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Old 09-18-12, 01:48 PM   #1
Formula271
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Default Mark Levinson sound quality

Hello All,

I'm curious if there are others who find the Mark Levinson stereo in the latest RX very underwhelming. I currently have both a '12 RX450h and an '05 RX330. Both vehicles have the Mark Levinson audio option. Without a doubt, the '12 ML system is a definite step backwards in audio quality as compared to the '05 ML. Uncoerced, my wife voiced the same opinion. In fact, for both of us, it is probably the single most disappointing feature of the new RX, an otherwise supremely comfortable and pampering ride.

One thing I certainly miss from the '05 is the "DRIVER" sound option (tailored sound imaging profiles included "ALL", "DRIVER", "FRONT", and "REAR" ). "Driver" positioned the sound quite beautifully in front of you, nicely simulating the experience of listening to a nice home stereo (2-channel) as well as I have every experienced in a car. The '12 has only "Surround ON" or "OFF", and neither, I feel, produce a very convincing sound stage. The '05 is simply cleaner sounding while being more robust at the same time.

I've not listened to the '13, but it is almost certainly the same as the '12. Considering how quiet the cabin of the latest RX remains even at higher speeds, the ML-audio weakness seems like a huge missed opportunity.
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Old 09-18-12, 02:32 PM   #2
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I agree with you. ML in my '06 RX was super. The surround sound capability is underwhelming in my 2013 RX450h -- like you, I miss the simple physical control to set imaging capabilities. Base is very much lacking in the ML of my '13. In the end, the overall sound quality is not as good in my '13 even though so much of everything else is a step up compared to my earlier ride. Sound quality for those of us that truly care about it, was a missed opportunity by Lexus in the 3rd gen. While its far from perfection and what I've had before, I'm still glad I purchased ML in my 2013 to make the sound at least better than it would otherwise have been, and I would make the same decision again. The 9 and 12 speaker versions would have been unacceptable and a showstopper for me -- hence this became one of the reasons I special ordered my RXh to ensure I did have at least the best sound I could on a factory built RX. The best thing for me was Lexus cut the price of ML on the 2013s by nearly half compared to the over-the-top premium that was charged for this option on the 2012.

(While off subject, ML in my '02 SC430 was superb, so I know it can be done. I believe it was the first implementation after Nakamichi was dropped, which I had in my SC300. If Lexus can do it in some vehicles and across model lines, they should be able to pull it off again in the 4th gen RX. I sure hope so.)

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Old 09-18-12, 02:41 PM   #3
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There is an option to change the position of the sound stage in the 2013. I'm not sure if it is in the 2012 but look for the diagram if the car with listening position marked by a yellow cross. Hopefully someone can help me explain this. I'm not at my car so I can't remember where it is.
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Old 09-18-12, 02:46 PM   #4
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As this is my first ML in a car audio system, I have no basis for comparison but I was initially underwhelmed myself. I have to play with the equalizer to get the kind of sound quality I can live with. I have a 2013 RX350 with 15 speaker system.
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Old 09-18-12, 02:47 PM   #5
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I personally like the Mark Levinson sound quality in my RXh. I must admit it is a bit lean for bass but overall I find it to be quite exceptional compared to other systems I've had. There are no complaints here.
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Old 09-18-12, 02:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CanadianRX View Post
There is an option to change the position of the sound stage in the 2013. I'm not sure if it is in the 2012 but look for the diagram if the car with listening position marked by a yellow cross. Hopefully someone can help me explain this. I'm not at my car so I can't remember where it is.
Yes, on the 2013, you can effectively change the position for the "best seat" in the truck... I have mine set in the center, half way between driver/passenger, and just behind the front seats. For me, that's a lot better than the default position which is further forward where the dash speaker seems to take over. While this diagram approach in the 2013 allows more precision than the former presets ML had on the gen 2, I still personally liked the simplicity of being able to push the button and change the "best seat" from being in the drivers seat when it was just me in the truck to another version when I had passengers. It was simpler and got the job done for me. It takes too long to change the diagram setting just because I go from driving solo to when I'm playing chauffeur, so I keep mine in the one generic position all the time nowadays.

Also note, that "best seat" setting sticks for all audio sources, but if you change treble, midrange, bass, those are set independently by source... So if for example, you want more bass on XM, FM, and maybe your CDs, you need to set it on each one.
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Last edited by BertL; 09-18-12 at 03:02 PM.. Reason: Put quote in, as other comments came in between my reply
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Old 09-18-12, 05:12 PM   #7
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I have the ML and I was not that impressed initially. I have since added sound deadening material behind the speakers and the system came to life. The one that made the biggest difference was the sub woofer in the rear.I removed it and the L shaped acoustic piece and applied deadening material behind and around the entire area.Not a lot of money, more labor than anything. I also opened up each door panel and deadened the area behind each woofer. I had to turn the bass down after doing all this and I can now keep up the other 'bass boomers' at the stop light. I think now it sounds like it should have from the factory.


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Old 09-18-12, 09:41 PM   #8
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[QUOTE=MEP7557;7492397]I have the ML and I was not that impressed initially. I have since added sound deadening material behind the speakers and the system came to life. The one that made the biggest difference was the sub woofer in the rear.I removed it and the L shaped acoustic piece and applied deadening material behind and around the entire area.Not a lot of money, more labor than anything. I also opened up each door panel and deadened the area behind each woofer. I had to turn the bass down after doing all this and I can now keep up the other 'bass boomers' at the stop light. I think now it sounds like it should have from the factory.

Sounds like this is going to be my next project!
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Old 09-19-12, 04:56 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CanadianRX View Post
There is an option to change the position of the sound stage in the 2013. I'm not sure if it is in the 2012 but look for the diagram if the car with listening position marked by a yellow cross. Hopefully someone can help me explain this. I'm not at my car so I can't remember where it is.
These adjustments are the same for '12. These are no different than the front-rear, left-right fade controls on just about any car stereo...perhaps just a bit more elegantly presented.

I think even with very careful manipulation of these controls, something close to the "driver" profile I so much enjoy in my '05 cannot be achieved. In my '05, I'd be very surprised if "driver" was purely speaker balance. I'd bet that, similar to the "surround" effect for the '12, there are other tuning effects at play (maybe some combination of speaker channel delay, sound effect, etc.). Regardless of adjustment, the sound in my '12 450h just seems, well...kind of lost.

Over the past 3 weeks, I've made 4 separate 6 hour road trips in the 450h and have had plenty of time to listen to many sources (cd, ipod over usb, radio, satellite). At higher volumes, I actually found shifting the speaker balance more forward was more desirable.

Short of "re-engineering" the system, I realize there really aren't many options to improve this condition. It would be great if in response to customers' discontent, Lexus offered some sort of "re-flash" that addressed my "lost" sound, but I have no idea if the system can even be flashed. The ML in my '12 450h is really the only recent ML system I've had the opportunity to listen to critically. However, I think it's interesting to note that one of my co-workers recently brought his '13 GS350 with ML back to the dealer, asking them to confirm that ML had correctly been installed. It's very difficult to characterize sound with words, especially when you throw in different musical tastes. But, he was also disappointed with the sound quality.

Again, maybe no easy fix, but this issue is certainly on my "items to improve" list!
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Old 09-19-12, 11:24 AM   #10
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Default ML Quality

I just got an RX450 also and I can say that I'm ok with the ML system but it doesn't seem to be that great. I just came out of a Touareg 2 with a Dynaudio system upgrade, was pricey also, but it sounded amazing compared to the ML system in my opinion; clean powerful, great expansive sound... this ML system sounds good but it doesn't seem to fill the cabin nearly as much and you seem to have to have it a bit loud to get clear power and crispness from it, but even then you can't take it too far it seems.

Oh well, great car though and quiet cabin overall.
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Old 09-19-12, 01:10 PM   #11
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For 2013 in the ES Lexus has upped the output and price on the ML system. 835 watts and a $3745 price tag. Makes the $995 look like a real bargain.
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Old 09-27-12, 04:13 AM   #12
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[QUOTE=VVRX;7492937][QUOTE=MEP7557;7492397]I have the ML and I was not that impressed initially. I have since added sound deadening material behind the speakers and the system came to life. The one that made the biggest difference was the sub woofer in the rear.I removed it and the L shaped acoustic piece and applied deadening material behind and around the entire area.Not a lot of money, more labor than anything. I also opened up each door panel and deadened the area behind each woofer. I had to turn the bass down after doing all this and I can now keep up the other 'bass boomers' at the stop light. I think now it sounds like it should have from the factory.

Can you tell us what you used for deadening material? Any problems getting the speakers out? I am going to do this and would appreciate any tips you have.
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Old 09-27-12, 08:57 AM   #13
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Here is something to get you started.SUB

I researched all the sound deadening material out there and without anything to compare it to I went with FatMat due to similar product and better pricing. Dynamat is supposed to be the best but, I got cheap since I did almost the entire car. Any questions feel free to ask.

PS: I ended up using the Megamat for the majority of the car.The tar smell of the Rattletrap did go away after a couple of weeks and did not return, and I live in AZ.
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Old 09-27-12, 09:16 AM   #14
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I have a 2010 RX 350 and now a 2013 both with ML. I don't notice a difference between my 2 cars as both sound good with the exception of the bass, it could use some improvement. Sounds like Lexus made the systems stronger in the 05 and 06 years. I am going to put sound deadening in the subwoofer compartment as suggested. I have some left over from my Camaro that I can use. Mine is MegaMat, bought it on ebay 18 months ago and it's pretty good stuff.
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Old 09-27-12, 09:25 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MEP7557 View Post
Here is something to get you started.SUB

I researched all the sound deadening material out there and without anything to compare it to I went with FatMat due to similar product and better pricing. Dynamat is supposed to be the best but, I got cheap since I did almost the entire car. Any questions feel free to ask.

PS: I ended up using the Megamat for the majority of the car.The tar smell of the Rattletrap did go away after a couple of weeks and did not return, and I live in AZ.
Thanks for the info. I will have get some Fatmat. Is 25 sq. ft. enough to do the whole car? So did you completely remove the rear sub-woofer and then just apply the FatMat to the metal panels behind and around it? I have not looked at the front speakers do the front grills just pop off?
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Old 09-27-12, 09:25 PM
 
 
 
 
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