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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 07-12-2005, 01:27 PM
tehkao tehkao is offline
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Question Why does my FM radio sound better than CDs?

It's weird but it seems to me that the music from my FM radio sounds better than the in dash CD player....the music just sounds "richer" for some reason compared to CD music....it doesn't make sense to me because I thought CDs are supposed to have the best sound quality. Has anyone else experienced this? BTW I have the HK sound system.

Actually this is not just a BMW thing, but I've noticed it in other cars I drive as well....
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Old 07-12-2005, 01:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tehkao
It's weird but it seems to me that the music from my FM radio sounds better than the in dash CD player....the music just sounds "richer" for some reason compared to CD music....it doesn't make sense to me because I thought CDs are supposed to have the best sound quality. Has anyone else experienced this? BTW I have the HK sound system.

Actually this is not just a BMW thing, but I've noticed it in other cars I drive as well....
Interestingly, I've always had the opposite problem... CD's always sound louder than the radio... in my current car, my old 325i, and my husband's Lexus....
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Old 07-12-2005, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tehkao
It's weird but it seems to me that the music from my FM radio sounds better than the in dash CD player....the music just sounds "richer" for some reason compared to CD music....it doesn't make sense to me because I thought CDs are supposed to have the best sound quality. Has anyone else experienced this? BTW I have the HK sound system.

Actually this is not just a BMW thing, but I've noticed it in other cars I drive as well....
What's your definition of "richer"? And I think it depends on your opinion of what sounds better or "richer" to you as you describe it, rather than what most of us might think "better" or "richer" is.

Are you used to listening to good audio source material on decent equipment or are you just used to listening to the average home stereo on micro speakers or what. Depends on how critical of an ear you have compared to the rest of the music listening public.
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Old 07-12-2005, 02:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doeboy
What's your definition of "richer"? And I think it depends on your opinion of what sounds better or "richer" to you as you describe it, rather than what most of us might think "better" or "richer" is.

Are you used to listening to good audio source material on decent equipment or are you just used to listening to the average home stereo on micro speakers or what. Depends on how critical of an ear you have compared to the rest of the music listening public.
FM with a decent source does sound better than the CD player. Most of the MP3 changer stations sound like ass, but I've noticed that the classical stations in my area actually sound damned nice.
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Old 07-12-2005, 02:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Z4phillygirl
Interestingly, I've always had the opposite problem... CD's always sound louder than the radio... in my current car, my old 325i, and my husband's Lexus....
What the hell does loudness have to do with this thread?
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Old 07-12-2005, 02:09 PM
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Remember that CDs that come directly from a record company will sound the best. If you are burning your CDs from lower-quality mp3s or mp3s in general, the sound quality is severely degraded. I use iTunes and when I burn CDs, I make sure I use a "lossless" format. This minimizes the CD replication downgrade to a near null. One drawback to using lossless formats is file size... a typical mp3 is about 3mb, but a lossless file is around 20mb.
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Old 07-12-2005, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick325xiT 5spd
What the hell does loudness have to do with this thread?
Maybe because it is a well known phenomenon in audio that the ear thinks the louder source sounds better. When auditioning audio equipment, it is critical to test at matched volume levels. In the bad old days of Hi-Fi, it was common for shops to do A:B speaker tests with the volume slightly higher on the speakers they wanted to sell.
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Old 07-12-2005, 02:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick325xiT 5spd
What the hell does loudness have to do with this thread?
Geez, Nick - why are you always so focking hostile to me?

In my post above, I was using the term "louder" interchangeably with "richer".... That's what I meant.
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Old 07-12-2005, 03:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Z4phillygirl
Geez, Nick - why are you always so focking hostile to me?

In my post above, I was using the term "louder" interchangeably with "richer".... That's what I meant.
That's just Nick...

louder != better....

crap that's louder is just loud crap.
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Old 07-12-2005, 05:43 PM
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The reason why FM sounds better is because the sound is compressed so you "hear more of the sound". CD`s are not compressed (much), and can have a dynamic range of close to 95dB or so, which means there`s a tremendous difference between the softest musical passages and the loudest ones, which sucks in a noisy environment like a car. Park your car in a quiet place, and with the engine off, listen to your favorite CD....I think you`ll see what I mean....The basic HK system gets a lot of criticism, but the truth is, all the system really lacks is a good tone-control, like a parametric or even a graphic equalizer....that way, you could fine-tune the sound until it`s pleasing to your ears.

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Old 07-12-2005, 05:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Z4phillygirl
Geez, Nick - why are you always so focking hostile to me?

In my post above, I was using the term "louder" interchangeably with "richer".... That's what I meant.
Don't worry.... we will defend you.... Nick you are an
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  #12  
Old 07-12-2005, 05:59 PM
tehkao tehkao is offline
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Thanks FastBob...that's the first explanation I've heard that really makes sense....
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  #13  
Old 07-12-2005, 06:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob
The basic HK system gets a lot of criticism, but the truth is, all the system really lacks is a good tone-control, like a parametric or even a graphic equalizer....that way, you could fine-tune the sound until it`s pleasing to your ears.
That's not just it. The low end speakers in the HK system are terrible. During normal volume levels the system actually sound very good - especially for classical music. However when I put my Metallica CD and listen to Enter Sandman (track 1), the lower frequencies rattle and rumble - and it generally sounds like mud. Of course if I keep the volume sufficiently low, then I don't experience this clipping - but Metallica needs to be turned up a bit.
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Old 07-12-2005, 07:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob
The reason why FM sounds better is because the sound is compressed so you "hear more of the sound". CD`s are not compressed (much), and can have a dynamic range of close to 95dB or so, which means there`s a tremendous difference between the softest musical passages and the loudest ones, which sucks in a noisy environment like a car. Park your car in a quiet place, and with the engine off, listen to your favorite CD....I think you`ll see what I mean....The basic HK system gets a lot of criticism, but the truth is, all the system really lacks is a good tone-control, like a parametric or even a graphic equalizer....that way, you could fine-tune the sound until it`s pleasing to your ears.

Regards,
Bob
Yes FM radio is "compressed" like crazy! You hear tons of bass & quite a bit more detail over a CD being played at the same level of your CD/MP3/iPod etc.

They also 'enhance' the sound quite a bit. They process the low end to give it more oomph.

And, the actual 'quality' of FM vs CD is lower. It is all dependent upon how much processing the radio stations does to the sound-that makes it sound 'better'.

Louder appeals to the human ear as 'better'. This is a very common effect. Kind of like a girl with big boobs is prettier than an identical twin with natural boobs.

Johnny
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Old 07-12-2005, 07:59 PM
tehkao tehkao is offline
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Ok...so I guess my next question is...is there a way to make my CD's sound "better" like the FM radio?
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  #16  
Old 07-12-2005, 08:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tehkao
Ok...so I guess my next question is...is there a way to make my CD's sound "better" like the FM radio?
Not really. If you want to match FM radio, you'd need to invest in quite a bit of money into processors. Then you'd have to spend the time to tweak your music and then record it to either CD's or iPod etc. Other way is to get a processor attached to your car stereo.

However, the cheapest way is to turn up your volume to give you that apparent boost. No cheap/easy way to match what the FM radio stations do with thousands of dollars in equipment.
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Old 07-12-2005, 08:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tehkao
Ok...so I guess my next question is...is there a way to make my CD's sound "better" like the FM radio?
turn up the volume...
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Old 07-12-2005, 08:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tehkao
Ok...so I guess my next question is...is there a way to make my CD's sound "better" like the FM radio?
Probably an obvious suggestion, but have you tried adjusting the tone controls? Your head unit will store different settings for radio, CD, and aux-input if you have it, so you need to switch to each mode, and then adjust the tone control.
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Old 07-12-2005, 08:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob
The reason why FM sounds better is because the sound is compressed so you "hear more of the sound". CD`s are not compressed (much), and can have a dynamic range of close to 95dB or so, which means there`s a tremendous difference between the softest musical passages and the loudest ones, which sucks in a noisy environment like a car.
Tangent: although this is true, that FM is more compressed than CDs, many modern albums are mastered with a higher average volume and a compressed sound.

Older CDs and classical CDs and soundtracks often have an average volume down around 89 - 95 dB with wide dynamic range. Modern popular music, on the other hand, master their CDs louder with more compression. Bands like Green Day release albums with an average volume of 100 dB with little dynamic range. Then there are bands that use compression or let the sound clip for "artistic effect" and a "raw sound" (Oasis and Smashing Pumpkins).
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Old 07-12-2005, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by johnnygraphic
Not really. If you want to match FM radio, you'd need to invest in quite a bit of money into processors. Then you'd have to spend the time to tweak your music and then record it to either CD's or iPod etc. Other way is to get a processor attached to your car stereo.

However, the cheapest way is to turn up your volume to give you that apparent boost. No cheap/easy way to match what the FM radio stations do with thousands of dollars in equipment.
This is one feature I'm not sure why isn't built-in to modern car CD players. My '92 Saturn (the first car I had with a CD player) had a button that digitally compressed the CD volumes (lessened the differences between loud and quiet noises) so that certain music such as classical could be better heard in the noisy car environment. It actually worked very well on classical, but with pop music it didn't make much of a difference as most was at the same volume levels.
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Old 07-12-2005, 09:15 PM
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No one really hit on this point: Tehkao, are you sure that you've adjusted your bass and treble levels when you're listening to a cd? The only reason I say this is because every audio source has individual tone levels. It's possible that yours have been set for FM but not yet for CDs. I know it seems really simple but you just never know.

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Old 07-12-2005, 09:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob
The reason why FM sounds better is because the sound is compressed so you "hear more of the sound". CD`s are not compressed (much), and can have a dynamic range of close to 95dB or so, which means there`s a tremendous difference between the softest musical passages and the loudest ones, which sucks in a noisy environment like a car. Park your car in a quiet place, and with the engine off, listen to your favorite CD....I think you`ll see what I mean....The basic HK system gets a lot of criticism, but the truth is, all the system really lacks is a good tone-control, like a parametric or even a graphic equalizer....that way, you could fine-tune the sound until it`s pleasing to your ears.

Regards,
Bob
Yes, Fast Bob's got it right.

That should also answer Nick's question re loudness and perceived audio quality.

As another poster pointed out, many FM stations use aural enhancers, these often widen and spectrally modify the sound in a pleasant, ear-candy sort of way.

I hate the sound of FM, and most modern CD's, but to each his own.

Ed

Last edited by EdCT; 07-12-2005 at 09:34 PM.
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  #23  
Old 07-13-2005, 12:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tehkao
It's weird but it seems to me that the music from my FM radio sounds better than the in dash CD player....the music just sounds "richer" for some reason compared to CD music....it doesn't make sense to me because I thought CDs are supposed to have the best sound quality. Has anyone else experienced this? BTW I have the HK sound system.

Actually this is not just a BMW thing, but I've noticed it in other cars I drive as well....
Lucky you. My bmw radio sounds so sucks. Maybe it's because my sound setting.
Or maybe it's becuase I live in country side.
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Old 07-13-2005, 08:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EdCT
Yes, Fast Bob's got it right.

That should also answer Nick's question re loudness and perceived audio quality.

As another poster pointed out, many FM stations use aural enhancers, these often widen and spectrally modify the sound in a pleasant, ear-candy sort of way.

I hate the sound of FM, and most modern CD's, but to each his own.

Ed
I`m right there with you, Ed....I`m an analog dinosaur in a digital world :-)....my preferred playback mediums are vinyl and reel-to-reel, but I`d have a hard time configuring either of them to fit into my 330`s dashboard :-)
P.S.: I`d like to hear you bangin` the 88s....live is always best!

Regards,
Bob
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Old 07-13-2005, 09:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Bob
The reason why FM sounds better is because the sound is compressed so you "hear more of the sound".


Just an FYI, FM radio is compressed because it's more efficient in terms of power consumption to transmit signals without very many changes in the dynamic range of the source.
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