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This 21-speaker car audio system from Lucid Motors can play music in Dolby Atmos

Announced at SXSW 2021, Lucid Motors and Dolby have collaborated to create an immersive Dolby Atmos system as part of its new 21-speaker Surreal Sound system.

Dolby Atmos has travelled since its birth all the way back in 2012. Conceived as an immersive sound system for cinemas, it found its way to homes before heading to devices such as headphones and smartphones. With this latest announcement, Atmos has managed to make its way into the automobile experience.

Car audio is booming at the moment with luxury cars offering integrated audio systems. Lucid Motors, has got in on the act, unveiling the first automotive integration of Dolby Atmos with the 21-speaker Surreal Sound system found in the Lucid Air sedan. Atmos is an immersive, object-based audio format and you can read more about how it works via our explainer.

The 21-speaker system – dubbed the Surreal Sound system – is made up of front, rear, side and height speakers that have been optimally integrated and positioned with precision to allow the driver and passengers feel the movement of sounds through the car as, well, the car moves too.

Collaborating with Dolby on the project, the speaker system was tuned and perfected for the space of the Lucid Air by using the legendary Capitol Records Studio C recording studio in Hollywood, California as the reference design.

It’s not just music that’s taking the next big step in car audio, either. The Surreal Sound system is also said to help increase the overall safety of the Lucid Air by enhancing driver aids. That includes acoustic signalling of notifications (which sounds wild to us), indicates, warnings and any other audio to alert the driver and passengers.

An example given of this feature was a seatbelt warning that, according to Lucid Motors, will come from the direction of the unbuckled belt. Other warnings such as blind-spot detection will feature directionality to “help focus the driver’s attention”, while even sounds such as turn signals will come from the specific side of the vehicle.

Of course, this being a US car it’s not available anywhere else as far as we know. The Lucid Air can reserved now and experienced in-person at one of Lucid Motors’ Studios in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, San Jose, Newark (California), Miami or West Palm Beach.

Atmos keeps motoring on

I remember back in 2012 heading to Dolby in Soho, London to hear about a new audio technology that was going to change the realm of cinema. Dolby Atmos can no longer be considered just for the cinema, as it has trained its sights to infiltrate pretty any piece of technology that it can.

It can come with a danger, I suppose, in that it loses some of its identity in becoming so malleable. The Dolby Atmos you hear about with TVs and smartphones is not the overhead sound experience that initially was its core point of differentiation.

But its to its credit that it continues to find ways of innovating in other spaces. Most of us probably won’t be able to afford a car with an Atmos sound system, but then that sort of adds to the allure of the Atmos experience, at least in the automotive field.

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