Automotive Dolby Atmos was first announced in 2021 for the Lucid Air and select Mercedes models. But as immersive audio made its way to luxury cars in the US last month, the company will show off the setup with an in-car demo at CES 2023. We’re in the backseat of a Mercedes-Maybach S 580 had the first audition.
First, let me explain the car. This Maybach is equipped with a Burmester 4D sound system with a total of 30 speakers, six of which are in the ceiling. Think of them as acting as motivational drivers in your Atmos soundbar. The amplifier delivers 1,750 watts of power, and both the front- and trunk-mounted subwoofers handle the bass (the trunk subwoofer also has its own 400-watt amplifier). It’s a completely insane setup installed on a $185,000 car.
The immersive sound is so impressive, it even manages to upstage its luxurious surroundings. It’s great for pop music like The Weeknd, but more like an Atmos system in your home, the car version does a good job in genres like jazz.When hearing “So What” by Miles Davis a little blue, Felt like I was in a club. In the backseat, the drum is to my right, and the horn is next to the driver, etc. It’s like sitting in the middle of all the musicians while they’re doing their thing. As someone who has tested multiple Atmos home theater setups, I’m still amazed by the results here. Of course, this is the crazy sound system in a high-end luxury car, possibly the best iteration of this kind of Dolby automotive collaboration.
Now, most content is audio. Just link up your streaming service of choice, as long as it offers Dolby Atmos music spatial audio, and you’re all set. The Maybach’s infotainment system has all the compatible tunes, clearly marking which ones are Atmos. Some companies offer a/v usage, so movies and shows with immersive audio can be synced with the in-car setup, Dolby said. John Couling, the company’s senior vice president of entertainment, explained during the presentation that, for example, he envisions people watching Dolby Atmos-mapped movies while charging electric cars.
Dolby says Atmos was designed from the ground up to be expandable, so like a soundbar, the audio platform can be configured to use more common speaker setups in more affordable cars. We’re talking a four-channel, six-speaker arrangement. Not too long ago, Atmos was reserved for premium soundbars, and now it’s available on devices like the Sonos Beam through virtualization. So even though a family car or minivan might not have ceiling-mounted overhead speakers like the Mercedes, immersive audio isn’t out of the question. Just as it would be interesting to see how more budget-friendly speakers handle Atmos, I’m looking forward to hearing how the virtual version sounds in the Honda Civic.
Dolby Atmos is currently available on the Lucid Air and Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, as well as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, EQE, EQE SUV, EQS and EQS SUV. Volvo has announced that Atmos will be used in the Bowers & Wilkins sound system in the EX90 SUV. The EV will be Volvo’s first vehicle with built-in Dolby immersive audio. The Polestar 3 is also available with a Bowers & Wilkins unit with Atmos air, which is expected to arrive later this year. The Plus kit includes a 25-speaker system specifically for this task. Lotus also announced a partnership with Dolby to bring Atmos to the KEF setup inside the Eletre EV slated to debut in 2024.