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 insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. Through her years working in th...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Apr 5, 2022

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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 piece 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.

While the price may seem shocking, there are plenty of drivers out there who want nothing but the best when it comes to sound in their prized vehicles. These are the same drivers who will have full coverage auto policies, and if they don’t, they may want to consider it since they’ll have made such an expensive investment. While this may be outside the budget you currently have set up, it may be interesting to note that no matter what your end goal, there are tons of options on the radio market.

What should you consider when purchasing a car stereo?

Your first step in deciding what you want in your car’s audio system should be to go to a physical electronics retailer and spend some time checking out the different systems. Think about what you really want from your stereo. Making a list of priorities when it comes to the type of radio you want will no doubt include price, performance, and quality of sound, but you should also consider the other features as well.

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 that 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, and if so, there are radios out there for you.

The days of bare minimum AM/FM are fading quickly. With digital music, even CDs are becoming more and more passé. Car stereos now come with Bluetooth capability so that you no longer have to worry about where you left your hands-free kit. Some stereos even have touchscreens for the ultimate convenience factor. There’s no need to rush into a system just because it’s on sale or has the best reviews on the audio market. Give a listen to how some of them sound in person, ask questions, and read way more than just the positive reviews.

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The Most Expensive Car Stereos on the Market

Below we’ve listed a few of the most expensive car speakers on the market, so that you can see what you may want to include in your budget, or where to draw the line.

The Rogue Acoustics Audio System

As mentioned above, the base system clocks you for $72,000, and is one of the most expensive car stereos in the world. 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.

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 four ohms per channel. The system has very low harmonic distortion to ensure that your tunes sound better than they ever have before. Rogue Acoustics can fully customize your car stereo, even adding the logo of your choice. Should you want the most expensive car audio system out there, this would be the stereo for you.

CES 5.1 Electrostatic Surround Sound System

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 total bargain.

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.

In Summary

The type of stereo you choose will depend on the level of performance you’re after, and what your budget looks like. While the two stereos mentioned above may not make the cut, there are going to be plenty of other choices waiting for you when you’re ready to go shopping. As with shopping for anything else regarding your vehicle, including car insurance, you’ll want to take your time and compare your options.

Since there can be an almost overwhelming amount of options out there, it’s easy for a driver to break down what components they want to prioritize. Sound quality, the amount of power behind the speakers, and even whether or not the radio will match the type of vehicle owned.

For your personalized audio experience, it will take some research on your end. Focus on what you want, and plan out a price range too. You may find there are cheap speakers out there that will get the job done and be satisfied with something simple. Or you may want to spring for more expensive car speakers because they have better sound quality. Research brands, and don’t forget to read all kinds of reviews. Above all, set a budget, so that you don’t end up accidentally paying more than what you can afford for the sake of sound.