BMW M5 A Grand Return

Previewed back in August, we take a critical look at the install in Justin Murray's BMW M5. This took sometime to organise, which is always the case with busy car driving music lovers so I was thrilled to be able to organise a trip to Norwich to meet Justin and his fabulous vehicles. This month we focus on his BMW although he also has a cracking system in his Ford Ranger which we will cover in the final magazine article.

As mentioned in the August sneaky peek, I was a little confused with regard to the configuration of the system in this vehicle when looking at the equipment list. Generally the "go to" upgrade in a BMW involves replacing the lack lustre, no I'm being too kind, the very poor quality underseat woofers. We have bent your patient ears on many occassions about these in the past so I won't cover old ground here. Suffice it to say there did not seem to be enough speakers to suggest this had been done.  Justin's weapons of choice in the amplification department are the very excellent Audison Voce 5.1K, 5-channel and Voce Due 2-channel. Both capable of extremely high fidelity output even at level. Practically distortion free, I have not come across anyone who has managed to make these amplifiers sound bad or even average. The fact is, they are an electronic marvel! The equipment list featured a pair of matching Audison Voce AV1.1 tweeters for beautifully smooth high's and a pair of AV 3.0, 3inch midrange. I now know that a big old American 12inch subwoofer dominates the boot space in a custom enclosure. It is often worth beefing the bass up in a BMW as the boot wall is less penetrable than with other vehicle brands. In fact, Norwich In Car Entertainment (NICE) had left the BMW underseat woofers in place. This was done partly for convenience but also budget. It was thought that by utilising the versatile and powerful Audison bit One processor, any short-fall in performance could be ironed out.

To the casual ear, the sound was still a million miles better than standard, but once Justin and I began listening more critically it bacame patently clear that there was a large bass hole. Initially we felt that the subwoofer level may be too high but as both of us are familiar with the work of NICE, we felt it unikely that any such anomally would have gone unnoticed by them. We threw a number of different tracks at the system to better understand what was going on and our breakthrough or eureka moment came when playing a track with a prominent bass figure that descends from bass to sub bass in a single phrase. The sub was all there and sounded forceful and deep but the bass element sounded somewhat weedy. The only conclusion we could come to was that the standard underseats were responsible. As they are not built to withstand the kind of power that the Voce amplifiers deliver, they had to be turned down to a level they could withstand and this turns out to be not very high at all!

It is not my job to sell products to those who have kindly invited me to have a listen to their cars, but on this occassion, Justin asked for my professional opinion. I offered up two brands that I knew NICE had worked with in the past. Made by Rainbow and Upgrade by ETON respectively, I am familiar with both and having been exposed to Justin's music collection I was leaning toward Upgrade. It was with absolute delight that I received an email some weeks later from Justin: "Had the Eton speakers fitted under the seats in the M5 – talk about a power hike, really impressive." 

So there we go, I will have to take another trip to Norwich and have a listen sometime. There is so much more to tell you about this sytem however, so look out for the next issue of Driving Sounds Magazine for the full story!