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A bit of an ML rant

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Old 05-03-12, 09:07 PM   #1
e-man
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Default A bit of an ML rant

So, first let me say that this is not one of those threads that compares the Lexus Premium System to the Mark Levinson system and asks whether it's better, worth it, etc. This thread is solely devoted to the quality (or lack thereof) of the ML system in the 3GS.

About me. I'm not an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination. I listen primarily to FM radio, and I seldom turn the music very loud. I just want to hear good, clear, crisp sounding radio.

My first GS was a 98 GS400 with the Lexus Premium System. I found the sound to be very substandard, messy and muddled, especially when listening to pop music that's kind of busy with a lot of emphasis on midrange. It bothered me so much that I ended up selling the car after a year and bought a 99 that had the Nakamichi system, which was truly excellent (at least by my standards) in all respects. The sound was crisp, clear, and plenty powerful when listening to the radio and even better when listening to CDs. I had that car for 7 years, and I would have kept it for longer but for the fact that it was going to cost me several thousand dollars to fix some issues and maintain it over the next year.

I've had my 3GS for about a month now. I really love the car. Compared to the 99, I find it to be smoother, quieter, more luxurious, more comfortable, and slightly more powerful/torquey. That being said, however, I can't for the life of me understand what the heck Lexus was thinking when they designed the ML system for the 3GS. At times, it sounds okay, but just okay, never great, but at other times, it sounds downright awful. The midrange is so harsh that I find myself having to turn it down all the way to -5 in order to listen to "busy" music without cringing. The bass is okay, but not great. The one thing the system does have going for it is that it seems to be very powerful, but power only gets you so far if the sound is muddled. I'm not asking for stellar, but I am asking for above average to good, and at times the ML doesn't even meet that standard (at least according to my ears). I can't tell you how many times I've toggled back and forth turning surround on and off and the ASL on and off. It just doesn't sound right.

Anyway, that's my rant. My question is this. Without doing a total system overhaul, is there anything that can be done to make it sound clean, clear, better? Would new door speakers do the trick (come to think of it, I don't even know if there are speakers in the door)? I see some speaker vents in the top of the dash, but I assume it would be next to impossible to get to those and would require removal of the dash (which I'm not willing to do).

I'm not asking for much. I just want to be able to listen to FM radio and not have it sound muddy or harsh.

e
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Old 05-03-12, 09:37 PM   #2
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Not the first time I hear that the ML system isn't doing the job. Is that a 5.1 system? If so the center channel gets the voice, side speakers get the front and rear surround sound and the .1 gets the bass like a home theater system I would think.
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Old 05-04-12, 06:12 AM   #3
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Don't be a snob. Its not that bad. Could be a lot worse.

I admit, its not as good as my 94 S500 system, but its not bad at all.
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Old 05-04-12, 06:20 AM   #4
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if you complain about this system, I wonder how you felt about the O.E. system. I felt the O.E. was sufficient and spectacular enough as it is.
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Old 05-04-12, 07:05 AM   #5
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It's all about the source. I generally listen to XM when running around town. Low end SQ at best due to the compression and source. FM can be OK on some stations, but any modern music station will be overly compressed and average at best. I have an iPod in the console, everything ripped at 320k. Sound is decent, but you're still relying on the D/A in the iPod and routing the analog signal through the ML setup. Move to CD and it sounds pretty good for a stock system. I still tweak the EQ a notch up or down across the 3 bands, but it's pretty solid overall. Move up to a well mastered 5.1 DTS audio disc and it's another league. For me, this is an indication that it's much more a function of the source quality than the system capabilities. Not saying it's perfect or even a match for a multi $k custom setup, but it sounds better than 90% of the OEM setups I've heard.

The top end VAIS setup supposedly does digital passthrough to the ML D/A which allows lossless rips to take full advantage of the ML setup.
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Old 05-04-12, 07:08 AM   #6
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yes there are door speakers and the speakers in the dash do not require you to remove the dash. that grille that covers them simply pops off.
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Old 05-04-12, 07:43 AM   #7
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The system can't handle the bass, and at times it seems as though its not made for the big boys. It does however sometimes deliver what you want good sound, the radio is always the worst I think I use MP3 player or CD and the quality is better not excellent but better than the radio. The subwoofer is paper and actually they are all paper, and there are speakers just that some rattle and some dont. I feel your pain as I have been to the dealer many times for this issue.
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Old 05-04-12, 08:41 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbilisi79 View Post
Don't be a snob. Its not that bad. Could be a lot worse.

I admit, its not as good as my 94 S500 system, but its not bad at all.
I'm not a snob, really, and I agree it could be worse, however, the Nakamichi in my 99 was so perfectly balanced for my purposes (prilmarily FM radio). I guess I was spoiled.

Quote:
Originally Posted by XxGoKoUxX View Post
if you complain about this system, I wonder how you felt about the O.E. system. I felt the O.E. was sufficient and spectacular enough as it is.
Believe it or not, I actually think the base system sounds better than ML for my purposes. I think the base system lacks the power tha tthe ML system has, but so what, if the power is not usable, then I'd take the base system any day and just not turn it up so loud. The only reason I got ML is because I wanted a 430/460 and virtually all of these cars come with ML. I believe I saw one 430/460 in the 6 or so months I was looking that didn't have ML. I would happily swap out my speakers for the stock speakers if it would make a difference.

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Originally Posted by bigblack06 View Post
The system can't handle the bass, and at times it seems as though its not made for the big boys. It does however sometimes deliver what you want good sound, the radio is always the worst I think I use MP3 player or CD and the quality is better not excellent but better than the radio. The subwoofer is paper and actually they are all paper, and there are speakers just that some rattle and some dont. I feel your pain as I have been to the dealer many times for this issue.
My thoughts exactly. And I'll take it a step further and say that it can't handle the mids either. I have my midrange turned down to the very bottom (-5) and it's bearable. If I turn it up to the middle setting (0), it sounds terrible.

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Old 05-04-12, 01:27 PM   #9
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I just went out to lunch with a colleague. He, like me, is not an audiophile. We are both in our mid-40s with kids. The word he used to describe my stereo was "terrible." Maybe there's something wrong with my car, I really don't know.

To bigblack06 -- how many times have you been to the dealer on this issue? What did they say? Did they replace anything to try to fix the problem? Just curious.

e
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Old 05-04-12, 01:28 PM   #10
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welcome to the family of thousands of people on the forum that also hate ML
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Old 05-04-12, 01:31 PM   #11
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I'm actually very happy with my ML stereo. Very crisp and great sounding at any volume. I like my 335i's BOSE system more but my moms Mercedes's HARMEN/KARDON doesn't match up with the ML
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Old 05-04-12, 02:01 PM   #12
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Quote:
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I'm actually very happy with my ML stereo. Very crisp and great sounding at any volume.
I too, am happy with my ML. I think it sounds great for what it is.
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Old 05-04-12, 02:15 PM   #13
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What's the volume # that you usually have yours? I find my ML is best with volume around 30. Below that it's a bit flat and above that it cracks.

Also play around with the settings. Find your sweet spot. I like my bass up a bit from the middle.

The source also matters, FM is not great for quality music. Burn or buy the DVD-a (audio). There is a forum on here show how to burn DVD-a.
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Old 05-04-12, 02:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by worker View Post
What's the volume # that you usually have yours? I find my ML is best with volume around 30. Below that it's a bit flat and above that it cracks.

Also play around with the settings. Find your sweet spot. I like my bass up a bit from the middle.

The source also matters, FM is not great for quality music. Burn or buy the DVD-a (audio). There is a forum on here show how to burn DVD-a.
I agree. It sounds very flat at low volumes, but when you turn it up, it can't handle it and it cracks.

I know FM is not a great source to judge by, but that's the primary source I listened to on the Nakamichi in my 99, and it was fantastic. I've fiddled around with the settings more times than I care to admit, and I just can't fine tune it to where it sounds remotely good for FM radio. I have toggled surround sound on and off, ASL on and off, I have the mid range turned down to -5, the bass at +1 and the treble at +1. I have moved the settings for the speakers around front to back, side to side. It just doesn't sound good, and at times, it sounds really bad, like a transistor radio. I must be missing something here.
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Old 05-04-12, 07:11 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1sWt2GS View Post
welcome to the family of thousands of people on the forum that also hate ML
In that case I feel better knowing that I have the non-ML 10 speaker system!
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