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      05-18-2021, 03:34 PM   #1
nearwater4me
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Drives: '22 G82 M4 Base
Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: GA

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Integral Audio - Soundstage DSP review

Iíve installed the ĎSoundstage DSPí system - offered by Integral Audio Ė in my M2C and hereís a lengthy review of the product.

A little about myself:
I donít consider myself an audiophile.
I donít have firsthand experience with high-end home audio equipment or headphones, nor do I have much knowledge about sound reproduction.
I just know what I like Ė a warm sound with slightly bottom-heavy eq curve.
(my reference headphone is a Sony MDR 1A, and I like how it sounds; not exactly audiophile quality but decent enough with rich bass, geared towards a bigger crowd)

From Walkman, Bose stereo in the mid-80s to Denon & Marantz receivers in the late-90s is all Iíve had as far as personal/home audio.
Early in my career, I was responsible for tuning HF & BT calls for most GM vehicles (produced í07-í11), so I have a general understanding of audio tuning in vehicle cabins.



Iíve first stepped into the car audio world back in 2002 when I got my first new car.
A pair of 12Ē Rockford subs from Bestbuy made me get hooked on car audio. lol
Since then, Iíve learned a lot about car audio in general through online forums and meets.
Last time I did any custom work on my car was probably around 2010 when I made a custom fiberglass sub enclosure, with a pair of component speakers powered by a Zuki Eleets amp.

And then life happened. Job & relocation got in the way, and I didnít have the luxury to enjoy a hobby like this.

Fast forward to 2019, Iíve decided to get the M2 and the first thing Iíve noticed was the mediocre HK system.
I needed more bass, so I added the RF Punch powered sub from my old car.
I also disconnected the center and replaced the rears with JL coaxials.
It was better than the stock HK, but the highs were harsh while lacking the details.

Iíve thought about changing just the fronts but I knew Iíd eventually want an amp to feed more power to the fronts and underseat woofers.
Searching for a complete package/solution, Iíve come across Integral Audio and their offerings.
I did some digging into, probably read every post made my Kevin, president of Integral Audio, and liked what he had to offer.
Kevin is very transparent about his product; from choosing each components and the R&D that goes into tuning, providing vehicle-specific tunes/setups.
Honestly, he sold me right there and then.


Customer Service:
Just like the raving reviews say, Kevin Bennettís customer service is top notch.
He answered all my questions promptly and with enough information to help me understand everything.

There was a slight hiccup in delivery due to my FedEx guy dropping it off in the mail room instead of direct deliveryÖ
long story short, Kevin went above and beyond, contacting FedEx for me to track down the package, giving me advice on different options, etc.
He assured me heíll get this sorted and that I will get my package one way or the other.
Kevin really took his time to go into details on the system and going through the ordeal with FedEx.
Called me whenever I was available to answer my phone.

From this purchase experience alone, I would not hesitate to be a repeat customer for any of my future vehicles.


Product:
I figured the package was a decent deal, which includes
- Front mids
- Front tweeters
- Passive crossovers,
- Underseat woofers,
- Arc audio DSP amp
- Wiring harnesses (power cables, signal cables, ASD delete harness)
- Other necessary hardware (Foam tape, Tesa tape, replacement clips for panels)

It all comes packaged very nicely, giving you the notion that youíve purchased a premium product.
IA was thoughtful enough to provide extra clips for the panels in case any of them gets damaged during installation.
(had to replace 2 on the passengerís side when I tried to put it back in)

The placement of the crossover was very well thought out. It a very snug fit in the door panel cavity.
Overall installation was straight forward.

Each side (doors + USW) took about 3-4 hours because I really took my time on each doors sound deadening/rattle proofing.
Hereís how my installation went:
- Day 1: Reconnect center channel, driverís side door (sound deaden + tweeter/mid), USW
- Day 2: Passengerís side
- Day 3: Rear cabin sound deadening + Amp installation



Sound:
Iíve dialed back the ĎToneí setting on the HU to everything dead flat prior to installing these, so I could have a reference point after installing new speakers.
Powered sub in the trunk was removed also.

After installing just the driverís side speakers, I could notice the improved tonal clarity right away.
Other speakers sound muffled by comparison.
It provided a very detailed sound without much shrill/fatigue.

After day 2 with all the front door speakers and USWs replaced, it was playing with great clarity but obviously lacked the bass.

Day 3! After installing the DSP amp and loading the no-sub tune provided by Kevin, I was expecting to be blown away.
Vocals and instruments sounded much cleaner and more detailed, and although the bass was well defined, it lacked the authority I was after.

As Iíve stated earlier, Iím not a flat eq guy. I like rich bass in my music.
My car is moving 95% of the time when Iím listening to music, and mid-bass/bass gets drowned while moving.
So I decided to bump the bass a few notches on the tone setting, and oh myÖ it started to play with rich and tight mid-bass that I didnít know I was missing.
Even without my cheap sub hooked up, it hit plenty hard and low enough that I almost contemplated putting the sub back in.

Before, I had the treble cranked way up along with heavily boosted bass from the sub trying to mask the HKís deficiency, that I ended up missing out on the mids almost completely.
Now with the woofers playing decent mids, I am noticing much more definition in bass guitar and deep vocals.

As for the soundstage/stereo imaging, I was expecting much better lifelike dimension across the dash/windshield with reconnected center and all, but Iíd say the improvement is negligible.
I guess without changing the speaker placements, itís hard to raise or push the soundstage back further.

To summarize, the improvements are in tonal clarity across the full range, from very nicely defined highs to abundant mid-bass to bass.
I have no doubt it was tuned in a very well controlled lab environment with sophisticated equipment and tuning expertise.


Now with a sound system like this, you notice the difference in source quality a lot more than you do with mediocre systems.
I was okay with compressed formats on the HK but with the Soundstage DSP, it makes me want to play lossless all the time.
I still have some fine tuning left, but Iím already very happy with the setup.
I just wish IA would offer the subwoofer solution for F22/F87 as well, as Iím sure my current sub is a disgrace to this system.
If I could fabricate a sub enclosure for the trunk corner, Iíll probably try out their Phantom sub.



TLDR:
Soundstage DSP is a very well-tuned system that provides superbly balanced listening experience without any distortion on reasonable SPL (tried up to 70-80% volume level).
Iím extremely happy with the purchase and canít wait to tweak it further.
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