Dolby Atmos Car Spatial Audio – Overview of Automotive Brands


    Hey there, car enthusiasts and audiophiles! Let’s talk about something that’s music to our ears but often flies under the radar – the evolution of in-car audio systems.

    Remember when having a CD player in your car was the height of luxury? Well, fast forward to today, and it’s all about Dolby Atmos, a game-changer in automotive sound. It’s not just an audio system; it’s an experience, transforming your car into a rolling concert hall.

    Dolby Atmos Experience is more than entertainment

    I’ve been around the block a few times, consulting for the big shots like VW, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. That’s right, I’ve had my hands in the audio pots of these giants, stirring up a storm with immersive sound experiences.

    However, there are very practical use cases to tailor when thinking of immersive sound systems on wheels. Here I already wrote an article about Automotive Audio with 3D loudspeakers with creative and very nerdy use cases for Augmented Reality and sound simulation apps.

    Dolby Atmos car stereo is fun!

    My journey in automotive audio consulting has shown me another thing: the sound system in your car isn’t just about volume or bass; it’s about depth, clarity, and, dare I say, emotion. It’s about turning every drive into an adventure, whether you’re cruising down the highway or stuck in traffic. This is stuff that counts for the additional purposes of in-car entertainment.

    In this world, Dolby Atmos isn’t just another buzzword – it’s the MVP, flipping the turntables for the listener. It’s like having your own personal bubble of sound, tailored just for you. So, let’s dive into this sonic ocean and explore how Dolby Atmos (and other relevant competitors) are not just changing the game, but redefining it. Buckle up, it’s going to be an exhilarating ride!

    Understanding Dolby Atmos in Cars

    When we think of Dolby Atmos, we often conjure images of state-of-the-art home theaters to play movies, with sound cascading down from overhead speakers. However, this technology isn’t confined to our living rooms anymore, there is a new form

    “My car stereo can already do that 3D Audio”

    But let’s address a common misconception first: “My car already has multiple speakers, so don’t I already have surround sound?” Not quite. While it’s true that many cars boast several speakers, they’re typically just playing back stereo content.

    Even in more sophisticated setups that use stereo upmixing, what you’re experiencing is an enhanced stereo signal being routed through multiple speakers, not genuine surround sound.

    Upgrading the existing car of consumers to Dolby Atmos is often not feasible. The reason is that the original hardware is typically hard-wired for the pre-installed system, lacking the necessary multichannel interface for Atmos. Retrofitting would mean overhauling the entire setup, a complex and costly endeavor.

    This is why I advocate for automotive companies to future-proof their designs by integrating hardware capable of supporting software upgrades like Dolby Atmos. Such a measure of foresight in design allows for easier upgrades and aligns with the evolving nature of automotive technology. Easier said than done because every additional screw makes the cars more complex and expensive.

    Dolby Atmos Music is the way to go – sort of

    This system goes beyond the traditional two-dimensional plane of left and right channels. In a Dolby Atmos-equipped car, sound comes at you from all directions, including from above, thanks to those overhead speakers.

    Imagine being enveloped in a bubble of sound where every note, every beat feels like it’s coming from a distinct point in space. That’s the magic of Dolby Atmos in cars – at least what the marketing promises.

    So, what makes Dolby Atmos stand out in the automotive world? It’s all about how this technology manages sound. Traditional stereo systems direct sound to predefined areas in the car, often resulting in a listening experience that varies greatly depending on where you’re seated.

    Dolby Atmos seems to fight this limitation by creating a more holistic and immersive sound environment. No matter where you’re seated in the vehicle, you get to experience sound if you’re right there in the studio with the artists – in an ideal world.

    Dolby Atmos for cars Sounds great – when it does

    While exploring the various aspects of Dolby Atmos in cars, it’s important to acknowledge a notable challenge: not all mixes sound great. This issue isn’t unique to any specific audio system but can be a hurdle in delivering consistently high-quality sound experiences across different music genres and recordings.

    I wrote a very detailed article so make sure to read about the creative obstacles of Dolby Atmos Apple Music.

    However, personal experiences can vary, and often, the true potential of an audio system like Dolby Atmos reveals itself unexpectedly. For instance, despite not being particularly inclined towards hip-hop, I found myself genuinely enjoying a Dolby Atmos demo featuring a track by Cardi B.

    It was a revelation of sorts – the layers and depth of the Apple Music track were rendered with such playfulness and dynamism that it transformed my listening experience. This particular track played through the Dolby Atmos system, demonstrated how well-executed mixes can bring out the nuances in a genre I wouldn’t usually expect to explore.

    Here is a list of more titles I can recommend

    The trend is self-driving with streaming services

    In this ever-evolving world of Dolby Atmos-equipped cars, one trend that stands out is the integration of streaming services like Apple Music. This synergy between high-end audio systems and diverse music libraries is elevating the in-car entertainment experience to new heights.

    For the audiophiles who appreciate both quality and variety, this is a match made in heaven. You have access to a vast array of tunes, all optimized for the immersive, three-dimensional sound of Dolby Atmos.

    And here’s an exciting thought: as we edge closer to the era of self-driving cars, the importance and effectiveness of advanced in-car entertainment systems like Dolby Atmos will only skyrocket. Imagine lounging in your autonomous vehicle, journeying through cityscapes or countryside, all while being enveloped in a bubble of pristine sound, courtesy of Dolby Atmos and your favorite streaming service.

    It’s not just about getting from point A to B anymore; it’s about the experience, the journey, the sheer joy of being on the road. This is where the future of in-car entertainment is heading, and it’s a thrilling ride ahead.

    Cars with Dolby Atmos: A Comprehensive Overview

    As we dive into the world of Dolby Atmos-equipped cars, it’s like stepping into a rapidly evolving audio landscape where keeping track of all the advancements can be a challenge. However, I’ll do my best to guide you through it.

    Currently, it’s the premium automotive brands that are leading the charge in the market in this domain, focusing their efforts on integrating this sophisticated audio technology. These brands understand that for their discerning customers, the quality of in-car audio is not just an add-on, but a crucial part of the luxury driving experience. Let’s explore some of these trailblazers in the industry and see how they are setting new standards in automotive audio excellence.


    Mercedes-Benz has always been a frontrunner in luxury and innovation, and their adoption of Dolby Atmos is no exception. In models like the Mercedes-Maybach and the latest S-Class, Dolby Atmos brings an unparalleled sense of auditory luxury.

    The meticulous placement of speakers, including those strategically positioned overhead, creates an engulfing sound environment that resonates with Mercedes-Benz’s commitment to excellence.

    They even offer 4D sound with vibrating seats that audio react on the beat.

    Lucid Air

    It represents a perfect blend of advanced technology and luxury. The interior of this electric vehicle is a testament to modern design and innovation, where the Dolby Atmos system adds another layer of sophistication. Lucid Air’s integration of Dolby Atmos is offering an audio experience that complements its cutting-edge technology and luxurious design.

    The system creates a sound environment that is not just heard but felt, making every journey in a Lucid Air an event in itself.

    I could hear the experience once in the flagship store and was pretty underwhelmed. The speakers just don’t sound nice. Adding multiple in ceiling speakers around doesn’t really solve the problem that was already there.

    Li Auto

    Li Auto, a pioneer in China’s new energy vehicle market specializing in the design, development, manufacturing, and sales of smart electric SUVs, has partnered with Dolby to incorporate Dolby Atmos in its six-seat flagship family SUV, the L9. Initially, consumers will experience Dolby Atmos through the Chinese streaming service iQIYI, with plans to expand to other music services at a later date.

    Just like the Maybach’s Burmester system in Mercedes uses 4D sound as a marketing term, the Li L9 elevates the in-car audio experience by integrating Dolby Atmos technology with 4D vibration units in the second-row seats, creating an immersive experience akin to an upscale 4D movie theater.

    This is complemented by the vehicle’s six microphones and a set of 3D ToF transmitters, utilizing deep learning-based, multi-module three-dimensional interactive technology, ensuring a smart and enjoyable experience for family members of all ages.


    The NIO ET7 electric sedan integrates Dolby Atmos, a notable divergence from offerings by traditional luxury car brands. This system utilizes an immersive 7.1.4 sound setup with 23 speakers and a 1000W output.

    The inclusion of Dolby Atmos aims to enhance the listening experience by leveraging spatial audio technology to create a more immersive environment. This technical feature distinguishes the ET7 by focusing on the quality of sound and listener engagement, setting a new benchmark for in-car audio systems.

    Press release:

    Coming up: Volvo, Polestar 3, Lotus

    Volvo has announced that the Dolby Atmos system will be available in the Bowers & Wilkins sound system of their EX90 SUV. This will be the first Volvo model to feature Dolby’s immersive audio system.

    The Polestar 3 will also have an Atmos-equipped Bowers & Wilkins setup, especially in the Plus package, which includes a 25-speaker system.

    Lotus has announced a collaboration with Dolby to bring Atmos to the KEF setup of the Eletre EV, due to debut in 2024.

    Expanding Beyond Dolby Atmos: Wider Audio and Entertainment Technologies

    Despite Dolby’ts efforts to dominate, other audio technologies are also carving out their niches and bringing unique contributions to the automotive sound experience. Let’s have a lookt at some data.

    More streaming providers and competition

    While Dolby Atmos is leading the way in revolutionizing the audio ability, it’s important to recognize other audio technologies like Sony 360 Reality Audio, Auro-3D, and MPEG-H. These technologies are also making significant strides in the automotive world, offering features that go beyond 3D audio: more control and interactivity.

    This could be particularly beneficial for podcasts, where you can adjust the sound experience to your taste.

    Auro-3D and MPEG-H are also contributing to the partners to play automotive audio. They provide flexible and customizable audio solutions, ideal for a variety of applications within the vehicle. This interactivity and adaptability make them suitable for various in-car entertainment formats, not just music.

    At the CES 2023, Fraunhofer IIS, a key developer of the MPEG-H 3D Audio standard, and Amazon Music showcased how 360 Reality Audio can enhance in-car audio experiences. During the event, visitors had the unique opportunity to experience Amazon Music’s 360 Reality Audio service in an Audi e-tron

    For a deeper dive into these emerging audio technologies, you might find my article on Next Generation Audio insightful. It explores how these innovations are shaping the future of sound in our various devices and daily lives.

    Out of this world: virtual reality

    Looking ahead, the integration of Virtual Reality and other advanced technologies in cars is set to develop and enhance in-car entertainment even further. As autonomous driving becomes more prevalent, the in-car experience will transform.

    VR, in conjunction with advanced audio systems, can create immersive environments for passengers, turning a simple drive into an interactive journey with a company such as Holoride.

    Whether it’s for entertainment, education, or relaxation, the potential applications are as vast as they are exciting. This synergy of audio-visual technology is poised to redefine the very concept of travel, making every journey an adventure. What is missing is mostly content to deliver, that is just not videos or music, but immersive media that makes use of the advantage of the tech.

    Conclusion Dolby Atmos for Cars

    The integration of Dolby Atmos in car stereo systems marks a pivotal shift in the in-car entertainment landscape, offering a level of sound immersion previously unattainable in vehicles to wait for. As we look ahead, the combination of Dolby Atmos with technologies like VR or spatial computing heralds a new era of multifaceted entertainment environments within cars.

    This evolution transforms journeys into immersive experiences, redefining the very concept of in-vehicle entertainment.

    For those looking to stay at the forefront of this exciting shift in automotive audio and entertainment, I offer my expertise as a consultant and content creator. Whether it’s crafting bespoke audio solutions or developing cutting-edge content, my experience in the field positions me uniquely to help shape the future of in-car entertainment.

    Let’s connect and drive innovation together in this dynamic landscape.

    Contact me now!

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