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BMW e46 with Harman Kardon - how to upgrade?


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#1 del

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Posted 16 Oct 2012 - 20:05

Hi guys,

Onto a new car and it has the upgraded Harman Kardon sound system option. It sounds ok but isn't anywhere near as good as my old set up.

What I want to know is what is the best way to upgrade the system whilst retaining all the sat-nav, bluetooth phone, computer functions etc.

So far the best way I can see is to have the BM54 unit (the BMW amp that links all the systems together and sends signal to the Harman Kardon amp) modified to give a set of RCA out puts. Then from those run an aftermarket 4 channel amp (or a 2 channel and mono sub amp) powering upgraded components and sub!

I just wonder if I am missing something, will the signal that I'm putting into the new amp be equalized by the BMW BM54 amp? How can I ensure a clean signal is going to my new amp?

I am struggling to find the information I need and I have searched on here to try and find someone else who has upgraded the sound system on an e46 with HK system whilst retaining all the BMW functions.

Any help of advice appreciated!

Cheers,

Del

BMW E46 Coupe kit list

Audison Bit One processor

Morel Ovation 6 mids & MT23 tweets and JL8w3v3 sub

Genesis Four Channel, ST100 and Profile Sub


#2 undertow

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Posted 16 Oct 2012 - 20:30

I have an E39 with nav and have done pretty much what you're thinking.

The OE system remains up to the BM54, that feeds the speaker inputs on a JBL MS-8 which is configured with 7 output channels. The BM54 RCA out mod didn't provide enough voltage to pass the MS-8's input calibration routine saying "signal low".

WRT a clean signal, you're right there will still be some equalisation and unfortunately you cannot completely disable the speed sensitive volume control, only set it to level 1 of 6 :(

I don't have bluetooth and use a TomTom for nav, so 99% of the time I run the MS-8 from its aux in and the other 1% is when I want FM radio from the BM54.

The aux in retains the display and steering wheel controls in the front but bypasses the BM54 for audio. There is no doubt it's clearer but I wouldn't let that stop you if you want to retain the factory sources, the OE amp and speakers are the weakest links by far :)

#3 del

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Posted 17 Oct 2012 - 19:37

Thanks for the reply mate, the JBL MS-8 looks very interesting!

A few questions if I may.....

Can you integrate it so it can be controlled through the sat nav screen?

How did you overcome the low signal from the RCA mod on the BM54?

Sorry, what do you mean by "WRT a clean signal"?

Cheers,

Del

BMW E46 Coupe kit list

Audison Bit One processor

Morel Ovation 6 mids & MT23 tweets and JL8w3v3 sub

Genesis Four Channel, ST100 and Profile Sub


#4 undertow

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Posted 17 Oct 2012 - 20:13

Can you integrate it so it can be controlled through the sat nav screen?


No, it has its own display and remote control http://ms8-eu.jbl.com/

One you've run through the calibration routine, it can also be installed in a "set and forget" fashion without the display permanently connected.

How did you overcome the low signal from the RCA mod on the BM54?


As mentioned, I'm using speaker level inputs.

Sorry, what do you mean by "WRT a clean signal"?


WRT = with regards to :)

#5 del

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Posted 17 Oct 2012 - 22:12

Thanks again mate!

Sorry I haven't come across speaker level inputs before. From what I gather, you are basically taking a signal from one of the wires going to the speakers and connecting that into a special connection on the JBL MS-8 designed to take that type of signal?

Cheers,

Del

BMW E46 Coupe kit list

Audison Bit One processor

Morel Ovation 6 mids & MT23 tweets and JL8w3v3 sub

Genesis Four Channel, ST100 and Profile Sub


#6 Blinkybill

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Posted 18 Oct 2012 - 21:07

Just to add, the M54 amp is quite an unreliable old beast so watch out for that, we must repair one a week at the moment :)

#7 DennisCooper!

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Posted 19 Oct 2012 - 16:31

Hi Del,

As per above, you are almost there in terms of knowing the limitations of keeping the oem functionality and wanting to add better quality speakers and amplifiers. if you do the RCA modification to the BM54 amp, you'll be 'keeping' the factory EQ settings. If you don't want that and need 'as best a signal' as you can have, you'll need to use a high quality processor, like the aforementioned MS-8. Alternative can be found from the likes of Cache, JL Audio, AudioControl, Alpine etc. These units will take the output from the BM54 and by use of clever logic and internal processing, provide an as acoustically flat as possible signal out. That then can be connected to your amps and thus speakers meaning you retain the oem looks in the dash and functionality. The negatives are that if any of the oem modules fail, as per mentioned bby Blinkybill, you must have those repaired or replaced in order to continue using the setup in this way. The oem modules are getting old now, and BM54's, monitor screens etc are failing. Replacement oem modules that are 2nd hand and also just as old are still rather stupidly priced and the repair costs whilst better are still a bit of money. Sods law is you'll fix the amplifier and later the monitor will crap out or something !

Currently, the above is the best compromise in keeping the functions and dash aesthetics whilst significantly being able to increase sound quality. Depending on the level of sound quality you want, you could ditch the complete oem setup altogether and replace with high quality head unit, amps and speakers and get potentially significantly higher performance than if you keep the oem setup and use a signal processor. Here on Talkaudio, there are those who will quite easily be able to tell the difference, however for 'most' BMW owners out there who aren't into really high audio performance levels, using the signal processor method is the best course :)

Cheers, Dennis!

#8 del

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Posted 19 Oct 2012 - 20:41

Hi Del,

As per above, you are almost there in terms of knowing the limitations of keeping the oem functionality and wanting to add better quality speakers and amplifiers. if you do the RCA modification to the BM54 amp, you'll be 'keeping' the factory EQ settings. If you don't want that and need 'as best a signal' as you can have, you'll need to use a high quality processor, like the aforementioned MS-8. Alternative can be found from the likes of Cache, JL Audio, AudioControl, Alpine etc. These units will take the output from the BM54 and by use of clever logic and internal processing, provide an as acoustically flat as possible signal out. That then can be connected to your amps and thus speakers meaning you retain the oem looks in the dash and functionality. The negatives are that if any of the oem modules fail, as per mentioned bby Blinkybill, you must have those repaired or replaced in order to continue using the setup in this way. The oem modules are getting old now, and BM54's, monitor screens etc are failing. Replacement oem modules that are 2nd hand and also just as old are still rather stupidly priced and the repair costs whilst better are still a bit of money. Sods law is you'll fix the amplifier and later the monitor will crap out or something !

Currently, the above is the best compromise in keeping the functions and dash aesthetics whilst significantly being able to increase sound quality. Depending on the level of sound quality you want, you could ditch the complete oem setup altogether and replace with high quality head unit, amps and speakers and get potentially significantly higher performance than if you keep the oem setup and use a signal processor. Here on Talkaudio, there are those who will quite easily be able to tell the difference, however for 'most' BMW owners out there who aren't into really high audio performance levels, using the signal processor method is the best course :)

Cheers, Dennis!


Hi Dennis,

Thanks for the reply, what you say makes a lot of sense! Whilst I want optimum audio performance, I realise that I'll always have to compromise when retaining OEM functionality. My last install simply consisted of Genny 2 way components and a sub powered by a Genny P4 Ultra which for my requirements was superb! If I can achieve a similar sound with the OEM setup I would be very happy. Retaining OEM functionality this time round, for me is paramount.

I plan to get the BM54 checked over, any dead channels replaced, amp's and heat sink upgraded plus RCA pre-outs (0.6 volt) added with full range signal outputs, so it should be good for the foreseeable future (fingers crossed!)

I can then use the RCA to connect to a signal processor as you mention above and save having to splice into the existing loom. The Cleansweep looks good as does the Audison bit ten or even the Alpine PXA-H100 which has Intravee support allowing the processor to be operated from the OEM head unit!

I then plan to run the smallest 4 or 6 channel amp (preferably 2-4 channels around 100rms per channel and a sub approx 300rms, any recommendations welcomed!) I can get with good SQ qualities in order to install it in the boot, ideally behind the other OEM control modules. This will then run either 1 or 2 sets of component speakers in the OEM locations (fronts upgraded to 6.5" mids) with a small 8-10" sub located in the ski hatch using the smallest enclosure possible to retain practicality and functionality of the boot.

Quite a challenge I know, but I am not expecting to win any competitions. However, I am certain I will achieve a decent sound which will be 200% better than the OEM Harman Kardon system.

Do you think I am being realistic or am I dreaming if I think I am going to get a decent note out the kit I intend on using??

Cheers,

Del

BMW E46 Coupe kit list

Audison Bit One processor

Morel Ovation 6 mids & MT23 tweets and JL8w3v3 sub

Genesis Four Channel, ST100 and Profile Sub


#9 DennisCooper!

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Posted 20 Oct 2012 - 14:46

Hi

With 'some' variance on what you would like you can indeed achieve most of that. The gotchya's are for instance choosing the right products with the performance levels you'd like and having them physically small enough to fit unobtrusively and ideally, hidden and all within the space(s) you have in your E46.

I'd suggest going for very small footprint Class D amplifiers, one of the processor solutions which is all in one box (the JL Audio cleansweep system requires two boxes - your HK setup might not need the signal summing unit though - I'm unsure). The route of some decent 2 way components (5.25 or 6.5 inch) for the front and the right size co-axials for the rear (if you do wish for some rear fill) with an excellent performing 8 or 10 inch subwoofer firing through the ski hatch is exactly what I'd suggest

It's this type of setup which I have in my E39 Touring, and yes, you will get an overall excellent sounding setup that is much, much better than the oem.

I think you are also on the M3cutters forum and I think Baris will help you with the BM54 modifications. Feel free to drop me a PM here on TA or on M3cutters if you'd like some more information etc ;)

Cheers, Dennis!

#10 del

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Posted 21 Oct 2012 - 09:06

Hi

With 'some' variance on what you would like you can indeed achieve most of that. The gotchya's are for instance choosing the right products with the performance levels you'd like and having them physically small enough to fit unobtrusively and ideally, hidden and all within the space(s) you have in your E46.

I'd suggest going for very small footprint Class D amplifiers, one of the processor solutions which is all in one box (the JL Audio cleansweep system requires two boxes - your HK setup might not need the signal summing unit though - I'm unsure). The route of some decent 2 way components (5.25 or 6.5 inch) for the front and the right size co-axials for the rear (if you do wish for some rear fill) with an excellent performing 8 or 10 inch subwoofer firing through the ski hatch is exactly what I'd suggest

It's this type of setup which I have in my E39 Touring, and yes, you will get an overall excellent sounding setup that is much, much better than the oem.

I think you are also on the M3cutters forum and I think Baris will help you with the BM54 modifications. Feel free to drop me a PM here on TA or on M3cutters if you'd like some more information etc ;)

Cheers, Dennis!


Thats great mate, I'm sure I'll have a few more questions when it comes to it! :cool:

Your e39 install looks awesome, especially the door builds! Are you still using the 8W3v3? How does it sound? How much power are you giving it?

Edited by del, 21 Oct 2012 - 09:11.

BMW E46 Coupe kit list

Audison Bit One processor

Morel Ovation 6 mids & MT23 tweets and JL8w3v3 sub

Genesis Four Channel, ST100 and Profile Sub


#11 DennisCooper!

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Posted 21 Oct 2012 - 14:34

Hi Del,

Yes, I'm using the JL Audio 8W3-V3 and I'm very happy with it's performance and it's price point. Another aspect for me choosing it was it has a very strong metal grille and my boot area is regularly used with luggage, trips to the local refuse place, shopping and carting bulky items around as well as my doggy. It already has a few little dents in it, and had I gone the route I see other Touring or Estate cars have for their subwoofers, I'd have had to buy 3 or 4 new ones already! It's run via a 300W RMS amplifier, my head unit is set at perhaps +13 for sub level, my bass setting is usually -2 or -3 and the amp itself is perhaps at 90% gain. The rest of the settings I can't quite remember!

Cheers, Dennis!

#12 del

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Posted 23 Oct 2012 - 19:29

Cheers Dennis.

I was wondering, I presume you run new speaker cable into the doors, did this prove difficult or can it be easily fed through the rubber boot?

Cheers,

Del

BMW E46 Coupe kit list

Audison Bit One processor

Morel Ovation 6 mids & MT23 tweets and JL8w3v3 sub

Genesis Four Channel, ST100 and Profile Sub