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A new Mercedes might be the best way to experience Apple Music’s spatial audio

Mercedes has announced that it’s the first car maker to give drivers a way to hear Apple Music’s spatial audio content as it was meant to be experienced. Starting with the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and the EQE, EQE SUV, EQS, and EQS SUV, spatial audio tracks in Dolby Atmos Music from Apple Music can be played without the use of an iPhone when buyers select the Burmester 4D or 3D sound system option for their vehicles.

Interior of a Mercedes-Benz with an Apple Music Spatial Audio sound system.

Dolby Atmos support in cars isn’t new. The Lucid Air became the first car to support the 3D audio format in 2021, and Mercedes itself added support for it on its Burmester systems that same year. But having a sound system that is Dolby Atmos capable, and being able to actually stream Dolby Atmos content to that system, are different things. Prior to Mercedes’ announcement, getting a true Dolby Atmos Music experience from Apple Music meant using an iPhone with headphones or earbuds, or using an Apple TV connected to a Dolby Atmos-capable TV, soundbar, or home theater system.

Universal Music Group (UMG) was also part of the Mercedes announcement. It said that it will be creating a new approval process for its Dolby Atmos Music releases based on how the songs sound when played in a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, under the label “approved in a Mercedes-Benz.” According to a press release from Mercedes, many musicians and recording artists already base their approval of a new mix of a track on how it sounds when played in a car. Going forward, Mercedes-Benz, Apple Music, and UMG hope to formalize that process by making the in-car audio experience the benchmark for music production and playback quality.

That sounds like a very heavy-handed marketing push, but the companies appear to be backing these statements up with real-world changes. Mercedes will provide UMG with vehicles equipped with Dolby Atmos-capable Burmester sound systems for “creative and technical assurances,” presumably to ensure that the UMG’s spatial audio tracks sound as good as the artist intended.

The three-way partnership is quite a coup for Mercedes, as it not only gives the company a first-of-its-kind Apple Music experience but also bragging rights. In theory, if UMG is recording and mixing its Dolby Atmos Music tracks with a Mercedes in-car sound system as its target experience, these vehicles become the de facto standard for the growing catalog of spatial audio tracks available via streaming services. UMG isn’t the only label producing tracks in Atmos Music, but it is the world’s largest music label.

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Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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