2019+ Acura RDX: ELS 3D Studio 5.1 Surround Audio System

QuadraphonicQuad

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HIBY

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The new 2022 Acura MDX type s is going to have the 25-speaker Signature Edition ELS STUDIO 3D premium audio system. Up from the ELS STUDIO 3D®32 Premium Audio System, a 16-speaker system in the regular MDX.

Don't ask me how you go from 16 speakers to 25 speakers?
 

Larry Geller

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Where is this posted at?

Acura specifically says that the 2022 RDX has:

Bluetooth®11 Streaming Audio MP3/Auxiliary Input Jack Speed-Sensitive Volume Compensation (SVC) Maintenance Minder™ System
If this is true, then where did they move it to? Because there's a blank space where it used to be, just like the MDX.
 

HIBY

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If this is true, then where did they move it to? Because there's a blank space where it used to be, just like the MDX.

I'll take a look at it and see. The 2022 TLX kept the aux port, so i don't see the rdx losing it. The 2022 MDX looks to not have an aux port? But they are all in the glove box, so idk.
 
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jwckauman

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Is there a list of USB drive models or types that work in the 2019-22 RDX? I gotta get one ASAP as I have a chance to use a RDX for a week. I'm not familiar with flash drives in general so please provide details if you think that's helpful. Thanks in advance.
 

JonUrban

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Any USB will work. The little ones will get hot. Make sure you format the drive as ExFAT32, and be sure the .flac's are 24-28 and if they are 5.1 they must be created with ZERO COMPRESSION or they will not work, they'll play back in stereo
 

jwckauman

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Any USB will work. The little ones will get hot. Make sure you format the drive as ExFAT32, and be sure the .flac's are 24-28 and if they are 5.1 they must be created with ZERO COMPRESSION or they will not work, they'll play back in stereo
USB-A only, right? And are things like USB3.1 and faster read and write speeds of any use in this case? Or is that all wasted in an RDX?
 
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JonUrban

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USB A only. I always use at least 2.0 because they are faster to copy the files to. I don't think the car cares
 

JonUrban

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I had my RDX in for service this morning and they gave me a 2021 TLX as a loaner. What a sharp looking car. I brought along my USB and gave the audio system a check out. Even with my failing ears, this thing sounded great. The 5.1 sound field is bigger than in my RDX (to me, anyway). What I mean is that when listening to a discrete 5.1 mix, the Front Left and Front Right don't stick to the extreme points in my RDX, they're sort of 'Right Center' and 'Left Center', with the Center being dead center. In the TLX, the FL and FR were easier to define with regard to positioning.

Again, it might just be my aging ears, but it's a fine audio system in this car. And it looks good too!

tlx.jpg
 

Shelb2un

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ACURA/ELS 3D Studio Audio System
REVISED 4-20-2020

  • WILL PLAY STEREO: [16/44, 24/44, 24/48, 24/96 .flac and .wav files]
    WILL NOT PLAY STEREO: [24/192 .flac or .wav]


  • WILL PLAY PROPERLY IN 5.1: [5.1 24/48 .wav files], [5.1 24/48 .flac files with ZERO compression]
    WILL NOT PLAY PROPERLY IN 5.1: [5.1 24/96 .wav files], [5.1 .flac files with > ZERO compression)], [DTS encoded .wav files]

As most of you all know, since Acura first introduced the ELS Surround sound 5.1 system in 2004 with the Acura TL sedan, that I have been a big supporter of, and owner of, the Acura surround sound capability in select models of their cars. There have been 3 versions of Acura ELS systems available since that first TL system in 2004. Below is the official breakdown of the three variations. All support 5.1 surround sound:

  • ELS Surround was the first generation system that supported DVD-A and DTS CDs. [2004-2014*]
  • ELS Studio was next generation which did not support DVD-A but did support DTS encoded CDs [2014*-2018+]
  • ELS Studio 3D is the current generation which will evolve to support more high definition digital file formats. This system does not include a disc player. [2019- ]
* - This date varies depending on model generation changes

Upon the system's debut, only Acura's with the "Technology Package" had the DVD-A capable ELS systems that played true HiRez surround from DVD-A's. Between then and 2013, the ELS Surround systems were included with many different Acura models, including the MDX, TL/TLX, RDX, and TSX. In 2014, many models were updated technically and mechanically, but downgraded audio-wise as the DVD-Audio player was replaced with a CD player. Fortunately for surround fans this system retained the ability to play 5.1 DTS-CD's and the ELS engineering standards set forth with the original systems. With the proper sourced DTS CD this second generation ELS system sounded pretty damn good, but it would have been even better had it also played native SACD discs, including the 5.1 layers, but since these are basically Panasonic Systems, that was not going to happen. The saving grace for surround fans was that at LEAST the car retained a discrete way to properly play back 5.1 audio via the DTS CD.

The DTS-CD systems met with mixed reviews. Owners who had invested in DVD-A discs for their cars were upset. Sure, there was some 5.1 material that when put to DTS-CD made the system sound pretty good, but it never sounded as good, to me, as the older DVD-A systems. Worse, the Sirius XM and stereo iPod/Radio sounded hollow when compared to a good 5.1 source.

So when the new ELS Studio 3D system was announced a while back, I was very interested to see if it would support 5.1 HiRez playback. Rumors abounded, and back and forth it went from yes to no to yes to maybe to yes and but.... When the car finally arrived at my local Acura dealer I arrived with a USB stick with 5.1 24/96 .flac and .wav files, and the car instantly rejected the .flac files, but did play the .wav files - but something did not sound right. I was not sure I was hearing discrete playback, as I was certain that I was hearing rear channel information in the fronts.

To be sure, I went back (what a pain I was to the salesman) armed with test files that had tones and individual channel identification, both with 24/48 and 24/96 files in both .flac and .wav. What I found was that the .flac's would not play, and the 24/96 files were indeed compromised in that the rear channel info was indeed coming from the front speakers! However, the 24/48 5.1 wav files played perfectly and sounded great. That was enough for me to bite the bullet, annoy my wife (not really), and trade in my 2 year old DTS-CD modelRDX (that I never warmed up to) for a new 2019 RDX. Talk about buying an expensive media player!

Once I took delivery of the car, I tried EVERYTHING I could try to get .flac's to play. If you look at the ELS Facebook Page you will see me going back and forth with their people who kept telling me that .flac files would play. Others over there verified that they would not play. They tried to be helpful but they just did not give us the exact specifications needed to create the proper .flac file.

Thanks to our great QQ membership base, I was given enough info to be dangerous, and finally with their help and my stumbling and experimenting I found that yes, a 24/48 5.1 .flac file would indeed play, and sound great, if it was created with ZERO COMPRESSION!!!

So, now I am happy, and hopefully others will be too. I know that many of you cannot afford a car like this, so I don't want to come off as some asshole bragging about what I have, so please don't take it that way. There were many years in my life when I could not afford a used car, let alone a new one. The last thing I want to do is "brag".

So the bottom line is this: The car audio sounds INCREDIBLE with proper 5.1 files on a USB stick or drive. There are many controls in the system for the driver to tailor the sound the way they want it, so this particular ELS system is a freaking winner all the way!

The one caveat is this: It is not "gapless" playback, which means that if you take an album like the Beatles "Love" or Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", convert your DVD-A or BluRay to files and set them up on your stick, the system will pause a moment between tracks thus breaking the flow of continuous playback of multiple tracks. With normal song files, you will not notice this. With an album like DSOTM, it's a bit jarring.

Whether ELS software updates can remedy this situation remains to be seen. So far there has been no word spoken about gapless playback, but the car does accept "over the air" updates, so maybe this is something that can be resolved.

Also as of now, the system will not read a .cue file created for a large .flac file to simulate gapless playback. When I inquired about this feature to the ELS people on their FB page (who have been very helpful by the way), I was informed that this was a function of the head unit software which they do not create or modify. So for now this is not a possibility.

Anyway, here's a look at the system from inside my car (I have the all black interior):

The speaker layout from Acura promotional material (NOTE: Image belongs to Acura/Panasonic ELS Premium Audio):

View attachment 33812

Here's what they look like in the car. These are the back speakers in the ceiling and in the back deck:

View attachment 33808

The back door speaker:

View attachment 33809

The front passenger speakers (I had to lighten the lower area because my camera sucks):

View attachment 33810

Here is the speaker above the front passenger seat:

View attachment 33811


The LFE Subwoofer is on the passenger side of the back storage area. It's hard to judge the size from this picture, but it does the job.

View attachment 34620

The center speaker is in the center of the dash, behind the display screen. It does a great job of spreading the audio across the windshield and back at the listener.
Volume for the center speaker can be controlled from within the system settings.

View attachment 34621


These are all really nice speakers. They sound great and reproduce the audio exceptionally well. I do not know the spec's of each speaker, but they do not sound like cheap paper cone deals. They move a lot of sound and support the 700+ watts dispersed by the ELS Amplifiers.

Jon, great article. Very helpful. I bought a 2012 Acura MDX Tech package with the DVD-A, because I had read that 2012 was the last year the DVD-A was available in the ELS systems. I feel sure you are correct about the 2013 though. Regardless, I also read that 2012 model was one of Acura's better MDX models in reliability, so I have no complaints, and so other than requiring premium gasoline, It has been great.

I would like to find out how you put 5.1 .wav files on a USB stick. Is there an article somewhere?
I appreciate the help.
 

tonyE

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Hmm... you mean, like copying the files?

Plug in the USB stick into your PC, it mounts and appears as a drive, just copy the files.. when done, just right click the drive and eject it. Pull the drive out.

Apple? No clue. Tony don't do Apples.

Oh, is the car an SH-AWD? Those things drive great... the Acuras are more rear wheel biased, the Hondas (iVTM4 in Ridgeline, Passport, Pilot) are a bit more neutral biased. The TLX SH-AWD is fantastic, the first gen RoLeX mechanical ( planetary gear) SH-AWD was the best.

DVD-A ELS simply outstanding, awesome... even a downrez'd CD-R of a 24/96 recording of an LP of Dark Side Of The Moon was also awesome! I could play it at level of 40 with no distortion.
 

JonUrban

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Jon, great article. Very helpful. I bought a 2012 Acura MDX Tech package with the DVD-A, because I had read that 2012 was the last year the DVD-A was available in the ELS systems. I feel sure you are correct about the 2013 though. Regardless, I also read that 2012 model was one of Acura's better MDX models in reliability, so I have no complaints, and so other than requiring premium gasoline, It has been great.

I would like to find out how you put 5.1 .wav files on a USB stick. Is there an article somewhere?
I appreciate the help.

I have an old post at the RDX forum that describes how to rip your DVD-As. You can check it out here:


It still should be relavent
 

CRWSurround

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FOLDER CONSTRUCTION AND PLAYLISTS

The system will recognize folders for artists and normal file structure. Here is a look at my current USB stick using Windows File Explorer (This is the top portion, you get the idea):

View attachment 34623

Once you layout your tunes, the system will read in the data and will automatically index the artists and the albums. You can search and select by touch pad, steering wheel or voice. The voice recognition is pretty impressive and it has always gotten stuff right. If I am listening to the radio and say

"Play USB Great Pagoda of Fun"

The radio will stop and within seconds I will be listening to Donald Fagen. Pretty cool.

As for playlists, they are pretty straight forward. The way I've been doing it is to have Foobar load my USB file structure, then create the playlist. Once it's done and saved to the root of my USB stick, I edit it to add the ".\" to the front of each line.

View attachment 34624


Here's an example of a few lines from my current playlist:

.\Dire Straits\Brothers in Arms\04-Your Latest trick.flac
.\Steely Dan\Countdown to Ecstasy QUAD\05-Show Biz Kids.flac
.\Donald Fagen\Morph the Cat\05 - The Great Pagoda of Fun.flac
.\Chicago\Chicago VII\07-Happy Man.flac
.\Elton John\Goodbye Yellow Brick Road DVD-A\01-Funeral-Love Lies Bleeding.flac
.\Porcupine Tree\Lightbulb Sun\04-Shesmovedon.flac


You get the idea. The system does have its quirks. I have had times where it plays the playlist the way I created it. I have also had times where it reads it in alphabetical order. Also, on occasion, if I scroll through my playlist and play a song, the following song will be the next song on that album - not the next song on the playlist!!! :eek:

It appears to be happiest when you start the playlist at the top and let it go. There must be some logic to this, but I have yet to figure it out. o_O



FINAL THOUGHTS FOR NOW

Well, first off, with HiRez (24/48) 5.1 audio that's mastered well, the system sounds incredible. If you put good stuff in, you hear good stuff. However, when you listen to SiriusXM, or regular radio, the system does not sound AS GOOD. It doesn't sound crappy, it's just that the HiRez 5.1 spoils you to the point where you don't want to listen to anything else.

There are "issues" inherent to a brand new system. Sometimes during playback the system will lose sync and the music will turn into a tone of some sort and move on to the next song. If you reverse to the same song again, it will play fine. It's not your file, it's the system. This can be jarring at times. (Fixed with a software update)

Also, if you are going to play 4.0 (Quadraphonic) material in the car, you have to add a silent Center and LFE channel or the system will not decode it properly. This adds time to your file creation. Another thing I've noticed and it does not happen very often, but with a Quad source file with empty C and LFE channels, on rare occasions the system will hiccup and lose either the fronts or the rear channel audio until the next song! This is really weird, but being the quad wacko I am, I kinda like it as I get to hear the remaining channels on their own which is always an interesting experience. When the next tune plays, it's back to all channels. (Fixed with a software update)

I am telling you it's not easy being a surround fan. Not only do we have to have access to the source material, now we have to have a digital workstation to convert that material to the very specific specifications in order to experience that material properly in the car. The average Joe and even the above average Joe is not going to leap through the hoops they would have to leap through to be able to hear what this car is capable of. Heck, they can't really buy much of the source material these days anyway!

So, how many Acura drivers will ever hear their ELS 3D systems the way they were meant to be heard? Well, I have to say even LESS than those out there today with DVD-Audio and DTS CD systems because at least with those systems there were discs that you could just pop in and play (even though hardly anyone did).

Since the ELS system debuted in 2004, there are probably MILLIONS and MILLIONS of 5.1 systems out there on the highways, driving around listening to podcasts, iPods, AM sports, SiriusXM, and every other kind of audio other than HiRez 5.1 sound. They just don't know what they have. Today's RDX drivers won't know either.

Only the .00000009% will go that extra mile to get the sound that's amazing. It's kind of sad, really. But, and there's a big but (but, not butt, stop it snood :) ) at least the ELS folks went the extra mile and maintained the 5.1 compatibility so wacko's like me can still enjoy real surround audio in the car, because face it - that's where I listen to the most music. I was spoiled back in 2004 with DVD-A in the car and I can't go back.

So, that's it for now. Post your findings and test drive results. Thanks for listening.
This is an incredibly helpful post! I am not sure why I did not come across it until now - but at least I did. The detail is great. A bit of background is that I own a 2008 Acura TLS Type S with the original iteration of ELS that plays DVD-Audio discs and DTS discs. I can honest say that the audio system is the main reason I bought this car - plus the fact that it was like new when I bought it in 2010. I have quite a collection of DVD-A's and DTS discs and the fact that I could listen to those in my car made me ecstatic! Since Acura dealers still provide loaners when my car is serviced I had the opportunity to hear the newer ELS systems. Imagine my disappointment when I inserted one of my DVD-A discs and discovered it would not play - at all. I found it odd that my DTS discs DID play and sounded great. It seems like an odd distinction to make but I am sure it was hardware driven since DTS discs are in fact CD's not DVD's. Your description of the new system makes it quite enticing, especially since I know from driving the loaners that the speaker quality and sound have dramatically improved since my '08 - although I must say my '08 still sounds quite amazing - just needs a better sub for deeper bass. Fortunately my car is still in quite good shape with only 120,000 miles on it - but signs of wear and tear and a little bit of rust serve as reminders it will need to be replaced. That makes for the quandry as I do not wish to give up the ease of enjoying surround music in my car. This new system's ability to produce true surround from files on a stick is at least encouraging. So here's my dilemma - and perhaps you can help me with this - I do not know how to use my existing source material of multichannel SACD's, DVD-A's and DTS discs to create surround files on a thumb drive! If you could send me a tutorial on how to do that I would be grateful. I also am very interested in finding out how to play surround files from a thumb drive on my home surround system. My Blu-ray player does have a USB port on the front and I can play music from it but experimental surround file I have downloaded from the internet do not get reproduced in discrete surround. THanks for any help you or anyone else can provide.
 

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tonyE

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Interesting... I used Handbrake, not Foobar for that formatting. I only use Foobar for playing back (other than DAW software, foobar is the best sounding).

I got rid of my DVD-As, both hardware and software.. I used to burn my own eons ago for my Acuras. If I had only been paying attention. I wonder if this will play in the Passport's (Elite) audio system.

Thanks
 

JonUrban

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Interesting... I used Handbrake, not Foobar for that formatting. I only use Foobar for playing back (other than DAW software, foobar is the best sounding).

I got rid of my DVD-As, both hardware and software.. I used to burn my own eons ago for my Acuras. If I had only been paying attention. I wonder if this will play in the Passport's (Elite) audio system.

Thanks

That post is 3 1/2 years old, created when I first got my 2019 RDX. I've never used Handbrake but if it works, that's cool too!
 

tonyE

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That post is 3 1/2 years old, created when I first got my 2019 RDX. I've never used Handbrake but if it works, that's cool too!

We had a series of TSX Wagons for a while. The RDXs that followed did not have DVD-A (2nd gen) as I recall.
 

JonUrban

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We had a series of TSX Wagons for a while. The RDXs that followed did not have DVD-A (2nd gen) as I recall.

  • ELS Surround was the first generation system that supported DVD-A and DTS CDs. [2004-2014*]
  • ELS Studio was next generation which did not support DVD-A but did support DTS encoded CDs [2014*-2018+]
  • ELS Studio 3D is the current generation which will evolve to support more high definition digital file formats. This system does not include a disc player. [2019- ]
* - This date varies depending on model generation changes
 

tonyE

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  • ELS Surround was the first generation system that supported DVD-A and DTS CDs. [2004-2014*]
  • ELS Studio was next generation which did not support DVD-A but did support DTS encoded CDs [2014*-2018+]
  • ELS Studio 3D is the current generation which will evolve to support more high definition digital file formats. This system does not include a disc player. [2019- ]
* - This date varies depending on model generation changes

Yep, the TSX Wagons were 12, 13 and 14. The RDXs were 15, 16 and 17. All tech.

I got stuck in traffic once, along the Pacific Ocean on the 5. A big crane had shutdown ALL the lanes of the freeway. It took me like 2 hours to go two miles to the nearest exit to get around the shutdown freeway.

But, I had a couple of Grateful Dead DVD-As that a coworker had lent me just that morning. I got to say it was actually a pleasurable two hours... not that I appreciated the positioning of some instruments towards the rear, seemed faked to me, but the sound quality was awesome.
 
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