by Sue Mead
“Audio’s been my life for over 40 years. I have always been passionate about what music should sound like,” explains renowned music producer Elliot Scheiner. The recipient of 25 Grammy nominations (with seven wins) and four Emmy nominations (with two wins), as well as an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music and an honor from the Japan Audio Society, Scheiner is considered a master of his craft with an impeccable ear. His career began when he went to work as Phil Ramone's assistant in 1967, in which he quickly advanced to become an audio engineer. He went on to play percussion in several bands, but ultimately his heart remained in the studio. He returned, and produced albums for the likes of Steely Dan, Van Morrison, Fleetwood Mac, Sting, The Eagles, BB King, Aerosmith and more. More recently, he's worked on music with Foo Fighters, Band of Horses and Beck.
Scheiner's prolific experience gained the interest of Acura, who tapped him 10 years ago to help with their Panasonic audio system. He decided to work with the automaker because, he says, “Acura really cares, unlike some other providers that put systems in automobiles; others come from a scientific background, meaning they tune using numbers and charts—not ears! That’s not what music is about, and is the key to why one system is number one: the ELS system.”
“Van Morrison’s 'Moondance,' for instance, I know what I made it sound like," explains Scheiner. “I am intimately acquainted with what sound is and Acura feels the same. Remember the eight-track cassette? It all became popular because of the car. I got a call from Panasonic to put a demo in a car—in a Cadillac—and it was embraced. In 2002, I got a call from Acura—they were willing to put a system in the 2004 TL. Now, it’s in every car Acura makes.” A luxury sedan may not seem like a quintessential car for rocking out, but thanks to Scheiner, the 2015 Acura TLX is almost like a concert hall on wheels.
Scheiner, Acura and Panasonic have been refining their premium audio surround sound system for the past decade, and the 2015 model is more sophisticated than ever. “We get more speakers, there are 10 in the new TLX, and 12 in the larger MDX sport utility. Also, they’re more lightweight. Amplifiers were 225 watts and are now 490 watts," he explains. "We couldn’t believe how little distortion there is in the system—we’ve been working hard on getting more quality. You have a new car and therefore it’s a challenge; the TLX is quieter and that’s fabulous, with a cabin that is so quiet. We’ve spent more than a year and a half going to Ohio, where it’s built, and also to California and Japan. The idea was to make it feel like a control room.”
Panasonic Automotive's principal audio engineer Dave Ziemba has worked with Scheiner from the beginning, starting with the Acura TL that was set up with full 5.1 DVD audio. He tells us for 2015 they now have studio-grade equipment in the amplifiers and a lot more control over the sound because they have an amp channel for every speaker. He explains, "We can delay speakers in different places to make the sound come into the ear at the same time. We also have different amps for tweeters and now have the fourth and fifth generation of super dynamic range speakers and damped titanium tweeters.”
Scheiner elaborates, “I’m basically a musician at heart—when I create it, it’s about my peers and other musicians—and this is the closest we’ve come to the control room. When I come in to tune a vehicle, I bring my own music into it. Then I can go into the automobile and get it to be the way it’s supposed to sound, using our DTS or digital theater system. We’re forging the future of Acura."
And as proof of his faith in what they've achieved, Scheiner borrowed an Acura TL so that the Foo Fighters could listen to the latest surround sound mix of their forthcoming album. Jessica Fini, Acura's public relations manager, sums it up neatly by saying, “To have your in-car audio system compared to a studio system is a huge compliment and a true testament to Elliot's skill."
ELS Surround is available on the Acura TL, TSX, RDX, MDX and ZDX 2015 models.
Images courtesy of Acura