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      03-23-2011, 12:25 PM   #1
Bimmer-Bob
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Alpine HiFi System Retrofit!

Some of you may already be familiar with this kit, but for the sake of everyone else I'm going to assume no knowledge and just start from the top.

Some background knowledge first. BMW offers three levels of audio in their cars: Stereo, HiFi, and Top HiFi (sometimes called Logic7 or Harman/Kardon). For the 1 Series in the US, only two of these stereo options have been available in a given model year. In all model years, Top HiFi has been the "pay for" or premium option, with either Stereo or HiFi offered as standard. Stereo was standard throughout model year 2010 and the first half of 2011 - HiFi was standard for all other model years.

Vehicles equipped with Stereo have six speakers - two midrange speakers mounted in the door cards, two more midrange speakers on the rear shelf, and two subwoofers under the seats (these subwoofers are smaller then those found in HiFi or Top HiFi systems). All speakers are driven by the head unit, as there is no amplifier. In addition, the head unit engages in some sort of equalization or signal processing, apparently to compensate for the lack of tweeters.

The Alpine retrofit kit is designed as an upgrade to the above Stereo system. It cannot be fitted to cars with either the HiFi or Top HiFi systems. It is an official BMW accessory, but it is not available in the US market. It adds a four-channel amp, located under the trunk liner; a pair of tweeters, located at the interior side of the side-view mirror housings; and replaces the mid-range speakers in the door cards with beefier units which utilize aluminum rather than paper cones. The new speakers and the subwoofers are powered by the amp while the two rear mids are left alone and remain powered by the head unit.

If you want to order the kit, there are a few things you need to know. One is that there are actually two versions of this kit, one for cars built before 3/09, and one for cars built since. Obviously, all US cars would be getting the newer kit. The differences between the kits is small - pretty much just the wiring harness is different. The old kit required splicing while the newer one is purely plug-and-play. There is also a two-position switch on the amp; the old kit says to set to position 2 while the new kit specifies position 1 - I'm not exactly sure what this is all about. The most significant difference between the kits is that, according to the service documents, the new kit requires software encoding from the dealer following fitting while the old kit did not. Some have said that this essentially sets the head unit to "HiFi mode" rather than "Stereo mode," effectively eliminating whatever signal processing the head unit is doing and sending an unmodified signal to the amp. This coding took several hours at my dealer, but I wasn't charged hourly shop rates during that time.

Many people have said that this kit is entirely DIYable, and indeed it is, if you're comfortable removing finicky trim pieces. I know you also must remove the entire rear seat. Personally, I didn't want to do all that and, since I was going to have to take it to the dealer for coding anyway, I figured I'd let them do the whole thing. I think they got a late start, because even though I dropped the car off at 9:30 in the morning, it wasn't done at 6:00 that evening. So it stayed overnight and I picked it up after work the following day, around 5:00. My invoice charged me for 2:55 of shop time - not bad, considering.

Be aware that besides the kit, you will also need to separately order the tweeter housings, or the little triangular grills that fit inboard of the side-view mirror attachments.

Everything can be ordered at your dealer if you're outside of the US (not sure about Canada, actually). If you are in the US, you can sometimes find the kit on eBay for probably too much money. What I suggest, and where I got the kit, is www.schmiedmann.com, a Danish BMW specialist. Just a warning, if you browse through their catalog, the Alpine kit you see is the old one - if you want to order the new one, you must search by part number. It probably won't be stocked, but they'll special order it from Germany and send it to you several days later via DHL. You can also order the tweeter housings if you search by part number for one-stop shopping.

Part numbers:
Pre-3/09 kit: 65410445684
From-3/09 kit: 65412163268
corner moulding, interior left: 51337199597
corner moulding, interior right: 51337199598
So, how does it sound?

GREAT!

It is lightyears ahead of the base Stereo system, no question. The addition of tweeters and more powerful mids has resulted in a huge increase in clarity, especially upper-range clarity. The amp gives the entire system much more punch, and the sound remains distortion-free. There is much more separation of sound into left and right channels for very good stereo effect. And the subs, though not upgraded, come alive some now that they are powered by the amp instead of the head unit - for the first time I could feel the subwoofers a little bit.

Now, I know there will be detractors. Surely there are better sounding systems. But for me, look - I'm not an audiophile. All of my music is being sourced from an iPod, for God's sake and I'm in a moving vehicle. In fact, I usually spend more time driving with the stereo off than I do with it on (although that might change ). I don't need super high-end audio, but the base Stereo system was just awful. This kit offers the perfect solution, IMO. The fact that it is OEM and completely integrated into the car is just bonus.

If there is one thing I could knock this kit for, it is the fact that the subwoofers weren't upgraded. The bass response of this system is not phenomenal, although it is certainly more than passable. I hear there are subwoofers (Earthquake SWS) that are direct drop-in replacements for the stock units, but I'm not sure how well they integrate into the Alpine system. This may be something I explore later on, but honestly, if I do so it will be more out of boredom than necessity.

Anyway, I hope this post proves useful to a few people. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to fire away!
Attached Images
    
Attached Images
File Type: pdf Alpine HiFi System Retrofit.pdf (1.36 MB, 4096 views)

Last edited by Bimmer-Bob; 04-01-2011 at 06:15 AM. Reason: Added attachment. Added someone else's picture of total kit contents.
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      03-23-2011, 12:56 PM   #2
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Bob,
way cool write up .. sharing info "across the pond" is a beautiful thing see how that works.....
Regards,

Alex
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      03-23-2011, 01:04 PM   #3
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Thanks Bob for that EXCELENT write up!

IF you do not mind me asking(or you can PM me)... what was the price for the kit + tweeters + install? And how much does your dealer charge per hour? Over in Germany mine charges 110 euros per hour.


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      03-23-2011, 01:16 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maxnix View Post
Interesting and informative review.

So not under seat woofers?
Thanks. Just the stock under seat woofers, I believe 6.5". The difference is that they're now driven by an amp instead of the head unit. FYI, I think cars with HiFi and Top HiFi systems have 8.5" subwoofers.

Last edited by Bimmer-Bob; 03-23-2011 at 01:27 PM.
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      03-23-2011, 01:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DriveHard View Post


Bob,
way cool write up .. sharing info "across the pond" is a beautiful thing see how that works.....
Regards,

Alex
No problem - I'm glad you found it interesting. I think a lot of people who bought MY2010 and early 2011 cars got stuck with a much worse sound system than they anticipated, so I hope this proves helpful to some folks. The only thing is I'm not sure if US dealers can or will support the coding on this since it's sort of "grey market" over there.
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      03-23-2011, 01:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dackelone View Post
Thanks Bob for that EXCELENT write up!

IF you do not mind me asking(or you can PM me)... what was the price for the kit + tweeters + install? And how much does your dealer charge per hour? Over in Germany mine charges 110 euros per hour.


Thanks,
Dackel
Of course, prices! How could I forget the most important piece of information?

I don't mind sharing at all. Way easier than sending out lots of PMs.

The kit itself was $407 from Schmiedmann. Now, their prices change pretty frequently as they are pegged to the exchange rate, and how much you pay is dependent upon the currency you pay in and the country that you ship to. I payed in USD and shipped to a US address, and then had it forwarded to my overseas FPO (it can't be directly sent to a military address because they use DHL and it must be signed for). If you ship to your German address, you'll get stuck paying 18% VAT, so don't do that. Anyway, like I said, I also ordered the tweeter housings, which I think were about $35/each. Everything all together (retrofit kit, 2x tweeter housings, DHL shipping) was $514.

My dealer only charges €65/hour for labor, which kind of surprised me (it seems too low, right?). Anyway, like I said, they charged me a hair under three hours for install and coding, 2:55 to be exact. The exact amount billed on the invoice was €189.15. These prices include 18% IVA (Spanish for VAT).
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      03-23-2011, 03:29 PM   #7
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^Cool, thanks Bob.
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      03-23-2011, 09:57 PM   #8
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Ordered my kit from schmeidmann.com last Sunday... Now I really want it...

I'm also replacing the rear speakers with a set of Alpine 4" Coaxials...

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      03-24-2011, 08:37 AM   #9
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It really is a shame that BMW neutered the base stereo in the U.S. 1-series because the HiFi system in the '08-'09 1-series actually sounds pretty decent and has decent performance. This Apline upgrade seems like a nice and affordable option for those not lucky enough to have the standard 10-speaker HiFi stereo.
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      03-24-2011, 08:50 AM   #10
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2009 128i  [5.00]
Sounds cool! How hard would install be by yourself? I hate getting charged for installs at the dealer...

And the Alpine speakers that you purchased separately are purely looks?
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      03-24-2011, 09:27 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Satalite View Post
Sounds cool! How hard would install be by yourself? I hate getting charged for installs at the dealer...
I've updated the original post to include the installation instructions in .pdf format. I don't think installation would be terribly difficult, particularly if you have any experience with car audio. The fact that it is plug-and-play makes it pretty simple - also not needing to access the rear of the head unit is a big plus. You need to pull the door cards, the edge of the carpet, the rear seat needs to come all the way out, and you need to pull the trunk liner.

The clincher, though, is the programming. You obviously cannot do that by yourself. You could try to do the install and then take it to the dealer just for coding, but for what they charged me for everything (less than 3 hours), I don't think it would have been worth the trouble to DIY. The programming took at least three hours on it's own - I would think if that's all they were doing, they might charge you their hourly rate the whole time, but who knows?

Quote:
And the Alpine speakers that you purchased separately are purely looks?
Huh?
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      03-25-2011, 09:19 AM   #12
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One thing I forgot to mention is that my "gong" volume is now really, really low. Anyone have any idea why that may be?

Also, having played around a little more with the treble/bass settings, and listening to a wider variety of music at varying volumes, I can say that the amp is actually wringing out a decent amount of bass from the stock subwoofers.

And I really like how much "higher up" the sound seems to be. The stock system made me feel like I was listening to music from an old, fuzzed-out clock radio that was sitting in my lap. The higher positioning of the tweeters helps tremendously, and the stereo imaging just seems very, very good.
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      03-25-2011, 09:23 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
Ordered my kit from schmeidmann.com last Sunday... Now I really want it...

I'm also replacing the rear speakers with a set of Alpine 4" Coaxials...

- Harlequin
I saw on the other thread that you were going to go with some Alpine SPS-400's for the rear shelf. Let me know how that works out for you - it seems like they would be pretty much plug-and-play as long as you continued to run them off of the head unit.

There should be enclosures for tweeters back there, too - I wonder if the car is pre-wired for them?
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      03-25-2011, 09:34 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bimmer-Bob View Post
I saw on the other thread that you were going to go with some Alpine SPS-400's for the rear shelf. Let me know how that works out for you - it seems like they would be pretty much plug-and-play as long as you continued to run them off of the head unit.

There should be enclosures for tweeters back there, too - I wonder if the car is pre-wired for them?
Yup. Picked them up yesterday. Haven't put them in yet but had a bit of a peek. They fit fine - but you have to trim one of the mounting lugs off -

BMW 3-point mountings
Speakers 4-point mountings

I was a little concerned that the tweeter was going to sit too high to fit under the grille but it's fine.

Yeah - I have the pre-cut holes for separate tweeters but no pre-wiring.

Also got an email from Scmeidmann.com this evening telling me that my parts are being despatched from Denmark via DHL today....

Have just purchased a JL Audio 10W6v2 Subwoofer and am getting TPLSM3 to build me one of his custom boxes for the boot...



Should sound more than a little better than the HK system by the time I'm done...

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      03-25-2011, 09:36 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maxnix View Post
The only possible weakness I see to this upgrade is that the original speakers are used. Usually, up graded audio with more low distortion power includes speakers with heavier more powerful magnets to reproduce the sound more accurately with the increased power.

Just don't know if BMW upgrades their speakers, or just the electronics and the number of speakers. Time to browse realoem.com, I guess.
Umm... the only speakers not upgraded are the under-seat woofers and reports from people who've had the kit installed say that those speakers sound MUCH better with some amplification - I don't doubt it...

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      03-25-2011, 09:47 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maxnix View Post
The only possible weakness I see to this upgrade is that the original speakers are used. Usually, up graded audio with more low distortion power includes speakers with heavier more powerful magnets to reproduce the sound more accurately with the increased power.

Just don't know if BMW upgrades their speakers, or just the electronics and the number of speakers. Time to browse realoem.com, I guess.
Well, the subwoofers are original and the rear midranges are original. The subwoofers are getting amp power instead of deck power, though, so they sound much better. The rear mids are still being driven by the head unit but are sort of drowned out by everything else. Some people think rear speakers are pretty pointless, anyway.

The front speakers are all new. Cars with the "Stereo" system have no tweeters to begin with, and the new midranges are much higher quality than the stock units they replaced.
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      03-28-2011, 12:05 AM   #17
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Got my kit from Schmeidmann.com today.

One of the Tweeters was damaged...



Not happy. Sent them an email. Waiting for response...

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      03-28-2011, 12:51 AM   #18
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Ouch - too bad. Hopefully they take care of that for you quickly. I'm sure it sucks having stuff sent such a long way only to arrive damaged, but I bet it'll get sorted soon enough. Good luck.
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      03-28-2011, 12:53 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bimmer-Bob View Post
Ouch - too bad. Hopefully they take care of that for you quickly. I'm sure it sucks having stuff sent such a long way only to arrive damaged, but I bet it'll get sorted soon enough. Good luck.
Haven't heard back from the email yet but the broken-english version of their website seems to suggest that I have to send the whole kit back to them, pay for the postage to do so, and then wait while they assess the damage...



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      04-01-2011, 06:16 AM   #20
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Hey Bob, glad you liked the upgrade as much as I did.

Sure you can adjust your gong -

Just from memory so correct me if I'm wrong, but assuming you don't have navigation, you press the button that controls bass, treble etc then press the button on the right to get to the next screen and that's where the gong is adjustable, along with the calibration for dynamic noise contol based on the speed of the vehicle.

By the way, the upgrade does still sound great without coding too, minimal adjustment of the treble and bass is required but only by 1 or 2 -
(for those that are nervous about bmw locking their software for future engine remapping!)

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      04-01-2011, 09:16 AM   #21
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has anyone in the US tried to get one of these coded yet?
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      04-01-2011, 01:43 PM   #22
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Just called the dealer, told me 4 hrs labor to install this kit......so it would be about $400!! That's INSANE!!!!
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