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Very Poor Sound From Mark Levinson System (Is250 Sports Luxury)


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Hi Folks,

I have 2008 SL which is equipped with the standard Mark Levinson sound system.

I came to the IS250 from a BMW X5 (2001 model) and could not believe how hopeless the sound is compared what I got in the X5: I took it back to the dealer who told me that it was operating normally. I sold the X5 to buy the IS250 so I just thought that it was my imagination, but as I've recently become an owner of 2 cars I now have a second car in my garage (a BMW X6) and the stereo on that is vastly superior.

I figure that there must be something wrong with the sound system - it can't be that awful when it is promoted as being a feature. I figure that the dealer couldn't be bothered looking at the problem and dismissed my complaints about it.

I listen to mostly classical music, but also to (80's) pop and from time to time contemporary music via the stereo. I've found that the sound quality is awful regardless of whether I use a CD, the radio or an iPod (I have an iPod connector system that I installed in the car). The sound is tinny, shallow and there is no sense of being in a music hall that I would expect from a top-shelf system.

I wondered if anyone has had any experience with getting their system looked at: I am Melbourne based, so I'm looking for someone in the Eastern suburbs who might be able to help. And perhaps there is something obvious that I can/should check (e.g. a blown fuse)..?

Cheers,

David

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Hi Folks,

I have 2008 SL which is equipped with the standard Mark Levinson sound system.

I came to the IS250 from a BMW X5 (2001 model) and could not believe how hopeless the sound is compared what I got in the X5: I took it back to the dealer who told me that it was operating normally. I sold the X5 to buy the IS250 so I just thought that it was my imagination, but as I've recently become an owner of 2 cars I now have a second car in my garage (a BMW X6) and the stereo on that is vastly superior.

I figure that there must be something wrong with the sound system - it can't be that awful when it is promoted as being a feature. I figure that the dealer couldn't be bothered looking at the problem and dismissed my complaints about it.

I listen to mostly classical music, but also to (80's) pop and from time to time contemporary music via the stereo. I've found that the sound quality is awful regardless of whether I use a CD, the radio or an iPod (I have an iPod connector system that I installed in the car). The sound is tinny, shallow and there is no sense of being in a music hall that I would expect from a top-shelf system.

I wondered if anyone has had any experience with getting their system looked at: I am Melbourne based, so I'm looking for someone in the Eastern suburbs who might be able to help. And perhaps there is something obvious that I can/should check (e.g. a blown fuse)..?

Cheers,

David

Have you tried adjusting the "Bass" settings,/ "Mids" / " Treble" like the settings in this pic:

add more "bass and less "mid", and more "treble". It makes it sound Much better,

is_Untitled_1.jpg

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Whereabouts in the east are you? I am from south east melb, happy to check it out, theres a few buttons that you can change and so forth and makes a masssssive difference, it makes it go from sounding from music out of a phone to a hall.

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Jonokhoa, care to share your setup on here? I'm in sydney. Even the equalizer on my ipod won't fix it from sounding like the sound is coming from a phone!

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Ummmmm from the top of my head,

I remember the surround button being switched on,

Treb is set 1 from max,

mid is set to the center,

bass is set 1 from max.

then the audio locations are two clicks to the rear from centered.

I love my sound quality and it does annoy me if it doesnt sound nice but I have to say the levinson system is pretty good.

*I have completed an extensive training on headphones and sound quality at my old work place, not an expert but i can differentiate good sound from cheap sounds haha.

I hope their is nothing wrong with your system, but yeah if the sound is better in the beamer then dayummm I have got to check that out haha

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Hi Stormis,

Thank you for the suggestions - I've tried to paste an image of my initial settings up, but I can't figure out how to do so. Anyway, they are (or were):

  • Treb => +1 above the centre setting
  • Mid => the centre setting
  • Bass => +1 above the centre setting.

I have adjusted to now be:

  • Treb => -1 below the maximum setting
  • Mid => +1 above the lowest setting
  • Bass => the maximum setting

I have only driven the car once since the setting (up the train station), and while it sounds much better, I will want to see whether this brings it up to the spec of the (standard) BMW unbranded system.

I'll let folks know how I manage.

Hi Jonokhoa,

Thanks for the offer of help - I am in the Doncaster/Box Hill area. I will see how the settings StormIS has recommended work out, although they are not too dissimilar to what you've specified. Also, I think my "centre-ing" of sound is identical to what you have specified.

Cheers,

David

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  • 1 year later...

Hi

I'm onto my 3rd Lexus, 3rd Mark Levinson system.

I reckon this system, Mark Levinson, is the worst sound system I ever experience in a car. I have had BMW, Passat, even Mitsubishis and the ML system is always the worst. I modified my 1st one. Couldn't be bothered with the 2nd and am dithering over this current one. It's just so "soft"! I always, in all 3 models, have to put the balance so rear bias to try and get a "surround" sound but it's not good and if I keep the car long enough I will have to have it modified.

Whether its the combination of Lexus not working with sound engineers or what I don't know but it's a huge disappointment each time.

P

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  • 2 months later...

Hi David

Did you ever do anything about sound system?

I lasted this long but am about to have my system "thrown out" and according to my car sound guy, who I trust, ditching the speakers and fitting a much better quality speaker and tweeters. he said most ML systems use "flat" speakers for sound for the average punter and that's just how they sound. He's also fixing an override system so I can actually change playlists etc while driving, quickly rather than being distracted and having to go through 300 songs to find what I want the Lexus way.

Having said that, his experience was that Lexus/Toyota was a real "FW" company re sound and nav and phone systems and he has fixed "many" disgruntled premium ML systems for other Lexus owners. Big names but poor quality re installation and compatability.

Peter

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Peter,

Hi David

Did you ever do anything about sound system?

I lasted this long but am about to have my system "thrown out" and according to my car sound guy, who I trust, ditching the speakers and fitting a much better quality speaker and tweeters. he said most ML systems use "flat" speakers for sound for the average punter and that's just how they sound. He's also fixing an override system so I can actually change playlists etc while driving, quickly rather than being distracted and having to go through 300 songs to find what I want the Lexus way.

Having said that, his experience was that Lexus/Toyota was a real "FW" company re sound and nav and phone systems and he has fixed "many" disgruntled premium ML systems for other Lexus owners. Big names but poor quality re installation and compatability.

Peter

Sorry about taking some time to respond - I've just decided to live with the sound system as it is. The suggestions that StormIS made have helped improve the sound, but the quality of it remains rubbish when compared to standard sound systems in other cars (the standard sound system in my BMW is *far far far* superior). When I purchased the car at Lexus of Brighton, there was a very enthusiastic young fellow who raved about the quality of the ML sound system ... so for a long time I thought that it must have a failed component/incorrectly configured/needed additional tuning.

The realisation that it was utter cr*p took a while coming, but I realise that it just is like this. There's a lot to like about the car, but the sound system isn't part of that.

And yes, the software that sits around the control centre is incredibly tedious in how it behaves ... I think it adds to driver distraction rather than being a safety aid. I drove a newer model at the last service and it looked to have been improved somewhat.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi David

Just an update on the ML crap sound.

I spent $2300 on upgrading speakers to FOCAL which I have used in the past, been impressed with, and was recommended again. I went back after about three weeks "underwhelmed"! Spent another $500 on a Pioneer sub "something" system fitted under passenger seat still have come away underwhelmed. So for $2800 I do have a better sound, albeit marginally and NOT $2800 worth. I have come to the conclusion that since there is more road noise in this car than any I have other owned, I now appreciate German engineering over Japanese. I am finding Lexus very overrated re road noise and like you will probably learn to live with it till lease finishes and I'll never buy another Lexus. New Michelin tyres that worked a dream on my BMW and Passat can't be the issue?

I think part of the problem is the sound guys fitting the (after market) stuff like to turn up the sound while you are parked with no road noise but that doesn't happen in real life while you are driving!

Best money I did spend was on "override" re sat nav and phone when on the move, brilliant.

And I pity the poor sap who paid the initial $82K for the car without parking sensors only a camera. I have fitted sensors, brilliant as well.

About to replace the worst driving seat ever with a Recaro, standard on BMW and Passat. Determined to "love this car" yet.

Peter

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Hi Peter,

I understand your frustration ... as I started reading your post I couldn't believe how much you'd spent on the sound system relative to the value of the car ... I guess mine is worth about $25k-ish (I've got a 2008 SL, with 67K's on the clock - car is in brilliant condition) and spending ~10% of that on a sound system doesn't add up for me :)

In relation to road noise, I find that comment surprising. I have very little road noise in my car - my father, who only ever opens his mouth to insult me or say offensive cr*p, said "I can't believe how quiet this car is, I can't even tell if the engine is running". And I get comments from other folks who've got German cars (last one was a Merc owner) who commented how quiet it was. I have Pirelli tyres on the car, based on a recommendation from a (good) local tyre store. I always prefer Michelin, but he persuaded me that the Pirelli's were better and I took the advice ... maybe the road noise is from the tyres or perhaps insulation that has come loose during the fitting of the new stereo..?

I've fitted an override for parts of the SatNav system ... glad I did so. It doubles as my iPod integration point, so its useful ... but I still can't operate the SatNav while driving and I'm not keen to invest further in the car :) I'm going to enjoy it till it dies ... I'll probably turn over my BMW for something else (Tesla?) in due course, but the Lexus is reliable and relatively inexpensive driving so I'm going to hang onto it for a while.

Cheers,

David

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Hi David

A short Post Script fot the saga!

Somebody paid $81K for my car in June 2012, without parking sensors can you believe!

I bought it 2 yrs later for $45K with only 10,000 kms on the clock so with that I am comfortable.

Hence I was prepared to spend $1500??? to improve the sound. At least that was the plan. Like you, I'm hoping with low kms etc it will be reliable for the next 4 yrs, I will drive it into the ground counting the days down.

Because mine is an F Sport with larger tyres than your SL I suspect that's part of the noise problem, BUT, as I previously said BMW and VW appear to have that problem solved.

I'm also surprised just how far behind Japanese technology is comparing the ease I had in using hard drive and USBs for music in the German cars vs having to switch to Ipod and ITunes for the Lexus.

I have to admit that, fuel consumption aside, if everyone could build smooth engines and transmisssions like Lexus, that would be a plus. The engine and transmission are definite plusses. And once I fit that Recaro.......................

My family says I am just getting too old and set in my ways------they are probably right.

Regards

Peter

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