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Old 09-05-2011, 04:46 AM
dmatre dmatre is offline
Officially Welcomed to the 'Fest
Location: was CLT, then LAX, back to CLT
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 363
Mein Auto: 2011 E90 328i
Stereo Upgrade - Thanks to the E90 Community

First, forgive the log post, but I don't know how to do this any shorter.

Second, I would like to thank the many members of the E90 community who posted their experiences and wisdom on this forum and over on E90Post. Their reviews and experiences took a lot of the guess-work out of my search. Their DIY's were well-written, well-photographed, and spot-on, and made my own installation stress- and trouble-free.

I was not satisfied with the original (Professional Hi-Fi) stereo in my car, so I started to look around town, and to search the forums. I was looking for better sound, without changing the head unit, and without cutting anything in the car.

Around town, it seemed that I couldn't find anyone with a great experience locally, so I started to search the web.

From the web research, there were two real options:
1) BSW's kit
2) MusicarNW's kit

Because the BSW kit was limited by the fact that upgrading the amplifier is not recommended, I decided to go with the MusicarNWsystem. Admittedly, the MNW system was a bit more costly than the speaker-only solution from BSW - but I didn't want to get into a situation where I had purchased speakers and then wanted more power (and then had to replace the speakers again).

After talking with Ken by phone, I decided to go with the 'Level 1' system, but to upgrade the doors to the Morel Dotech 4's, and the subs to Jenhert. I placed my order and waited for the delivery. Ken was also able to recommend a highly-regarded local installer to make the installation - which was another benefit for me.

During the wait, I started searching the forums to find out just what was involved in putting in the system. Because of the fantastic DIY's provided by many of forum members, I thought that I would try to do the install myself - and if I found I was over my head I would carry a box of pieces to the professional and throw wads of money at him, hoping he could put it all back together again....

When the delivery arrived, I opened it to see what was what, and I was pleasantly surprised. MusicarNW had pre-wired the crossovers, the subs, and the amplifier, and all cables had connectors that fit the factory connections. No cutting/splicing/soldering required. The only connection that was not already terminated was the power feed to the amplifier, which had to be run through the bracing under the rear deck lid - but the amplifier even came with an allen wrench for making this connection. Not only was everything pre-wired, but the crossovers and the amplifier were already set-up with the correct adjustments, so no reading of technical literature was required.

Following the DIY's for removing the door panels, I swapped out both doors in about 2 hours (1:30 for the first door - taking it slow & easy, 30 minutes for the 2nd door). Everything fit in the factory locations, using the factory mounting hardware, except the crossovers, and those were mounted inside the door panels using adhesive-backed velcro. No fabrication, no fuss, no muss.

The replacement of the subs came next, and this took just 1 hour for both, about 30 minutes each. This job is also well-documented in the DIY's, and was not difficult at all.

Finally, the amplifer replacement took about 90 minutes, and most of that was simply taking my time while running the power cable from the battery to the amplifier (again, this is covered by several DIY's).

Some quick tips for anyone doing a similar install:
- Buy a proper set of trim removal tools (Harbor Freight has a set for <$10), they make the trim and door panel removal effortless and damage-free
- Roll down the windows, unlock the doors, and remove the seat rail bolts prior to disconnecting the battery
- Do one door (completely) at a time, so that when you are re-installing the window trim, you will have a reference to look at.
- It is NOT necessary to remove the seats from the car, or to disconnect the electrical harness from the seat. If you have a friend to hold the seat back, it is possible to remove the subs with the seat still in the car. This eliminates the possibility of damaging the seat or the interior of the car, while wrestling the seat out through the door. (NOTE: Still be sure to disconnect the battery, just in case you accidentally pull the seat wiring harness loose)
- Before installing the subs in the boxes, thread all 4 screws through the provided washers and into the plastic spacer (also provided with the MusicarNW kit). It is much easier to start all of the screws when you can manipulate the spacer, rather than trying to start the screws when the spacer & sub are already in the box.

Finally, the time came to reconnect the battery and listen to the difference.

Upon reconnecting the battery and starting the car, no smoke was observed - a good start. Then I put in a CD and adjusted the amplifier gains (again, Ken was right-on with his settings; I had to slightly tweak one pair of inputs slightly, but not a lot). Immediately it was evident that the sound was far better than stock. Compared to the MusicarNW system, the factory sound is far brighter, far harsher, and at the same time, far muddier.

The Level 1 system (with the selected upgrades) now has a depth and texture that wasn't apparent at all in the factory system. Vocals are crystal clear. The music has far more depth to it. The bass is much stronger and cleaner than factory, and is more uniform. The factory system seemed to either have not enough or far too much, depending on the music; and had an annoying (non-musical) 'thump' or 'boom' with drum beats. The new system has more than enough power to be heard clearly when driving on grooved or textured concrete, and doesn't get harsher as the volume is turned louder.

For those who like hip-hop, rap, or techno, the bass does fall off in the very low range, so adding a trunk-sub (which I may do in the future) would make the system completely perfect. (or maybe use the SWS-8s) But for 99% of my listening, there's no perceived loss.

In short, I'm extremely happy with the results. The fact that I saved the installation costs is an unexpected bonus. Having every wire pre-terminated saved not only the time, but the aggravation of looking up which wire goes where, and having to toil through that drudgery.

To anyone looking to upgrade their sound system, while retaining the stock appearance (and the ability to revert to stock), I would recommend getting in touch with Ken at MusicarNorthWest.

His expertise, his products, his preparation, and his advice are all first-rate; and are greatly appreciated.

Thanks again to all who shared their experiences and their wisdom! Your information made my quest for better sound much easier (and saved me the $$$ of professional installation). You guys are great!!!
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