Yeah, Stereophile did an article on this a few months back.
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I have been into car stereos for alot longer than home audio where I am a newbie. I have my own high end car detailing business & one of my customers has the LX470 with the levinson upgrade. He and his wife are quite audiophiles with a full Krell HT & a Levinson/N801 2 channel system. To simplify things, The lexus system SUCKS in all capital letters (I demo'd it w/ some Steely Dan). My customer...as did an acquaintance from a high end shop in San Fran, verified that Levinson had nothing to do with the system other than lend his name to it. It is actually built by Harmon Kardon. For 5k, I will guarantee that the right aftermarket system will make the Lexus system sound like Bose in comparison
Ellery911, what do you consider good aftermarket systems, where does one get them, and how do you think the aftermarket will fit into the dvd-audio upgrade scene? By a year from now, dvd-audio car systems will be 'hot' but they will all be built, as in the case of the Harmon Kardon players, by the Korean, Japanese and Chinese midfi makers. What components (speakers, cables, amps, players) does an aftermarket company provide?
I have one. I bought a 2002 ES300 a couple of months ago and wouldn't buy it without the system... and it is SO worth it, it doesn't cost $5K for the system, not even $3K...
a link in case you want more detail http://www.marklevinsonlexus.com/
(by the way, all components have the Madrigal name on them.. I believe someone was stating that he thought that he heard that HK was making them.)
Anyway, I LOVE my 1 hour commute these days! The car is so quiet and the sound system is tailored for the interior.
It takes about 30 minutes to get really warmed up, then * oh * my * god *...
There is a 3 dimensional sound stage right above your steering wheel - no joke. right out over the damn dash board. Yeah, the sound is everywhere in the car, but the whole thing is gathered up and delivered to the driver in a most amazing way.
If you listen to really well-recorded CD, you can really hear the difference. It has a 6 CD changer in the center console. You just load up the cassette and they are neatly and safely tucked away.
I told myself that if I was going to spend that kind of money, I was not going to skimp; I was going to get EXACTLY what I wanted.
Angela, congrats, nice ride ya got! When I bought my Acura 3.2 CL Type S last year I thought..."oh jeez, the damned car has a Bose system". Many 'philes may wonder...why buy a car if it has a Bose system in it???? Size does count.. 265HP in a car weighing roughly 2500lbs, for one. Hehehehe..Before I even took delivery I was planning out my aftermarket system to replace the vile stock unit. Got the car, and truth be told the system really isn't all that bad. Bear in mind a car is not the ideal listening environment so it tends to be a lot more forgiving. Why carve up a real nice interior if it's not necessary? Find a car with a decent system, throw on your favourite driving tunes, and sing along at the top of your lungs like an idiot while those around you wonder what kind of pharmaceuticals yer on. And oh, watch out, speeding tickets can really eat into your CD/LP budget. Jeff
aj-On the ES it isn't that much($)but on the LS/LX/SC/GS it is big money, or at least it used to be! I too was impressed with the system on my 99 cadilliac catera it was bose and very good(it even played upside down while the car was on fire!) But now the monsoon nonsense in my GTi is JUNK! but it was only $300. After spending 30k on a car system and still not being happy with it I gave up, a loosing battle, the 12 volts D/C is a great idea but that's where it ends, IMO.
Tim, I was breaking the price out for the sound system ONLY. It is true on all Lexus cars, not just the ES. THis is the one that I am familiar with. The ML system does not come ALONE in any package. You know how the options work, that includes leather interior, special lights, heated seats, etc. You can't just order the ML system. Lexus doesn't make cars that way, so if you want it, you have to get inside of another package. You know what I mean? So if you looked at the entire package price, yeah, it's over $3K, but not just for the ML.
off to the salt mines and the ahhhhh COMMUTE ahhhhhh
mergers mergers mergers.... everywhere..... I work for HP - for now- and am really sick of mergers :)
I'm not sure where the people I know got their information but I do know one thing for sure...When I was in College, car audio was the thing to be in to. I had a number of friends that entered and won IASCA trophies(international auto sound competition something or other)Back in the days, alot of the spoiled rich kids would go for the full Nakamichi systems back when Nak stuff was better. Later on, some of these car stereos seemed to have alot of their own tweaks similar to what I read about here on Agon. Also, as an insurance adjuster in Seattle from 93-00, I had the opportunity to handle numerous claims for the systems on the Microsoft kids cars...man oh man. McIntosh from what I understand is making some prtty good car audio gear and alot of the people are using focal and dynaudio drivers in their car. Just as speaker placement etc in a home set up is important, so is the quality of the install in a car. The best installs I have ever seen were done by a place called Innovative Audio in Bellevue WA. Magnolia Hi-Fi also has a good selection of equipment, but aren't quite as custom as their installs. Now that I live in central Missouri, there doent seem to be any high end car stereo places like in Seattle...but then again, I've had toooo many decks, amps & speakers stolen in my day to want to put another one in...& on a final commentary on the Lexus system....IT IS SUBPAR....When lexus put the Nakamichi system in their cars (yes I have listened to those too) It didnt even come close to the Denon/Nakamichi system that I had in my own car...go figure. I have a feeling that alot of the people who are being sold cars with these so called "high end systems" are people that are in an age bracket that missed the car audio explosion and really haven't hear a true audiphile auto sound system. They are rare, but they are out there..you just cant get it at circuit city.
I never looked at those bloody option packages!! your right, how they get you with a few extra's to get what you want!! I guess they are all about the bottom line. Well at least Lexus customer service is better then similar priced euro cars(in my area). I like the styling and the service of lexus(the new ES looks very nice, a good improvement) and may very well turn to the dark side and drive an asian car, but I have 2 more years with this one, its nice to plan :)
There appear to be many people on this thread who don't know what they are talking about. I have a LS 430 with the ML system; it is by far the best car stereo I have ever heard. I've had this car for 10 months now. The $5k package on my car included a DVD based navigation system with voice input, the Euro-tuning sport package and larger chrome wheels. I compared the 430 with base sound system and with the ML, there is NO comparison. I sold my '97 Infiniti with its BOSE system, a stereo that truly bites the big one. The ML system is the first car stereo that really images with soundstage depth. Both Stereophile and Absolute Sound wrote it up and loved it. BTW, even with its $5K list, you can get the car and ML package discounted significantly if you shop around. I'm a Krell person at home, but a ML person on the road. And in my other (previous) cars I usually jerked out the stock system and install aftermarket items. I will not touch the ML system. Other cars/sound systems tested during my car hunt were the 2000 Mercedes S class (awful stereo, and cd changer was extra), BMW 7 series (2000 and 2001 models, not the 2002), and the new Infiniti Q45 Bose. The Lexus ML system was the best of all tested.
Tireguy, not just in your area. I walked out of BMW and MB showrooms because of poor service/sales tactics.
Besides, the Lexus (Lexi?) are the most reliable cars out there. We've had a cumulative 10 years of Jap Battlecruisers, and not one squeak, rattle, or hum. Let alone a breakdown.
Sfinnell, not all Infiniti Bose systems are the same. My Q45's was much better than the one they put in my wife's I30. Oh yeah, the CD players extra on the MB. What are they thinking?
I used to be very intersted in aftermarket car audio. I was one of those spoiled brats that bought Nakamichi tunerdecks and ADS speakers. They sounded very musical in my Prelude. However, it is almost impossible to buy a musical aftermarket audio system now. Most car audio installers and manufacturers cater to kids who like to pump up the SPL.
I am driving a Legend now with the upgrade Bose. I disconnected to front speakers to increase "spaciousness" because I felt the front speakers sounded too closed in. The rears, with the drivers facing the rear windows thus reflecting soundwaves to the front, produce enough detail and imaging for my ears for car audio standards.
Regarding upgraded factory stereos, Mercedes used to use Becker audio, which, to my ears, was the best car audio I've heard. But, they switched to Bose, which is god awful. The Bose in Acura sounds much better. Nakamichi in Lexus wasn't that good either. I've yet to listen to the Mark Levinson in Lexus, but I hear good things.
For those who are intersted, I know of only two car audio companies that still make components for music: Eclipse and (I cannot recall the name of the other manufacturer).