Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Audio System Overhaul: New Midrange Drivers Arrive
Roughly eight years ago I installed BSW midrange drivers to replace the factory components whose surrounds had dry rotted. The BSW units were certainly a welcome addition to the vehicle at the time but it was clear even then that they were cheaply made. The paper cones have since bleached out, the surrounds don't appear to be in particularly good shape, and the exceedingly fragile speaker terminal PCB has broken free of the driver structure more than once. So one of the goals of the audio system overhaul has been to find a better pair of drivers, a job made at least somewhat easier by virtue of my decision to go ahead with active crossovers (DSPs) as many of the driver characteristics otherwise important to the design of a passive crossover don't apply.
My research led me to the Vifa NE65W-04 offered for sale by Parts Express and Madisound. The most important selection criteria involved the ability to fit within the inner dimensions of the BMW midrange pod and several people independently verified they fit nearly perfectly. The drivers also managed to tick several other important boxes: 4 ohm nominal impedance (appropriate for power-limited mobile installations), neodymium magnets (which reduce overall dimensions) and aluminum cones. I've never been a particular fan of aluminum cones for midrange or high frequency applications as they tend to be harsh (ahem -- I'm looking at you, MB Quart) but the reality is aluminum is more resilient than paper. The butyl rubber surrounds are the icing on the cake as my experience with that material has been outstanding. I have 25 year old speakers whose butyl surrounds look and feel like new.
I planned to install these drivers shortly after I removed the door panels in prep for the paint work but when I tried to order them everyone was out of stock and predicting eight week delivery times. I requested the vendors contact me when the parts were in stock and only last week received an email from Parts Express. While I was happy to receive the parts this week this was unfortunately too late. The door panels are back on the car and I have no intention of pulling them off until next year when I pick up the interior and audio system overhaul work so the parts will remain on the shelf until then.