Surprise: Mercedes and Dolby presented the Burmester high-end 4D sound system in the Maybach (Photo: S. Schickedanz)

Burmester 4D sound with Dolby Atmos in the Mercedes – we’ve already heard it!

What a surprise: Mercedes and Dolby join forces to create goose bumps even in stop-and-go traffic. Also on board: Burmester. The Maybach, the S-Class and the new, all-electric EQS get 4D and 3D sound with Dolby Atmos respectively. It’s hard to get much more glamorous than that, especially when it’s made in Germany. The brand with the star has a long tradition of stimulating the driving experience, especially for passengers. And with 4D sound with Burmester, the whole thing also promises a new dimension of in-car entertainment.

The transformation from crude burl wood applications from the 80s and 90s to discreet ambient lighting and digital overkill somewhere between Tesla and PlayStation resulted in a unique mix. It is more comparable to a posh hotel in Las Vegas, where dignified luxury meets colorful neon, than to other luxury cars such as Bentley or Rolls-Royce. The interior design of the latter is strikingly discreet – provided the customer doesn’t go completely crazy with the Bespoke options. And with the former, the certain bling-bling effect comes more from somewhat playful handcrafted details.

The large Benz with the name of the Zeppelin engine manufacturer relies on an independent, flowing design with fine materials, which are masterfully staged by a light show (ambient lighting would be a gross understatement). For example, the illuminated ring radiator tweeters in the doors of the body, which is available from just under 200,000 euros. Where the Maybach luxury sedan offers such special effects with perfect craftsmanship, the EQS electric sedan, which was also on display at the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Munich, is back from the future in terms of style.

4D sound with Burmester – and Dolby is also included…

The great thing about the combination of three legendary brands: Dolby Atmos has a double effect. On the one hand, with appropriate recordings, for example of Yello, Elton John or Lady Gaga with Bradley Cooper, you can experience music with a spatiality that comes a whole lot closer to the much-used “concert hall on wheels” (which Bose also claimed for itself in the first Maybach of modern times). Secondly, apart from the screen size, movies are even more immersive than in most home cinemas. The solution in the Maybach, with 31 loudspeakers and a total of 1,750 watts of amplifier power, takes a completely different customer-specific aspect into account than the “small” Burmester system in the EQS. It has to make do with “only” 15 loudspeakers and 710 watts. And the show is also aimed at the front seats from the screens. The S-Class and the Maybach in particular are chauffeur-driven limousines, and the music or rather the movie is preferably played in the rear.

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Maybach: Burmester tweeter close-up
The staging of the illuminated ring radiators of the Burmester 4D surround sound system in the Maybach is cinematic in itself. Dolby Atmos was a must. That is why the car manufacturer and the American AV specialist are now also cooperating (Photo: S. Schickedanz)
Dolby Atmos trailer in the Maybach rear
Most people can only experience the Dolby Atmos trailer in 3D sound in the cinema. The 4D sound with Burmester provides the appropriate back massage – but only in the Maybach and the S-Class (Photo: S. Schickedanz)
Rear of the Maybach with video monitor
LED Zeppelin: Elton John in Dolby Atmos, exquisite materials and sophisticated design make spending time in the Mercedes Maybach an unforgettable experience. The Swabian engineering, the innovative design and, above all, the name may evoke associations with a zeppelin airship. The light show, on the other hand, is almost reminiscent of a brightly flickering Goodyear advertising blimp (Photo: S. Schickedanz)
VIP function on the Burmester system with Dolby Atmos for the Maybach
VIP function on the Burmester 4D surround sound system for the Maybach: a king today (Photo: S. Schickedanz)
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At EQS, designers and engineers went one step further towards the future. The screens merge with the dashboard in a unique way, which with its seamlessly integrated screens no longer really deserves the name. Here, the fun is primarily aimed at the driver and front passenger. For octane-savvy pilots from the last century, this may seem completely crazy at first. At least that’s what I thought as one of them in view of the video games in Tesla’s infotainment systems.

That changed abruptly when I stranded a Porsche Taycan test car in the middle of the night in no man’s land next to the highway in a remote parking lot. While the beautiful BEV from a charging station with faulty lighting was eating up the range from behind Augsburg to Stuttgart, it took almost three quarters of an hour. There wasn’t even a truck stop nearby and it was raining cats and dogs. But fortunately this Stuttgart product also had a Burmester system – in this case with AMT ribbon tweeters and Auro-3D. In the middle of the barren pandemic, this helped me to experience David Gilmour’s “Live At Pompeii” live in almost the original volume.

Transformation of transportation makes uncompromising car hi-fi without alternative

This formative experience led me to the conviction that electric mobility and audiophile music or movie sound reproduction are not only perfectly compatible due to the low driving noise (a hi-fi tester will probably never seriously use the word “silent” in this context). A first-class infotainment system is even becoming a necessity in the course of the traffic turnaround. Or to put it another way: “Burmester alleviates loading frustration.”

But back to Dolby and Daimler. The S-Class and Maybach offered ideal conditions for integrating Dolby Atmos with their artfully packaged height loudspeakers in the vehicle ceiling. Because such height channels are also available for the rear, a large and stable platform can be created, especially for those occupants who usually own the car.

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Complementary contrast: MSM Studios, known to LowBeats readers from numerous projects, are heavily Atmos-active. The Yello album Point was also mixed there with impressive 3D sound (Photo: S. Schickedanz)
Central display of the Mercedes EQS with Dolby Atmos Surround
On the central display of the Mercedes EQS, the new, cool MBUX concept allows you to adapt the sound of the Burmester surround system to your personal taste in a smart way (Photo: S. Schickedanz)
Passenger screen in the Mercedes EQS
Perfectly integrated: Passenger screen in the Mercedes EQS (Photo: S. Schickedanz)
Door loudspeaker of the Burmester system in the EQS
The door loudspeakers of the Burmester system in the EQS are part of the light show impressions. However, the cheaper system has simpler tweeters that are positioned lower down. Thanks to Dolby Atmos, a high level of stage imaging is nevertheless achieved (Photo: S. Schickedanz)
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For self-drivers or owners who want to keep their chauffeur in a good mood, Mercedes has distributed the six 3D loudspeakers and the eight exciters evenly across all four seats in the Maybach and the S-Class. The structure-borne sound transducers are responsible for the ambitious addition of 4D. Anyone expecting the term to mean not only long-distance comfort but also suitability for time travel may be disappointed. However, those who want to feel the bass with all their senses will be well served.

To illustrate the effect, the projectionists had of course turned up the volume. But even then, the precise timing between airborne and structure-borne sound was astonishing. The butt and back massage reinforced the impression of a full bass foundation via psychoacoustic processes. But it never seemed like a foreign body and the bass didn’t seem spongy at all. Rather, the Benz bass now sprints straight towards the Porsche Panamera – for me and many esteemed colleagues the benchmark for high-end car hi-fi ex works.

The luxury Benz with Porsche dynamics

What a difference to the previous generation. A few years ago, I took a cruise through Berlin with company founder Dieter Burmester. We listened to a self-burned CD for which he had digitized his favourite songs with his legendary phono pre-amp. It included classics such as “Child In Time” by Deep Purple and “No Sanctuary Here” by guitarist Chris Jones, who also died far too young. There are probably few things that turn seasoned men into little boys so quickly and make them grin up to their ears. Yes, we even took it in turns to play air guitar, depending on who was at the wheel. The music sounded extremely spacious, balanced and nuanced by car standards. The dynamics are also difficult to achieve at home – not to mention consideration for neighbors.

There was only one thing that could have been improved in the Burmester S-Class 3D surround sound system for my taste: Attack and kick in the bass. This was especially true in direct comparison to the then still slightly vulgarly tuned first-generation Panamera, which demonstratively flaunted the qualities of its AMTs like the young people today flaunt the rumbling V8s of their AMGs. That’s why the S-Class Mercedes, with its ring radiators, was finer in the highs and also softer and more harmonious in the mids, in keeping with the concept of the luxury sedan. But its bass seemed more opulent and soft like its comfortably tuned air suspension compared to the sporty, tight Porsche, which served up drums with a tremendous kick like blows to the pit of the stomach.

The Daimler Dreamliner

And now the Daimler has everything you could wish for: Balanced, nuanced vocal reproduction, for example with “Rocket Man” by Elton John and crisp beats with Yello. The whole thing was so impressive and perfect that, as a small connoisseur, you don’t need much imagination, but all the more small change to imagine the following scene: While the chauffeur drives you through Zurich, you enjoy the city tour in a Maybach with a bottle of Puro – the red wine of frontman Dieter Meier, whose music and red wines are not only appreciated by me. Many years ago, I even went to Switzerland for a reading (yes, you read that right, a reading).

Electric Mercedes EQS in the Mercedes Show Room in Munich
EQS test: In the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Munich, we were able to listen to the 3D Burmester sound system of the electric Mercedes with Dolby Atmos

But this Maybach in the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Munich probably didn’t have an on-board bar. And after a few pieces of music and the impressively presented Dolby Atmos trailer, which I used to test countless home theater Atmos systems for the relevant trade magazines, I had to swap horses. We also had to test the EQS with the sound system based on the A-Class. At the time, this solution, which is almost inexpensive by Burmester standards, had really impressed me with the kick of the closed subwoofer in the trunk during the driving test and, to be honest, appealed to me more than the entry-level Burmester system in the beautiful E-Class Cabriolet. This circumstance can be described as the mercy of late birth, as it was simply a generation ahead at the time. This also applied to the MBUX operating concept, which allowed the voice assistant to speak freely.

EQS: Perfect for electro beats

At EQS, the brand’s internal relationships have now been straightened out. It has come a long way thanks to a quantum leap in cockpit design. The elegance of a Riva boat and the gadgets from a science fiction movie come together here; the whole thing is garnished with perhaps the coolest air vents on the planet, which are familiar from the newer Mercedes model series with their turbine shape. The controls on the central touchscreen, the multifunction steering wheel or the touchscreen seamlessly integrated into the dashboard on the passenger side are a far cry from anything we are familiar with.

Particularly cool, especially for the gamer generation: you can adjust the tonality to your individual taste using an equalizer concept optimized for non-professionals. In addition to the usual settings, the intensity of the surround effects can also be adjusted. What I personally find most important is that the cheaper Burmester system does not have a VIP setup that allows you to adjust the sound to a specific seat using touch commands. But you have the choice between a sound distribution that is as even as possible for all seats or a focus on the front row.

I really felt that the difference was essential. With the setting for all seats, the image was relatively diffuse even when the surround effect was turned down and you had the feeling of sitting in the middle of the stage between the musicians. To put it crudely, I was reminded of a giant pair of headphones. Changing the setup to the front seats showed that this effect was by no means only due to the speakers in the front doors being positioned relatively far back and low. Now you still had the voices and instruments quite close to your nose, but they were clearly in front of you.

I already liked the timing and attack in the A-Class very much, and the time and level adjustment of the subwoofer in the trunk was also spot on, so that depending on the style of music, double basses or bass drums seemed to be in front of you. With slightly harsh strings, classical music only subtly showed the limits of the simpler dome tweeters compared to the high-end ring radiators of the large Burmester high-end systems. However, only professional complainers such as hi-fi testers and a handful of seasoned music enthusiasts are likely to notice this. For the price and the class, however, this is a really great performance, especially as Dolby Atmos creates an exceptionally high, three-dimensional stage

Conclusion 4D sound with Burmester

Even if this was not a driving test in the showroom, nor a complete listening test program under practical conditions, one thing can be said with certainty: both Benz models are inspiring from front to back. And with AMT and Auro-3D in the Porsche and Dolby Atmos in the Daimler, Burmester can count itself lucky to be accompanying both Stuttgart icons of the automotive world on their way into the (electric) future with gripping, authentic and spatial sound – while preserving their brand essence.

After the extremely convincing debut on the stand, the question remains: when will the revolution take to the streets? Official answer: Dolby Atmos integration in the Mercedes-Maybach will be available from summer 2022 and will be offered shortly afterwards for other models equipped with the new MBUX system, which was introduced with the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. So if you want the road zeppelin or the electric glider now, you still have some time to save…

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Autor: Stefan Schickedanz

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Schneller testet keiner. Deutschlands einziger HiFi-Redakteur mit Rennfahrer-Genen betreut bei LowBeats den Bereich HiFi im Auto sowie die Themengebiete Mobile- und Smart-Audio.