Customer Review, BMW Z4 HK Upgrade

I bought my 66 plate Z4 20i about four months ago.  I must admit I never cottoned on to the fact that it had a Harman Kardon sound system fitted already and what that actually meant, it sounded okay, but not great In my view.  Although probably a costly upgrade option for the original owner it certainly wouldnt set any audio review on fire.  After reading numerous positive online reviews, as well as watching some of the Audiofile YouTube videos, I contacted  Gary and discussed the merits of a system 3 and possibly a system 3 plus upgrade on my Z4.  Initially I opted for the system 3, not really understanding the differences between the two, other than cost obviously.  Being from Yorkshire my genetic tendency was to go for the cheapest!   I dropped my car off on day one of the installation and I sat in the demo car with Gary whilst he played the system 3 and 3 plus to me, the difference between the audio quality was enough for me to justify the extra expense of the 3 plus.  There was certainly no hard sell here, it was a case of what do you think, these are the differences, etc, etc.  In essence the 3 plus system phases the speaker outputs so that the sound stage appears to be just above the  centre of the dashboard.  I genuinely believe that you’ll get significantly enhanced sound quality with any of these systems but if you want the best and you truly love your music then I’d strongly advocate the Plus systems.  That’s a long story cut quite short : ), apologies if I’ve massively oversimplified matters Gary.

As I listened to various tracks on the way home, including Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac, Dido, at one point it sounded like Mark Knopfler’s guitar was literally just in front of me.  As other customers have said, with these high end systems, the percussion takes on new, magical depths. I think in many systems you probably just don’t hear it.  If you’re going to spend 2k on an audio system then a few hundred quid more to get it sounding amazing was justified in my book.  The system 3 sounded great to me but the 3 plus was simply amazing.

Anyway when the technicians started opening up the car it became apparent that I already had a HK system onboard and this runs off an optical cabling systems.  As you’ll see on the Audiofile website this gives you similar upgrade options to a standard manufacturer’s system, but some more costly components are required to achieve similar changes to the due to the digital optical nature of the system.  However the sound quality in optical systems is guaranteed to be better due to the lossless nature of the system i.e. signals don’t degrade as they travel around the system.  The cost / quality impact can be mitigated by retaining some of the original HK components.  As a result I ended up opting for a system 2 plus upgrade - utilising some of the factory fitted HK components - and I can only say that the sound is jaw dropping.  I normally tend to listen to the radio in the car, but after listening to the system once fitted I found myself stopping quite a few times on my journey home in order to ponder what track / album to play next.  It was a lovely two hour drive and one of my best ever audio experiences.  Gary and his team are a bunch of extremely professional, knowledgeable and friendly guys.  The standard of fit is exceptional, the sound proofing of the door panels is particularly impressive / effective, not only does it add to improved audio quality, but a quieter drive too.  If and when I get my next car I’ll be booking myself in for an audio upgrade at Audiofile early doors.

I think it says it all when people are bringing their vehicles from across the continent to get them fitted out by Gary and the team.  I think I’ll be listening to my radio far less now and my music collection a lot more.  An interesting tip from Gary was that it’s better to stream online radio content through your phone into the sound system, as opposed to utilising the DAB broadcast, which for some DAB channels is only sent out in mono, something I didn’t know and will be taking on board.
Thanks once again Gary and team, great job.


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