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W221 & Audio Moderator
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What was the wattage for the 2004-2006 Bose systems in the S500?
I don't know the wattage. Bose is usually cryptic about specs. I will tell you that if you let it, it may change how you listen to music.

I got into my first S500 from a 2005 GTO with a complete custom sound system that I loved. New HU, amps, crossovers, component speakers, subs, Dynamat. Around $4k installed. It hit like a sledgehammer, like a feel-it-in-the-seatbacks hit.

I hated the stock Bose system in the S. It sounded like it was tuned for Bach or opera music or something, but it was so deeply integrated into the car's other systems, replacing it wasn't a priority. I fiddled with the settings, pushed the bass and treble up, and found the "surround" setting sounded best.

Then, a few months in, I started to notice elements of the musical performance in my collection I hadn't heard before. There was more "space" in the mix; I could pick any instrument in the performance and hear it distinctly. The highs were especially good. Not only was I hearing the hi-hat, for example...I was hearing the tiny chipping sound the drumstick tip made when it struck the hi-hat. The bass wasn't full and as percussive as I was used to, but I was hearing the sound of the player's finger pulling across the string, as well as a distinct note.

The mids were also very clean. Vocals were clear and I could hear the singer breathing between phrases. The mids and highs were never harsh or brassy. I finally decided the system was perfect except for the very bottom.

A powered sub added in the trunk did the trick. I think that I had become accustomed to big, powerful, thick sounding systems and it took a little time for my aural palette to be cleared. Now, I couldn't part with the Bose. By far my favorite way to listen to my music, in or out of the car.
 

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A few months ago I traded my S500 for a very nice 2010 CLS 550. I disliked three things immediately:


  • Seats weren't comfortable enough.

    Harmon Kardon system sounded dead. Weak bottom, muddy middle, weak highs, not a lot of ways to fix it.

    Acres of plastic wood. Couldn't live with it.
The dealership offered a three day money back guarantee and I got my old S back, no questions asked.

Then I decided a used W221 might do the trick. Drove 400 miles to buy one. Same Harmon Kardon system. Passed on it. Drove a nice CLK 500 they had. Lousy audio. Went next door to the Audi dealer and bought a new A5 with the Bang & Olufsen audio option. Terrific sounding system. Highly recommended. Gave the car to my wife because I missed my W220. Bought an 04 S430, all problems solved.

I just bought my kid a new VW CC. The stock audio system in that car sounds better than the CLS, the W221, the CLK. $25k car...go figure.

In my experience
 

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2004 (w220) S500 & (R230) SL550 2007
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I am a bit of an Audiophile

I have owned a lot of premium vehicles and the S500 Bose system is the best sounding vehicle I have ever had. Friends have commented at the astounding clarity and "realistic bass" that the 12 speakers and amp deliver. It has the acoustics & comfort of my living room & does 0-60 in 6 secs WOW ! If you really want to experience some amazing dynamic range get your hands on a DVD-A (DVD audio) disk Yes it plays them natively and it will blow you away sonically with 5.1 channels of uncompressed audio stream.

I am sure you have heard the cars on the street that vibrate from their systems full of distorted thump thump bass, much to the irritation of the public nearby. This is NOT that !

I do tend to listen to classical and how can you fault Benz for figuring out that most folks willing to shell out 6 figures likely would. It is tuned for classical music & opera, it can be adjusted to enjoy pop or dance pretty well also.

I like the fact that there is a setting for "rear optimized" I have the remote to control the comand from the back seat & I love it. I attend many wine events and usually have a driver and although I love to drive this beast, I also love being driven around in it. They were very thoughtful for the rear occupant/owner by having independent reclining seats and climate controls. I feel lucky to have such a terrific carriage. Safety, comfort, appointments.. it is just awesome. It's hard not to feel like a VIP in it.

I could go on and on but it would just be preaching to the choir.
 

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If you really want to experience some amazing dynamic range get your hands on a DVD-A (DVD audio) disk Yes it plays them natively and it will blow you away sonically with 5.1 channels of uncompressed audio stream.
The DVD audio is probably the most underutilized feature, which is too bad, because it shows the system in its best light.

Have you heard the Donald Fagen MVI 5.1 discs? They're sold as a trilogy (The Nightfly, Kamikired, and Morph The Cat.) Nightfly was originally recorded in the 80's and suffers a little, but the last two were 5.1 digital remasters by Fagen himself, and won Grammys for best 5.1 mixes. Even if you're not a Steely Dan or Fagen fan, just hearing what the Bose system is capable of is worth it.

Unfortunately there aren't a lot of MVI/DVD A discs out there. I found an inexpensive program (DVD Audio Creator ) that lets you remaster your CD's (or MP3s) into a very high bitrate 5.1 DVD mix (640kbs in each of six channels). You can tweak the Dolby Digital matrix yourself, or let the program optimize it for you.

Not quite as good as a true MVI, but much better than the 2 channel counterpart, and you can fit a ton of tracks on a single disc. Just have to remember to tick the box that forces the DVD player to skip the menu (because you can't see it) and go right to the first track.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I found the sound very good. Treble all the way and the bass about 2 clicks short of max. At first I liked the Surround, but found some of the music was missing. Then I put it on Rear dependent. THAT made it sing!

Make sure you have an excellent cd recorded at lossless!
 

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The year matters

I just remembered it is not right to compare the 2000-2003 with the 2004-2006

The facelift included a HUGE Comand/stereo update and the difference is dramatic so not too fair to compare against the earlier models...
 

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"Rear Optimized" is what I meant. BEST setting!!
Surround does have a tendency to "thin" the sound out. First, it splits up the available signal into a main front soundstage using the front components and the sub as mains, and the rear components in the doors get fed an out of phase and slightly delayed surround signal. They combine optimally at the front seats, where the rears provide a sense of greater ambience. Because woofers in the doors aren't getting a full range bass signal, the overall feel of the bass is diminished.

I found that adding an outboard powered subwoofer to anchor the bottom made the Surround setting my permanent setting. If I'm sitting up front listening to some old school rock, it does sound tighter in the front optimized setting. I'm going to try rear optimized today, though.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
For some reason, one would think that the rear optimized would be better if one was sitting in the back, but for some reason it sounded so much better for the driver. It gave it a full sound, yet with a touch of surround kicked in, without that "thin" feel.

On front optimized, it seemed to have all the sound up front and I could tell exactly where the sound was coming from, ie right door speaker.

Rear optimized just gave it a fuller and spacious sound. Let us know how you liked it with a good cd!!
 

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For some reason, one would think that the rear optimized would be better if one was sitting in the back, but for some reason it sounded so much better for the driver. It gave it a full sound, yet with a touch of surround kicked in, without that "thin" feel.

On front optimized, it seemed to have all the sound up front and I could tell exactly where the sound was coming from, ie right door speaker.

Rear optimized just gave it a fuller and spacious sound. Let us know how you liked it with a good cd!!

I spent a good half hour in the car playing with this using good source material I'm already familiar with. I took my external powered sub out of the mix to get what you're getting.

The Rear Optimized setting produced an astonishing amount of low end punch! It also focused the soundfield more than the Surround setting, shrinking the space and creating a more cohesive mix overall.

In this sense, it's similar to the effect the factory Default or Front optimized creates, but having the mains so close to the drivers seat makes the sound too focused and the soundfield too low. Having the main program in the rear doors solves that problem. It's a combination of the ambiance of the surround setting and the increased bass and tighter sound of the front setting..both good things.

I didn't care for the increased mid/high harshness attributable to the rear door tweeters being in a more prominent, in-phase role caused by the Rear optimized setting. The front components are three way...a woofer in the door, a tweeter in the A-pillar space, and a mid tucked into the kick panels. The rears split the mid's signal range between the same size woofer and tweeter, and that can sound brassy, especially at higher sound pressure levels.

Adding the external sub brought good, stout bass and percussion back into the mix. It was a bit of overkill on the Rear setting, but really helped the Surround mix thicken up and become more punchy.

I would conclude that, without an external sub, Rear is the best setting in terms of a reasonably wide and detailed soundfield, with good low-end grunt. Were I to use that setting, I'd want to use an EQ application like the iPod SRS app to dial down the 2k to 3k frequency range and kill the harshness in the mids. Also, when comparing the low end punch of the Rear setting with that of the external sub, the rear setting's extreme bottom sounds a bit sloppy, and kick drum sounds seem somewhat generic and homogenized regardless of the track. Again, that could likely be dialed out with an EQ app.

For me, the best of both worlds...the clarity, ambiance and definition of the Surround setting but with a solid, punchy but very musical bottom end...is to keep Surround and add the sub. But, for folks who aren't keen on tearing their trunk apart and hacking into their Bose wiring harness, this comparison might be helpful in optimizing their system.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Now to see what a DVD-A disc will sound like in the car!!!! Any luck with some of those programs online that converts a normal CD to a DVD-A?
 

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Now to see what a DVD-A disc will sound like in the car!!!! Any luck with some of those programs online that converts a normal CD to a DVD-A?
This one does the trick:http://esd.element5.com/demoreg.html?id=9622656&k=ed1709a0&l=1. Free to try (limits the number of tracks), $39 to buy, worth every penny.

Here's the official step by step tutorial: Audio DVD Creator - Create your own music DVD and enjoy it on any DVD player!

Here's my W220 specific guide:



Note that you're still dealing with a DVD menu structure, and you will not be able to see the menu. (Thanks Benz).The program treats each album as a "movie" and each song within that album as a "chapter". As a result you cannot shuffle tracks or randomize playback.

Set your sound preference for DVD. If you haven't played a DVD on the system before, the default audio settings will still be in place. (Flat Bass, Flat Treble, Factory Default Sound Setting). I recommend full bass and treble.

In order for the 5.1 Surround audio to work, you need to select the "Surround" sound option.
 

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The DVD audio is probably the most underutilized feature, which is too bad, because it shows the system in its best light.
I haven't used DVD-A discs, but I do occasionally slip in a music DVD (the Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels Tour is my favorite) and you're right - the sound from that is awesome.
 

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I haven't used DVD-A discs, but I do occasionally slip in a music DVD (the Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels Tour is my favorite) and you're right - the sound from that is awesome.
Haven't heard that one yet. So far, the best sounding I've heard has been The Nightfly Trilogy. It should be the factory demo disc set for the Benz Bose 5.1 Surround

I'm not sure our system will play the DVD-A format. It will play MVI format for sure.
 

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Keep this in mind

From a purely technical standpoint, the audio resolution of a DVD-Audio disc can be substantially higher than standard red book CD audio. DVD-Audio supports bit depths up to 24-bit and sample rates up to 192 kHz, while CD audio is 16-bit, 44.1 kHz. In both cases, the source recording may have been made at a much higher bit and sample rate, and down-converted for commercial release.

Many DVD-Audio releases are older, standard-definition audio recordings that have been remixed in 5.1 and upsampled to DVD-Audio's higher resolution. However, the fidelity of the upsampled audio will be limited by the source material quality, when the master recording is in digital format, and may not exceed the quality of existing CD releases of the same albums. Recordings that are made using high-resolution PCM encoding can be released with a resolution that is higher than standard CD.

Just making a DVD-A does not make it a high quality recording. It is the old gigo "garbage in garbage out" When you have a high quality DVD-A project that was mastered with the intent to make a DVD-a then you have a really amazing ultra high quality listening experience.

While the DVD-A is no longer being made, any more that I know of, they can be had cheaply on e-bay. Pick up one and try it on a 2004-2006 W220
 
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