Exquisite Goods

My goal was simple — I’m a big music buff. I have a very nice $25K+ stereo system at home. I don’t want to duplicate that in the car — it would take incredible amounts of money to do so. The standard sound system in the X5, is, in my opinion, quite nice — no, it’s not audiophile quality, but it’s very good for what it is. Since I did not order the Premium Sound for cost/quality reasons, (I needed to keep the initial cost of the truck down and didn’t think the Premium Sound was that great for $1200.) Therefore I decided that in the future I was going to install a small subwoofer and Satellite Radio.

So, 8 months later after purchasing the X5, off I went to Rich’s Car Tunes! These guys are one of the best on the East Coast. I was considering Mobile Innovations in NJ, but they are just too far away in the event I ever need service. Rich’s is located in Watertown, MA. This is their website.

I talked with the guys at Rich’s, and told them what I wanted — a sub that would enhance the quality of the sound system. I wasn’t looking for car-shaking bass; I just wanted a sub that would add a nice amount of low end to the car. The enclosure was to go in the factory location of the premium sound system subwoofers (if you can call them that :)), and the assembly needed to be removable for service. The amplifier needed to be mounted in a location that was accessible; in other words if it needed to be replaced or I wanted to adjust something, I wanted easy access to it.

We finally decided on a JL Audio 250/1 amplifier, with a 8″ JL 8W3 Sub. To control the amount of bass (recordings vary so much), I wanted a Alpine 4313 Bass Controller (basically a fader control). This runs in-line with the RCA cables between the JL Amp and the adapter they used to interface with the stock amplifier.

The next question was Satellite Radio — who to use, how to install it, etc. Since I am located in Massachusetts, XM Radio was the only way to go — Sirius will not be up and running in this area until Fall ’02. That was too long of a wait, so I decided to go with XM. We chose the Pioneer XM piece, which will allow the interface to be used with the proper adapters once they are available (more about that further down the page).

I dropped the car off on Saturday afternoon and picked it up Thursday evening. I am pretty impressed with the installation — check it out!

This is the display unit for the Pioneer Satellite XM Radio. Currently it is wired up via RF-Modulation (the XM box sends its signal to the stereo via the FM Tuner). This is NOT the best way to go, and the sound quality sucks. In the future, once the proper adapter from Blitzsafe or Soundgate is available, I will use this to get a MUCH better signal to the system, via the CD Changer Input.

This is the location of the Alpine 4313 bass knob. This controls the amount of bass coming from the sub. As I mentioned, it’s really nice due to the varying amounts of bass from recordings. We were going to mount it in the ashtray, however there was not enough space. I didn’t want it to ‘stick out’, so the next logical location was the console storage area. This is NOT a stock console, as you can see. This is was a special console bin that does not have the CD/Tape storage trays (i.e. you actually have a little bit of storage space!). You can order it from your local parts dealer. Check with the guys at bimmer.org for the part #, as I don’t have it handy.

Here is the wiring for XM, plus you can see some amplifier wiring. The two wires on the right are for the XM antenna, which is located on the roof of the vehicle. One is for satellite communications; the other is for Local Repeaters (i.e. when you are in the city and buildings are blocking the satellite signal). The next cable is for the display unit, and the last cable is the RF Modulator plug, which interfaces with the antenna/tuner of the BMW stereo.

Heh, sorry for the crappy picture, but it was raining out 🙂 This is the TERK antenna Rich’s used. The wiring goes down the rubber molding/gasket and into the vehicle.

This is the location of the JL Audio Amplifier! The guys at Rich’s removed the plastic piece that used to reside there, and mounted the amplifier here. They created a platform which allows it to swing up to access the adjustments and remove the unit if necessary.

 The spare tire has to be removed in order to raise the amplifier to the full upright position, however the controls are accessible with the spare tire in place. The JL Amplifiers are very well regulated, and thus no stiffening capacitors were needed (a nice benefit). You can see the amplifier wiring is long enough (with the exception of the RCA cables) to allow the amplifier to be in the upright position. The entire assembly is removable with 3 screws.

Here is the grille of the sub…

..And here is the Sub/Enclosure itself! The guys at Richs used fiberglass to make this enclosure, which is fully removable to get access to wiring, tail lamp bulbs, etc. We probably could have fit a 10″ in there, but this is more than enough for me. This took the longest to do — the enclosure took over 25 hours to make! It is a very time-consuming process.

Total Price? Including taxes, parts, labor, etc…..heh….very close to $3000! I am not kidding. The equipment/parts itself was only $900 — it was the labor that was so expensive. It took them 3 days to get all of this done, due to the complicated nature of BMW’s setup. Of course, their $55/hr labor rate doesn’t help. The only way I can justify spending this type of money is because I plan on keeping the X for about 10 years — and $300/year isn’t that bad when all is said and done. Plus, they DO know what they are doing, and for that I am grateful.

That’s It! Right now, I feel that the quality of XM Radio is HORRIBLE! It sounds like the streaming audio you hear from the Internet (you know, that compression that makes vocals sound terrible). I am hoping this improves dramatically with the addition of the Blitzsafe or Soundgate Adapter, which is due out in May ’02.

If there are any XM subscribers reading this, I would be curious as to your comments on XM Radio. Do you find that some vocals/songs (especially female vocalists) have a strange, ‘compressed’ sound to them? Everyone I talked to said this is very close to CD sound quality, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed once the adapters become available.

Any questions? Feel free to e-mail me, but I probably won’t respond for a few days due to work!

Sorry, I had to throw in a obligatory picture of the machines in the family 🙂 (L to R: ’98 540i, ’01 X5 4.4, ’00 M5)

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