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Mark Levinson Audio Sound Quality


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When I got this car I wasn't impressed by the audio and just accepted that it is what it is. So yesterday I checked on other forums and other owners reported the same. Sometimes it was a genuine problem blown power amp etc. One post suggested that all the sound enhancements be switched off surround sound and most importantly to switch off the EQ on your source. 

Well I did this and there was a definite improvement. Just wondered if anyone else tried this with their ML system    

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Not sure, but the fabulous Mark Levinson audio on my 430 premium has never impressed me. The radio is hopeless at picking up stations.

I reckon my old SAAB was streets ahead. I suspect that a £150 Pioneer, Sony, or JVC would beat it hands down. The problem is it is built in, so one has to live with it. But please.......Mark Levinson a stunning Hi-Fi.....I think not.

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If you judge the sound of audio equipment you got to start with the input.

Broadcast radio is not something to write home about when it comes to sound quality.

Feed your audio equipment with high quality through a wire before judging the sound. Bluetooth is smart and easy to connect, but sound level of Bluetooth today is far below sound quality through wire.

ML audio is among the very best and if the source is at least 16-bit lossless from a high-quality player through wire it is close to giving the sound of a concert hall. A car is not a large room you have to fill with sound, and if not trying to make discotheque sound pressure levels (why destroy your hearing?), sound quality is excellent from the ML. Have built demo cars sound systems with JVC, Pioneer, Sony and better than these the Fujitsu-Ten DSP systems long time ago, all without price limit and none of these were better sound quality wise than the ML. The cars we made then had disco sound level output and could destroy your hearing, but when listening to the music from them it will be hard to wrong to say that it was better than the ML that is built in Lexus cars.

In my opinion a car is not a disco and those driving around with BOOM-BOOM trying to impress their surrounding are (censure will not allow me to tell what I think of them).

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I certainly cannot fault the (now 16 year old) system in my LS430 as it works flawlessly and still sounds far better then any of my previous cars (including the Bose system in my last Nissan) I have had great results feeding .wav files through Bluetooth but the best sound still comes from genuine CD's in the CD player. At the end of the day though there are far more variables now than ever so in most cases sound is subjective to the end user so if you feel your system is under powered then if you can afford it a trip to a proper car audio specialist would be on the cards - but be prepared for some eye watering quotes as a friend just spent the best part of 4 grand on his BMW 7 series and you would not even see it (new speakers, amp and wiring)   

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A CD disc is recorded in 16-bit and around 615 kbps, 44kHz – 48kHz.

BluRay music is usually 24-bit and mostly more than 3200 kbps and often with 96kHz – 128kHz.

Young people that have not yet damaged their hearing should be able to hear the difference between 16- and 24-bit on a high-end audio system.

CD playing in the ML system is close to high-end and if you rip a BluRay music disc and send the music to the ML on wire (not Bluetooth), you get something that I will call high-end.

The ML can make classical music very close to concert hall sound, when all the extras in the ML are removed. No surround and no equalizer = flat.

The subwoofer in the ML system is able to reproduce the sound of a double bass and you can even hear when the fingers are moved on the fret.

Rock music is also within the range of the ML system without problems if not played so loud that it is damaging for your ears.

The ML in Lexus cars are not capable of delivering discotheque sound level, that would be unlawful to drive with music played so loud that sirens cannot be heard while driving.

Very few (and extremely expensive) cars have as good a sound system as the ML in our cars. Have heard top of Porsche audio system not as good as the ML.

Lexus cars are rather quiet and we need not have the audio very high in order to listen to music.

Want better sound when sitting in the car waiting, you can get headphones like the Sennheiser studio which you can be lucky to get discounted around 1K€ and want better than that You will need deeper pockets to get a pair of electrostatic ones, mostly used for tracking and mixing the records we are listening to on CD, DVD and BluRay. Prices start above the 1.5K and can get close to the price of a good used Lexus.

I am OK with the sound of the ML in the car.

The drawback is that most of us may be annoyed listening to the singers breathing and the musicians touching their instruments with these closed-back electrostatic earphones.

For those wanting bass and more bass and extra bass, Sony has some below 100€ and they do not sound bad if you are looking for bass.

Below is something that is worth remembering:

Sound at 85 dB or below is mostly considered safe. If one is exposed to sounds greater than 90 dB for an average of eight hours per day without hearing protection, hearing loss will most likely come to you. As the volume increases, the safe time of exposure decreases.

  • 95 dB, damage will occur after four hours of exposure per day.

  • 100 dB, damage will occur after two hours of exposure per day.

  • 105 dB, damage will occur after one hour of exposure per day.

  • 110 dB, damage will occur after 30 minutes of exposure per day.

  • 115 dB, damage will occur after 15 minutes of exposure per day.

  • 120-plus dB, damage occurs almost immediately.

Do not damage you hearing, it is supposed to last a lifetime.

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The ML system in my 2004 is good. Better than the systems in any of the cars I have had up until now, including several rental cars. I'm not sure what you expect from in car audio systems if you find the ML system inadequate.

I listen to classical music, ambient/electronic, and prog rock and for those the system is awesome. I also listen to Thrash & Death Metal and it's adequate for those too. If you want Drum-n-Bass levels of drive, get a newer car or replace the system. The ML is about faithful reproduction in a difficult environment. It is also at leasr 15 years old. 😁

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On 8/27/2021 at 10:38 PM, Initial P said:

…but I'm not sure the inside of a car is the best place to judge sound quality though.

A good point, Pete - and I AM sure it’s not a good place!  But there’s something that worries me even more.  The emphasis on sheer volume - and even a mention of the use of headphones - seems to ignore the requirement for a driver to be constantly aware of their surroundings.  And that surely includes traffic noise being generated outside the car, such as sirens, for example.

Neither do I really believe that subjecting yourself to auditory overload is conducive to maintaining the awareness levels that modern driving conditions - and speeds - really demand.  Call me old-fashioned (!) if you will, but if you have the need to immerse yourself in high quality -  or simply loud - musical sound, it’s better done in the relative safety of a stationary chair at home and not while piloting a tonne and a half of metal through traffic.

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9 hours ago, Las Palmas said:

Sound at 85 dB or below is mostly considered safe. If one is exposed to sounds greater than 90 dB for an average of eight hours per day without hearing protection, hearing loss will most likely come to you. As the volume increases, the safe time of exposure decreases.

 

  • 95 dB, damage will occur after four hours of exposure per day.

     

  • 100 dB, damage will occur after two hours of exposure per day.

     

  • 105 dB, damage will occur after one hour of exposure per day.

     

  • 110 dB, damage will occur after 30 minutes of exposure per day.

     

  • 115 dB, damage will occur after 15 minutes of exposure per day.

     

  • 120-plus dB, damage occurs almost immediately.

     

Do not damage you hearing, it is supposed to last a lifetime.

 

Having spent my whole working life in the vicinity of aviation jet engines, I wholly endorse John's post. Like most of my ex-colleagues, I am partially high-tone deaf - and I wore ear protection. 

The very worst in-car noise I experienced was back in the 90's. I had arrived in Barbados and the taxi driver, driving a huge 'Yank Tank', put my suitcase on the roof rack. I asked him what was wrong with the boot.......he opened it to reveal two massive bass speakers and a couple of smaller tweeters. On the way into Bridgetown he told me he was a member of of a club whose 'raison d'etre' was to find out who could have the loudest in-car music. We pulled off on to a patch of waste ground and he demonstrated his system. He didn't turn the volume up very much 'cos you ain't used to it' but I thought my body was going to break into small pieces. The vibrations that went through me were incredible. After a few seconds, I'd had enough. 

He invited me to join him and his friends, later, for one of their 'maximum' demonstrations. I politely declined.

Look after your hearing.

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10 hours ago, LenT said:

A good point, Pete - and I AM sure it’s not a good place!  But there’s something that worries me even more.  The emphasis on sheer volume - and even a mention of the use of headphones - seems to ignore the requirement for a driver to be constantly aware of their surroundings. 

The driver of a car should only use headphones when parked. I doubt any driver with a bit brain would do that while driving.

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9 minutes ago, Las Palmas said:

The driver of a car should only use headphones when parked. I doubt any driver with a bit brain would do that while driving.

But unbelievably John you do see it from time to time, clearly there is a void between the ears and headphones are needed to fill the vacuum. 🎧

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15 minutes ago, Las Palmas said:

The driver of a car should only use headphones when parked. I doubt any driver with a bit brain would do that while driving.

Using Headphones at any time when in possession of a vehicle, whether parked or not is in my opinion tantamount to "driving without due care and attention! "

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7 minutes ago, Phil xxkr said:

But unbelievably John you do see it from time to time, clearly there is a void between the ears and headphones are needed to fill the vacuum. 🎧

but,but,but,but,but, sound does not travel in a vacuum old pal!🤣🤣

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5 minutes ago, royoftherovers said:

but,but,but,but,but, sound does not travel in a vacuum old pal!🤣🤣

 

7 minutes ago, royoftherovers said:

but,but,but,but,but, sound does not travel in a vacuum old pal!🤣🤣

I know John, but to call someone "empty-headed" doesn't actually mean their head is empty of matter but that thoughts contained in the matter are empty, synonyms:void, vacuity, nothingness, vacuum😎, ergo sounds will travel given those conditions 🙋

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28 minutes ago, royoftherovers said:

Using Headphones at any time when in possession of a vehicle, whether parked or not is in my opinion tantamount to "driving without due care and attention! "

Think you never waited an hour or more while family was shopping.

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18 minutes ago, Phil xxkr said:

 

I know John, but to call someone "empty-headed" doesn't actually mean their head is empty of matter but that thoughts contained in the matter are empty, synonyms:void, vacuity, nothingness, vacuum😎, ergo sounds will travel given those conditions 🙋

I1ll give you 2.2 sir!😊

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1 hour ago, Phil xxkr said:

 

I know John, but to call someone "empty-headed" doesn't actually mean their head is empty of matter but that thoughts contained in the matter are empty, synonyms:void, vacuity, nothingness, vacuum😎, ergo sounds will travel given those conditions 🙋

Drat.  Another illusion shattered.

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4 hours ago, royoftherovers said:

I don`t do shopping and never have. I commend it to you!

We do not have servants to do that for us, so I do the pleasant part, sitting waiting in the car listening to music, while family do he hard work buying whatever we need. Fish, fruit, vegetables etc. Here we are lucky to have drinking water delivered to the door. The water in tabs is desalted sea water, so it is only to wash in.

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I picked up one of those old cd things in my local charity shop earlier to compare as I find the BT audio a bit low in volume compared to cd, next time I'm out I will post my findings.

The Grom BT audio adapter I used on my GS3 was very loud.

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Do not know how a GS is but suppose it has a line input for audio as in the CT. Line out from smartphone to line in will give better sound quality than Bluetooth and it is a cheap and good solution.

If you do not mind having a wire floating around.

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