When you’re in the market for a BMW audio upgrade, there are two places you can turn: improved speakers, or a new BMW amplifier upgrade. For many people, speakers feel like the obvious choice. You want better sound, speakers make the sound, so better speakers is going to mean better sound, right? Wrong. Or at least it’s not quite that simple…
Speakers can only sound as good as the signal that’s driving them, and in most BMWs, the stock speakers are more than capable of doing what the rest of the BMW sound system is asking of them. Which isn’t to say the factory speakers are anything special — and depending on your original BMW audio system, they could be anything but — but that the amplifier options at the lower end of BMW’s sound system options leave a lot to be desired.
What is a BMW amplifier?
So what is an amplifier, and why will a quality BMW amplifier replacement make such a difference to your vehicle’s sound? The clue is in the name: amplifiers amplify, turning a small audio signal into something big enough to fill your BMW with clean, accurate and powerful sound. Size isn’t everything, though, and a good amplifier will also shape the sound in your BMW with quality DSP.
What is DSP?
- DSP, or digital signal processing, is all about adjusting the sound input to optimize performance. And in a car audio context, that’s crucial.
- The interior of your car isn’t exactly an ideal audio chamber, so there are probably going to be some frequencies that are muted, or come out far too strongly. You might also find the music sounds constrained, without a full room to bounce around in. And with your driving position well off to one side, the balance between the left and right audio channels is going to be all over the place.
- DSP makes it possible to adjust to that reality. Everybody’s familiar with adjusting frequencies, but with modern-day DSP software, you can tweak much more.
- Take time delay, for example. The sound from the speakers way at the back of a wagon is going to take a split-second longer to reach you than the sound from the speaker right in the dashboard. By adjusting the delay for each speaker channel with DSP, you can make sure everything reaches your ears at a specified time, for a better listening experience.
How much power?
As a general rule, when using an amplifier equipped with a powerful DSP, what matters most is how the DSP has been set up to optimize the frequency response and time alignment more than raw amplifier power, particularly in a car audio setup. And depending on what your speakers can handle, you’ll probably never use all the power your amp has on tap anyway.
Importantly, when it comes to performance, it is quite common for manufacturers and retailers to hype the specifications of their equipment by quoting performance levels at ridiculously high distortion levels. However, such practices are not only foolish but also misleading. Especially when you connect the amplifier to a factory wiring harness that can only supply so much current to the amplifier before the fuse blows. What you really need is an amplifier that has more than enough power in all circumstances of normal use, without needing to go anywhere near the amplifier’s maximum rated specs.
What type of amplifier do BMWs have?
But can an aftermarket amplifier do that job better than BMW’s own offerings? In some cases, there’s no point asking; the most basic BMW music systems don’t even include a dedicated amp, leaving it up to the infotainment system itself to produce, amplify and shape the sound. It’s a real jack of all trades, master of none situation. Even the BMW HiFi sound system (option code S676A) — currently standard issue in the US and Canada — comes with a pretty flimsy 8-channel amplifier, with precious few configuration options. Head into your iDrive menu and you’ll hardly find any audio settings to tweak, making it all but impossible to adjust your sound to your liking.
You have to push up to the more premium options, like the Harman Kardon system (option code S688A) before you’re getting anything to write home about. Not just because the amp itself is solid, with it’s fiber optic input and 10 channel output, but because the iDrive menu actually gives you a few options to shape the sound. For an audiophile with exacting taste, the lower-spec BMW amplifiers are going to be too locked-down to really enjoy — unless you’re lucky enough to enjoy your music exactly as the OEM audio team do. If you do find yourself with the base or HiFi system, the only way to get the sound you truly want is with a custom upgrade. You’ll need the right hardware, powerful DSP software, and to really make the most of it, the expertise to tune your amp and system to perfection. Failing that, an audio technician on hand to do the job for you.
How to upgrade a BMW amplifier
Sounds great, but audio technicians? Amp tuning software? All seems a little complicated…Fortunately, with companies like BimmerTech focused entirely on BMW (and their MINI stablemates), the whole upgrade process has been made as simple as possible, so you’ll have your BMW sound system upgrade done and dusted in no time. Custom made harnesses and wiring mean in most BMWs, it’s as simple as unplugging your factory amplifier and slipping the new one in its place. It really is the easiest audio system installation around!
Kits are available for most BMWs produced in the last few decades, whether they came with an amp from the factory or have the HiFi (S676A) or Harman Kardon (S674A) OEM hardware. Even the latest BMWs with the iDrive 7.0 MGU head unit (which feature a RAM module instead of a more traditional amplifier set up) don’t miss out.
Customized Audio Experience
BimmerTech’s audio technicians will also preload a great tune set to your amp, based on your vehicle, factory stereo and musical preferences, so you’ll get impressive, personalized sound out of the box. Best of all, the amp also comes with a powerful 64-bit DSP processor, which allows you to adjust the sound just how you like it with the help of DSP software, a measurement mic and extensive knowledge. Experienced sound engineers can do the job themselves with a laptop, or BimmerTech’s experts will work with you to squeeze the perfect sound out of your new amp, wherever you are. How’s that for one-of-a-kind service?
BMW Amplifier vs Speaker Upgrade
Just because an amplifier upgrade is going to have the biggest instant impact on your BMW car audio, doesn’t mean there’s nothing to gain from a BMW speakers upgrade. In fact, with a more capable amp in place, a quality set of speakers are going to have a chance to shine.
And that’s the key thing to remember: speakers can only work with what they’re given. The combination of a great amp and high-quality speakers is going to give you the best overall sound, but if your amplifier is putting out muddy, poorly-optimized sound, swapping out the speakers isn’t going to change the world. But with a powerful, customizable amplifier, matching speakers will be the final piece of the puzzle.
The BMW audio specialists at BimmerTech are on hand to complete your new BMW sound system, with the Alpha One range of speakers. A perfect match for the Premium Audio System amplifier, but performing just as well with the factory stereo, these speakers are made to measure for BMWs and MINIs. That means the same simple, plug & play installation as the BimmerTech amp. With BimmerTech, simplicity and flexibility runs deep — whether you want to replace all your factory speakers, or focus on the ones that matter most to you, BimmerTech will help you find just the speakers you need.
BimmerTech BMW sound system upgrade review – Is it worth it?
The best bit of all? That simplicity — from putting your kit together to installing it to customizing your sound — doesn’t come at the cost of performance. Over their years on the market, BimmerTech has left a string of BMW audio fans happy to testify to the quality of their BMW sound system upgrades.
Want to join them, and see what your car’s stereo is really capable of? Check out BimmerTech’s range of BMW audio upgrades or get in touch with a BMW audio expert today.
Full Disclosure: This is a sponsored post by BimmerTech.