DOLBY ATMOS ON WHEELS – COMING TO A CAR NEAR YOU

The interior of the Lucid Air – the first vehicle to integrate Dolby Atmos, which incorporates a 21-speaker Surreal Surround system. Courtesy of Dolby Labs.

Article by Marcus Siu

With the strictest list of COVID pandemic regulations that was forced on us, disrupting our normal lives in the past year, (i.e. six feet of social distancing, restrictions on indoor activities, and keeping ourselves within our “social bubble”), we now fully seem to realize how much we rely on our cars as a safe haven during these stressful times.

In a way, our car has become part of our social “bubble”, as many of our outdoor events and special activities have revolved around them. Occasions such as birthdays, graduations, even art exhibits and political events were all celebrated and performed from the safety of our cars instead of in person. Even drive-in movie theaters staged an impressive comeback.

It’s times like these when we are reminded how much time we love to spend in our cars. We treat them like a “second home”, as we always seem to find safety, reliability and comfort in them. Even with its confined space, (unless you have a trailer or a camper), it’s still our “home away from home”.

So what would make it as comfortable as being at home? For me, I would want to include an audio entertainment system where I can just sit down comfortably and listen to pure music without any other extraneous noise around me. Also, as an audiophile, I would want to have an immersive sound experience comparable to the one I have at home, as though I was sitting on my living room couch surrounded by multiple speakers, all perfectly calibrated to my Denon 7.2 channel Dolby Atmos receiver.

Panasonic, Klipsch, and Dolby Atmos at CES 2021. Courtesy of Klipsch.

THE PANASONIC PARTNERSHIP ANNOUNCEMENT AT CES 2021

Now the exciting news!

At CES 2021, earlier this year, Panasonic showed off a proof-of-concept in-car system capable of playing Dolby’s immersive audio format, Dolby Atmos. After not wanting to really want to become part of the automotive business until the right moment, Panasonic found the perfect partners who shares their values and have joined forces to change the way we listen to music. According to Panasonic, “the proof-of-concept result is an impressive listening experience that features an immersive soundscape for the automotive cabin.”. The in-car system was made by Panasonic, in partnership with Klipsch and Dolby.

“Dolby Atmos Music are leading many of the innovative approaches to bringing Dolby Atmos music to the home, on-the-go and now, working with Panasonic Automotive to bring the Dolby Atmos experience to the road…we’re focused on making the cabin of your vehicle like a second home.”, says Scott Kirchner, the President of Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America.

This sounds promising to the future of car owners who want to make their car their second home…given they have the car to equip the system.

However, there was no mention of Panasonic releasing this as a consumer product…

Dolby Atmos places you in the center of an immersive soundscape that allows you to feel music in a whole new way which is where I want to be.

LUCID MOTORS – AIR UNVEILED AT SXSW

A few months after the CES announcement was made by Panasonic, it didn’t take too long to notice that auto manufacturers were taking advantage of the latest in immersive audio technology.

On St. Patrick’s Day, at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW), startup EV manufacturer, Lucid Motors showed off their Lucid Air luxury sedan and unveiled it as the first vehicle to integrate Dolby Atmos, which incorporates a 21-speaker Surreal Surround system consisting of a front, rear, side, and height speakers as part of their upcoming Lucid Air Electric Vehicle.

Yes, I did not mistype this. It has 21 speakers….not to be confused with 2.1 speakers. What is even more impressive is that the speakers are discreetly concealed into the car. There are no signs of speaker cones or grilles anywhere in the car’s interior.

This will immediately please the wife who dislikes large speakers invading the living room space in the family home.

“The Lucid immersive system is really about this further evolution of dimension and depth…we always look at the automobile is like a captive environment…short of having a sound booth at home or wearing a high end set of headphones. The automobile is really like a captive sound chamber so to be able to partner up with a technology partner like Dolby means a lot.”, states Senior VP of Design, Derek Jenkins.

A RECORDING STUDIO ON WHEELS

According to Lucid, “the intention is that the Lucid Air interior will be like being in a recording studio, and was tuned and perfected like that of the Capitol Records Studio C”.  Courtesy of Lucid Motors.

When the Tesla Model S came out, CEO Elon Musk said that it is not a car but a ‘sophisticated computer on wheels’. If that’s the case, then the people at Lucid Motors can say with confidence that the Lucid Air is also not a car but a “professional recording studios on wheels”.

“We designed the Lucid Immersive Studio System to be like a recording studio. It can handle hundreds of sounds and sources simultaneously,” says Antonis Karalis, Senior Product Manager, Audio Infotainment. 

According to Lucid, “the intention is that the Lucid Air interior will be like being in a recording studio, and was tuned and perfected like that of the Capitol Records Studio C”. 

If the sound is any indication as it is in the most sophisticated Dolby theater systems, I imagine this will be quite immersive, especially with so many speakers designed specifically in a confined and intimate space where the speakers are optimally integrated and precisely positioned in the interior cabin. We won’t just hear the music, but we will feel it pass through us, as well, since the individual sounds move around the cabin.

I certainly can’t wait to hear the demo in person.

Unfortunately, it is not quite available to the public just yet. However, you can pre-order the Lucid Air for a mere $70,000 after federal tax credits, as the car goes on sale next year. Not a bad price for a “professional recording studios on wheels”.

Now with more electric vehicles hitting the road with its battery quiet and motor-less autos, it only makes sense that the cars of tomorrow come up and re-imagine the car’s sound system to take advantage of the almost noiseless environment of the interior of EV’s.

Audi and Sonos announced prior to the Lucid Air announcement, that are also teaming up together on the new Audi Q4 e-tron EV, as well. However, it does not include Dolby Atmos.

I can imagine one day after hearing the Dolby Atmos demo at a Lucid showroom that I may never want to listen to my car stereo ever again. It’ll be similar to never wanting to watch a CRT tube television after experiencing an HD for the first time.

I just may need to make a down payment on a new recording studio very soon.

Introducing Surreal Sound – Lucid Air – Lucid Motors

About mlsentertainment

Bay Area photojournalist - Northern California, United States Promoting the lively film and music scene mainly through the Bay Area, as well as industry and technology events.
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1 Response to DOLBY ATMOS ON WHEELS – COMING TO A CAR NEAR YOU

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