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jkalman
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Joined: Sep 20 2005 - 7:04am
Car Audiophilia

It would be nice to have a review of the Lexus Mark Levinson 7.1 Surround system and other Lexus Levinson stereo setups. I'm going to go to the Lexus dealership tomorrow to try out their GS 300 and GS 450h with the Mark Levinson 7.1 Surround systems built into the car, designed exclusively for Lexus by Levinson Audio. Also, I'll be checking out their RX 400h with their regular Levinson Stereo system (LOL, I'm not as psyched about this one, Surround in a car has me more intrigued). I'll be bringing plenty of DVD-A, DTS, DD 5.1 and CDs to decide if I will change my mind about listening to music in cars again instead of Howard Stern, the news and other talk radio...

It would be interesting to see some kind of pair off of this system against the McIntosh systems in the Subaru cars as well (if they are still around) or at least a small review of them. I wasn't even aware high end gear manufacturers were producing equipment exclusively for select chosen car brands now. Maybe even just a list somewhere of high end gear and cars that stock the gear would be useful. It is hard to find info online for "real" high end gear manufacturers in cars.

Who knows, perhaps an articles in audio magazines could be a turning point for audiophilia in cars. Something to get competition started, and greater gear and designs for the car interior implemented. God knows it would be a great thing to have excellent sound reproduction in my car without seeking out aftermarket equipment, most of which I don't trust. I spend enough damned time in them as it is...

Mark Levinson Lexus Site

Monty
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Re: Car Audiophilia

Stereophile used to run some car audio reviews and such. WP might have some thoughts on the Levinson stuff as he was the contributor doing the columns.

jkalman
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Re: Car Audiophilia

I went and listened. I wasn't very impressed... Here are my impressions I posted in another thread. The thread is about the cars I am deciding on possibly buying with a trade in of my E55, which has a Harmon Kardon setup that sounds better than the Lexus Levinson system IMO.


Quote:
I've decided to get either the A8 or S8 both of which will have the up and coming Bang Olufsen system with technology from the BeoLab 5. Hopefully I can scrape together enough for the S8, it is 0-60 in 4.9 seconds, not too far off what I'm used to and yet still AWD. If not I'll be happy with the A8, I test drove one with the Bose system today. A very luxurious, comfortable and responsive ride.

Bang Olufsen and Audi

The Levinson system didn't impress me a whole lot in the Lexus GS 300. It had good clarity and definition, but not very good soundstaging and localization and was unbalanced as a whole because of it. The Bose system in the Audi was better IMO. The Bose system was warmer and had much better localization and soundstaging as well as more options for varying the Surround Sound and all the ranges were balanced better giving a more equalized sound. The Bose was more consistent with its sound across the spectrum, while the Levinson seemed bright at the mid and high end. I played both systems with the bass/treble/mids at center and didn't mess around with those settings much. I didn't have enough time to tweak things as much as I would have liked to at the time.

The Levinson mid and high ends were very forward. The Levinson was bright and crisp especially with acoustic music where it brought out a lot of detail in the string instruments, especially acoustic guitar solos and strumming on Albums like The Grateful Dead's Reckoning and Eric Clapton's Unplugged. While the Bose system was not as crisp and bright sounding, it was easier to localize the instruments on the soundstage and the music was less mashed together than it was on the Levinson setup where everything leaned towards the center of the stage. Unfortunately there was no option to lower volumes on different speakers. I had the impression that the center channel would have benefitted from being turned down a tiny bit in comparison with the rest of the system.

All in all, the Bose system came closer to the sound I hear from a normal HiFi setup than the Levinson IMO, with the instruments and sounds on an album such as Radiohead's OK Computer coming from the correct places within the soundstage without as much depth, but still the right proportions, e.g. on track 2, the transient sounds (I'm not sure what the instrument or sample is called) on the left and right side of the soundstage are in the correct places and are proportionally correct in comparison to other systems I have listened to the album on in the past. I guess that is the difference you get between a car that is half the price of another car... More research into the sound quality in the cabin?

If the Beos 5 system sounds even better, and it should as an option that costs around $7000 more, I'll be very happy. My Logic 7.1 Harmon Kardon system in the E55 sounds better than the Levinson IMO, which I find strange since Levinson and Revel are part of the same group. So, I have to chalk up the disparity in sound quality to the price of the car, which partially reflects the amount of money put into researching the parts and researching the quality of the sound in the car cabin, including speaker types and layouts.

The big sacrifice is that you can't play DVD-A in the Audi with the Bose system. I haven't looked into the Bang Olufsen system enough yet to know if it will play DVD-A (or SACD for that matter), but I doubt it will. There is an option however to put an after market DVD player into the car with Alpine screens in the headrest. If I do that, I can then play DVD over my car radio since the DVD player modulates a signal over a AM or FM frequency (one or the other I believe, I don't remember which, probably FM) which means I can play DTS and DD 5.1 through the car system, though likely, only in stereo...

I know there is a heavy bias against Bose out there in the audiophile community, but the system gestalt sounded more like a HiFi on the Bose system, and the Logic 7.1 system by Harmon Kardon in my E55 had the spectrum equalization quality of the Bose system and the clarity of the Levinson system without being too forward or bright. I'm not sure what speakers Harmon uses in the Mercedes, but will have to put an effort into finding out for my own comparison's sake.

jkalman
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Re: Car Audiophilia

BTW, here is the Bang Olufsen site link.

Bang Olufsen site link redundancy...

ohfourohnine
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Re: Car Audiophilia

Monty, the last car audio review I recall in Stereophile was written by Michael Fremer. I wrote accusing him of being a car nut trying to have his cake and eat it too - or words to that effect. The upshot was a pleasant exchange of e-mails, and I wound up with a little more insight into my favorite analog reviewer. My opinion, then and now, is that automobiles - all of them - are places where one listens to music at ordinary-fi levels, and any investments aimed at audiophile level sound are silly. Adding Levinson goodies to a Lexus may be fun, but that's all.

jkalman
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Joined: Sep 20 2005 - 7:04am
Re: Car Audiophilia

Yeah, it wasn't impressive all around, but I was surprised that the Bose system sounded better than the Levinson system. The car dealers were telling me that the automobile manufacturers do most of the acoustics research themselves then outsource the info to the audio manufacturer. This might explain why the more expensive cars have better sounding systems, they spent more on their research of the interior acoustics before outsourcing the info somewhere else. They didn't sound terrible, but it didn't aproach my home system by a long shot, but I didn't expect that it would either. I was hoping to find a better sound, and funny enough, found out I already had it in my Mercedes when all the comparisons were said and done. Too bad I need a AWD vehicle so I don't get killed by oncoming traffic this next winter. Perhaps I will try the snow tires and see if I can make it through this next winter. Of course those directional pop-out-of the cashboard B&O speakers seem like a well thought out design, I want to hear that system...

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