Critics Agree - ELS Audio is Pretty Darn Good - 2015 Acura TLX SH-AWD Long-Term Road Test

2015 Acura TLX SH-AWD Long-Term Road Test

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2015 Acura TLX: Critics Agree - ELS Audio is Pretty Darn Good

by Matt Jones, Senior Editor on October 6, 2015

2015 Acura TLX

Not too long ago, Brent Romans wrote a great post about the ELS system in our long-term 2015 Acura TLX. I'd like to add my two cents. I have a 2015 TLX myself and I spent some serious time bouncing between the base and Tech Package while deciding which TLX model would work best for my lifestyle.

The choice was tough primarily because of the ELS audio system that comes standard in the Tech Package. This is the same audio system in our long-term TLX. Although I would have enjoyed all the goodies that came with the Tech Package, the difference in price between the Base and Tech is, as Brent noted, about $4000.

No matter how you slice it, $4000 makes a nice-size bump in your car payment.

Now consider this: I'm the type who almost always has music going. From Beastie Boys to Buena Vista Social Club, Phantogram to Phil Collins, my music is never far.  Every room in my home has a pretty good stereo set-up, and I even have some decent water-resistant Bluetooth speakers in each bathroom.  I've never been sold on the whole "silence is golden" thing. 

Being able to get loud isn't exciting to me. When music is going, it has to sound good. Loud is easy to find, sure. But loud isn't always easy on the ears.I can't forgive piercing, over-the-top enhanced highs or obnoxious lows that rumble but don't punch.

Brent said the ELS system sounds "detailed and accurate." It does. What he didn't mention is that the system doesn't fall apart when the volume is cranked like stock systems sometimes do. Headroom — the power amp kind — is important to me.

Because when the need to hear music at irresponsible levels hits me, and it often does, being able to do so without distortion from underpowered amps or overtaxed speakers fills me with a warm, child-like joy. I don't get to blast my audio systems at home. I want to be a good neighbor. So the car is my musical act-a-fool sanctuary. 

Anyway, back to the decision between Tech Package or not. Here's the rub: I really wanted to keep costs down when I got my car. So I had that common shopper conflict: Do I pop for the toys or keep the cash?

I needed to decide, hard and fast, which would win out: My desire to save money and be responsible, or my desire to enter into a three-year marriage with an audio system that did more than play my music — one that actually kicks butt.

My college-aged kid asked me what I'd recommend he'd do. Jeez. So I did the responsible thing and bought the base model. And I learned something from this. This little nugget of wisdom only applies if you buy the base model and you're into sound quality like I am. If you're strictly into podcasts or AM radio, this might not be relevant. But if you're into that big sound, keep reading.

Should you decide on the base model like I did, just sign for your deal, hop in your car and drive away. And after you've bought your new wheels, if you ever find yourself in a Tech or higher-trim TLX, do yourself a favor and don't test the ELS system. Ever. Unless you're cool with buyer's remorse, that is. 

Don't misunderstand. The audio system in the base model is no slouch. It's pretty solid and holds its own against most stock systems. But it's not touching the ELS.  

Another thing I've learned: If you happen to work for a company that allows you to test-drive cars, and if said company has an Acura TLX with the same audio system you declined, under no circumstances should you check out that TLX for the weekend, queue up your favorite Police album, crank up volume and rock out. Because when you get you get home, there's a good chance you'll sit in your parking spot with "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" on repeat while you imagine what could have been.

Matt Jones, Senior Editor

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