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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am new here, but have a few specific questions from those who may know a bit about installs, and also some advice on what components to use. Sorry if the post gets too long...

Background: This is not my first time designing an audio system, and I like ot put a lot o thought into each of my vehicles. Goals are to consolidate to as few modifications possible to get a stealth, good sounding, economical sound improvement. My vehicle now is a BMW and has a rather unique setup. Rather than replacing the stock HU, research has yielded that the OEM one provides balanced 5V (so 10V total) unprocessed speaker level signal to an amp in back, to about 10 speakers in the car. Amp does about 20W/channel with some weird crossovers. I am thinking that I can tap the 10V signal directly into an amp that will accept it. So...

1. Amps that accept 10V plus speaker level inputs: so far i found kicker (up to 10V) and pioneer PRS (up to 26V). Know of any others? Also, is this feasible that I can wire the tapped 10V full, speakerlevel signal as the input to an amp capable of accepting it? Amp would be to power a 3-600 watt amp for something in the ballpark of a sealed or low-tuned ported 12.

2. I would like to replace the front speakers. The tweeters are weak to very weak. The stock midrange is an odd 6" size. I was thinking of trying phoenix gold rsd6cs components. Any chance they would sound good on the stock amp with 20W and some odd crossover points? If not, I could run them off their own passive crossovers from a 4 channel amp with the other two channels bridged to the sub.

Sorry about the super long post, but any and all input is appreciated. Let me know if I am conceptually off on this, in terms of the amp running off the stock HU mostly. If that is possible I will be ecstatic!

Thanks
 

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I am new here, but have a few specific questions from those who may know a bit about installs, and also some advice on what components to use. Sorry if the post gets too long...

Background: This is not my first time designing an audio system, and I like ot put a lot o thought into each of my vehicles. Goals are to consolidate to as few modifications possible to get a stealth, good sounding, economical sound improvement. My vehicle now is a BMW and has a rather unique setup. Rather than replacing the stock HU, research has yielded that the OEM one provides balanced 5V (so 10V total) unprocessed speaker level signal to an amp in back, to about 10 speakers in the car. Amp does about 20W/channel with some weird crossovers. I am thinking that I can tap the 10V signal directly into an amp that will accept it. So...

1. Amps that accept 10V plus speaker level inputs: so far i found kicker (up to 10V) and pioneer PRS (up to 26V). Know of any others? Also, is this feasible that I can wire the tapped 10V full, speakerlevel signal as the input to an amp capable of accepting it? Amp would be to power a 3-600 watt amp for something in the ballpark of a sealed or low-tuned ported 12.

2. I would like to replace the front speakers. The tweeters are weak to very weak. The stock midrange is an odd 6" size. I was thinking of trying phoenix gold rsd6cs components. Any chance they would sound good on the stock amp with 20W and some odd crossover points? If not, I could run them off their own passive crossovers from a 4 channel amp with the other two channels bridged to the sub.

Sorry about the super long post, but any and all input is appreciated. Let me know if I am conceptually off on this, in terms of the amp running off the stock HU mostly. If that is possible I will be ecstatic!

Thanks
Is this an E46?

If so, the aftermarket amp should accept balanced/differential signals. These are not the common high/low level signals outputs as regular HU. Alpine PDX amps, JL Audio (all their amps) and Zapco (all their amps) for example accept differential signals of that voltage. Non-differential inputs amps require a conversion of the signal prior to input into those amps.

Audiocontrol devices (Line Output converters, line drivers, EQ, processors, crossovers) all accept differential signals and can output in different types of grounds to match any aftermarket amplifier inputs, so you can use these devices as pre-amps converter/processors regardless of the amp chosen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It is actually an E53, which I think has a very similar setup to the E46. So the differential balanced amps account for the factory balanced speaker-level outputs? Would this register as a 5V signal to the amp rather than the 10V [5V-(-5V)] that I was trying to calculate? Most of the JL amps say they only accept up to 8V input is why I ask specifically.

Thanks a bunch for the input.
 

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It is actually an E53, which I think has a very similar setup to the E46. So the differential balanced amps account for the factory balanced speaker-level outputs? Would this register as a 5V signal to the amp rather than the 10V [5V-(-5V)] that I was trying to calculate? Most of the JL amps say they only accept up to 8V input is why I ask specifically.

Thanks a bunch for the input.
Any JL Audio amp will accept those balanced level outputs at 5V... they are not quite speaker-level as they are very low current. I've never tried to drive a speaker directly with those outputs but I would assume that they can't.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I see what you're saying, my use of the term speaker-level is incorrect. I will look around for amps that accept differential signals of 5V+. JL would probably be a very solid all-around choice.

Since you are familiar with BMW, have you come across an aftermarket speaker set that seems to perform better off of the stock non-dsp amp?
 

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I see what you're saying, my use of the term speaker-level is incorrect. I will look around for amps that accept differential signals of 5V+. JL would probably be a very solid all-around choice.

Since you are familiar with BMW, have you come across an aftermarket speaker set that seems to perform better off of the stock non-dsp amp?
The only aftermarket speakers that are supposed to sound better than OEM off the OEM amp in the X5 are the BSW speaker kits: BSW Speaker Upgrade for E53 BMW X5 3.0, X5 4.4, X5, 4.6is, X5 4.8is | BSW: Audio Upgrades for BMWs

I do not have any personal experience with BSW just because I tend to replace everything from the OEM HU/Nav down with aftermarket amps, processors and speakers. The OEM amp (non-dsp) is underpowered for my taste...
 

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I think the E53 Business CD should be a variant of the CD53 IIRC so the signal should be the same as the E46 incarnation...

And this is not short.

As Technic mentioned the JL and Zapco amps will work, the others he mentioned I haven't looked at but would take his word on it that they will - apparently he has looked into this before. Also he mentioned the Audiocontrol devices, these do work too. It is a balanced differential signal - seems like there are some amps or other devices out there that have "psuedo" balanced inputs - not sure this would be desirable. Check to make sure before you lay money down. I have integrated into the factory HU on my E46 - made a cable that connected from the factory harness to a Zapco amp on the balanced input - worked great and was amazingly clean. And yes - all xover functions are handled in the factory amp. Later I went straight into an EQX and let it handle the signal and now I am going into a pair of Arc MEQs (install not finished yet but they are supposed to handle the balanced signal too).

Some points. I did not do anything to the voltage level - I think I checked them at one time and found it to be not much of an issue. The audiocontrol EQX had the input gain adjust on it so it allowed me to match any signal levels to the amps that way but just went straight in otherwise. Zapco was the same way - straight in. The newer Zapcos may have a higher level they will accept too. At the clean signal levels the HU will provide you should be within the limits of the downstream devices - I think the factory HU only has about 4V rms clean signal anyway. You shouldn't have problems although YMMV. If you have speed sensitive volume control, it is actually handled by the amp but if you ditch the factory amp you also ditch the speed sensitive volume and that is not a bad thing really at least for me.

Precautions: One of the guys at Zapco did recommend using the SLDIN-BTL-F for factory integration with the Zapco. This may be a consideration if using a newer Zapco amp that way if something effed up it doesn't destroy the amp input which seemed to be what he was indicating. Also make sure the balanced side has all connections covered so no bare metal is exposed - both sides are "live" and carry signal unlike a low level signal that is usually seen on the RCAs. When I ran the EQX I used a short piece that went form the din plug to RCA connectors so I had to cover the RCA ends. Just precautionary. Something else and I am sure the guys here should know more than I on this - if you tap the signal how is it going to appear to the affect the factory system? If it used input buffers and the impedance is high enough it should be ok. I think. I just removed everything downstream so I didn't worry about it and haven't had any problems.

Opinions: The OEM HU I have is made by Alpine and may not be fancy but as a signal source you couldn't give me anything else unless it was something along the lines of a Denon with balanced outputs. The factory HU gives you the stealth appearance and it is simple, and if it breaks you aren't into it big time. Did I mention it is clean sounding?... The downside - you have to do everything downstream so that may be something to consider. I do exactly that and it works fanfreakingtastic - a pair of Eq's (now) and a xover ahead of the amps so it adds equipment. Unless you run something like the Zapco DC Reference amps where everything is built in. The only thing I have found with the E46 version of the CD53 Business CD player is that it doesn't have a volume level that you can reference so you don't ever really know where it is - you have to learn to use your ears. My absolute only complaint.

Now as far as what is there of the factory system, if it is anything like the E46 I would eventually replace as much of it as you can after the HU. The E46 uses a 3 ohm speaker so kind of odd and if the E53 chassis is the same then it is a screwy deal and I don't know about running aftermarket speakers with the factory amp. like he mentioned - BSW may be the only option for something that will "match". The factory system is OK at best - mainly the speakers seemed to be a weak point and the amp in my car had a crackling noise when it became warm outside - even if the amp was off before that. And the internal IC's that do the amplification in the amplifier have some terrible distortion ratings themselves let alone adding in other components. And not a lot of power. And who knows what crossover points they do have.

If you could run a couple of channels from an aftermarket amp to a good set of speakers, do so - it is amazing how much of a difference this makes in and of itself. It was night and day in my car just in cleanliness of the system let alone if you actually try and get the car to sound "right". I had the HK system and not one of the speakers are left - garbage IMO, along with the amp. The only factory locations for the speakers I am using is the front midbass - everything else has been relocated or removed. But that may be more than you want to do. At least do something that sounds clean.

That is just my story... And I'm sticking to it... At least Technic has experience with the BMW systems too as do a couple others here so maybe between all of us you should come up with something that helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It is definitely very nice to have the well-build HU that provides everything you need to drive some amps, just tricky to figure it all out! I am familiar with the BSW products as well, and heard some great reviews, although they are not cheap considering that most of the sets for the X5 are MB Quart that they add convenient adaptors to.

Essentially it is no big deal to swap out speakers and add a sub, especially just to tap signal to the rear speakers. I will have to work up a little gumption before I talk myself into cutting the wires from the HU to the factory amp, although in the end a nice zapco or JL 4-channel running some components up front plus a sub would ultimately sound way better than how it is now. If I knew for a fact that you could tap the main signal without messing up the factory amp I would be less hesitant about trying that and knowing I wouldn't be beyond repair.

Thanks again for the help, and anymore comments from bimmer ppl.
 

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It is definitely very nice to have the well-build HU that provides everything you need to drive some amps, just tricky to figure it all out! I am familiar with the BSW products as well, and heard some great reviews, although they are not cheap considering that most of the sets for the X5 are MB Quart that they add convenient adaptors to.

Essentially it is no big deal to swap out speakers and add a sub, especially just to tap signal to the rear speakers. I will have to work up a little gumption before I talk myself into cutting the wires from the HU to the factory amp, although in the end a nice zapco or JL 4-channel running some components up front plus a sub would ultimately sound way better than how it is now. If I knew for a fact that you could tap the main signal without messing up the factory amp I would be less hesitant about trying that and knowing I wouldn't be beyond repair.

Thanks again for the help, and anymore comments from bimmer ppl.
You do not have to cut any wires if you do not want to... either try to get a cheap X5 non-dsp amp (most likely shot) and just remove the male connector from it. Then use that connector as your harness for a quick and dirty plug 'n play into your OEM amp female connector... no wires cut:

Something like this:


If you cannot get a shot OEM amp then you can get the same male pins at the dealer and just plug them one by one to the OEM amp sockets.

Something like this:

My Amp Install on a 2004 M3 - E46Fanatics
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
You do not have to cut any wires if you do not want to... either try to get a cheap X5 non-dsp amp (most likely shot) and just remove the male connector from it. Then use that connector as your harness for a quick and dirty plug 'n play into your OEM amp female connector... no wires cut:

Something like this:


If you cannot get a shot OEM amp then you can get the same male pins at the dealer and just plug them one by one to the OEM amp sockets.

Something like this:

My Amp Install on a 2004 M3 - E46Fanatics
Wow that is pretty cool how you did that, I looked through the photos at your work. It reminded me that my brother bought his m3 with a JL amp installed in the back that he doesnt even use, I will look and see how it is done. My only question is, why did you use the sven4 LOC, did this vehicle have some type of dsp amp? If it was non-dsp you would have just wired the inputs straight to RCAs?

I am also now on the look out for a burned up x5 non-dsp amp:D
 

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Wow that is pretty cool how you did that, I looked through the photos at your work. It reminded me that my brother bought his m3 with a JL amp installed in the back that he doesnt even use, I will look and see how it is done. My only question is, why did you use the sven4 LOC, did this vehicle have some type of dsp amp? If it was non-dsp you would have just wired the inputs straight to RCAs?

I am also now on the look out for a burned up x5 non-dsp amp:D
The harness shown in the first photo was my installation, the second photo and link was not my installation... that person used an SVEN4 LOC incorrectly because it provided him with a wire to RCA cable conversion, as the JL Audio amp that he was using in fact accepted balanced signals.

I don't think that he realized that he was not only making the OEM 5V output something like 1V, but that the new output was now non-balanced.

You do not need to use any LOC if your amp accepts balanced signals. If your amp do not accept balanced signals I strongly recommend to go with either an Audiocontrol LC6i active LOC or a Matrix line driver between your OEM HU and the aftermarket amp.

If you need a wire to RCA cable use 2 cables of this: JL Audio Mobile XB-CLRAIC2-SW ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
OK. So, I understand it would not be optimal, but would it be acceptable to just tap the signal going to the stock amp, and let it continue running while adding one extra amp for sub, possibly front stage as well? Or would this cause havoc in the oem amp? I guess if things went crazy I can have some extra amp plugs as you said as backup and hope it doesn't fry the stock amp, but I dont see that happening.

Any experience with kicker amps, esp with balance input? THey advertise 10V inputs as well and zx550.3 seems like it would fit the bill pretty well for a starter front stage and a sub. JL 450/4 is also looking good.
 

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The harness shown in the first photo was my installation, the second photo and link was not my installation... that person used an SVEN4 LOC incorrectly because it provided him with a wire to RCA cable conversion, as the JL Audio amp that he was using in fact accepted balanced signals.

I don't think that he realized that he was not only making the OEM 5V output something like 1V, but that the new output was now non-balanced.

You do not need to use any LOC if your amp accepts balanced signals. If your amp do not accept balanced signals I strongly recommend to go with either an Audiocontrol LC6i active LOC or a Matrix line driver between your OEM HU and the aftermarket amp.

If you need a wire to RCA cable use 2 cables of this: JL Audio Mobile XB-CLRAIC2-SW ;)
I was reading the manual for my PPI PC275 and it said if you don't have RCA outputs just solder RCA jacks onto your speaker outputs and plug them directly into the amp then turn on the -12dB switch. Is this the same as balanced inputs? It would be really nice to hook up this amp without having to buy an LOC to hook it up to my factory head unit.
 

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You really don't want a passive LOC in an E53... noisiest car electrically I've ever seen. Technic's reccomendations are OK, or you could just get an Arc Audio Line Driver.

I wasn't aware that the PPI 275 used balanced but it looks like it does.

E53 is identical to E39 in audio wiring... can sound great if you overcome the challenges. Same as E46 in the area being discussed.
 

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Sorry to hi jack, but what about adding Sirius to the E46 Business CD?

I'm not sure why I'm bothering as my wife could give 2 ****s and I never drive the car.
 
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