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      03-09-2017, 01:08 PM   #1
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Integral Audio Soundstage™ Review Thread

We've just released our Soundstage™+Phantom™ Subwoofer for the F80 (https://integralaudio.com/products/b...sedan-f80.html). Our F3x products are still relatively recent, and I get lots of questions from folks looking for first-hand reviews and feedback. There are some existing ones spread over the forum here, so I thought I'd compile them into one place to direct folks to. At the end of the day, though, there is still no substitute for hearing it. Every manufacturer wants to paint their products in the best possible light, and anyone can fake anything. What can't be faked are real results. It is a commitment to buy and install a $1,699 or $2,599 sound system if you haven't been able to try it first, just based on some reviews (regardless of how good they are). So, to that end, we're offering this: if you aren't absolutely thrilled, we'll pay to have it uninstalled, and refund all your money plus an additional $100.

3/7/2017: We're currently shipping Soundstage+Phantom subwoofer systems for F30/F80 with HIFI. We're in development on F31, F32/82, and F36, as well as systems for Base audio and harman/kardon equipped versions of all of the above. Anticipated release dates ranging from late spring to early summer.

5/12/2020: These original Soundstage™ for F30/F80 kits are massively discounted as we close them out (they are being replaced by a new product line). https://integralaudio.com/products/b...sedan-f80.html
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      03-09-2017, 01:09 PM   #2
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This gentleman replaced his BavSound Stage1 + Ghost Underseat Woofers + BimmerTech/Helix amp with our Soundstage™ and Phantom™ subwoofer.

Full thread is here: http://f30.bimmerpost.com/forums/sho....php?t=1322917

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      03-09-2017, 01:10 PM   #3
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(Very) active forum member Jameson was actually R&D vehicle #1 for the F30. As you can see from the dates he mentions, we spend a LOT of time on development, and don't release until it's perfect .

Post here: http://f30.bimmerpost.com/forums/sho...03&postcount=2

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      03-09-2017, 01:12 PM   #4
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F30 owner in NJ coming from an E39 with a complete high-end aftermarket system.

Full thread: http://f30.bimmerpost.com/forums/sho...4#post20932254




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      03-09-2017, 01:14 PM   #5
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New owner who was disappointed with the audio in her F30, but definitely not now.

Thread here: http://f30.bimmerpost.com/forums/sho....php?t=1330271





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      03-09-2017, 07:22 PM   #6
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First things first, let me tell you a little about myself. I am by no means an expert in sounds systems. I am just an ordinary guy who would like a great sound system for my vehicles. I am the guy who usually opted for the premium sound for my vehicles because to me it was easier and cheaper than messing with the system myself. I usually thought Bose was pretty good and Harman Kardon was better. In the old days, I would put the bass and treble all the way up but then complain about how scratchy and muddy the system would sound. Now that I’m older, I realized that part of the issue was putting the bass and treble all the way up.
Now on to the type of music I listen to. I listen to R&B and Hip-hop (Mainly 90’s-2k’s), Pop, Christian, Alternative and some Country Music (Thanks to my wife.) I enjoy feeling the base but not at the cost of the clarity of the vocals and instrumentals.
I purchased the IA system with the trunk woofer about 4 months ago for my 2016 328i. Unfortunately, my wife gets to listen to the sounds system more than I do because she took over my car. My F30 LCI came with the stock hi-fi system and not by choice.
When I was looking at replacing my speakers, I was leaning towards BAVSOUND because it had seemed to be one of the easiest and least expensive way to improve my sound system with raving reviews from several forums.
When I saw the IA Soundstage being offered, I was intrigued especially since I was familiar with the company from owning a MINI for the past several years. I had always thought it was overpriced and didn’t think what they had to offer would make such a huge difference. Obviously, I was wrong which is why I’m writing this. What sold me on the IA system was the price point.
Many will think it’s a lot of money for the IA soundstage but in reality, they don't count for the amount of research, custom fabricated parts and everything that is included. For example, to go the BAVSOUND route it would be the following: $547 (Speakers) + $497 (underseat subwoofers) + $997 (Bimmertech amp) = $2,041 and that's not including the trunk subwoofer w/ a box. Compared to not only BAVSOUND but other options, IA Soundstage’s asking price is on par with the competition. Even though I got the system at a discounted price, I would still pay their asking price and I will tell you why in my review.
The IA system only replaces the front midranges, tweeters and underseat subwoofers. I had purchased some BAVSOUND speakers for the center and rear midranges to complete the package but Kevin had recommended against it since they designed the system to work with the stock speakers in place. Long story short, I can't speak from experience with the BAVSOUND speakers because I never had them installed.
I did get to test out the H/K system in an F30 but it was brief when I was looking into vehicles. It definitely sounded better than the stock but I truly believe the new system I have sounds better.
I did swap my stock hi-fi speakers with H/K speakers before getting the IA Soundstage. I had an opportunity to see if it would make a difference for a very little asking price. They did improve slightly but the system was still lacking. Not only because of the speakers but also because the amp had not been changed.
Now onto what matters in this review. After installing the IA Soundstage per the detailed instructions provided, I can tell you Kevin and his team in IA did a great job in using the weakness of the stock system as an advantage of the IA Soundstage.

The new amp runs in conjunction with the OEM amp. The OEM amp powers the center and rear midranges while the new amp powers the new speakers. Since the new amp is more powerful, IA designed the system around the fact that the OEM amp and speakers will be less powerful and utilizes them for the sole intention as fillers.

The result, my system is now spot on. Every speaker has a designated purpose for certain frequencies. What that means is you get nice, tight bass that you can hear and FEEL. You get no harshness from the tweeters or midranges. I like to think the system as a set it and forget it type where you adjust the settings (usually very minimal) where you like them and can keep them for whatever you are listening too. Even at high volumes, everything still sounds clear and not muffled. You also don't get the scratching sound from too much bass from the tweeters when listening to talk radio or if someone has a deep voice.
The setup creates a soundstage effect prioritizing majority of the sound up front and relying on the rear speakers to fill the empty space needed for rear passengers. Otherwise, your rear passengers would not have a pleasant experience because the audio would sound too distant. The rear speakers also don't obstruct the the clarity of the front speakers so you still get the stereo effect throughout the vehicle.
I noticed whenever I walked out of my car and closed the door, the music could be heard from the outside and I could tell how overworked the OEM speakers would be from the bass because it would make the car rattle in the doors and such. In all honestly, it sounded like a cheap rice burner with an overpowering sound system only it was a BMW with an underpowered sound system. With the IA soundstage, you no longer have that. Everything sounds clear and tight and you I no longer have any annoying rattles.

I opted for the IA subwoofer with the soundstage because to get a custom woofer box and another brand of woofer would have most likely cost me more. Plus, I would run the risk of the subwoofer not working in harmony with the new system. One thing to keep in mind is that Kevin and the IA team made everything to work with one another and the addition of the IA Subwoofer is another prime example. It provides just enough bass to where it’s not obnoxious and it fits in quite nicely into the trunk as if the car came with it, minimizing loss of storage space. IA also made it very easy to remove if you ever need the extra cubby space for anything or to remove the extra weight for racing on the track.

I don't believe swapping out the speakers with BAVSOUND speakers would be on par because you will still be powering them with the OEM amp. I noticed most people still found their system lacking after swapping the speakers and bought a new amp to replace the OEM amp, such as the Bimmertech. Even then, sometimes it doesn't work for them. The Bimmertech is amp is definitely a nice amp and has some nice configurations but sometimes for people like me, it has too many settings I would even know what to do with. I would rely on someone else’s profile to load for the settings.
Kevin and his team are able to solve all of that by going old school proven technology of using custom crossovers. The benefits of the Bimmertech amp is that it’s an amp designed to be used across multiple platforms/vehicles and adjusted to such platform with the loading of a profile. It’s definitely more efficient than creating custom crossovers for every platform/vehicle.

The installation was very manageable. It took some elbow grease, patience and beers but their instructions are very well written and everything was easily labeled, all the way down to the screws. My install was particularly one of a kind because of my car being an F30 LCI. Kevin was not aware of some of the changes that were made for the LCI and now they are going back to the drawing board to fix address those issues even though I found workaround for the them. They are committed to customer satisfaction and to providing the best system you can have for your money. With the IA soundstage, everything is still plug and play but if you go with their trunk woofer, you will have to remove a few pieces so that the box and woofer fit. The installation is just a little bit more involved than just swapping out speakers. One recommendation I do have is if you don’t have a fish hook like myself then you can always pop off the necessary panels to fish the wire in the right locations. IA also offered a harness for the removal of the ASD system. Love it or hate it, at least IA offers a nice fix. I happen to like it except because of the changes to the LCI, my amplifier required an increase in input gain and therefor affected the ASD increase which made no longer enjoyable. My fix for the lack of exhaust sound? I got an MPE installed. 😊
Now back to the subject on hand. Kevin was always available whenever I ran into a hiccup. Kevin would reply by email or text message within a few minutes to assist with the problems I ran into although most of the time he preferred to talk on the phone. Talking with Kevin, I can tell his passion in what he does and in reality, goes with the same passion we have for our Bimmers.
The fit and finish of the end product is amazing. Everything fits snug and is very nicely integrated as if they belonged to the vehicle from factory. The quality is represented by the materials used and the awesome sound reproduction. If it weren’t for the IA badges (which are optional to put on and not necessary), no one would know the system was aftermarket but would definitely be able to tell it was a high-end system. BMW owners of course would be able to tell there wasn’t a stock system installed. The one downside with the amount of integration, especially with the IA Subwoofer, makes it a little harder to go back to stock. Not to say it’s impossible by any means but it is something to consider if you are leasing your BMW. Now again, most of the extra work has to do with the addition of the subwoofer.

In summary, IA did a tremendous amount of research into their product and you can certainly tell they are proud of what they are able to accomplish with their products. In my opinion, they have every reason to be.
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      03-17-2017, 08:27 PM   #7
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Another question we get frequently surrounds the rear speakers, what we do with them, and why.

If you'd like to know, you can read more here: https://integralaudio.com/other_file...20Speakers.pdf

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      04-05-2017, 06:36 PM   #8
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I have meant to post a review of my Integral Audio Soundstage for a while now so here goes. My apologies to Kevin Bennett for taking so long. 🙁 I have had the system installed for a couple months now and every time I get in the car it still brings a smile to my face. I hear such crystal clear and detailed sounds that it's really hard to do the system justice in a written review.

The install took me a little longer than normal because I was doing it in bits and pieces between work, kids, etc. but finally got it installed in my (new to me) 2013 335i in about a week's time. Luckily I was able to drive my old e90 in the meantime. I'm by no means a DIYer but I got through it fairly easily. There were a few bumps along the way and Kevin was there every time to help. Even though I've never installed stereo equipment before it was still very easy. If I were to install it again, given what I know now, it would be a breeze. If you have the time and are familiar with car stereo installs I could see someone getting this installed easily in a day. It really is pretty simple and straightforward and is a true plug-and-play solution.

The sound is simply amazing compared to what was in the car originally. I am not an audiophile but I do know what sounds good to me and appreciate a good sound. I have also had upgraded stereo systems in previous cars. In my old e90 I replaced the speakers with Alpines in front and back and had two Alpine amps installed along with a sub. This setup sounded good but was always lacking in a lot of areas.

Enter the IA Soundstage- The first song I listened to after the install was a completely new experience when it comes to car audio. I was absolutely blown away!!! I was hearing sounds I had never heard before in that song. It was crystal clear and didn't suffer at higher volumes. The range and detail of sound was amazing. I didn't even know the underseat woofers worked before but with the IA Soundstage I can definitely hear them and feel them. They really pick up those mid-level ranges.

I have my own subwoofer (Digital Designs) and am still tweaking the settings a little bit to maximize the bass potential and get it to where I like it. I would venture to guess if you get the IA subwoofer it will sound great with no tweaking needed.

The other absolute advantage of the IA system that I can't stress enough is the owner Kevin Bennett. He was extremely helpful and a real pleasure to work with through the whole process. I spoke with him on the phone whenever I had questions and he was there every time with support and knowledge. He is, by far, the most knowledgeable person I have ever spoken to about car audio. You can tell he truly loves this stuff.

So, if anyone would ask me if I would purchase it again and is it worth the money? I would definitely say "Yes!" without hesitation. It sounds spectacular and is truly a plug-and-play solution. Again, I'm not a car audio (expert), but compared to the Alpine speakers and the Digital Designs sub in my previous e90 and the stock BMW stereo systems I've heard in BMWs, there really is no comparison. Every time I drive my old e90 I'm immediately reminded just how good the IA Soundstage sounds. Again, a written review just doesn't do the system justice. If you're even remotely thinking about upgrading your current stock system and considering the IA Soundstage, I say go for it! You will not be disappointed.

If anyone has questions regarding my experience please don't hesitate. I'm happy to help.
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      04-06-2017, 10:40 PM   #9
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Keep us posted on solutions for the F32 with HK please. Thanks.
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      04-17-2017, 10:31 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broken_Gearbox View Post
Keep us posted on solutions for the F32 with HK please. Thanks.
Will do, I'm sure we'll post something here when they're ready. The F32 and HK are separate development projects, but both are moving along. Should be within the next few months.
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      05-06-2017, 12:38 PM   #11
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Integral Audio Soundstage + Phantom Subwoofer Review

Hey everyone,

After listening to my f30’s Base HiFi stereo for about a year, I started looking into audio upgrade options. After a few weeks of research, I decided to go with Integral Audio’s Soundstage + Subwoofer package. My criteria when selecting a new system were as follows (in no particular order):

1. Increased levels of low end bass
2. Clearer mid and high range that won't distort at high volumes
3. Little to no sacrifice of trunk space
4. Factory fit and finish
5. Little to no cutting or splicing of wires
6. DIY installation

After looking at multiple options of replacement speakers, plug and play harnesses, additional amplifiers, subwoofer enclosures, etc, I began to lean heavily towards the Integral Audio Soundstage System and the Integral Audio Subwoofer. It was easy to see that this system would meet criteria 3 through 6, but without hearing it I didn't know if it would meet criteria 1 and 2. I decided to get in contact with Integral Audio and ask questions about sound quality. I spoke with the owner (Kevin Bennett) for about an hour on the phone, and was convinced that the R&D performed on the F30 platform would lead to a superior sounding system than anything else I could put together myself or buy from other vendors. I jumped right in, ordered the systems, and within a few days of delivery had everything installed and tuned per Integral Audio's specifications.

I have done a few car audio installs over the years, and am relatively comfortable working with simple car audio stereos, but am in no way a professional installer. My limits get exceeded when it comes to anything more than removing panels, and installing speakers. Before ordering the system, I read the entire instruction manual - which gave me confidence that I could perform the install myself. On top of that, Kevin assured me that he would be personally available to answer any questions that I had during the install.

I took great care to read each instruction, photograph the process along the way, and take my time. The installation took the better part of a Sunday morning and afternoon, and if I had to do it again, could perform it in 3-4 hours. When the installation and tuning process (which is very prescriptive) were complete, I had tight bass, incredible mid and high range, and a sense of accomplishment.

I've been listening to the system for about a month, and continue to be impressed by the range and clarity of the sound. The upgraded tweeters, 4" drivers in the front doors and under seat drivers combined with the included crossovers that make them all work in harmony are the key to the Soundstage's balanced sound. The factory looking and fitting subwoofer gives the system that much needed kick to round out the sound without taking up trunk space.

I’m located in the Greater Boston area. If anyone is on the fence about purchasing this system, feel free to listen to my car before making a decision on which system to go with. I'd be happy to help or provide advise on install.

Here are some pictures of the install


Parts and Tools staged and ready to start installing
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Disconnecting the battery
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Trunk panels removed
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Factory Base HiFi amplifier relocated to make room for new amplifier (No ASD module)
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New amplifier and harness installed
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Prepping for new under seat subs
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OEM under seat sub removed
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OEM (left) vs. New under seat sub (right)
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New under seat subs installed in OEM housings and ready for install
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New under seat subs installed
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Door panel removed and crossover installed
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OEM (left) vs. New 4” door driver (right)
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New subwoofer and enclosure ready for install
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Performing final tuning per instructions (included Test CD not shown)
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Trunk back together and sub woofer in place
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      11-05-2018, 01:37 PM   #12
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Reading the 100% overwhelmingly positive reviews, I'm eagerly awaiting the imminent release of the F31 DSP (H/K) system from Integral. I've been emailing back and forth with Kevin for a couple months and he's been patiently answering all my petty questions, even going so far as to recommend a sub alternative for the F31 since IA won't be releasing a Phantom(TM) sub/enclosure for zee vagens. Not only that, he offered to help tweak the settings for the rest of the system to help incorporate the sub into the rest of the system for max SQ. I dare anyone to name another company with that much generosity and commitment to sound quality, regardless of their inability to extract the last few pennies from a customer. These are the types of businesses and business owners I want to support and share.

Patiently (not really) waiting...
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      11-06-2018, 09:49 PM   #13
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I too have been communicating with Kevin since early August regarding the soundstage DSP for my F30 340i. I have been patiently waiting since then but not sure how much more patience I have left. Really want to have Kevin’s DSP system in my hands so badly. I guess good things come to those who wait? He said he is almost done but did not give an ETA.
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      11-10-2018, 11:51 AM   #14
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Hi All,

Kevin has kindly asked me to post this here.

First of all, he appreciates eveyone’s patience. He is working extremely hard in finishing the Soundstage DSP System. I for one will patiently wait for this no matter how long it takes. Just in case you are wondering why it is taking Kevin so long to complete this, this is his response to me and has asked me to post it here

The hardware is the part he is finalizing such as “rack, wiring harnesses, etc. that goes with it. Those are the things that aren’t quite ready yet. I know it must seem insane for it to take this long, but trust me, it is FAR more complicated than it might seem at first glance. There are a LOT of different pieces, and they all have to be designed to work together, and to work in different vehicles, and none can enter production until all have been designed/tested/confirmed across all of that. One example: the new amp rack is designed to work in the F30/F80, F31, F32/F82, and F36. That’s 4 different vehicles, and each one had to be 3D scanned and that data used to design a single amp rack that would work in all four. Then the prototypes have to be tested in each vehicle, with all the time/hassle involved in scheduling, etc. And that’s just one piece of hardware. Other things like wiring are even worse: since those four vehicles come with 3 different audio options (base 6-speaker, HIFI 10-speaker, or HK 14-speaker audio), each with different factory wiring, that’s basically TWELVE different vehicles (!). I think I sent you some screenshots of the signal wiring harnesses before – there are literally hundreds of man-hours that go into the design, development, prototyping, testing, and production of EACH harness.”

There you have it folks. Hope everyone is willing to wait for what I am sure this will be the best audio upgrade for our F30 HK system. Will update this page when I hear back from Kevin

Last edited by alude; 11-10-2018 at 08:42 PM..
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      11-12-2018, 08:19 AM   #15
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Interested in an F32 HK upgrade + sub if it ever comes out before I get a new car!
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      05-12-2020, 01:00 PM   #16
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These original Soundstage™ for F30/F80 kits are massively discounted as we close them out (they are being replaced by a new product line).
Worth a look if you have an F30/F80 with HIFI.
https://integralaudio.com/products/b...sedan-f80.html
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      03-04-2021, 03:20 PM   #17
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Hello Everyone -

I installed the SoundStage system in 2015 328i almost 18 months ago, and I was long overdue to share my thoughts here. This forum and thread, along with correspondence with Kevin, sold me on the system in the first place so I figured I should contribute!

About me: I am an Electrical Engineer and designer of consumer electronics. Early in my career, I worked as the Test Engineer in the R&D group responsible for a number of ultra high end audio brands. As the only person in the building under the age of 50, I got very used to critically evaluating home audio systems that cost more than the house I was living in. I am forever cursed with a severe case of audiophilia, but hopefully grounded in reality. No $5000 silver cables over here.

I bought my 2015 328i used in 2019, with the stock hifi audio system. Loved the car, but I knew the system was awful. Knowing there were multiple upgrade paths available for the F30 was actually crucial for making the decision to buy it. As such, I can't write very much about my impression of the stock audio since I tore it out almost immediately. I opted for the subwoofer prep kit for my initial install (no subwoofer, but with an amp capable of adding one later).

Others have already done a great job detailing the installation process. It's as easy as working on the interior of a car can be. Wiring harnesses are keyed appropriately to be idiot-proof, speakers and fixtures fit perfectly, and there were no major hitches in the process. Having to figure all of this stuff out on the fly would have been a real pain. The one thing I'll mention is that I highly recommend checking out some videos on how to open up the doors, since there are some nuances that just don't come across via print instructions.

The system fired right up, and I went through the quick calibration process per the instructions. The improvement over the stock system was immediately obvious and really impressive for the price of admission. For context, my music tastes in the last few years have been an interesting bimodal thing of jazz fusion vs progressive metal and djent.

Bass: The most obvious improvement happens here, unsurprisingly. The under seat woofers are the best part of the kit. Bass is rich, but punchy and very nicely textured. I haven't felt a need for the subwoofer, but I also come from a hifi background that strives for neutrality. Others may want more of the typical car audio experience that rattles the windows - if that describes you, go for the subwoofer.

Mids: Slightly recessed (newer versions apparently have better sealing against the door panel for more mids) but still very good. No ugly low mid humps that you often hear in car audio. I listen to a lot of densely arranged music, and the detail and separation in the mids really shines.

Highs: Silky and detailed without being sibilant or fatiguing. The tweeters really push the soundstage beyond what I expected from any car audio. Shines with breathy vocals and drums with a lot of room sound on the track. Coupled with the USWs, you can really feel a kick drum but also hear the whoosh of air and the whip of the beater. Good snares also sound fantastic. I really like listening to well-produced drums on this system.

Overall, I'm very happy with this system. For anyone who's already into headphones, I would say this sounds a lot like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 - especially in the high end. I've almost missed my hour of daily commuting during the pandemic, since I lost my car audio time!

Kevin was also great to work with. I had some very specific cabin resonance nit picking because I'm an insane person, and he was very helpful in coming up with solutions to get things tuned just right. I ended up going off the rails and adding my own DSP, owing to my desire to have super fine control to get that extra few percent of performance. I can only imagine that the properly designed DSP system that IA put together sounds insanely good. I may upgrade at some point and come back with a review. Regardless, the base system I installed would make just about anyone happy. Quality hardware all the way through.
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