How to activate Spatial audio on iPhone, Mac and Apple TV

It is likely that spatial audio is not yet as widespread as Apple would like (at least in popular knowledge), however, those who do know how to take advantage of it enjoy playing series, movies or video games in another way. If you have AirPods Pro or AirPods Max and you are interested in knowing more about it and, above all, how to activate it, today we review with you everything you need to know.

Apple first presented Spatial Audio in 2020 and since then it is true that many users still do not know all its benefits, what exactly it is for or how to activate it or modify its options. Today we are going to clear up your doubts by giving you all the details you need to know about it. Take note (and don’t leave your AirPods too far away).

activate Spatial audio on iPhone, Mac and Apple TV

What is Spatial Audio?

Spatial Audio ( Spatial Audio in English) and Audio 360 are different names that represent the same technology that aims to offer a much more immersive sound experience than many knew until now. So much so that when you try it for the first time it is impossible not to be surprised.

Through a series of advanced algorithms and integrated sensors such as gyroscopes and accelerometers, the devices that offer this technology are capable of detecting where the user is at all times . In this way, the reproduction of the different frequencies and objects (instruments, voices, etc.) is adapted to its position. In other words, if you turn around while you are playing content, the sound will be heard as coming from behind you, thus having a greater awareness of where each sound is being emitted from.

Apple AirPods Max - Review

The interesting thing about this solution is that it is not something exclusive to a manufacturer, but rather that anyone can implement it in their products. All you would have to do is meet a few minimum requirements to be able to offer this new surround sound system that always keeps you at the center of the experience.

How is it different from Dolby Atmos or similar?

Surely you are wondering this since in principle, the effect sounds similar. The value point of Spatial Audio is the tracking of the individual’s head, something that is achieved with the accelerometers and gyroscopes built into some headsets.

It is also capable of taking into account what and how you are viewing the content on the screen of your iPad or iPhone, thus being very precise about the source of the sound.

Requirements for this technology

If you are wondering where you can try this Spatial Audio, you should know that there are three essential requirements:

  • The content to be reproduced must have been mixed in 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos
  • The device where you are going to play it must support this technology
  • The playback app/platform must also be compatible

Currently platforms like Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus support spatial sound . Although there are, as we have indicated, two other factors to take into account: the content itself and the device with which you are going to listen to it. This second brings us to the Apple teams, which are the only ones that currently embrace this sound technology. Here’s the full list – all devices using iOS must be running version 14 onwards; ditto with iPadOS 14-:

  • iphone 7,
  • iPhone 11 or later (in all its versions)
  • iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 3rd generation and later)
  • iPad Pro (11-inch)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation and later)
  • iPad (6th generation and later)
  • iPad mini (5th generation and later)
  • Apple TV 4K with tvOS 10 or later
  • 2018 MacBook Pro or newer
  • MacBook Air with M1
  • Macbook Pro with M1
  • Mac mini with M1
  • iMac with M1

With any of these devices that we have just listed, you will have to use one of these headphones that we indicate below:

  • AirPods Pro (1st or 2nd generation)
  • AirPods Max
  • AirPods (3rd generation)
  • Beats Fit Pro

How to listen to spatial audio on AirPods Pro and Max

Let’s put ourselves in a situation: you have a second generation AirPod pro and you are subscribed to Disney +. Ok, time to turn on surround audio.

Turn on spatial audio on iPhone or iPad:

  1. Make sure your AirPods or Beats Fit Pro are connected to the iPhone or iPad
  2. Open the Control Center
  3. Press and hold the volume rocker to turn on spatial audio while playing multi-channel content or Spatialize Stereo while playing two-channel stereo content
  4. To turn on spatial audio and dynamic head tracking, tap Head Tracking (this adjusts audio based on head movement)
  5. To turn on only spatial audio, tap Fixed.

In case you want to deactivate spatial audio and dynamic head tracking, access the same panel and tap on Deactivated. As long as you have them active and while you are playing compatible content, from the control center itself you can press and hold the volume control on the screen, three options will appear where you will be shown if spatial audio is enabled, but not active; whether it is enabled or disabled. Touch the one that interests you and that’s it.

Turn on spatial audio on Apple TV

  1. Make sure AirPods or Beats Fit Pro are connected to Apple TV
  2. Go to Settings > Remotes and devices > Bluetooth. You can also press and hold the home button on the Siri Remote while playing media content in a compatible app.
  3. Choose the AirPods or Beats you’re using from the list
  4. Choose Spatial Audio while playing multi-channel content or Spatialize Stereo while playing two-channel stereo content
  5. Clever!

Turn on spatial audio on Mac with Apple Silicon

  1. Make sure you’re using AirPods with your Mac
  2. Select the AirPods or Beats icon in the menu bar to see Spatial Audio listed while playing multi-channel content or Spatialized Stereo while playing two-channel stereo content.
  3. Click Active Head Tracking to activate spatial audio and dynamic head tracking. To activate only spatial audio, click Fixed.

If you want to turn off spatial audio and dynamic head tracking, click Off.

Apple indicates on its official website that some special device settings, such as Follow iPhone, Balance, Mono Audio or Headphone Adaptations could affect the correct operation of Spatial Audios. Keep that in mind.