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Replacing Faulty Levinson Speakers


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Hi all,

I’m an audio hobbyist and have done work for a few friends on Lexus vehicles with Mark Levinson (ML) audio systems. After poking around on this site and finding numerous references to problems with speakers in these systems, especially the subwoofers, I’ve found that some people are making risky decisions when replacing these speakers due to lack of technical knowledge. I can’t stand to see a good system getting burned up, so I have written up a few guidelines and tips to help you replace your faulty speakers without risking further damage to these outstanding (and expensive) audio systems.

PREVENTING DAMAGE IN THE FIRST PLACE. I have heard thousands of hours of live music, both acoustic and amplified. I’ve also heard dozens of audio systems, some costing tens of thousands of dollars. That includes close, critical listening to lots of car systems including several different ML systems (yes, I’m obsessed), and I can say unequivocally that the ML systems are by far the best OEM car audio systems I have ever heard, probably the best ever produced. Clarity, detail, and frequency response are all in a league with very fine home audiophile gear. Unfortunately, many people have become accustomed to grossly exaggerated, unnatural thumpy bass and feel that a system that does not deliver that kind of sound is “light on bass”. The ML systems are NOT deficient in bass, they are very accurate and “neutral”, a sharp contrast to much of what is out there today. However, some users are compelled to max out the bass controls and crank the volume to what I consider to be ridiculous levels, and as many here have probably noticed, this is probably the Achilles heel of many ML car systems. Probably the quickest way to damage an ML audio system is to play “superbass”-type techno and rap CD’s with the bass controls and volume very high or to use your vehicle to provide music for all your friends' beach parties. If you do this kind of thing regularly, it’s probably just a matter of time before the subwoofer fails. Even with less boomy pop/rock/country music, cranking the bass controls up is probably not a good idea. Frequency response in these systems is most correct with the tone controls all set flat anyway, so do yourself a favor and leave them like that or adjust lightly.

REPLACING DAMAGED DRIVERS. Even the best systems experience a certain number of failures, even when the owner has done everything right. If your vehicle is still under warranty, I recommend always going with the factory replacement part. ANY other part is going to change the balance and character of the system at least a little bit simply because the speaker will not have the same design characteristics. Besides, the replacement should be free when under warranty. Go for that and hope it doesn’t happen again.

AFTERMARKET SPEAKERS. If your vehicle is no longer under warranty and you (understandably) don’t want to spring for a pricey OEM replacement, aftermarket speakers are an option, BUT you have to choose carefully for a number of reasons. The single most important spec on any replacement speaker for an ML system is IMPEDANCE. Having measured a few of these parts with an Ohm meter, I have found that the impedance is usually between 8 and 12 Ohms (the LX 470 sub is 12 Ohms), quite a high number compared to most car audio speakers. I have also discovered that using 4 Ohm or lower speakers can cause the amp to cut out at moderate to high volume levels. Others on this forum have related similar experiences. THIS INDICATES A PROBLEM FOR YOUR AMPLIFIER. Amplifiers shut off to protect themselves. This kind of protection works for a while, but tells you there is a problem that can eventually damage the amp if not corrected. And if you think replacing a speaker is a pain…..

If at all possible, use an Ohmmeter to measure the resistance of the coil on the speaker you are replacing. Disconnect the speaker and clip onto the tinsel wires just under the speaker cone when doing this—often the tinsel wires are where the problem is, so the less tinsel you go through for your measurement, the better. Add about 1 Ohm to the DC resistance measurement, and you have the speaker’s “AC impedance”. Choose a replacement speaker with an impedance as close to this value as possible. A 12-Ohm car subwoofer is difficult to impossible to find, but there are aftermarket subs with dual 6-Ohm coils by JBL and others out there. If you wire the two coils in series (tie the + side of one coil to the – side of the other and power the speaker through the unconnected ends), you now have a single 12-Ohm coil. An 8 Ohm coil is probably OK if you don’t listen at very high volumes, 4 and 2 Ohm speakers are out of the question in this case. As long as your amp isn’t cutting out on volume peaks, it should be safe from damage by your replacement speaker.

HOME AUDIO SPEAKERS. Home audio speakers are not designed to withstand the environmental extremes seen in a car and most will literally begin to fall apart before long. I do not recommend using speakers designed for home use in a car—ever.

POLARITY. Try connecting the new speaker with polarity connected both ways. The connection that yields the (slightly) louder sound is the correct one.

Hopefully, this is enough info for most of you to find a safe and proper way to replace your problem speakers. If you don’t understand what is written here, enlist the help of somebody who does, or email me at garnetsandsilver@sbcglobal.net. Good luck and happy listening!

MrL

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  • 1 month later...

Thank you for the information! My ML subwoofer in a LS430 (2001) just blew. Do you know the size/impedence for this? I'll probably go with the OEM, but I want something to compair it to.

Hi all,

I’m an audio hobbyist and have done work for a few friends on Lexus vehicles with Mark Levinson (ML) audio systems. After poking around on this site and finding numerous references to problems with speakers in these systems, especially the subwoofers, I’ve found that some people are making risky decisions when replacing these speakers due to lack of technical knowledge. I can’t stand to see a good system getting burned up, so I have written up a few guidelines and tips to help you replace your faulty speakers without risking further damage to these outstanding (and expensive) audio systems.

PREVENTING DAMAGE IN THE FIRST PLACE. I have heard thousands of hours of live music, both acoustic and amplified. I’ve also heard dozens of audio systems, some costing tens of thousands of dollars. That includes close, critical listening to lots of car systems including several different ML systems (yes, I’m obsessed), and I can say unequivocally that the ML systems are by far the best OEM car audio systems I have ever heard, probably the best ever produced. Clarity, detail, and frequency response are all in a league with very fine home audiophile gear. Unfortunately, many people have become accustomed to grossly exaggerated, unnatural thumpy bass and feel that a system that does not deliver that kind of sound is “light on bass”. The ML systems are NOT deficient in bass, they are very accurate and “neutral”, a sharp contrast to much of what is out there today. However, some users are compelled to max out the bass controls and crank the volume to what I consider to be ridiculous levels, and as many here have probably noticed, this is probably the Achilles heel of many ML car systems. Probably the quickest way to damage an ML audio system is to play “superbass”-type techno and rap CD’s with the bass controls and volume very high or to use your vehicle to provide music for all your friends' beach parties. If you do this kind of thing regularly, it’s probably just a matter of time before the subwoofer fails. Even with less boomy pop/rock/country music, cranking the bass controls up is probably not a good idea. Frequency response in these systems is most correct with the tone controls all set flat anyway, so do yourself a favor and leave them like that or adjust lightly.

REPLACING DAMAGED DRIVERS. Even the best systems experience a certain number of failures, even when the owner has done everything right. If your vehicle is still under warranty, I recommend always going with the factory replacement part. ANY other part is going to change the balance and character of the system at least a little bit simply because the speaker will not have the same design characteristics. Besides, the replacement should be free when under warranty. Go for that and hope it doesn’t happen again.

AFTERMARKET SPEAKERS. If your vehicle is no longer under warranty and you (understandably) don’t want to spring for a pricey OEM replacement, aftermarket speakers are an option, BUT you have to choose carefully for a number of reasons. The single most important spec on any replacement speaker for an ML system is IMPEDANCE. Having measured a few of these parts with an Ohm meter, I have found that the impedance is usually between 8 and 12 Ohms (the LX 470 sub is 12 Ohms), quite a high number compared to most car audio speakers. I have also discovered that using 4 Ohm or lower speakers can cause the amp to cut out at moderate to high volume levels. Others on this forum have related similar experiences. THIS INDICATES A PROBLEM FOR YOUR AMPLIFIER. Amplifiers shut off to protect themselves. This kind of protection works for a while, but tells you there is a problem that can eventually damage the amp if not corrected. And if you think replacing a speaker is a pain…..

If at all possible, use an Ohmmeter to measure the resistance of the coil on the speaker you are replacing. Disconnect the speaker and clip onto the tinsel wires just under the speaker cone when doing this—often the tinsel wires are where the problem is, so the less tinsel you go through for your measurement, the better. Add about 1 Ohm to the DC resistance measurement, and you have the speaker’s “AC impedance”. Choose a replacement speaker with an impedance as close to this value as possible. A 12-Ohm car subwoofer is difficult to impossible to find, but there are aftermarket subs with dual 6-Ohm coils by JBL and others out there. If you wire the two coils in series (tie the + side of one coil to the – side of the other and power the speaker through the unconnected ends), you now have a single 12-Ohm coil. An 8 Ohm coil is probably OK if you don’t listen at very high volumes, 4 and 2 Ohm speakers are out of the question in this case. As long as your amp isn’t cutting out on volume peaks, it should be safe from damage by your replacement speaker.

HOME AUDIO SPEAKERS. Home audio speakers are not designed to withstand the environmental extremes seen in a car and most will literally begin to fall apart before long. I do not recommend using speakers designed for home use in a car—ever.

POLARITY. Try connecting the new speaker with polarity connected both ways. The connection that yields the (slightly) louder sound is the correct one.

Hopefully, this is enough info for most of you to find a safe and proper way to replace your problem speakers. If you don’t understand what is written here, enlist the help of somebody who does, or email me at garnetsandsilver@sbcglobal.net. Good luck and happy listening!

MrL

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  • 2 weeks later...
MrL

PREVENTING DAMAGE IN THE FIRST PLACE. I have heard thousands of hours of live music, both acoustic and amplified. I've also heard dozens of audio systems, some costing tens of thousands of dollars. That includes close, critical listening to lots of car systems including several different ML systems (yes, I'm obsessed), and I can say unequivocally that the ML systems are by far the best OEM car audio systems I have ever heard, probably the best ever produced. Clarity, detail, and frequency response are all in a league with very fine home audiophile gear. Unfortunately, many people have become accustomed to grossly exaggerated, unnatural thumpy bass and feel that a system that does not deliver that kind of sound is "light on bass". The ML systems are NOT deficient in bass, they are very accurate and "neutral", a sharp contrast to much of what is out there today. However, some users are compelled to max out the bass controls and crank the volume to what I consider to be ridiculous levels, and as many here have probably noticed, this is probably the Achilles heel of many ML car systems. Probably the quickest way to damage an ML audio system is to play "superbass"-type techno and rap CD's with the bass controls and volume very high or to use your vehicle to provide music for all your friends' beach parties. If you do this kind of thing regularly, it's probably just a matter of time before the subwoofer fails. Even with less boomy pop/rock/country music, cranking the bass controls up is probably not a good idea. Frequency response in these systems is most correct with the tone controls all set flat anyway, so do yourself a favor and leave them like that or adjust lightly.

I am a very big audiophile. I have been for 25+ years. While I agree with your theory, I disagree with your method. Everyone has different tastes along with different ears. What may sound good to you may sound terrible to some one else. I think the problem with the ML system is that they didn't take that into account. In fact, that's why alot of the "best "audio manufacturer's never do well in sales. For example, Let's take the Carver 1.5 T. A great amplifier, with technology still ahead of it's time. The Adcom GFA series, Krell, and even Mark Levinson, all great equipment. They undoubtely and faithfully reproduce music very accurately. So accurately that it has the aumbiance of a morge, or a flourescent light. People want surrealistic sound. Tube amplifiers sound like a warm velvet on you skin, the Marrantz HDAM technology awsome!!!!! It almost makes your CD's sound like a real stage in front of you. No brightness to the sound at all.

I don't think car buyers need to appreciate ML, I think ML needs to appreciate it's buyers. While the ML system is based on a surrealistic theory, with accoustic imaging technics, are you saying we can't listen to rap or hard rock on our ML systems because it's not designed to reproduce that kind of music? Or are you saying that only Jazz and classical music fully employs the dynamic qualities of the ML system?

My opinion has allways been, if the equipment can't keep up with me, then it's not real equipment worth my time. Especially when there is plenty out there that can. For example, Polk audio makes a very accurate car audio speaker, and it takes more abuse than you can almost throw at it. I am of course talking about their compitition line. There is alot more out there, I was just giving an example.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Hi all,

I’m an audio hobbyist and have done work for a few friends on Lexus vehicles with Mark Levinson (ML) audio systems. After poking around on this site and finding numerous references to problems with speakers in these systems, especially the subwoofers, I’ve found that some people are making risky decisions when replacing these speakers due to lack of technical knowledge. I can’t stand to see a good system getting burned up, so I have written up a few guidelines and tips to help you replace your faulty speakers without risking further damage to these outstanding (and expensive) audio systems.

PREVENTING DAMAGE IN THE FIRST PLACE. I have heard thousands of hours of live music, both acoustic and amplified. I’ve also heard dozens of audio systems, some costing tens of thousands of dollars. That includes close, critical listening to lots of car systems including several different ML systems (yes, I’m obsessed), and I can say unequivocally that the ML systems are by far the best OEM car audio systems I have ever heard, probably the best ever produced. Clarity, detail, and frequency response are all in a league with very fine home audiophile gear. Unfortunately, many people have become accustomed to grossly exaggerated, unnatural thumpy bass and feel that a system that does not deliver that kind of sound is “light on bass”. The ML systems are NOT deficient in bass, they are very accurate and “neutral”, a sharp contrast to much of what is out there today. However, some users are compelled to max out the bass controls and crank the volume to what I consider to be ridiculous levels, and as many here have probably noticed, this is probably the Achilles heel of many ML car systems. Probably the quickest way to damage an ML audio system is to play “superbass”-type techno and rap CD’s with the bass controls and volume very high or to use your vehicle to provide music for all your friends' beach parties. If you do this kind of thing regularly, it’s probably just a matter of time before the subwoofer fails. Even with less boomy pop/rock/country music, cranking the bass controls up is probably not a good idea. Frequency response in these systems is most correct with the tone controls all set flat anyway, so do yourself a favor and leave them like that or adjust lightly.

REPLACING DAMAGED DRIVERS. Even the best systems experience a certain number of failures, even when the owner has done everything right. If your vehicle is still under warranty, I recommend always going with the factory replacement part. ANY other part is going to change the balance and character of the system at least a little bit simply because the speaker will not have the same design characteristics. Besides, the replacement should be free when under warranty. Go for that and hope it doesn’t happen again.

AFTERMARKET SPEAKERS. If your vehicle is no longer under warranty and you (understandably) don’t want to spring for a pricey OEM replacement, aftermarket speakers are an option, BUT you have to choose carefully for a number of reasons. The single most important spec on any replacement speaker for an ML system is IMPEDANCE. Having measured a few of these parts with an Ohm meter, I have found that the impedance is usually between 8 and 12 Ohms (the LX 470 sub is 12 Ohms), quite a high number compared to most car audio speakers. I have also discovered that using 4 Ohm or lower speakers can cause the amp to cut out at moderate to high volume levels. Others on this forum have related similar experiences. THIS INDICATES A PROBLEM FOR YOUR AMPLIFIER. Amplifiers shut off to protect themselves. This kind of protection works for a while, but tells you there is a problem that can eventually damage the amp if not corrected. And if you think replacing a speaker is a pain…..

If at all possible, use an Ohmmeter to measure the resistance of the coil on the speaker you are replacing. Disconnect the speaker and clip onto the tinsel wires just under the speaker cone when doing this—often the tinsel wires are where the problem is, so the less tinsel you go through for your measurement, the better. Add about 1 Ohm to the DC resistance measurement, and you have the speaker’s “AC impedance”. Choose a replacement speaker with an impedance as close to this value as possible. A 12-Ohm car subwoofer is difficult to impossible to find, but there are aftermarket subs with dual 6-Ohm coils by JBL and others out there. If you wire the two coils in series (tie the + side of one coil to the – side of the other and power the speaker through the unconnected ends), you now have a single 12-Ohm coil. An 8 Ohm coil is probably OK if you don’t listen at very high volumes, 4 and 2 Ohm speakers are out of the question in this case. As long as your amp isn’t cutting out on volume peaks, it should be safe from damage by your replacement speaker.

HOME AUDIO SPEAKERS. Home audio speakers are not designed to withstand the environmental extremes seen in a car and most will literally begin to fall apart before long. I do not recommend using speakers designed for home use in a car—ever.

POLARITY. Try connecting the new speaker with polarity connected both ways. The connection that yields the (slightly) louder sound is the correct one.

Hopefully, this is enough info for most of you to find a safe and proper way to replace your problem speakers. If you don’t understand what is written here, enlist the help of somebody who does, or email me at garnetsandsilver@sbcglobal.net. Good luck and happy listening!

MrL

I need to remove subwolfer from 01 LS 430. I have removered grille. Can anyone tell me how to remove the subwolfer?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you for the information! My ML subwoofer in a LS430 (2001) just blew. Do you know the size/impedence for this? I'll probably go with the OEM, but I want something to compair it to.

Hi,

IIRC, the LS430 is the one with a six-inch sub (never could figure that one out) in the long, skinny enclosure. That is a 12 Ohm coil driven by two bridged amplifier channels, I believe. If I am describing the enclosure incorrectly, email me directly with a proper description and I'll take another crack at it. If I'm right, it probably has a torn surround (very loud popping noises)or fractured flex wires (scratchy, possibly intermittent sound). Good luck!

MrL

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I am a very big audiophile. I have been for 25+ years. While I agree with your theory, I disagree with your method. Everyone has different tastes along with different ears. What may sound good to you may sound terrible to some one else. I think the problem with the ML system is that they didn't take that into account. In fact, that's why alot of the "best "audio manufacturer's never do well in sales. For example, Let's take the Carver 1.5 T. A great amplifier, with technology still ahead of it's time. The Adcom GFA series, Krell, and even Mark Levinson, all great equipment. They undoubtely and faithfully reproduce music very accurately. So accurately that it has the aumbiance of a morge, or a flourescent light. People want surrealistic sound. Tube amplifiers sound like a warm velvet on you skin, the Marrantz HDAM technology awsome!!!!! It almost makes your CD's sound like a real stage in front of you. No brightness to the sound at all.

I don't think car buyers need to appreciate ML, I think ML needs to appreciate it's buyers. While the ML system is based on a surrealistic theory, with accoustic imaging technics, are you saying we can't listen to rap or hard rock on our ML systems because it's not designed to reproduce that kind of music? Or are you saying that only Jazz and classical music fully employs the dynamic qualities of the ML system?

My opinion has allways been, if the equipment can't keep up with me, then it's not real equipment worth my time. Especially when there is plenty out there that can. For example, Polk audio makes a very accurate car audio speaker, and it takes more abuse than you can almost throw at it. I am of course talking about their compitition line. There is alot more out there, I was just giving an example.

Hello,

Well, you know what they say about opinions......

Could the speakers in the ML systems have been designed better in some cases? Absolutely. Should you avoid playing rock or rap on your Lexus ML system? NO, I never said that. What I said was that you would be best off listening to the music the way the engineers and artists who recorded it intended. I assure you their studio monitors don't have the bass bands boosted some 10 dB or more druing mixing. I'm not touting the limitations of any system as an asset. I'm just letting you know where the weaknesses are here so you can avoid the major headache of damaged equipment. It just so happens that I personally feel that maxing out the bass on a system that measures damn near flat from 20Hz to 20kHz before you even touch it is misguided to put it mildly. In this case (and lots of others at all price points for that matter) it also happens to be hazardous to your gear. You seem to be implying that natural frequency response equals sterile sound. If that were the case, then all live unamplified music would sound dull and lifeless, which is a ridiculous suggestion. Sounds to me like you're blaming some other system problem(s) on the fact that certain things are being done very well. We'll just have to agree to disagree on that one.

MrL

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I am a very big audiophile. I have been for 25+ years. While I agree with your theory, I disagree with your method. Everyone has different tastes along with different ears. What may sound good to you may sound terrible to some one else. I think the problem with the ML system is that they didn't take that into account. In fact, that's why alot of the "best "audio manufacturer's never do well in sales. For example, Let's take the Carver 1.5 T. A great amplifier, with technology still ahead of it's time. The Adcom GFA series, Krell, and even Mark Levinson, all great equipment. They undoubtely and faithfully reproduce music very accurately. So accurately that it has the aumbiance of a morge, or a flourescent light. People want surrealistic sound. Tube amplifiers sound like a warm velvet on you skin, the Marrantz HDAM technology awsome!!!!! It almost makes your CD's sound like a real stage in front of you. No brightness to the sound at all.

I don't think car buyers need to appreciate ML, I think ML needs to appreciate it's buyers. While the ML system is based on a surrealistic theory, with accoustic imaging technics, are you saying we can't listen to rap or hard rock on our ML systems because it's not designed to reproduce that kind of music? Or are you saying that only Jazz and classical music fully employs the dynamic qualities of the ML system?

My opinion has allways been, if the equipment can't keep up with me, then it's not real equipment worth my time. Especially when there is plenty out there that can. For example, Polk audio makes a very accurate car audio speaker, and it takes more abuse than you can almost throw at it. I am of course talking about their compitition line. There is alot more out there, I was just giving an example.

Hello,

Well, you know what they say about opinions......

Could the speakers in the ML systems have been designed better in some cases? Absolutely. Should you avoid playing rock or rap on your Lexus ML system? NO, I never said that. What I said was that you would be best off listening to the music the way the engineers and artists who recorded it intended. I assure you their studio monitors don't have the bass bands boosted some 10 dB or more druing mixing. I'm not touting the limitations of any system as an asset. I'm just letting you know where the weaknesses are here so you can avoid the major headache of damaged equipment. It just so happens that I personally feel that maxing out the bass on a system that measures damn near flat from 20Hz to 20kHz before you even touch it is misguided to put it mildly. In this case (and lots of others at all price points for that matter) it also happens to be hazardous to your gear. You seem to be implying that natural frequency response equals sterile sound. If that were the case, then all live unamplified music would sound dull and lifeless, which is a ridiculous suggestion. Sounds to me like you're blaming some other system problem(s) on the fact that certain things are being done very well. We'll just have to agree to disagree on that one.

MrL

Hey there MrL. Before I reply, I want you to know that I see this as a conversation between two fairly knowledgeable people reviewing the different points of audio components and sound reproduction, and not an argument over opinions.

What I said was that you would be best off listening to the music the way the engineers and artists who recorded it intended

What do engineers know what the artist intended? And have you listened to music today? Your telling me that bass is not the intended sound? Hip Hop, Rap, House, Metal, Urban, Techno, R&B, Alternative....all are emphasizing the lower frequencies my friend. I even have some Jazz that will test the dynamic headroom of some of the most powerful amps and leave them crying for you to stop. And that is leaving the EQ flat.

I assure you their studio monitors don't have the bass bands boosted some 10 dB or more druing mixing. I'm not touting the limitations of any system as an asset. I'm just letting you know where the weaknesses are here so you can avoid the major headache of damaged equipment. It just so happens that I personally feel that maxing out the bass on a system that measures damn near flat from 20Hz to 20kHz before you even touch it is misguided to put it mildly.

How they mix a track has nothing to with a flat reproduction curve. Moving the bass levels up does not cause damage. Distortion causes damage. So long as you stay within the decibel level limits, and power consumptions, you should be fine. In fact, you could very easily damage the same system on a flat EQ by simply pushing the system beyond it's power limits for extended periods of time. Bass has nothing to do with it, other than the fact that bass levels require alot more power.

In this case (and lots of others at all price points for that matter) it also happens to be hazardous to your gear

Only if your gear doesn't have enouph headroom. Which is what I was saying about the ML system. They didn't provide enouph headroom in the stock amps for the real user. And your also correct in that they could have used better speakers. But here again. aftermarket has allways pushed car manufacturers. Even as good as the ML system is, for the same money you could get a much better system aftermaket.

You seem to be implying that natural frequency response equals sterile sound. If that were the case, then all live unamplified music would sound dull and lifeless, which is a ridiculous suggestion.

I actaully said that accurate sound reproduction, not natural frequency responses. You can sit there and tell me that the ML No. 432 sounds like a Jolida JD3000A-PP211 tube amp? Not even close.......Look at the CD. VERY ACCURATE, but a real audiophile prefers vinyl albums.( Just without the pops and crackles.)Because they actually sound better than a CD, even though a CD is more accurate. Why? That ambient warmth. It's not the note itself, it's the spaciousness between the notes. The depth of the soundstage. And I have to tell ya, that kind of sound is intoxicating. When I can close my eyes and see the wooden floor stage with my ears, and feel the back of the audience with the hairs on the back of my neck. Let me tell ya,

Sounds to me like you're blaming some other system problem(s) on the fact that certain things are being done very well.

My audio system does this very well.

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  • 13 years later...

I have a 2006 lexus SC430, my door speakers are getting loose sounding. I was thinking of replacing with a quality aftermarket 6.5 inch 8 ohm speaker and use an adapter for the different speaker shape. As long as the speaker is 8 ohm , will I be ok with no damage to the amp?  I was trying to go with the fosgate  PPS8-6, but hard to find now.

 

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