Also, the spec sheet for the MS-8 says its amplifier powers 20w x 8 channels. As I understand, my built-in CIC amp currently powers 18w x 4 channels. Why is this such an improvement, and why would it cost so much more? (Or more likely: what am I missing here? > obviously a car stereo newb.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technic View Post
My Stereo harness will make the install easy, non-intrusive and 100% reversible.
I understand your harness is quite clean and versatile, but correct me if I'm wrong: it would still require removing the HU, plugging the harness in, putting it back, removing other parts of the interior, running a wire all the way to the trunk, and making some more mods there. All told, that's a lot of work which you still deem "reversible."

Maybe it's because I got my job done at a more mainstream, commercial shop, but I wouldn't trust them with more extensive work like the one you're endorsing (even if it's the best pathway, which it probably is).


Quote:
Originally Posted by VP Electricity View Post
If you don't use an MS-8, you will need some other means of signal normalization. We also use Zapco DC amps with DSP built in and preprogrammed settings.
I see I can get a Zapco DC200.2 amp for around $350, so installed it'll be $500. Would I still need Technic's harness, the full wiring running to the trunk, and other install work done? Would this also require special "coding" or "programming" that only a shop familiar with BMW E9x must perform?

Quote:
Originally Posted by VP Electricity View Post
I don't recommend ANY amplification in that car without signal normalization.
I understand, but what about no additional amplification at all? Will my premium Focal speakers eventually burn the built-in CIC amp, or is that something I shouldn't worry about? Right now, the volume seems to self-limit itself to avoid distortion/clipping, so I'm not worried, but you guys would know better.

Is an amp almost necessary now to avoid damage, or just a luxury to boost volume?

Quote:
Originally Posted by VP Electricity View Post
I now have some LA-area install resources if you want an MS-8 based upgrade... we are doing an E92 base Stereo upgrade this week.
When you say 'install resources,' do you mean a car audio shop that specializes in European cars or at least, the E9x BMWs and their specific wiring configs? If so, I'm assuming their specialized knowledge/skills will end up costing me a lot in terms of labor/install. If the MS-8 is truly modular and I can just unplug and use it in my next car too, then it's worth it. If it's not, then I don't want to spend more than another $300-500 total, in which case, I wouldn't know what to do.

Thanks for your input so far guys; I really appreciate it.
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      09-09-2010, 05:25 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munich_fanboy View Post
The MS-8 is ~$800 on its own, not including installation. Is there no other option that falls around the $300-500 range?
The MS-8 is in the $600 range (brand new) if you really look around. You can find sellers selling it brand new as well in the high $500 range as well.

Quote:
Also, the spec sheet for the MS-8 says its amplifier powers 20w x 8 channels. As I understand, my built-in CIC amp currently powers 18w x 4 channels. Why is this such an improvement, and why would it cost so much more? (Or more likely: what am I missing here? > obviously a car stereo newb.)
The MS-8 18W x 8 at 4 ohms/30W x 8 at 2 ohms is RMS, which equates to around 35W max into 4 ohms, 60W max into 2 ohms according to the IC amp specs of this unit; the CIC power output is 25W at 2 ohms max. Then you have the issue of the CIC outputs being EQ and current limited by volume, which reduces considerably its fidelity and bass. Then you have the issue of splitting those 25W max into 3 speakers per channel (your Focals and the underseat woofers), instead of providing 18W RMS to each speaker if you really want it.

That's only the amplifier side benefits of the MS-8. It's acoustic DSP calibration, Logic7 or the 31-band EQ are not being discussed yet.


Quote:
I understand your harness is quite clean and versatile, but correct me if I'm wrong: it would still require removing the HU, plugging the harness in, putting it back, removing other parts of the interior, running a wire all the way to the trunk, and making some more mods there. All told, that's a lot of work which you still deem "reversible."

Maybe it's because I got my job done at a more mainstream, commercial shop, but I wouldn't trust them with more extensive work like the one you're endorsing (even if it's the best pathway, which it probably is).
The other option is to remove the door sills, look for the wires coming from the CIC (front and rear), cut them, run a splice to the trunk and back to the joint, remove the seats, cut the woofer connector and run a splice to the trunk. Then a remote signal turn on needs to be found somewhere in the car so either the fuse box or the 12V socket will be hacked for that. Then when you are ready to get your car back to "stock" all those cuts, splices and taps need to be put back together somehow.

It is up to you and up to a competent installer to know which wires to cut and why they need to be cut.

Last edited by Technic; 09-10-2010 at 12:26 PM.
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      09-09-2010, 09:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Technic View Post
The MS-8 is in the $600 range (brand new) if you really look around. You can find sellers selling it brand new as well in the high $500 range as well.
I actually looked around eBay today and found some selling for ~$620. That's more doable. With the benefits of the DSP + decent amping + easiest route of installation, the MS-8 is starting to look like something I want to do.

Quote:
It is up to you and up to a competent installer to know which wires to cut and why they need to be cut.
I wouldn't want to go the splicing route. Getting a clean harness from you and running to the trunk would be the best way.

So now if I'm serious about the MS-8+harness and order in the next few days, I'd also want a car audio shop that's just as serious about the job. Any recommendations for the Los Angeles area, and any idea how much labor/install would cost on top of purchasing the MS-8 unit?
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      09-10-2010, 12:32 PM   #7
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The issue with the MS-8 is that is too new for some installers to know its "tricks" as its setup and calibration could be not that intuitive for some installers, especially the ones that do not read setup instructions. I know of a Best Buy install (yes, Best Buy) that the instaler really did not have any idea of what this device does and what was the purpose of the headphones.

So my advice is to look for a shop that have done several successful installs for both the MS-8 and in late BMWs and not so much in word of mouth without proof.
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      09-10-2010, 02:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Technic View Post
So my advice is to look for a shop that have done several successful installs for both the MS-8 and in late BMWs and not so much in word of mouth without proof.

And who will then charge you enough to make up for what you "saved" on eBay, since we all have to get paid, regardless.

I might have some guys for you to talk to... but you can start with Jorge at Hass in Culver City.
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      09-13-2010, 05:02 PM   #9
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So I've done some research on local shops, MS-8 + late BMW installers, and here's what I've got:

There's a shop nearby that's successfully done an M3 install w/ the MS-8 and they're an authorized JBL dealer and are quite familiar with the MS-8 and other JBL products.

They're recommending I buy the MS-8 through them for roughly $675 instead of eBay for $600 since if anything goes wrong, their authorized status can get things repaired without headaches instead of dealing with something bought off eBay. Is this true, or do they just want to sell me something? I feel like $75 more is worth it to buy from a place that also installs, but you guys would know better.

They recommend 3 options:

Stage 1: [Use just the MS-8 for DSP/EQ and as an amp for whole system]
Technic Harness: $65
JBL MS-8: $675
Installation + Tuning: $360
TOTAL: $1,100 (probably can get them down to 1k even)

Stage 2: [MS-8 for DSP/EQ + amp the front mids+twtrs, 2 ch amp for sub]
Technic Harness: $65
JBL MS-8: $675
JBL 2 ch. amp: $200
JBL 10" Sub: $100
Sub Enclosure: $70
Installation + Tuning: $400
TOTAL: $1,500

Stage 3: [MS-8 for DSP/EQ, 5 ch amp for powering everything]
Technic Harness: $65
JBL MS-8: $675
JBL 5 ch. amp: $500
JBL 10": $100
Sub Enclosure: $70
Installation + Tuning: $600
TOTAL: $2,000


So my questions are:

1) Will I be happy with just Stage 1? I honestly think so, but I'm not sure if the 6" underseat woofers will add anything once those Focal's are fully powered. I want the system to be balanced, after all, but maybe I'm wrong.

2) The guy's saying the SWS8 upgrades to the underseat woofers are not really worth it. According to him, going with a trunk-mounted sub is a much better deal because you don't pay all the labor costs of fitting in the 8" with the padding and all that, plus you can always pop out that sub in the back very easily when lease is up. Is this true, or just another sales pitch?

3) Will Technic's harness work with the configurations mentioned above? I've read that it's just for connecting a 4 ch amp. What about just the MS-8, or MS-8+2ch, or MS-8+5ch? Will it still work, or will an adjusted version be sent?

4) Should I buy the MS-8 through them for so-called "warranty" or "assurance" benefits?

5) Are the prices quoted reasonable/decent?

Thanks for all your help so far guys. I'm 95% sure I'm going to order the harness from Technic soon, just need to know how to spec this upgrade.
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      09-13-2010, 05:09 PM   #10
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I'm also a retailer, so my input on purchasing from a retailer is biased towards the right way

I'm not pleased with any of their suggestions. I think you should tell them what to do, as they aren't telling you anything that good. The M3 had very different speakers than you do.

Trunk woofers don't play midbass too well.

I'd probably charge more than that for install.

Who is this shop?
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      09-13-2010, 05:19 PM   #11
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This is the shop:
http://www.safeandsound1.com/audio.html

What's wrong with their suggestions?
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      09-13-2010, 05:55 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munich_fanboy View Post
So I've done some research on local shops, MS-8 + late BMW installers, and here's what I've got:

There's a shop nearby that's successfully done an M3 install w/ the MS-8 and they're an authorized JBL dealer and are quite familiar with the MS-8 and other JBL products.

They're recommending I buy the MS-8 through them for roughly $675 instead of eBay for $600 since if anything goes wrong, their authorized status can get things repaired without headaches instead of dealing with something bought off eBay. Is this true, or do they just want to sell me something? I feel like $75 more is worth it to buy from a place that also installs, but you guys would know better.

They recommend 3 options:

Stage 1: [Use just the MS-8 for DSP/EQ and as an amp for whole system]
Technic Harness: $65
JBL MS-8: $675
Installation + Tuning: $360
TOTAL: $1,100 (probably can get them down to 1k even)

Stage 2: [MS-8 for DSP/EQ + amp the front mids+twtrs, 2 ch amp for sub]
Technic Harness: $65
JBL MS-8: $675
JBL 2 ch. amp: $200
JBL 10" Sub: $100
Sub Enclosure: $70
Installation + Tuning: $400
TOTAL: $1,500

Stage 3: [MS-8 for DSP/EQ, 5 ch amp for powering everything]
Technic Harness: $65
JBL MS-8: $675
JBL 5 ch. amp: $500
JBL 10": $100
Sub Enclosure: $70
Installation + Tuning: $600
TOTAL: $2,000


So my questions are:

1) Will I be happy with just Stage 1? I honestly think so, but I'm not sure if the 6" underseat woofers will add anything once those Focal's are fully powered. I want the system to be balanced, after all, but maybe I'm wrong.
I think that a trunk sub will overwhelm the 6.5" OEM woofers, so you will have this midbass crater in your car. IMO, you need at least 8" woofers with at least 100W per channel if a trunk sub is installed.

Quote:
2) The guy's saying the SWS8 upgrades to the underseat woofers are not really worth it. According to him, going with a trunk-mounted sub is a much better deal because you don't pay all the labor costs of fitting in the 8" with the padding and all that, plus you can always pop out that sub in the back very easily when lease is up. Is this true, or just another sales pitch?
Again, with a trunk sub you need midbass drivers, not more subs like the SWS-8. However, the SWS-8 without a trunk sub can fool you if you are not a basshead, but again you will need at least 100W (150-200W is much better) per SWS-8 to move them.

Quote:
3) Will Technic's harness work with the configurations mentioned above? I've read that it's just for connecting a 4 ch amp. What about just the MS-8, or MS-8+2ch, or MS-8+5ch? Will it still work, or will an adjusted version be sent?
You must run new woofer wires from the amp/MS-8 outputs if you want a 6-channel setup with my harness. You should also consider a center channel with the MS-8... it sounds great with it.

Quote:
4) Should I buy the MS-8 through them for so-called "warranty" or "assurance" benefits?
Whatever makes you feel that you will have a prompt response and solution if any issues is what you should go for. I bought my MS-8 thru VP Electricity and I have had no issues either with him or with JBL getting support.

Quote:
5) Are the prices quoted reasonable/decent?
I'm no pro installer, so I don't know. I guess that they are reasonable as long as you do not have to go back to fix issues...

Quote:
Thanks for all your help so far guys. I'm 95% sure I'm going to order the harness from Technic soon, just need to know how to spec this upgrade.
Thanks...
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      09-13-2010, 06:55 PM   #13
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I am an authorized dealer, by the way
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      09-13-2010, 07:07 PM   #14
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Since the MS-8 recommendation seems to be popular, anyone had the now infamous bluetooth echo issue here? VP, is Andy's assessment of it being inherent to all DSPs (posted on DIYMA) accurate based on your experience. I can see why he would say it is but I haven't experienced it with the Zapco DSP but I'm not using the TA features and it seems like that would further complicate the issue.
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      09-13-2010, 07:30 PM   #15
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In reply to your earlier question, you can effectively think of the audible spectrum for our purposes as divided into sub-bass, mid-bass, midrange, and treble.

Trunk subs (which I sell) can do sub-bass, but don't do mid-bass that well.

4" mids in the door do a little mid-bass, but only a little, and at the top end.

You have a gap between them. The underseat enclosures with 8" properly set up - as a band pass, with enough power, with the right xover points, with the right drivers - can fill this gap. It's still the weak point in our cars, but the 8" make it workable. Without them, even running those stock 6", you got squat.

Stage 2 that you list uses the MS-8 to "eq the tweeters", but you don't have any tweeters listed...

I think you need tweeters. I also think that musically, systems with a limited range, but which cover all the notes within that range, sound better to our ears than systems with a hole in them.

I'd rather sacrifice the sub-bass (not all the bass, just the lowest notes that the 8" don't play perfectly) and get the rest, than have the sub-bass, and have a "crater" as noted above.

For $1500 installed, I would struggle. What I would like to do is, Rainbow front components, SWS8 underseat, no trunk sub, an MS-8, a Technic harness, and a 80x2 amp on the underseat woofers. You can add a sub later. That would be about $1350 for parts, and install won't be $150... but it would sound better than the Stage 3 you list.
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      09-13-2010, 07:50 PM   #16
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Quote:
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Since the MS-8 recommendation seems to be popular, anyone had the now infamous bluetooth echo issue here? VP, is Andy's assessment of it being inherent to all DSPs (posted on DIYMA) accurate based on your experience. I can see why he would say it is but I haven't experienced it with the Zapco DSP but I'm not using the TA features and it seems like that would further complicate the issue.
No echo in mine, but I'm using the RCA inputs without any input level setup (i.e., the OEM low level, balanced signal is unmodified up to the MS-8 calibration).
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      09-13-2010, 07:51 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by VP Electricity View Post
I think you need tweeters.
I've already spent about $600 to install a set of Focal Polyglass 100 VRS (link: http://www.crutchfield.com/S-iXEV2Q2...RS.html?tp=106 ) built into BMW factory door sail mounts (which I ordered from a local dealer) with the grills, foam, the whole shabang. So I upgraded the 4" front mid's and I got the tweeters too, plus crossover units in both the left and right doors for even better separation. Then I realized, the system's still weak on power, thus this whole thread.

If I got the MS-8 to adequately power those upgraded Focal's, I don't want the system to be lopsided on the highs and missing the lows, hence the added discussion of trunk-mounted subs vs. SWS8 vs. both.


I think everyone (Technic, VPe, other forum members, installers I've talked to) unanimously agree that the MS-8 should be installed. So let's work from that.

I'm going to get Technic's harness, get the MS-8, and get it installed. Question is: will the low end completely be overshadowed by my (relatively high quality) Focal's? If so: what's the best, most cost-effective, minimally invasive next step to take?
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      09-13-2010, 08:00 PM   #18
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I missed the Focals - probably in resistance to them. My bad.

Get the MS-8, a Technic harness, two SWS-8, and an 80x2 amp from me, for $1144. I can't quote their install rate, but let's guess $600?
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      09-13-2010, 08:17 PM   #19
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Look, you need mid-bass and the only place to get it from is under the seats. This upgrade is somewhat invasive, live with it . Now you can get the subbass from under the seats as well, or from the trunk. If you want the underseats to do mid- and subbass, get the SWS-8, if not, get a dedicated midbass driver like the Morels or Kickers. The SWS-8s are a compromise, since they are neither good midbass, nor subbass drivers. But they get the job done, if your ear is not too critical and you don't necessarily need to impress your neighbors.

On the high end, you have decent speakers in the front and the MS-8 can definitely make them shine. However, running those speakers off of 2 channels from the MS-8 internal amp will definitely not work. There is just not enough "juice" there to be able to raise the volume to acceptable levels. If you had a center, it might work, but you don't.

Listen to VP and Technic, they know their shit! Your shop doesn't! And PLEASE, for god's sake, I can't believe you are asking if spending the extra $75 on the MS-8 from an authorized retailer is worth it.... I paid $800 for mine, and the customer service and warranty support I have already received more than made up for it.
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      09-13-2010, 08:20 PM   #20
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If that includes shipping to SoCal, that's not a bad price.

Which 80x2 amp? Technic says you'd need at least 100W for each SWS8 to really maximize their value (preferably 150-200W).
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      09-13-2010, 08:51 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaigoss69 View Post
If you want the underseats to do mid- and subbass, get the SWS-8, if not, get a dedicated midbass driver like the Morels or Kickers.
Where would I put the dedicated midbass drivers? Any suggested models/links?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kaigoss69
However, running those speakers off of 2 channels from the MS-8 internal amp will definitely not work. There is just not enough "juice" there to be able to raise the volume to acceptable levels.
If the MS-8 doesn't have enough power for my front Focal's, then how's my built-in CIC amp handling it now? Will that thing burn out soon enough? I don't get it. The MS-8's got even more power than my built-in now, no?
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      09-13-2010, 11:05 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munich_fanboy View Post
Where would I put the dedicated midbass drivers? Any suggested models/links?
- Right under your butt
- Morel ADMW SW 9 (from VP Electricity)
- Kicker SSMB8 (eBay or FS section)

Quote:
Originally Posted by munich_fanboy View Post
If the MS-8 doesn't have enough power for my front Focal's, then how's my built-in CIC amp handling it now? Will that thing burn out soon enough? I don't get it. The MS-8's got even more power than my built-in now, no?
To answer, may I quote from your original post: "But the volume is horrible. When raised to max, I can still hear myself speak (without yelling)". So this is what you call "handling"? Right now, you are lucky if your Focals are getting 10W. Trust me with this, as someone who has had Focal 100 KRS speakers in the same car, at 150W per channel, they are quite power hungry and 18W ain't gonna cut it.
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