Not a day goes go by without some "purists" lamenting the passing of BMW M greatness. The culprit for all these doomsday cries is none other than the infamous Active Sound
in the F10 M5. Lame, pathetic, J-lo lip-sync, etc are words commonly used against it. I swear that if I wait a while longer, some "experts" would probably draw a co-relation between children exposed to Active Sound to serial homicide. I figure that if we are to demonize Active Sound, we should at least put a face to it, or in this case, sound. BMW's product literature did not indicate clearly what is being introduced.
To start with, let's identify the sounds in the cabin of the new M5. The following 3 sounds are most dominant in the cabin:
- Engine note
- Turbo whine
- Exhaust note
Some ask what happens if you change the exhaust? Is Active Sound gonna mix in the old exhaust note thereby ruining your new exotic exhaust? The short answer is No. To find out what AS introduced, I carried out a very simple experiment of disabling it via the fuse box and recording the sounds via a Zoom H4N professional handheld recorder. The recording device lightened my wallet by around US$300. Yes, some of u clowns are responsible for this damage...
Coming from a long history of failed DIY projects, I didn't wanna risk yanking out the fuse myself for fear of detonating the whole car. I drove the car down to the dealership (Munich Automobiles Singapore) and harassed the poor SA (KT) for assistance on this thankless task. The SA was very nice and helpful despite being very busy, so kudos to him. He promptly assigned 2 of his guys, which opened up my trunk and located the fuse box. They even pointed to the right fuse while I snap a picture of it as I would have to put it back on my own after my experiment.
Fuse #200 rated 40 amps was yanked out (photo below). It worked as advertised in Automobile magazine. I started the car and verified that the stereo was dead. I drove off with a couple of the dealership's staffs in tow for a quick test run of the car without AS. It is indeed quieter without AS so I figured I was ready and headed home. I couldn't have picked a worst time to yank out the fuse. On the way home on the highway, there was a massive jam for no apparent reason and there I was, stuck and crawling home without my stereo. Luckily the AC was still working. It must be noted that with the fuse yanked, the warning tone of the rear/front parking sensor is gone as well. That's something that almost caused me to reverse to the wall at the basement parking of my apartment.
I carried out the test the following day on a stretch of desolate road by doing a few runs on WOT with the fuse yanked, and then putting the fuse back and repeated the process. The recorder was secured onto the arm rest. After listening to the sound clips, I can safely say that AS adds only the engine note. The turbo whine and exhaust note you hear is the real deal. That makes me wonder if the whine could make its way into the cabin despite the sound insulation, why can't the engine note?
Attached are 2 sound clips for your listening pleasure. There is not much to get excited over. This car really needs an exhaust upgrade. I begin to wonder what is the real reason behind the introduction of AS. I am guessing it's not so much of the superior sound insulation, but that they were trying to mitigate the pain of moving away from that glorious V10. Going FI means you are gonna loose induction note. In the sound clip without AS, I can still hear the same engine note albeit a lot softer. That leads me to conclude that AS is basically to give you back some of what going FI took away rather than the sound insulation. For the factory to spec a louder exhaust would probably tip the scale too much towards being outwardly racy and offset the fine balance of performance vs executive touch. Personally, I can't wait for my Akra to arrive
Is Active Sound fake? I wouldn't say so. The engine note is a genuine production from the engine. Active Sound simply amplifies and play it back via the speaker. It's not live production, but I have never much liked live concerts anyway. Does it affect how I feel about this amazing car? Not one bit. Does it help the AS luddites accept this car? I highly doubt it, but that's not the purpose of this experiment anyway. Do I wanna see AS implemented on the next M3? Hell no...
Audio Comparison (Before and After Disable):
Fuse #200 rated 40 amps
A little trivia: The owner of the dealership just took delivery of his new McLaren fax machine