Tech Feature: 2012 Acura RDX ELS Surround Audio System
DVD-Audio may be a dead format, but fortunately it lives on in high-end car audio systems.
The 2004 Acura TL was the first vehicle to offer DVD-Audio via a branded ELS Surround sound system that Grammy-winning record producer Elliot Scheiner helped design and tune. But even when DVD-Audio was introduced in 1999, the high-resolution, surround-sound audio format was doomed because of record company and consumer apathy, and because it coincided with the quantity-over-quality craze that kicked in with the start of the MP3 era.
While DVD-Audio never thrived, it has survived in automotive audio and is still offered in a handful of vehicles. I was very happy to have it in a 2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech model as I made a recent late-night drive through the canyons of Southern California.
While the system’s two-channel CD stereo sound is outstanding and even makes compressed audio formats like Apple's AAC sound good, to experience the best in automotive sound you have to have a DVD-Audio disc to slip into the dashboard slot. These days, bringing along discs is a throwback to another time, and I rarely carry them. But for this occasion I had packed one of my all-time faves, The Beach Boys’ "Pet Sounds."
I’ve heard this album hundreds of times, on vinyl, tape and CD and in high-resolution DVD-Audio. But I can’t remember it ever sounding so sweet and so detailed. As I drove twisty Topanga Canyon Boulevard to the Pacific Coast Highway and then took equally twisty Sunset Boulevard to my hotel in West Hollywood, I was mesmerized by the music and the way I was enveloped by it; the system brought out nuances I'd never noticed before.
I had to plan to make sure I brought a few DVD-Audio discs from my collection, since you’ll be hard-pressed to find them for sale at a record store -- if you can even find a record store these days. But if you’re an audiophile and you choose a vehicle with DVD-Audio capability -- and with a system the caliber of Acura’s ELS Surround -- it’s well worth the effort to find your favorite tunes in the format. Your ears will thank you.
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