This is not a car. It's a concert hall

This is not a car. This is a concert hall< /p> UPDATE DAY

The addition of Dolby Atmos technology to new Mercedes-Benz vehicles makes us feel like we are surrounded by music. An exceptional listening experience, for which you have to untie your purse strings, month after month.

The 31 speakers of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class are placed throughout the cabin: in the doors, under the windshield and even on the ceiling. In the middle of the piece which is just playing, BOOM by Tiësto & Sevenn, electronic musical instruments seem to be spinning all around my head. The effect is striking. In another car, or with a simple stereo system, all this movement would have been lost. 

“The arrival of Dolby Atmos is the biggest change in music since the transition from mono to stereo,” explains mixing engineer Derek Ali, known for his collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B and Childish Gambino.

Atmos is an audio format developed by Dolby for cinemas, then adapted for music. While stereophony separates a musical piece into two channels, left and right, Atmos makes it possible to place more than a hundred sounds in the space around the listener and make them move, whether to give the it feels like a plane is flying overhead in the movie Top Gun: Maverick, or the rain is falling around us at the start of Riders on the Stormby The Doors. 

“But the movement and the 3D effect is not his only interest. It also opens up the sound, and everything becomes clearer,” notes Frank Schweickhart, responsible in particular for research and development for sound and sound insulation at Mercedes-Benz. In other words, each instrument becomes more detailed and easy to hear, as if you were in the studio with the musicians. 

In the last year, this new audio format has spread like a trail of powder in the recording industry, both among artists releasing new albums and among production companies reissuing their catalog (an Atmos version of Revolverby the Beatles will be launched later this week). 

The car, the perfect place for listening in Atmos

Mixing engineer Derek Ali, in the recording studio William Tell in Paris.


It is not necessary to have 31 speakers like in the S-Class to enjoy Dolby Atmos. “In this room, there are eleven: three at the front of the room, two on the sides, two behind and four on the ceiling”, observes Derek Ali, met at the invitation of Mercedes-Benz at the studio d recording Guillaume Tell in Paris. 

Similar audio systems exist for the home, with even fewer speakers, but most of the time, it is rather with headphones than ordinary mortals can enjoy this audio format.

With a compatible streaming service, like Apple Music, algorithms then process the sound to give the impression of 3D, even with just two headphones in our ears. We hear where the music is coming from, and the sound quality is enhanced, but the effect is never as successful as in a place with real speakers all around us, like in the cinema or in a recording studio. . 

From now on, we will have to add the car to this short list of the best places to enjoy Atmos.

“The good thing is that you don't move in a car, so I know exactly where your ears are,” explains Florian Richter, engineer in the sound and acoustics department at Mercedez-Benz. No matter where I sit in the vehicle, I always feel like the artists are singing right in front of me. range, and partly because of Atmos, but besides, I don't remember having ever been so enveloped by music as during this test, except perhaps in large concert halls.  

Subscription required

To take advantage of Dolby Atmos, Mercedes-Benz owners will need to play their music with Apple Music, from the vehicle's infotainment system.

In addition to the S-Class, Dolby Atmos will be offered in all Mercedes-Benz EQE, EQE SUV, EQS and EQS SUV launched in Canada. “We believe that this will allow us to reach new communities, especially among young people,” said Mercedes-Benz Chief Technology Officer Markus Schäfer enthusiastically during a round table with the media.

< p>However, there is a major downside: Dolby Atmos will not work with smartphones connected to the vehicle via CarPlay or Android Auto. To take advantage of it, you will instead have to use the Apple Music software integrated into the Mercedes-Benz MBUX infotainment system. 

You will therefore need an Internet connection in your vehicle, via the Mercedes me service, to enjoy the best possible music. After the free one-year subscription that comes with the purchase of a new Mercedes-Benz, the speakers around you will still sound great, but they won't play Atmos music unless you subscribe (the package price has not yet been announced).

This need is part of a fundamental trend in the automotive industry. Like tech companies that want to sell subscriptions with their devices (just think of the iPhone and the online storage service iCloud), automakers want to have revenue for the lifetime of their devices. a vehicle, and not only when it is sold. 

Recently, for example, BMW announced that in certain countries (this is not the case in Canada), it will be necessary to pay a monthly subscription to take advantage of its heated seats. At Tesla, real-time traffic visualization and the mode allowing remote access to the cameras of your car are also reserved for those who pay every month. 

While two-thirds of car drivers believe that sound quality is important in a vehicle, according to a survey by Mercedes-Benz, the company believes that its customers will agree to subscribe to Mercedes me to keep Atmos, especially after enjoying it for a year . 

As long as you move in slow motion from Montreal to the South Shore during the work on the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel, it is better after all to enjoy the best music possible. < /p>