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I have the Harman Kardon sound system. Is it worth upgrading?

I have the Harman Kardon sound system. Is it worth upgrading?

Delving into the realm of BMW sound systems can be an exhaustive journey, dissecting specifications for those who crave the technical nuances. However, we understand that many of you have a singular query: which system delivers the most captivating sound? A consistent presence on the showroom floor, the BMW Harman Kardon sound system often claims the spotlight. But does it truly live up to the acclaim, or could a superior auditory experience be unlocked through an upgrade?

Our exploration embarks on a thorough investigation of BMW's Harman Kardon system— or should we say systems, as this moniker has adorned no fewer than three distinct audio setups to date. Armed with a comprehensive understanding, we enlist the insights of passionate music aficionados. In their own words, they draw comparisons between their factory-fitted Harman Kardon systems and the transformative Alpha One upgrade.

For those audiophiles contemplating a new BMW stereo ensemble or pondering the enhancement possibilities for their existing BMW Harman Kardon sound system, we invite you to heed the perspectives shared by these music enthusiasts!

Decoding the Harmon Kardon Experience in BMW

If you're unfamiliar with Harman Kardon, you might have missed a symphony of audio excellence over the past three decades. In essence, Harman Kardon stands tall as a distinguished American car audio supplier, maintaining an unwavering partnership with BMW for an impressive 11 years.

However, don't be misled into thinking that Harman Kardon stereos represent the pinnacle of auditory bliss—there's always room for improvement. To kick things off, it's crucial to note that two distinct BMW sound systems bear the Harman Kardon insignia—the BMW Harman Kardon Hi-Fi system (S674A) and the BMW Harman Kardon surround sound system (S688A).

Adding a layer of complexity, the S688A Harman Kardon system exhibits differences (some might argue improvements) in pre-iDrive 7 BMW models like the F15 X5 or F10 5-Series compared to the 688 HK system found in iDrive 7-equipped BMWs like the G05 X5 or G20 3-series. Opinions on this matter vary, with many customers upgrading their X5 to the latest model expressing disappointment with the evolved 688 HK system. If you're in the market for a new BMW adorned with a robust HK system, distinguishing between these variants becomes pivotal to sidestep potential letdowns.

But why is this differentiation crucial? Some may assume that anything labeled Harman Kardon should exude the essence of a household audio system, with its thunderous volume levels. However, the reality is that the BMW Harman Kardon Hi-Fi system (S674A) is a more reserved counterpart to the BMW Harman Kardon surround sound system (S688A), tailored for smaller chassis cars. This revelation proved disheartening for owners of compact models like the i3 or 2-Series, who anticipated a sonic spectacle only to find an audio setup that fell short of their expectations.

If you're uncertain about which BMW sound system graces your vehicle, a VIN decode is your ally. Send us your VIN, and we'll furnish you with a comprehensive vehicle specification list. Keep an eye out for option codes like S674A, S676A, S677A, S688A, S6F1A, S6F2A, and S752A to unravel the acoustic mysteries within your BMW.

Unveiling the Dynamics of BMW Harman Kardon Speakers

BMW HK Hi-Fi System (S674A)

Within the BMW HK Hi-Fi system (S674A), a composition of 12 speakers harmoniously pairs with an 8-channel BMW amplifier discreetly placed in the trunk (employing 7 channels to drive the speakers). The resultant audio quality is commendable, yet it falls short of meeting audiophile standards. Strikingly akin to the regular 676 Hifi Audio system, it even employs 2-ohm woofers, maintaining a balance between performance and familiarity.

BMW Harman Kardon Surround Sound System (S688A)

Conversely, the BMW Harman Kardon surround sound system (S688A), prevalent in pre-iDrive 7 BMWs, emerges as the epitome of premium auditory experiences. Frequently adorning larger vehicles like the X5, 3 Series, or 5 Series, this robust system boasts 16 speakers, including 2 (8 Ohm) woofers, 7 mid-ranges, and 7 strategically positioned tweeters throughout the vehicle. Undoubtedly superior to stock options, it still hovers below the pinnacle of enthusiast-level standards. For customization enthusiasts, note that the BMW Harman Kardon subwoofers bear an 8-ohm impedance, emphasizing the importance of matching impedance when upgrading for an enhanced audio experience.

BMW Harman Kardon Amplifier (Pre-iDrive 7)

At the heart of the Harman Kardon experience lies the amplifier (S688A), a commanding presence with 10 channels delivering 600W of maximum power—a force to be reckoned with in the realm of factory BMW amplifiers. Employing fiber optic wiring, it ensures pristine digital signals, preserving the authenticity of recorded music. The BMW Harman Kardon equalizer settings provide a personalized touch to your music directly from the head unit, offering a level of customization unparalleled in the S674A system. A noteworthy upgrade, particularly for those seeking a more premium audio option.

BMW Harman Kardon Amplifier with iDrive 7 and Up

With the introduction of iDrive 7, BMW's audio system architecture underwent a comprehensive redesign, unifying various audio system options under a common module called the Receiver Audio Module (RAM). While the RAM differs in base stereo, Hifi, and Harman Kardon systems, their build and sound quality align. To power all 9 speaker channels in the Harman Kardon system, BMW introduced a second audio amplifier, aptly named the Booster. The iDrive 7 Harman Kardon systems, ranging from 464W in most modern BMWs to 655W in the iX model, showcase an evolution in design. However, the shift in power output from older 688 HK systems is discernible, emphasizing the impact on the auditory experience.

Harman Kardon Chip Shortage 2021/2022

The scarcity of the BMW Harman Kardon system in 2021 stemmed from a global microchip shortage, specifically affecting the computing chip within the HK amplifier. This shortage significantly restricted the availability of Harman Kardon and other premium audio systems, prompting many new BMW owners to explore aftermarket retrofits as an alternative solution.

Harman Kardon vs. BMW HiFi System: A Sonic Showdown

While the influence of the HK amp and its customizable features is unmistakable, a prominent distinction between the S688A Harman Kardon system and the standard S676A HiFi option found in most vehicles lies in the speaker count.

The specific numbers may vary based on your model, but when equipped with Harman Kardon, BMW 3 Series vehicles receive additional tweeters in the rear doors, along with a pair of midranges and tweeters gracing the rear shelf. Similarly, the BMW X3 Harman Kardon system and BMW X5 Harman Kardon system introduce extra rear speakers, strategically placed in the D-pillar rather than the shelf.

This augmentation in speaker count not only delivers a more comprehensive sonic experience with the factory stereo but also paves the way for a smoother upgrade path when the time comes to enhance the stock speakers. The added speakers contribute to an immersive audio ambiance, enhancing the overall auditory journey within the vehicle.

Harman Kardon in BMW Models: An Auditory Evolution

Ever since BMW forged its alliance with Harman Kardon 11 years ago, marking the collaboration during the production of the E9x 3 Series, the S688A Harman Kardon sound system with its potent amplifier became a staple in all 2010 E9x models and many subsequent releases.

However, the spatial constraints of smaller models, such as MINIs, 1 Series, 2 Series, and i3s, posed a challenge. Regrettably, these compact vehicles had to forgo the more robust S688A option and settle for the S674A alternative due to space limitations. Despite this, the overarching trend has been a sonic evolution in BMW models, with the Harman Kardon system leaving its indelible mark on the auditory landscape of numerous vehicles in the BMW lineup.

Investing in BMW Harman Kardon: Unveiling the Price Tag

The pursuit of Harman Kardon excellence in your BMW comes with a price, and the exact figure is contingent on several factors.

In the United States, the Harman Kardon stereo is packaged within the premium package. As of 2022, opting for this package adds $2,250 to the base price of a new 5 Series straight from the dealership. This comprehensive package not only encompasses the renowned audio system but also includes additional features like a power tailgate and heated seats. If your primary interest lies in elevating the auditory experience, be prepared to allocate extra funds for these bundled enhancements.

For UK drivers eyeing the 5 Series, the Technology package, priced at £2,495, offers the inclusion of the HK system alongside other features. Alternatively, the Harman Kardon system can be acquired as a standalone option at an extra cost of £820.

Naturally, pricing nuances are expected, varying across markets and depending on the specific model that captures your interest. Before making a decision, it's advisable to explore the pricing details relevant to your region and preferred BMW model.

Identifying Harman Kardon in Your BMW

Harman Kardon doesn't shy away from making its presence known within your BMW. Its unmistakable branding adorns each speaker, forming a visual testament to its auditory prowess. The sheer abundance of speakers is another telltale sign, ensuring that HK doesn't go unnoticed.

For a more definitive confirmation, delve into the iDrive menu's equalizer settings and explore the surround sound option. Harman Kardon transcends being merely hardware; it manifests as a comprehensive audio system, complete with a multi-band graphic equalizer and diverse audio adjustment capabilities. If your iDrive audio settings appear more basic and lack these intricate features, there's a likelihood that Harman Kardon isn't integrated into your BMW. In such cases, considering an upgrade might be a rewarding endeavor to unlock an enhanced audio experience.

BAVSOUND vs. Harman Kardon: Elevating Your BMW Sound Experience

So, you've confirmed your allegiance to Team HK. Congratulations!
But, why settle for good when you can strive for greatness?

Enter BAVSOUND – the key to unlocking an unparalleled audio experience within your BMW Harman Kardon surround sound system (S647A and S688A). With BAVSOUND's high-end speaker upgrades, you're poised to elevate your audio quality, infusing an extra layer of crispness, punch, and clarity into every note. Our meticulously crafted Stage One speaker kits are tailored to meet your unique preferences, allowing you the flexibility to replace your entire speaker set or focus on enhancing specific elements like the subs, all without compromising the transformative impact of a premium upgrade.

Don't just take our word for it—peruse BMW Harman Kardon sound system reviews and discover what others have to say about their upgraded audio experiences. The journey to unrivaled sound awaits!





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