Dolby Atmos first came out in movie theaters in 2012, bringing a literal new dimension (height) to surround sound. Audiences swooned. Soon after, the immersive surround format made its way into AVRs (Audio/Video Receivers), home speakers and soundbars. It even became available on headphones (though the jury is still out on whether that was a good thing). And soon, thanks to Mercedes, Apple Music and Burmester, Dolby Atmos will be available in your car. Well as long as your car is a high-end Mercedes or Maybach with the top of the line Burmester audio system that is.

Mercedes-Benz announced this week that the company is now offering Dolby Atmos surround sound in a range of its top car models, allowing the driver and passengers to experience a growing catalog of music in fully immersive surround sound. It will be the first automotive sound system to include Dolby Atmos.

Why Does This Matter?

As competition heats up in the automotive market, many luxury automotive brands have partnered with high-end audio companies to provide a truly engaging and enjoyable audio experience within the car. It’s also a way for both brands to expand their audience and their market share and provide something unique to their customers. I call this trend “Performance Auto Meets Performance Audio.”

This isn’t exactly new. Lexus partnered with high-end audio company Mark Levinson for the company’s LS300 sedan all the way back in 2000. But lately more established high-end audio brands have been partnering with luxury auto makers to provide exceptional sounding co-branded audio systems. Bowers and Wilkins has provided branded audio systems for Volvo and BMW, Bang & Olufsen is in Audi, Italian speaker make Sonus faber provides the sound system for the new Maserati Grecale SUV (a system that sounds absolutely superb) and their sister company McIntosh provides the sound system for the latest high-end Jeeps. But this system from Burmester for Mercedes has bragging rights as the first to include Dolby Atmos. And bragging rights are important for some people spending six figures on an automobile.

According to Daimler AG (parent company to Mercedes-Benz), Dolby Atmos will be built into the optional Burmester high-end 4D and 3D sound system as well as integrated into the Mercedes-Maybach and shortly afterwards in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, turning the Mercedes-Benz vehicles into virtual “concert halls on wheels.” Powered by a total of 31 loudspeakers and eight sound transducers, also known as exciters, which will also be mounted into the seats, audiophiles will receive a truly immersive sound experience as they take the wheel of (or take a seat in) their chosen car.

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Mercedes has partnered with Burmester to develop the first automotive audio system that supports Dolby Atmos immersive music.

These “exciters” literally put a bump in your rump as they translate deep bass energy into tactile vibrations in the seats. This technique has been used for after-market home theater and gaming chairs for years as a way of increasing the impact and realism of low bass.

“Our customers rightly expect the highest level of music enjoyment in a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. Therefore, Mercedes-Benz is one of the first luxury car brands in the world to rely on the ground-breaking Dolby Atmos technology,” said Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG responsible for Sales. “With Dolby Atmos and the Burmester sound system, we offer our customers an exciting music experience in the vehicle that is almost like a live concert. I am sure the customers will be delighted.”

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Engineers from Burmester and Mercedes teamed up to optimize the immersive sound system’s performance for the interior of a car.

The entertainment hardware of the Burmester high-end 4D sound system installed in the Maybach and the S-Class includes:

  • 31 speakers, including six height speakers that emit their sound from above, four near-ear speakers in the front seats, and an 18.5-liter subwoofer
  • 8 sound transducers (two per seat)
  • 2 amplifiers
  • 1750 watts power

John Couling, Senior Vice President Commercial Partnerships, Dolby Laboratories had this to add: “At Dolby we are passionate about extending the Dolby Atmos Music experience so that consumers can enjoy it anywhere and Mercedes-Benz shares our vision. We are excited to be collaborating with them to accelerate the adoption of this immersive auditory experience in cars. The integration of Dolby Atmos into the S-Class and the Mercedes-Maybach will offer an additional superior feature to customers whether they are in the driving seat or a passenger.”

An immersive audio experience, Dolby Atmos Music adds space, clarity and depth to music. The technology empowers audio content creators to place discrete audio elements or objects in a three-dimensional sound field, which goes beyond the capabilities of mono or stereo, or even traditional linear surround sound. In the years since its introduction, Dolby Atmos has been used to enhance studio mixes of not just new releases but also back-catalog material. In many cases, the original artists, engineers or producers have gone back to the original master tapes to create completely new mixes that exploit the new format.

Dolby Atmos Music is currently available in Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music. The Mercedes implementation uses Apple Music for Dolby Atmos delivery. Apple currently has hundreds of titles available in the format. A subscription to Apple Music is required.

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