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Some final thoughts on the Acura ELS DVD-A systems (2004-2014/2015)

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JonUrban

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I have to say that I actually owned Acura's before the ELS system came out, so when the first TL was produced with the ELS system in 2004, I went nuts. Literally. Traded in a not-to-old Acura (2002) to get one, just for the DVD-A! :phones Hey, it's what I do.

Over the next 10 years, my wife and I have owned multiple Acura's, all with the ELS DVD-A system. I happen to love listening to DVD-A's in the car, and everyone that rides along at one time or another has ranged from being mildly impressed to overwhelmed by the surround experience in the car. The center speaker in the dashboard at eye/ear height makes those SW surround mixes shine, I must say! :)

To those who can't accept surround in a car environment, think about this. One of the major complaints anti-surround folks use is that at home you're rarely sitting in the same spot when listening to music, so what's the use of having surround. Hey, guess what? In a car, you are ALWAYS sitting in the same place and never move! (Sure, you're not dead center middle sweet spot, but you do have fader and balance controls to compensate) In a car, you are always surrounded with sound. Even in the old days, when every kid cut Jensen 6x9 speakers in the back deck of their cars, we had sound coming from the back, even if it was only stereo. Sound "in the back" of cars has almost always been there, why not have exclusive audio sent to the back?

So, DVD-A (and SACD), should have been quickly adopted by the car audio hardware manufacturers. Unfortunately, it barely developed in the car audio after-marketplace. Acura and ELS went "all-in", but their effort was probably doomed from the beginning, as by 2004 the HiRez craze of Year 2000 was killed by the music industry for many reasons that we've discussed over and over. Right after that glorious Rolling Stone issue with the 5.1 SACD included with the magazine came out, Sony virtually stopped making SACDs, WB/Rhino put all their eggs in the DualDisc/MVI basket, and the DVD-A marketplace barely survived, mostly because of Neil Wilkes and Steven Wilson.

Still, the marketing of these Acura's with DVD-A capability was poorly done. Probably 90% of all Acura's sold with these systems never played a DVD-A other than the samplers that came with the cars. Even if the owners attempted to purchase a DVD-A in a store, they either could not find them, could only find crappy Silverline titles, or were met with strange stares by music store owners who had no clue, or told them that they were no longer being made.

It's a shame that Acura/ELS did not partner with WB/Rhino and market the discs through the dealerships or through a direct mail effort to Acura owners. Instead of dumping the DVD-A overstock/unsold discs to the cutout wholesalers, they could have placed them in the hands of Acura owners via retail kiosks in the dealership service departments.

Maybe if the ELS system was put into cars in 2001 instead of 2004, or if it was offered in other manufacturers cars, even Acura's sister comapny's Honda vehicles, it would have had a better chance to be more widely noticed.

Today's car manufacturers are quietly deleting all disc based players in their cars as that delivery system is now pretty much outdated. Still, the ELS system with DVD-A will remain as an historic pinnacle of auto based surround audio. I know we have many members here with Acuras, and many Acura owners that found QQ because of their ELS systems.

When the SACD/DVD-A HiRez years are looked back on as time goes by, it will be remembered that these rolling DVD-A players were indeed some of the most expensive DVD-A players ever built! And they got decent gas mileage as well. ;)

I'd love to hear from other Acura ELS owners here in this thread with their thoughts and stories about their experiences with their DVD-A systems in their cars. Chime in and tell us about taking friends for rides and surrounding them with 5.1 or other things you've experienced from surround in your cars.
 

rtbluray

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It's not going away entirely just yet.

The 2015 Acura RDX and ILX models will still have the ELS DVD-A Surround System included with the technology package.

Sure it will cost more, but as we all know, it's definitely worth it.

It's been my pleasure to introduce my parents to the amazing sound of the ELS Surround System in the 2013 RDX that they recently purchased at the beginning of this year. Since that time, I have made countless surround discs for the vehicle, some DVD-A and some DTS-CD. I even found out how to make DVD-A copies of Blu-Ray Audio discs, leaving my SACD collection as the lone holdout from the car.

But I echo Jon's point about Honda and how they should have also incorporated the system into their vehicles. I drive a 2012 Honda CRV, and I always thought the sound in that vehicle was very good UNTIL I heard what the Acura system sounded like, and now nothing can compare to it.

I will say this though. Surround Sound Discs are the only good reason nowadays as to why I would still want to play discs in the car.
For stereo content, it's all from my phone now via bluetooth, and it sounds just fine.

We can only hope that we are once again truly climbing back up to the top as far as the amount of surround releases we are getting per year, enough so that maybe one day Blu-Ray discs in the cars will become a reality. :)
 

rtbluray

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AND one more point…

Hearing surround mixes in the car made me realize how important it is to have the vocals prominent in the center channel.
I like hearing them come from that point in the dashboard, not on the sides. :)
 

wavelength

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I never had surround in my car but a few years back - 5 or so - I met a contractor where I work who owned an Acura. Not sure which model but I think it was a hatchback. Actually he owned an Acura dealership in Edmonton. (As in Edmonton Oilers, as in Wayne Gretzky, for those of you who are wondering Edmonton...huh?? And if you don't know who Gretzky is well...)

Somehow one of our conversations got on to surround sound and dvd-audio. He said he had recently got the Love disc and he was just blowing his mind playing this disc in his car. Eleanor Rigby was his favourite. I was so excited to met someone who actually knew what dvd-audio and 5.1 was. I told him I had been collecting discs and suggested we take a test drive in his car so he could hear some other surround music. Love was the only disc he owned.

One lunch hour we took a drive to a neighbouring town to an A&W for burgers, playing my 5.1s. I think maybe Fragile (Roundabout) was one of them. I hardly ever saw him after that but that was my one experience of surround in a car.
 

Bender

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Jon,

Given your experience with Acuras, (I have an 05 TL, and have heard an 11 RDX and 05 RL), which has the best sounding ELS system?
 

JonUrban

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Jon,

Given your experience with Acuras, (I have an 05 TL, and have heard an 11 RDX and 05 RL), which has the best sounding ELS system?
Funny you should ask. I think my favorite ELS system was in my 2009 RDX. I am not sure why, but the bass in that particular system was spectacular. I still remember cranking the intro to "Snowbound" from Kamakiriad in that car and getting practically blown out of the seat.

I't would be interesting to hear what Bob Romano thought on this topic as he's had a few Acura's as well.
 

CPR

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Have had 5 Acura's since '98; Two Cl's, & 3 TL's; current is my 2012 SH-AWD/Tech/ELS
Part of the problem, is that the morons that sell the car, don't promote DVD/A
I swear, most people don't even know that a DVD/A is included in their leather binder
Or, it was inexcuseably, omitted, through lack of preparation; I had one dealer tell me that the discs weren't available anymore
This was in 2012!
Anyway, one listen to my boot copy of DSOTM; (Pink Floyd), in my TL, & most people gasp
Or Dire Straits, Love, Gaucho, The Nightfly, etc.
I'm extending my Acura Finance lease in February, just to be able to listen to DVD/A's
Eventually, Blu-Ray AUDIO, will be available
Till then, it's all we have
The TLX will have to endure without me
Long live DVD/A!
 

peterzach

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Jon, this is only reason I bought an Acura, what you said here, some of my friends probably think I'm crazy to buy a car for that reason, oh well, its been one of my favorite purchase,

"When the SACD/DVD-A HiRez years are looked back on as time goes by, it will be remembered that these rolling DVD-A players were indeed some of the most expensive DVD-A players ever built! And they got decent gas mileage as well."

After all the glowing reports from yourself and some others from here on how good surround is in a car I finally made a trip down to a Acura dealership 3 years ago and took my first test drive in a 2012 TLX and brought some disk's,(Queen,Pink Floyd,Porcupine Tree,Fleetwood Mac,etc) and I think I surprised the salesman that took me for a drive as to how good the sound is on some of these stellar surround disk's or maybe he got surprised that that was all I was truely interested in checking out.
My first impression was I can't beleive it, this is beyond cool on how good this sounds in the car, in some ways better than my home system.
Then I spent the next year looking through craigslist for used cars for sale, unfortunately not to many for sale in my area. Then the 2013 ILX came into the dealership around May 2012 and I checked that car out as well, sound was good as well even on this entry level car for Acura. Finally on Dec.31 2012 got a demo model of 2013 ILX and have been enjoying my most expensive DVDA player on wheels ever since.
For comfort not sure if its because of entry level have not enjoyed long trips in this car as find the seat uncomfortable and get a sore back so haven't done any trips longer than 6 hours yet due to lower back soreness.

Every person that I have taken for a demo ride to listen to music has been very impressed.
I played Yes-Close to the Edge, for a Yes friend of mine and he was all smiles, said clarity was amazing and surround placement so cool.
Totally agree with rtbluray on full 5.1 disk's and centre chanel as they sound better in the car then quad mixes.
I think its because of this I started paying closer attention to those kind of details in home system as well.


peter
 

elroy

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I'm one of those whose introduction to "modern" surround sound was due to Acura. I was looking to upgrade from my fun-to-drive but unreliable BMW and got interested in the coming new Acura TL release. Went in for a test drive and the salesman put a Steely Dan DVD-A in and I couldn't believe the sound - in a car! I think it was "Babylon Sisters" and I just loved the way the music surrounded me.

So I bought the 2004 TL and loved it, my favorite car. As I tried to add to my DVD-A collection over the Acura demo disc, I stumbled across QQ and the rest was history. I now have a few hundred DVD-As. As a salesman, I put 150K miles on my TL in 5 years, so I was ready to move up to a 2009 TL. I briefly considered other manufacturers (only those with DVD-A support of course) but have been happy with my newer TL as well.

When I have played some of my favorite cuts (Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Pat Metheny, Flaming Lips, anything from Love) for my friends, they were always impressed. My brother moved to an RDX and started into DVD-As a couple of years ago, which was a tough time to do so.

I was a dyed-in-the-wool DVD-A guy, since SACDs wouldn't play in the car. But with the Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Roxy Music discs out there and unable to be played, it was just a matter of time before I went all in and got a nice home surround system with an Oppo so I could listen to the SACDs as well. At least it sounds great and it didn't cost as much as my car! Not yet anyway. But I still listen to my DVD-As 90% in the car and 10% at home.

So, my 2009 is over 120K miles and I'm torn between some of the nice new features on the 2014 TLX or getting a 2013 (older styling) TL and enjoy my DVD-As for a few more years in the car.

One thing I don't understand that maybe someone here can enlighten me on: I understand if they got rid of discs completely, but if they are going to the trouble to support DTS-CDs, how much would it have cost to do DVD-As? Is it just more software to read the format or is there some hardware in the player?

Do you think it would be worth lobbying Acura/ELS to add support for DVD-A back in the 2016 models? I would be willing to pay extra. They could couple it with BluRay audio and appear to be very hip.

I just looked at our list of cars with surround and saw Jon's note in red, so there may not be much of an alternative to the Acuras either. Just count me in for the car that supports BluRay Audio!

I guess it had to end, and I don't know what I would have filled my time with over the last 10 years if I hadn't ever known about QQ...definitely might have been more productive at work though!
 

Bob Romano

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I've had DVD-A in my Acura since the 2004 TL. It has been an amazing experience. I got the 2013 TL last year and have 2 more years on my lease. However it may be time to bite the bullet once more and go back to the 2015 RDX (a beautiful car as well) and get what may well be the last of a dying breed. It's been a great 10 years - but sad really that no great push was ever made in that time. As much as I talked it up to my regular salesman and finance guy (they are more like friends) they always looked at me with that kind of confused look and said "Oh yeah, that's great". Even after playing them some really great examples of what surround sound can be like (aside from their sampler discs) it just kind of fell on deaf ears. I guess I have to be grateful that I had the experience at all and of course there is still always listening in my house. I will still check out the TLX because I was invited to the roll out at a free party. But I will let them know how disappointed I am at the lack of DVD-A in the car.
 

timbre4

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I became aware of DVD-A in the Acura TL sometime during the 2004 model year and knew I had to have one someday. In my demo database for work (automotive repair information & shop management software) I entered myself as owning a 2004 Acura TL with a license plate of DVDASACD and a customer remark of "he's got 5.1 DVD-Audio in his car!" I would see this vehicle entry for the next six years. My circumstances are pretty unique; I work from a home office with some travel (less now than 10 years ago). It's usually long distances so it amounts to parking something at the airport. Something my 1988 Honda Civic LX is quite adept with. So it's really hard for me to justify a car such as this.

Then in 2010, things changed. My wife's 2001 Honda Odyssey van was hit from behind. She had no serious injuries thankfully and this van getting totaled was such a blessing in disguise for so many reasons I won't even go into. So once she was feeling better we started talking about what to replace it with. I knew it had to be something nice as I'd put her in that van with the issues it had for about 5 years. It occurred to me this was the chance for a win-win and I brought up the Acura TL idea. She came around to it and it was just a matter of color now. She didn't like the black ones or the white ones we'd see so many of. We settled on Anthracite (Green) and made the deal. So I soon learn the ELS system in this particular car would only play un-watermarked DVD-A discs! Not legit retail discs? After extensive research I decided I had to get another head unit with a code. Once swapped out, it worked perfectly!

I will likely take over the TL when she gets something else but for right now, this is a really good situation as I can "borrow" it most anytime. To quote Genesis - Cinema Show "a weekend millionaire!"
 

SMS

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I am wondering if anyone can comment on how the ELS system sounds in an MDX? Keep in mind I have never actually heard surround in a car before. But, the family and I are in the market for a 7 seat SUV. The MDX is on the list. I understand the new MDX will not play DVD-A anymore, but we are probably going to be a 2-4 year old vehicle anyways. So, a 2010-2013 MDX may work nicely.

I'll go test drive one in the next month or so, but I am curious how well the sound from the rears reach the front seats. Where are the rear speakers mounted? If they are in rear doors, I wouldn't expect the sound to be very "directional" with respect to the front seat position. I know speaker position is very important in my sound room at home. I guess I am skeptical that the speaker positioning will be very good in an SUV.

I'll go do some listening for myself, but I am curious to get the thoughts of others MDX owners. Thanks in advance!
 

Bob Romano

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I've had them all. In any Acura I think you would be more than pleased with your experience.
 

holland123

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Are there no after market car decks that will do dvd a? or sacd? or BD audio?
Dvda capable; kenwood kvt-915, xxv- 05v. Pioneer avh- p 7600, 7800. Jvc kd-avx2, panasonic cqdvr-909u.
Sacd capable; sony mex ### (sorry, not a sony fan)
Bd capable; nothing yet , but the word on the street is that its coming. I very recently heard a rumor from a friend still hooked up in the pro audio competition circuit that oppo was looking at jumping into the 12 volt audio game. Just a rumor though.

The panasonic was the model for the els system head unit, however with some major revisions. To Any one looking I would highly recommend the pioneers or the kenwoods because they both incorporate pioneer's Burr-Brown ic technology which is far and away superior to anything else, including, and I'm sorry to say, the panasonic Els system. There is without question an audible difference.These units can still be found on e bay. They squeak out here and there. I just purchased a pioneer 7600 for a friend for $350. I paid $1200 for mine new in 2003.
 

CPR

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Update: I know that I previously stated that I'm sticking with my 2012 TL/Tech/ELS, because od DVD/A playback
Well, tomorrow, I'm taking delivery of a 2015 TLX/SH-AWD/Tech/ELS; couldn't resist the deal, & the car looks awesome.
No DVD/A's, but it does play DTS 5.1 Surround, & everything in between; guess I'll have to suffer; lol
 

Larry Geller

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Update: I know that I previously stated that I'm sticking with my 2012 TL/Tech/ELS, because od DVD/A playback
Well, tomorrow, I'm taking delivery of a 2015 TLX/SH-AWD/Tech/ELS; couldn't resist the deal, & the car looks awesome.
No DVD/A's, but it does play DTS 5.1 Surround, & everything in between; guess I'll have to suffer; lol
Does it play DTS DVDs, or just DTS CDs?
 

JonUrban

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Update: I know that I previously stated that I'm sticking with my 2012 TL/Tech/ELS, because od DVD/A playback
Well, tomorrow, I'm taking delivery of a 2015 TLX/SH-AWD/Tech/ELS; couldn't resist the deal, & the car looks awesome.
No DVD/A's, but it does play DTS 5.1 Surround, & everything in between; guess I'll have to suffer; lol
Same question as Larry. If you don't mind, after you check it out, give us a full report!

DTS-CD's?
DTS-DVD's?

A DVD-A Disc's DTS track?

Enquiring minds want to know! ;)
 
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