Tesla’s premium sound system has been praised for its sound quality by owners and journalists alike. And it was recently revealed, thanks to an Easter egg at the Petersen Automotive Museum, that the Tesla infotainment system will soon have access to Apple Music. But there may soon be much more in store for Tesla’s audio capabilities. Yesterday a report from BGR broke the news that Tesla vehicles will soon be updated to include Dolby Atmos surround sound. Citing an anonymous source, BGR revealed that Tesla has been working to bring the immersive surround sound technology to its cars for several months. According to the report, over a million existing Tesla cars will be eligible for the upgrade. It is expected to be delivered for free over the air at some point in the future. The surround technology will also be built into future Tesla vehicles.
Dolby Atmos was first introduced in movie theaters in 2012, and soon made its way into the home in speakers, televisions, A/V receivers and soundbars. The format has also been included in select high-end automobiles, notably Tesla’s EV competitor Lucid Motors as well as Mercedes Benz and Maybach. Dolby Atmos differs from traditional stereo or surround sound in the inclusion of height information in the mix. With Dolby Atmos, sound comes from not only all around you, but above you as well, creating an immersive dome of sound around the listener.
While attempts have been made to bring immersive sound to headphones, so far results have been mixed. Dolby Atmos is most effective when there are dedicated speakers above the listeners so the automotive environment is a good fit for the immersive surround format. And the lack of an internal combustion engine in an EV reduces background noise, allowing the driver and passengers to hear more details in the music. Dolby Atmos differs from Tesla’s existing “immersive sound” capability in that it is encoded into the actual recording. Movies and TV shows have been mixed in Dolby Atmos for several years and more recently music studios have joined in. New music releases are being mixed in Dolby Atmos and engineers and producers have been going back to master tapes from the past few decades re-mixing music in the format.
With Tesla’s inclusion of Tidal in its infotainment system and the upcoming inclusion of Apple Music, the Dolby Atmos upgrade makes sense. Tidal supports Dolby Atmos surround sound in its “Hifi Plus” tier and Apple Music offers thousands of music tracks encoded in Dolby Atmos in its basic subscription. Netflix also supports Dolby Atmos in several TV series and movies. It’s unclear at this time which of the three streaming services will support Dolby Atmos in the Tesla system. It’s possible that all three platforms will be included.
Why Does This Matter?
As competition heats up in the automotive market, many luxury 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. And while Tesla normally “does its own thing,” the inclusion of third party solutions like Dolby Atmos shows that the company is willing to work with other brand leaders to provide best-in-breed solutions to their customers.
This strategy isn’t exactly new. Lexus partnered with high-end audio company Mark Levinson for the company’s LS300 sedan back in 2000. More recently, 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 maker Sonus faber provides the sound system for the new Maserati Grecale SUV and their sister company McIntosh provides the sound system for the latest high-end Jeeps. In the high-end EV market, Tesla’s competitor Lucid Motors already offers an audio system with Dolby Atmos.
It’s likely that Dolby Atmos will require the “Premium” sound system option in Tesla cars, as well as the Premium connectivity option. The Premium sound system was previously an additional cost option for Teslas, but it is now included in the Model 3 and Model Y AWD and Performance trims. In the Model 3 and Model Y, the system includes 14 or 15 speakers, depending on the year of manufacture. All Model S and Model X vehicles currently ship with Tesla’s Premium sound system. The current Premium Audio system on the Model S and X includes 22 speakers. In all models, the Premium Audio system includes overhead speakers located in the pillars. These will provide the necessary height element for Dolby Atmos.
Details are not yet available as to specifically which Tesla vehicles will be eligible for the Dolby Atmos upgrade, but since the format requires height speakers, which have been in the Model 3 since 2018, we’d expect that the upgrade will be available for all cars with Premium Sound which include those height speakers. As more details emerge, we’ll be sure to update this article.
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