Mercedes First to Get Dolby Atmos and Apple Music In-Car Audio

Dolby Atmos customizes the soundscape experienced by passengers, beyond what is possible with simple stereo.

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  • Mercedes announced a new collaboration with Dolby Atmos, Apple Music, and Universal Music Group that aims to “revolutionize not only how music is created, but also how it’s played back and enjoyed in the car—and beyond.”
  • Dolby Atmos separates sounds and allows artists to place them anywhere they want in the listener’s space.
  • We got a demo in a Mercedes Maybach S-Class and loved it.

    You may have had a “kick@$ audio system” in high school on which you played your favorite Mott the Hoople hits—a system with a complex sonic equalizer that you didn’t really understand and which, when tuned, became the stereophonic equivalent of driving with the brakes on—but you had nothing compared to Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos from Apple Music. I know; I just sat in the back of a gigantic Maybach sedan and had a brain-blowing demo.

    The system will be available on Maybachs and Mercedes, pumping out sound through 31 speakers, two bass shakers, and an 18-liter subwoofer in the trunk, all blasted through a Burmeister 4D sound system. You really have to hear it to believe it.

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    The scene of the sound, the back seat of a Maybach.


    “Mercedes-Benz has launched a new collaboration with Apple Music and Universal Music Group (UMG) that aims to revolutionize not only how music is created, but also how it’s played back and enjoyed in the car—and beyond,” Mercedes said at a launch outside the Paris motor show. “The new collaboration builds upon the integration of Dolby Atmos immersive audio in the optional Burmester high-end 4D and 3D sound system offered in Mercedes-Benz vehicles with the latest MBUX generation. According to a recent survey, a more than 76% of car drivers say that having a realistic spatial sound is either ‘important’ or ‘rather important’ to them.”

    What is Dolby Atmos, you ask?

    “Dolby Atmos has reinvented how entertainment is created and experienced, allowing creatives everywhere to place each sound exactly where they want it to go, for a more realistic and immersive audio experience,” Dolby says on its site.

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    This kid was not in a Maybach with Dolby Atmos.

    Daniel GrizeljGetty Images

    While mere stereo allows artists to separate sound left and right—and various improvements on that allowed sound to move in front of and behind a listener—Dolby Atmos adds an infinite placing of sound up, down, and around the listener.

    “With Dolby Atmos you can put audio elements in space, no longer just left or right,” said Dolby’s Patrick Rossi. “It’s a treat to play it back the way the artist created it.”

    “It exploits the potential of the sound system,” said the technician who gave the demo.

    In this application Dolby Atmos is embedded in the MBUX infotainment system. How impressive it sounds depends on what kind of audio system you play it through. But once you hear it, you will be impressed.

    “Everyone could hear the difference,” said Apple Music VP Oliver Schussen at the Paris demo. “Once you hear it you never want to go back.”

    “With this new audio standard, Universal Music Group are enabling their recording artists to base their song approval process on how the final mix sounds in a Mercedes-Benz and introduce the seal ‘Approved in a Mercedes-Benz’ as a gold standard of sound,” Mercedes said. “For the first time available natively in a non-Apple device, the native integration of Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos from Apple Music makes music available in Dolby Atmos easily accessible for customers of Mercedes-Benz and Apple Music alike. This ensures that the tracks ‘Approved in a Mercedes-Benz’ can be enjoyed as they are meant to be.”

    Similar systems are available in models from Lucid, Polestar, and the Chinese EV carmaker Nio.

    The demo I got was in a Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, about as big and luxurious a tuna boat as you could ask for. Of the 31 speakers in that system, six were 3D speakers that emit their sound from above, four were near-ear speakers in the front seats, two amplifiers and one big, barking 18.5-liter subwoofer. In addition to the 31 speakers, there are eight sound transducers (two per seat), that push rhythmically against you to increase the experience. Altogether the system has 1750 watts of power. You could hear the fingers slide up and down frets, the distinct thwip of a guitar pick, the guitarist’s heartbeat and the drummer’s hiccups, just about.

    They are working on converting the 75 million songs in the Apple Music library to Dolby Atmos. A sizeable percentage are already there. When can you get it?

    “Mercedes-Benz drivers who are already subscribed to Apple Music will gain immediate access to an ever-growing selection of songs and albums available in Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos,” Mercedes said.

    In the modern world where infotainment connectivity is more important than Bilstein shocks, in-car sound systems rank even higher than audio for stationary use in the house, Mercedes said. Only 12% of car drivers mentioned that the quality of a sound system at home is more important than in the car, where 45% said it was important.

    “Sound quality is incredibly important to Apple Music which is why we are so excited to be working with Mercedes to make Spatial Audio on Apple Music available natively in the car for the first time,” said Schusser. “Spatial Audio is revolutionizing the way artists create and fans listen to music and it’s an experience that is impossible to explain in words; you have to hear it for yourself to appreciate it. Together with Mercedes, we now have even more opportunities to bring wholly immersive music to our subscribers all over the world.”

    Give it a listen and let us know what you think. And get ready to spend—it costs $6730 in an S580 with 4D, but you can get a cheaper version.

    Mark Vaughn Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there.

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