After an agonizing two month wait, my M3 sedan arrived Tuesday. I ordered the Enhanced Premium Sound option as I was not interested in aftermarket mods and the stock system is worthless (for me). So before you read on, please understand I am not comparing to high end aftermarket installs. I am comparing to what I have experienced in OEM systems.
Some background.... I have had both a Monte SS and a Buick Grand National in the 80s and early 90s, both with decent aftermarket custom systems that included multiple amps and sub.
Then, I have had a 96 M3, 1999 Lexus GS400 w/Nakamichi sound, Merc C32AMG, and lastly a 2006 Infiniti M45 with whatever their best Bose stereo was. I also just test drove the Infiniti G37 with the top of the line stereo (supposedly pretty good). My dad has a Lexus LS460 w/Mark Levinson as well. Very familiar with that one.
I have a bachelors degree in Music Production and Engineering from Berklee in Boston and have been a professional musician since 1990 (along with my more lucrative day gig). I have DAW based recording studio in a sound proof environment in my home as well. I say this to demonstrate some level of experience to back up my thoughts.
For me, hands down, the M3 stereo is the best I have had in a vehicle. I listen to mainly jazz and jazz fusion. Very little vocal music. Mainly electric instrumental stuff. Sometimes music with lots of 6 string bass and funky pocket stuff as well. The M3 is crisp and does not readily distort on the transients. The imaging is actually superb in the sedan as long as the volume is up. Music such Joe Zawinul or newer Herbie Hancock with world influence sounds great with the ethnic instrumentation sitting beautifully in the mix and sound stage. Overall, I am very happy with the option. Sure it is pricey, but it is an M3. I am sure they could have done better but it is not bad. It is also LIGHTYEARS better than the stock base stereo. It is also noticeably better than the Logic 7 in the 335. I demoed that extensively. The increased power is the difference. I do wonder if A) the 09 has improved Dirac "programming" and B) maybe the coupe system sounds worse than the sedan. I say this because the EPS system for me was well worth it and at the moment I am a happy guy. (I did nudge the EQ sliders a little)
The negatives are:
Price - a big pill for some but no choice unless you go aftermarket. Stock is useless at any decent SPL.
Subs under the seats with 4" door mids. This causes a little of the dislocated effect similar to having small monitors and a subwoofer. At lower levels there as little hole in the sound. As you increase SPL, the effect decreases. I think using a 5" door driver would have improved things a lot.
At lower levels, the imaging doesn't shine. The Infiniti sounded better a low level. The M3 pisses all over the Infinity as you crank it.
Digital domain exclusivity makes upgrades expensive and difficult.
I do love the Ipod ease of interface btw. Worked like a charm. Most of my music is on the Ipod at a minimum of 192 AAC. 128 is lame (no pun intended) LOL
There you have it.....