by Jim Bray
Music storage is changing and the compact disc is dead.
Well, almost. After 20 years, the little digital disc is still wildly popular,
but now that DVDs have come along their larger storage capability is
being exploited not only for movies and television shows, but to up the musical
quality ante from the already-terrific compact disc to new heights of fidelity.
Its DVD Audio, of course, a format thats still young but which
is showing signs of catching on albeit slowly for now. Check out our DVD
Audio section for introductions to the technology and reviews of a selection
of DVD Audio titles.
But just as CDs couldnt be played in the cassette decks they
were poised to replace, DVD-Audio discs cant be played in a conventional
CD player, which makes their ultra high quality sound useless if you want to
take your tunes on the road with you - and your car doesnt have a DVD
entertainment system built it.
And even if your vehicle is DVD-equipped, chances are it isnt true
just DVD Video and so while the audio quality can still be terrific
it aint the real thing.
Whats a self respecting audiophile to do?
Well, you could buy a 2004 Acura TL. This
is a car that pushes the outside of the audio envelope.
And in our disposable age, where it almost seems as if built in obsolescence
is the norm, it's worth mentioning when a company offers something so up to
date that its customers will be able to grow into it over the next few years,
instead of growing out of it.
So it is that I do a second piece on the upscale Acura TL performance sedan.
This car is not only a wonderful vehicle, it comes with accessories that no
one should be without, but which most people are, so far.
My favorite innovation is DVD-Audio, which meant that when I tested the car
I could bring all my music discs, not just my CDs.
The TL's system plays every music format you can imagine, short of Super
Audio CDs (SACD), which is a shame but not too surprising. But it handles
DVD-Audio and the surround sound music discs from dts without breaking a sweat,
it plays regular and home burned CD's and the cars in dash changer treats
all the discs the same so you dont have to worry about what format is
which and where it sits in the 6 disc changer. All you have to do is press
play and crank it up as loud as itll go.
And it goes loud, though not quite loud enough for my tastes but perhaps
thats a safety feature to prevent head bangers such as myself from going
The system is a fully fledged 5.1 system, so while you get the normal complement
of speakers mounted throughout the car, theyre set up in the familiar
5.1 configuration rather than just having front and rear speakers (with balance
and fade controls) and a subwoofer. You set the balance via the LCD screen
that also doubles as navigation display in a quick and easy manner that doesnt
require your eyes to leave the road for long (though of course you should set
it while the cars stationary).
It works, and it works well. The audio quality is something Ive never
heard before in a vehicle of any price (though of course Ive come nowhere
near hearing them all). The system thunders through the DVD-A version of Led
Zeppelins How the West Was Won, yet the delicacy of a
good Strauss waltz is also reproduced beautifully and faithfully. You also
get the lovely "live" ambience made possible by the 5.1 surround
system, something you cant really get with a CD regardless of how many
speakers there are and where theyre mounted.
So I loved the sound, I loved the convenience and the seamlessness of its
functionality, and I loved being able to bring my new, high resolution audio
discs on the road with me.
Lets hope the competition of the free market means this is a trend
thats about to explode in the marketplace.
And that isnt the end of the TLs technological trickery.
The car is also Bluetooth equipped. Bluetooth is a radio frequency standard
for wireless devices that lets Bluetooth-equipped gadgets talk with each other.
In the case of the Acura TL, Bluetooth works as both a safety and convenience
feature, because it allows a cell phone to automatically become a hands free
unit even if you don't take it out of your pocket. It just has to be
Now, it wont do this with every cell phone. The cell phone has to be
Bluetooth equipped as well, be equipped with what's called the hands free profile,
and you have to go through a one time setup to train it and the car to recognize
each other. But once thats done, you're off to the races - with both
hands firmly on the steering wheel.
If a call comes in while you're driving, the caller's number shows up on
the instrument panel, the ring comes over the cars speakers, and all
the driver has to do to answer is press a button on the steering wheel. The
audio system mutes automatically and algorithms built into the car help cancel
out road and other background noise. There's a microphone built into the ceiling
so you can talk hands free, and whoever's on the other end of the call is heard
over the audio system.
This works for sending calls, too, and you can dial using voice commands.
The system stores up to 50 phone numbers.
It'll probably take a couple of years before DVD Audio and Bluetooth become
mainstream at all, let alone in the automotive industry, but credit Honda for
creating the Acura TL and making it ready today.
How's that for obsolescence-fighting?