Wednesday, May 15, 2013

High End Audiophile in the Automobile

Surveys indicate that most radio listening occurs in the car, which is unfortunate for listeners who value high-end audio performance. Most audio systems installed in passenger vehicles produce inferior sound, and a car's interior, with all its hard angular surfaces, is usually a hopeless environment for high-quality audio. Still, manufacturers of luxury vehicles (Lexus, Porsche, BMW) are teaming up with high-end audio manufacturers (Mark Levinson, B &W, Burmester) to design and install systems that produce a much improved audio experience, especially for music.

Acura has raised the bar with its new flagship model, the 2014 RLX. Acura has teamed up with Krell Industries, manufacturers of $50,000 amplifiers and other home audio components, to create the best original equipment audio system yet. Krell's engineers worked for four years to design, build, and tune a car audio system for Acura that was worthy of the Krell name.

The new system, included in the top-of-the-line version of the RLX, incorporates six main speakers, each comprising a 6.5-inch Zylon midwoofer and a 1-inch magnesium dome tweeter. There are two in the front positions, two in the rear doors, and two on the back deck. A 3-inch Kevlar midrange works as the center speaker, and an 8-inch carbon-fiber subwoofer on the back deck provides the bass. Each has a metal grille, which allowed Krell to use larger perforations and reduce the internal reflections than can make plastic-grilled speakers sound so brittle.

The system includes a CD/DVD-Audio player, satellite radio compatibility, an iPod/iPhone/iPad interface, a hard drive, Bluetooth, and Pandora. A tiny volume wheel on the steering wheel provides quick control. Tracks may be skipped by pressing the wheel to the left or right, and pushing down on the wheel pauses or restarts the music.

Even music generated from highly compressed sources, like satellite radio, sounds spectacular. Music broadcast by WTJU, which employs very little dynamic compression of its signal, sounds even better. Acura's standard sound system is better than most other manufacturers' OEM systems, regardless of price, but the Krell system must be heard to be believed.

Acura has enhanced the experience by creating the quietest interior I have ever experienced. The sound stage is wide and deep, bass is robust, and the hall ambiance, especially for opera, is extraordinarily realistic. For the audiophile, giving a listen to the Krell system in the new Acura is a must.

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