The NIO ET7 Will Come Standard With an Advanced Dolby Atmos-Powered Sound System Co-Developed With Audio Pioneer Dirac

The NIO ET7 Will Come Standard With an Advanced Dolby Atmos-Powered Sound System Co-Developed With Audio Pioneer Dirac

Author: FutureCar Staff    

The new ET7 electric sedan from EV startup NIO Inc. is one of the world's most advanced electric vehicles. But the innovations in the EV also includes the vehicle's audio system.

The ET7 is also the world's first vehicle to come with an immersive Dolby Atmos sound system co-developed by Swedish digital audio pioneer Dirac and Dolby Laboratories. 

The ET7 will launch in Europe later this year following its debut in China in March.

Dirac, which was founded in 2001 in Sweden, is a developer of audio optimization algorithms that improve sound quality. The company's digital signal processing (DSP) can help automakers overcome acoustic challenges of designing vehicle audio systems. 

In addition to NIO, Dirac's digital audio processing technology is used by automakers BMW, Rolls Royce, Volvo and Polestar.

For one, a vehicle's cabin contains a large amount of reflective surfaces, including the windows, that can muddle the sound coming from speakers. But DSP algorithms can help improve the suboptimal positioning of speakers, which are generally located in the doors and dashboard rather than at a passenger's ear level.

Dirac's DSP algorithms result in the faithful reproduction of sound without any unwanted colorations. It also doesn't require any extra hardware upgrades to the vehicle.

NIO announced last year that the 7.1.4 channel immersive sound system in the ET7 will come standard with Dolby Atmos technology.  The 1,000 watt audio system in the ET7 uses a total of 23 speakers, including four speakers in the ceiling and a subwoofer, along with a 20-channel amplifier. 

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NIO is the second automaker to offer Dolby Atmos technology, following electric performance automaker Lucid Group, which offers Atmos as part of its "Surreal Sound" system in the Lucid Air electric sedan.

However, the audio system in the new NIO ET7 electric sedan takes Atmos technology a step further, by combining audio technologies developed by Dimac and Dolby into a single system. In the ET7, Dirac's patented audio optimization algorithms will be paired with 360-degree Dolby Atmos audio to deliver an immersive in-vehicle listening experience.

"The car is a natural place to listen to music, but vehicle cabins are also the most acoustically challenging listening environments," stated Lars Carlsson, Head of Business Development, Automotive, at Dirac. "For 20 years, Dirac has been developing tailored solutions for some of the world's leading auto manufacturers, optimizing sound systems to achieve entirely new levels of audio performance. Now, through this collaboration with Dolby, we're for the first time combining the world's most sophisticated audio algorithms with the world's most immersive content to quite literally establish a new standard in automotive sound."

Dirac entered the automotive space last year with the introduction of Dirac "Opteo" and "Virtuo". Opteo digitally upgrades the sound performance of vehicle audio systems using technologies such as MIMO mixed phase correction, mixed-phase impulse response correction and other patented audio technologies.

Virtuo is an intelligent audio platform designed to improve automotive audio. It supports semi-automatic tuning and advanced audio processing features, including patented DSP algorithms for transforming audio. It includes cabin sound optimization, bass enhancement, soundstage widening and immersive high-quality sound without using door speakers.

Dolby Atmos, which first debuted in 2012, is normally associated with blockbuster Hollywood movie soundtracks, including the recently released new Top Gun Maverick movie. It uses upward firing speakers that creates an immersive three-dimensional audio experience with sounds that come from overhead, below or 360 degrees around the listener.

Most people tend to listen to music via a 2-channel stereo setup using a pair of left and right speakers. Many vehicles today offer these basic, 2-channel stereo audio systems with balance controls and a front to rear fader, which generally use 4 to 8 speakers located throughout the cabin. 

However, Dolby Atmos technology takes this a bit further by expanding the sound 360 degrees around the listener. This provides an immersive sound experience with audio that appears to come from overhead or below or even behind a listener.

"Reproducing a faithful Dolby Atmos experience in a car that translates well from the point of creation in the studio into the challenging acoustic environment of a car cabin is a lofty task," said Andreas Ehret, Director Automotive at Dolby. "The Dirac technology is a great solution for car makers to optimize this experience. We have found that in our demo cars, the results were excellent – with excellent detail, accurate staging, and a well-balanced sound field in all seating positions. 


The NIO ET7 electric sedan.

Since Dolby Atmos audio is not limited to just 2-channel stereo playback, the audio technology has also changed the way artists create and mix music. Dolby Atmos allows for each sound, weather its an instrument or vocal track, to be placed anywhere in three-dimensional space in the recording. As a result, it produces an immersive listening experience in vehicles.

Luxury electric automaker Lucid Group was the world's first automaker to incorporate Dolby Atmos technology in the Lucid Air sedan. However, this was developed without collaboration from Dirac. Lucid calls its Dolby Atmos-powered audio system "Surreal Sound".

Lucid's Surreal Sound audio system however, is not just for listening to music. All of the Air's miscellaneous sounds and driver warnings have been created to take full advantage of Dolby Atmos technology. For example, if the left rear passenger forgot to buckle up their seat belt, the warning chime will come from where the passenger is seated, instead of from the front or right side speakers.

Atmos technology can even playback hundreds of sounds simultaneously, so the vehicle designers have the ability to create an even more immersive audio experiences.

Outside of the audio system in the new NIO ET7, Dirac and Dolby are continually working on solutions to optimize the sound system performance in demo cars. These demo cars are used around the world to showcase to automakers and the public the benefits of having Dolby Atmos and Dirac's DSP technology in the cabin.

In addition, NIO Radio, which is an exclusive streaming music platform developed by the automaker that's similar to Spotify, will also support Dolby Atmos. With the latest OTA firmware update, NIO Radio was the world's first in-vehicle streaming service to offer 5.1 channel surround sound. 

FutureCar Staff
FutureCar Staff
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