Native Apple Music spatial audio support launches in Mercedes-Benz cars

The Apple Music spatial audio experience has launched natively in the car for the first time, starting with select Mercedes-Benz vehicles such as the S-Class.

An interior of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle showcasing native Apple Music spatial audio support
Apple Music spatial audio has come to car infotainment systems | Image: Apple
  • What’s happening? German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz announced a partnership with Universal Music Group and Apple Music, bringing Apple Music spatial audio support natively to the car for the first time.
  • Why care? Such integration doesn’t require Apple’s CarPlay system on iPhone because the car’s infotainment system itself decodes multi-channel audio.
  • What to do? Buy a compatible Mercedes vehicle or wait until this feature is more widely available across other car brands and models. It’s that simple.

Mercedes-Benz integrates Apple Music spatial audio

The integration of Apple Music spatial audio with the MBUX infotainment system is available in these five vehicles for customers with an Apple Music subscription:

  • Mercedes‑Maybach S‑Class
  • EQS and EQS SUV
  • EQE and EQE SUV

Importantly, this feature is available only if you order your car with the 31-speaker Dolby-Atmos-capable Burmester 3D or 4D sound system. This upgrade can set you back $4,550 for a Burmester 3D system or $6,730 for a 4D one.

Here are the highlights from Mercedes-Benz’s press release:

  • Mercedes says artists now take into account factors like how a new track sounds when played in a car.
  • Mercedes and Universal have created a seal “Approved in a Mercedes-Benz” though it’s unclear whether this label will appear on Apple Music songs.
  • Mercedes-Benz has even provided Universal with vehicles for testing how the final spatial audio mix sounds in a Mercedes-Benz.
  • To help with the effort, Universal will set up a studio environment in Sindelfingen, Germany, for Dolby Atmos mixing.

The press release quotes Oliver Schusser, who is the Apple Music and Beats head, as saying that spatial audio is an experience that’s “impossible to explain” in words. “You have to hear it for yourself to appreciate it.”

Further details about the partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Universal Music Group can be found in a press release on the Universal website.

What exactly do you mean by native support?

Markus Schäfer, Mercedes’s chief technology officer, was quoted as saying in a press release published in the Apple Newsroom that this marks the first instance the company’s cars support spatial audio on Apple Music without needing an Apple device or Apple’s CarPlay feature.

Spatial audio renders sounds of a multi-channel Dolby Atmos audio source across any number of speakers you may have. Dolby Atmos doesn’t separate audio between channels. Instead, it defines how various audio objects are positioned in a virtual 3D space and then calculates the best way to utilize whichever number of speakers you may have to create a faux 3D soundscape.

“Dolby Atmos empowers creators to place discrete audio elements or objects in a three-dimensional sound field, which goes beyond the capabilities of standard stereo productions,” the company writes. “The system adapts to any playback environment, meaning fans can listen to music with unparalleled clarity that matches the artist’s original vision in the studio.” Read: How to use mono audio on iPhone

Some of the supported Mercedes vehicles have a bunch of speakers that should make listening to Apple Music in spatial audio a great experience.

The new limited-edition Mercedes-Maybach by Virgil Abloh, for instance, features the Burmester sound system with 31 speakers, including six speakers that emit their sound from above, four near-ear speakers in the front seats, an 18.5-liter subwoofer and eight sound transducers (two per seat).

Will this feature expand to more cars in the future?

It’s probably safe to speculate that other automakers will follow this example and integrate Apple Music with spatial audio natively into their own infotainment system.

Apple provides spatial audio support for Apple Music songs in Dolby Atmos and other multi-channel audio on devices like the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV and HomePod. The feature is also available on select Android devices in the official Apple Music app for Android. Read: How to spatialize stereo audio