Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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Car radios have come a long way since the in-dash AM/FM player. The RA:1K, which debuted in 2008, is currently the most expensive car stereo in the world. Manufactured in Australia by Rogue Acoustics, this baby will only set you back $72,000 for the base model. Though while you have your credit card out you might as well go all in and build the fully customizable sound system could for around $330,000!

For the record, you have to be an idiot to buy this. People do know children are starving right?

Choosing a Car Stereo

Your first step in deciding what you want in your car’s audio system should be to go to Best Buy or another large electronics retailer and spend some time checking out the different systems. Think about what you really want from your stereo. It’s not just about sound nowadays.

Advancements in technology have changed the way we think about our car stereos. Do you want one that hooks up to your Android phone so you can stream your favorite channel on Pandora? Do you need a dock for your iPod?  Perhaps you’re the type to store all your music on a thumb drive or an SD card.

The days of bare minimum AM/FM are over- with digital music, even CDs are passé. Car stereos now come with Bluetooth capability so you no longer have to worry about where you left your hands free kit. Some stereos even have touchscreens for the ultimate in convenience. Take some time, talk to salespeople, and get clear on which options are your favorites.

The Rogue Acoustics Audio System

The Rogue Acoustics Audio System RA:1K is a prime example of technological advancements in the car audio industry.  It has the Rogue Acoustics Digital Sound Processor (DSP) which uses sound analysis software in real time, and high efficiency drivers. The central amplifier contains a mobile phone. If anything goes wrong with your sound system, it automatically contacts Rogue Acoustics for service.

The mobile phone feature allows the manufacturer’s technicians to fix the problem remotely, or even disable the RA:1K if it’s been stolen. It would be nice if they put a GPS chip in it so your stolen stereo could actually be located as well!

The typical install for an RA:1K will include four tweeters, four mid-range, and two subwoofers supported by six amplifiers running 1,000 watts continuous at 8 ohms or 500 watts continuous at 4 ohms per channel.  The system has very low harmonic distortion to ensure that your tunes sound better than ever. Rogue Acoustics can fully customize your car stereo, even adding the logo of your choice.

Reaching Critical Mass

The CES 5.1 Electrostatic Surround Sound System from Critical MASS runs a close second in cost to the RA:1K. This car audio system is the work of audiophile engineering students who kept working obsessively to perfect their ideas and eventually wound up with their own company. The CES 5.1 debuted in 2006.

Many people believe that both the sound and technology used in the CES 5.1 makes it the best car audio system in the world. It will run you about $260,000, so compared to the RA:1K it’s a bargain –  if you have more money than brains.

The Electrostatic Loudspeaker System (ESL) is the technology behind the perfect sound of this car stereo. You may remember those giant freestanding speakers which are also known for being very fragile. What was originally an eight foot high speaker has been miniaturized to only two inches high and three inches wide!  This miniaturization process took 15 years, but the results seem to be worth it.

These ESL panels are durable, voltage-driven, and bi-directional, which means they respond to the amplifiers more quickly and also send sound out from both sides of the speaker.  Two four-channel UL-A600 amplifiers with 600 watts each go to the ESLs and feed the midbass drivers. These are supported by the Critical MASS UL12 subwoofer, which has been rated as the top subwoofer by Car Audio Magazine.

Each CES 5.1 installation is done over a period of three to six months by dedicated Critical MASS technicians, so if you plan to purchase one of these systems you’d better have a back up vehicle.  There is one Critical MASS installation team located in New York and another in Los Angeles.  The installation is custom designed for your particular vehicle and is supervised by Wayde Alfarone, the founder and head engineer of Critical MASS, and Claudio Laraia, CEO of Icon Industries International.

Each person in your vehicle will have their very own sound stage experience thanks to the strategic installation of three ESL speaker panels- a total of 12 ESL panels in the entire vehicle.  These ESLs are plated in 24 karat gold and placed in a left channel-center channel-right channel configuration for each passenger. Although the RA:1K is more expensive than the CES 5.1, if top quality sound is what you’re looking for the CES 5.1 will probably be the better choice.