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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 02-13-2005, 03:57 PM
billy mo billy mo is offline
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5 Series HK vs. 3 Series HK

Can anyone tell me why my buddies HK Sound System in their 2000 and 2003 540i sound so much better than my 2003 330i HK System? The difference is extremely noticable. Mine seems to have too much mid that I can't seem to eq right.
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  #2  
Old 02-13-2005, 04:04 PM
philippek philippek is offline
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Even the non-DSP E39 sounds better than my HK, IMO
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  #3  
Old 02-13-2005, 04:48 PM
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  #4  
Old 02-13-2005, 04:52 PM
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Lately, I've wondered what it would be like if you had someone who liked their 3's HK system and someone that hates their 3's HK system sat in each others' cars with familiar source material and just did an A/B compare. I suspect there are good and bad batches of HK systems.

I've spent some time in my father's 2003 non-DSP E39, and I definitely think my sound system is better (especially the bass response, since the HK has subwoofers).

In my car, I tweaked the treble between center and max, and the bass one notch below center.
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  #5  
Old 02-13-2005, 05:29 PM
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I'm happy with my HK. But I'm no trunk-thumping, vehicle-vibrating, public-pulsing, kinda audio guy.

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  #6  
Old 02-13-2005, 05:50 PM
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This doesn't answer the question specifically, but I can definitely say that my wife's X5, which has 5-series level trim/option, that her base level stereo is far better than the e46 base stereo. Makes sense, I guess, based on the price of the cars...
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  #7  
Old 02-13-2005, 05:55 PM
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I had the Nav/DSP sound system in my X5, and I think it's unbelievably better than the HK in my 330... When I first listened to the HK, it honestly felt like I had cotton stuffed in my ears. That's the best way I can describe it.
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  #8  
Old 02-13-2005, 06:03 PM
jetstream23 jetstream23 is offline
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I think the 2005 HK system in the e46 is very good. Its not great but its better than good for a stock system that comes with the car. I don't know if I would have paid extra for it but I think it compares favorably with the stock systems offered by other luxury car makers.

I'd also like to think that people buy these cars for their driving characteristics, performance, build, etc. and that the stereo system is secondary (hopefully even lower). If you're the kid with the 1995 Honda Civic whose stereo system is more expensive than the car its riding in, that's another story. People don't buy bimmers for the audio system.
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  #9  
Old 02-13-2005, 06:08 PM
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The E39 and E46's stereos are architecturally completely different.
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  #10  
Old 02-13-2005, 06:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaz
The E39 and E46's stereos are architecturally completely different.
What are the differences and the resulting strengths/weaknesses? (I can see the speaker layout differences and hear a clear difference, but I'm no audio expert.)
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  #11  
Old 02-13-2005, 06:26 PM
Robbyrh10 Robbyrh10 is offline
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I really enjoy my HK system in my 2005 330. Sounds really crisp and clean.
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  #12  
Old 02-13-2005, 06:31 PM
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I don't know much about it, but it seems like a lot more thought went into it. All mids and woofers are installed in enclosures, instead of just bolted to the door/deck, as an example. I'm no expert, but the E46's system is an infinite baffle setup where the woofers have the conflicting jobs of playing sounds while trying to control its own motion from forces other than its intended movement.

The E39's amps don't appear to have power supplies, so it souldn't have any more power than an E46's.
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  #13  
Old 02-13-2005, 06:34 PM
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To my ear, the settings have made a world of difference. It came with the speed sensitive volume fairly high in the value range. I have since cranked it all the way down, so that it doesn't react to speed anymore (I have volume controls on the steering wheel, for Pete's sake!), and it sounds a hell of a lot better. Higher volumes don't distory, and I have my bass cranked up about mid +2 and my treble about max -2.
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  #14  
Old 02-13-2005, 06:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RSPDiver
To my ear, the settings have made a world of difference. It came with the speed sensitive volume fairly high in the value range. I have since cranked it all the way down, so that it doesn't react to speed anymore (I have volume controls on the steering wheel, for Pete's sake!), and it sounds a hell of a lot better. Higher volumes don't distory, and I have my bass cranked up about mid +2 and my treble about max -2.
Yeah, I set my speed-sensitive volume to 1, which is perfect for me. Judging from previous threads about the HK system, people that like the system tend to have adjusted the treble up. Adjust bass to taste.

(I went down a notch of center for the bass and forward a notch or two on the fade so my passengers aren't overwhelmed in the back. I know, I know. F' 'em. )
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  #15  
Old 02-13-2005, 06:50 PM
allaboutme allaboutme is offline
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I think the quality of the system depends on the source (Radio vs CD vs MP3) and settings.

Mine sounds perfectly fine to me. When the car was new it didn't sound too good, but once broken in things are fine. The subwoofers are junk though. There's just not much you can do with 6x9 drivers and an amp the size of my hand.

For comparison, my system is max treble -2 and bass at mid. I also have the spacialization thing turned off. It seems to add some weird tinge to the sound, but it does sound good on occasion since it centers the sound in the cabin so everything isn't focused where you're sitting.

I also listen to cds, which I imagine sounds better than mp3s and radio. Classical sounds very good. Most stuff is more than decent. The bass isn't too good once cranked so lower settings are best. The sound in VWs sound better to me though since there are 4 nicely sized woofers.
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  #16  
Old 02-13-2005, 07:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by allaboutme
For comparison, my system is max treble -2 and bass at mid. I also have the spacialization thing turned off. It seems to add some weird tinge to the sound, but it does sound good on occasion since it centers the sound in the cabin so everything isn't focused where you're sitting.
Yeah, I don't like the spatialization and have it turned off. To my untrained ear, it messes with the phase a little (that tinge you describe, probably) and brings the mids out more.

My sources are always CDs or high-quality MP3s (LAME --preset standard, VBR that averages a little north of 192 kbps) via aux-in. All bets are off with radio.
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  #17  
Old 02-13-2005, 07:30 PM
tsbrown tsbrown is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philippek
Even the non-DSP E39 sounds better than my HK, IMO


I definitely noticed a difference from my old E39 non-DSP to the E46 with HK. I had to crank up the treble and cut back on the bass on the HK to make it sound reasonable...it sounded so muffled before. Then I transplanted the amp and 10" sub from the E39 and it sounds about on par with the old system. The HK subs just aren't enough...I guess the Germans only like very tight bass, nothing too overpowering . One thing I do notice is that I hear some more background detail in the music from the HK system over the E39 non-DSP....some of my old CDs sound almost new again.
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  #18  
Old 02-13-2005, 07:41 PM
jetstream23 jetstream23 is offline
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Just because everyone else is telling......+1 Bass, +2 Treble.

Is it possible that the HK has been improved somewhat in each new year? I hear far fewer complaints about the 2005's than the previous years and as I mentioned, I think the HK in my '05 330i is pretty good.
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  #19  
Old 02-13-2005, 08:20 PM
tsbrown tsbrown is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetstream23
Just because everyone else is telling......+1 Bass, +2 Treble.

Is it possible that the HK has been improved somewhat in each new year? I hear far fewer complaints about the 2005's than the previous years and as I mentioned, I think the HK in my '05 330i is pretty good.
Doubt it...there are just fewer '05s out vs prior years. Mine is '05 from Aug 2004 build, set at -1 Bass, +5 Treble (or whatever is 1 off the max). What sounds good to one person, may not to another. If yours sounds good to you, isn't that what's important? Mine doesn't sound bad to me, just not like the Mark Levinson system in my in-laws' Toyota, er, Lesux LS430 (and I don't use the "spacial-enhance" feature).
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Last edited by tsbrown; 02-13-2005 at 08:24 PM.
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  #20  
Old 02-13-2005, 08:23 PM
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I'll join in- I think my HK is pretty decent. I still think there's still something missing though, but can't put my finger on it. For the record, I've always had the treble maxed out and the bass max - 2. That's the only setting that's sounded decent for me

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  #21  
Old 02-13-2005, 08:28 PM
allaboutme allaboutme is offline
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There's just not much to do to overcome the shortfalls of the HK system. The use of paper cones, head amp, and the trunk amp just don't cut it. Has anyone even seen how small the amplifier is in the back?

Hmms.. Yeah.. I wish the system sounded like a Mark Levinson.. After all, Mark Levinson is part of the Harmon Kardon Specialty group... But the system is fine for the car.

Last edited by allaboutme; 02-13-2005 at 08:33 PM.
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  #22  
Old 02-13-2005, 10:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FenPhen
Lately, I've wondered what it would be like if you had someone who liked their 3's HK system and someone that hates their 3's HK system sat in each others' cars with familiar source material and just did an A/B compare. I suspect there are good and bad batches of HK systems.
There are no good and bad batches but each individual has his own definition. Tell me what do you mean by good or bad? Even if sitting in your car and you think it sounds very good, I can say it's crap. What if I say I like the bass to be heard 3 blocks away and the highs has to be ear-spiltting. (Have you ever gone to a car audio exhibit show? You should know what I mean.) If your system doesn't deliver that kind of sound, then it's crap. When you sit in my car and I show you how I interpret my definition of "good", then you might disagree and say mine is awful. So who is right and who is wrong?

Last edited by mkh; 02-13-2005 at 11:07 PM.
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  #23  
Old 02-13-2005, 10:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by allaboutme
Hmms.. Yeah.. I wish the system sounded like a Mark Levinson...
Yeah, but it costs you an arm and a leg. Look how much you have to pay for the ML system in Lexus.

Getting back to the topic, the standard sound system in my X5 is undoubtedly better than the HK system of my 330i.

Last edited by mkh; 02-14-2005 at 01:50 AM.
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  #24  
Old 02-13-2005, 11:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkh
There are no good and bad batches but each individual has his own definition. Tell me what do you mean by good or bad?
I simply meant good and bad batches of a mass-produced system. For example, my 330i ZHP has not been cursed with the stalling/rough-idle problem (good).

But yes, people's ears are different as they age, but some things you can quantify with frequency response measurement, and some qualitative things you can quantify with A/B comparison tests.

In this case, find a Person A that likes their E46 sedan HK system and a Person B that doesn't like their E46 sedan HK system (or use coupe owners instead):
  • Have Person A pick a CD Source A he thinks best exhibits the good qualities of his Car A's HK system. Have Person B pick a CD Source B he thinks best exhibits the bad qualities of his Car B's HK system.
  • Have Person A familiarize himself with Sources A and B in Car A, using whatever bass/treble/DSP settings he likes, and have Person B do the same with Sources A and B in Car B.
  • See what they think about the new Source they're listening to in their own car.
  • Swap cars.
  • Have each Person play both Sources, see what they think.
  • Then let each adjust the bass/treble/DSP settings to what they prefer. See what they think.
You'll know whether it's a difference of perception or if it's a difference in quality between cars.

Hypothesis to disprove: Person A finds Sources A and B to sound appealing in both Cars, and Person B finds Sources A and B unappealing in both Cars.
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  #25  
Old 02-14-2005, 12:06 AM
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Well, I'm in the group with BahnBaum. I don't like either bass or treble to dominate the music (unless the original music was recorded that way). I don't want to have it so loud that it entertains (or annoys) people a block away.
I have found that every time I get a new car I discover new nouances in my music. I detect lyrics that I never heard before on the same CD. Seems to me that each new system is getting better than the last. Of course many will say: "It's got no [fill in the blank] at all. It SUCKS!." That is their perogative.
I want my music to sound as close to the original performance as I can, excepting for volume -- the Grateful Dead's "wall of sound" would just be TOO loud in a car -- and I happen to run the HK system in my 325xiT dead flat -- everything at centre --- and it sounds just fine to me. It might not to you, but as Bob Dylan once said: "You are right from your side and I am right from mine..."
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