2019 Acura RDX with ELS Studio 3D

Is a car’s stereo ever a dealmaker or breaker when buying a vehicle? Read on to find out why you might consider buying the 2019 Acura RDX simply for the sound system alone. We’re (almost) deadly serious.

But let’s get the car part of the, er, car review out of the way first.

The 2019 Acura RDX sure is a handsome beast. It’s the third generation of the luxury crossover SUV so they’ve got everything pretty much nailed. The 2-liter Vtec Turbo engine is a more than capable one, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and delivering 272-hp. Expect fuel efficiency of 22/28/24mpg for the city/highway/combined and plenty of smiles on the acceleration and cornering thanks to the available Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.

The high-spec, state-of-the-art AcuraWatch suite is standard and brings with it a spate of driver assists and safety features, while tempting optional aesthetics include bigger rims, metal paddle shifters, and striking red leather interior.

Now, on to that sound system: the ELS Studio 3D.

If you’ve never heard of ELS, don’t worry, you’re far from alone—but rest assured, these audio pioneers are fast becoming the talk of the boys’ toys town. Created by Panasonic, this iconic-brand-in-the-making is currently exclusive to Acura—and has been a mainstay of their luxury vehicles since way back in 2004 (gracing the Acura TL sedan).

Panasonic’s audio aim was to bring a studio sound to the interior of a car, with 5.1 channel surround, and boy have they hit the jackpot. The name ELS comes from the collaboration with Elliot Scheiner, another moniker no doubt unfamiliar, though you’ll most certainly have heard this guy’s work. The music producer and sound engineer has not only paired with some of the industry’s biggest stars (think Sting, the Eagles, Foo Fighters, Eric Clapton and Beyoncé), but has been nominated for 26 Grammys, and bagged eight.

Standard in the 2019 Acura RDX’s two highest trims, the ELS Studio 3D’s vital stats include 16 speakers and 710W of power—but it’s just as much about the quality as the quantity thanks to some super smart technology and clever positioning. The system, tuned by Scheiner, boasts Acoustic Motion Control that ensures crispness at all times, while the astonishing DTS Neural Surround is able to showcase layers of songs that you’d never noticed before. It’s almost like rediscovering your favorite album all over again.

The speakers don’t just circle the cabin but are also embedded in the ceiling, allowing passengers to almost shower in glorious sounds. The significance of the elevated speakers is that they allow for an unobstructed passage of vibrations that further enhance the listening experience, while also enabling the clever audio zone setup that means the driver and three passengers can all be listening to four different things at once, which is a godsend for families on road trips.