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Apple Music's Spatial Audio Hits the Road in Mercedes-Benz Cars

Benz is the first to support Apple Music's spatial audio tech and will set the standard for Universal Music Group’s new car-focused sound approval process.

Mercedes-Benz MBUX Hyperscreen infotainment
Benz's Burmester sound system will be the first outside of Apple's ecosystem to support its spatial audio tech.
Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz's optional Burmester audio systems are already some of the most high-end sound systems on wheels, but Monday's announcement of new partnerships with Apple Music and Universal Music Group will bring a whole new aspect of enjoyment to the in-car music experience and cement Mercedes' position as the "gold standard of sound."

Soon, Mercedes-Benz cars will be the first vehicles to natively support Apple Music's spatial audio with Dolby Atmos. Meanwhile, Universal will begin basing its sound quality approval process on Mercedes-Benz vehicles, debuting a new "Approved in a Mercedes-Benz" seal.

Dolby Atmos-capable Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with the optional Burmester 4D and 3D high-end audio systems will be the first products outside of Apple's ecosystem to support Apple Music's spatial audio feature -- either via an Apple Music app in the MBUX infotainment interface or, presumably, through Apple CarPlay. Among the first models to support the tech are the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, as well as the battery-electric Mercedes-EQ EQE, EQE SUV, EQS and EQS SUV.

The Burmester 4D sound system features up to 31 speakers and 1,750 watts of amplification.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

According to a 2019 IFPI survey cited by Benz, over 70% of consumers do most of their music listening in a car and around 88% of mobile listeners say that the quality of the sound system in their car is more or equally important than their home audio setup. (Those numbers have likely moved down somewhat since the pandemic.) The automaker's own research finds that 76% of drivers say that "realistic spatial sound is either 'important' or 'rather important' to them." 

Personally, I prefer a good stereo mix to surround sound when I'm driving, but most 3D car audio that I've been subjected to is generated from stereo sources using algorithms rather than a professional spatial studio mix, so maybe I don't know what I'm missing.

To meet its market where they listen most, Universal Music Group is encouraging its artists and record labels to adopt Dolby Atmos audio mixing with an ear for automotive sound quality. UMG will also begin using Benz' Burmester audio system as the reference for audio quality approval. Recordings that make the cut will receive a new "Approved in a Mercedes-Benz" seal of approval. Mercedes will provide vehicles outfitted with its 1,750-watt, 31-speaker Burmester 4D sound system for use in the approval process and work with UMG to set up a studio environment in Sindelfingen, Germany.