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What is AirPods Spatial Audio and how to use it

AirPods Spatial Audio: Your ticket to audio immersion.
By

Published onNovember 20, 2023

Apple Spatial Audio offers an innovative, immersive audio experience that transforms how you listen to music, watch movies, and interact with audio content.

But what exactly is it, and how can you make the most of this feature? In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of Spatial Audio on Apple devices including the steps to set it up.

QUICK ANSWER

To use Spatial Audio on AirPods, ensure they’re connected to your iPhone or iPad. Open the Control Center on your Apple device while playing audio, then touch and hold the volume control.

Tap on Spatialize Stereo, then select Fixed or Head Tracked to turn on Spatial Audio only or Spatial Audio and dynamic head tracking, respectively.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

What is AirPods Spatial Audio, and how does it work?

Spatial Audio is Apple’s solution to immersive sound. It is designed to add a three-dimensional, cinema-like audio experience to your everyday headphone usage. But what does this mean, and how does it work?

Spatial Audio uses dynamic head tracking to position sound all around you as if you’re in a movie theater. It employs directional audio filters and subtly adjusts the frequencies each ear receives to place sound sources virtually anywhere in a space. This creates a cinematic sound stage, making it feel like the audio comes from different directions.

The technology is particularly effective when watching movies or TV shows that support surround sound formats, like 5.1, 7.1, or Dolby Atmos. As you move your head, the audio stays fixed to the device, providing a consistent and realistic sound experience.

For instance, if a movie character speaks from the left side of the screen, it will sound as if their voice is actually coming from that direction, enhancing the realism of your viewing experience.

Spatial Audio AirPods transform your listening experience from a passive to an almost tangible, interactive event. It goes beyond just hearing the sound to feeling like you’re part of the scene, whether listening to music, watching a movie, or playing a game.

Apple Spatial Audio compatible devices

You’ll need compatible hardware to experience Spatial Audio. Here’s a list of devices that support this immersive audio feature:

AirPods Models:

Beats Headphones:

Apple Devices:

  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch, iPad Air (3rd generation or later)
  • iPad (6th generation or later)
  • iPad mini (5th generation or later)
  • iOS or iPadOS 15.1 or later

While the AirPods or headphones are crucial for Spatial Audio, the source device also plays a significant role. An important note is that your device’s operating system needs to be at least iOS or iPadOS 15.1 or later to use Spatial Audio for AirPods.

How to turn on and use Apple Spatial Audio

If you have compatible hardware, follow these steps to turn on Spatial Audio on your Apple device:

  1. While playing audio or a video, swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen to open your device’s Control Center.
  2. Touch and hold the volume control.
  3. Tap on Spatial Audio.
  4. Select Fixed to turn on Spatial Audio only or Head Tracked for Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking.

FAQ

No, AirPods 1 and 2 do not support Spatial Audio.

Yes, AirPods Max supports Spatial Audio.

You may see a “Spatial Audio Not Available” message for a few reasons. Here’s how to fix them:

  • Compatibility: Ensure your AirPods model supports Spatial Audio (AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or AirPods 3rd generation).
  • Device and OS: Verify that your iPhone or iPad is compatible and running iOS or iPadOS 15.1 or later.
  • Content: Spatial Audio works with content that supports surround sound formats. Check if the content you’re playing is compatible.
  • Settings: Make sure Spatial Audio is enabled in your device settings.
  • Mono Audio: Check if your device’s Mono Audio is enabled by going to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual. Deactivate it and try to turn on Spatial Audio.

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