Apple introduced its Spatial Audio feature with iOS 14 in September 2020, rivalling other technologies like Dolby Atmos and Sony’s 360 reality audio for headphones. Here’s how the Apple feature works and how to enable it.
What is Spatial Audio?
Apple’s Spatial Audio feature lets users experience cinema-like sound through certain Apple audio devices, including the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max headphones. The audio output surrounds the user, who feels that the sound is coming from different directions, instead of the normal directionless sound you get on headphones.
Further, the sound field maintains its direction to the actual device you’re playing you’re media from, and that direction is maintained in instances like when characters in a movie are speaking to each other from different sides of the screen
What this does is provides a much more immersive and true-to-life experience for media consumption that lets you become a part of whatever you’re watching or playing.
How does it work?
The Apple feature uses 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos signals from various media files and accordingly applies directional audio filters and adjusts the frequencies sent to each ear. This frequency change is applied to various sound outputs to simulate the effect of direction on the left and right ear of a user.
How to enable Spatial Audio on your Apple device?
While Spatial Audio can be experienced on any device since (and including) the iPhone 7 that has been updated to iOS 14, you will need either the Apple AirPods Pro or the Apple AirPods Max to experience the features. Instead of an iPhone, you may also use a third-gen Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch or later, a third-gen iPad Pro 11-inch or later or a third-gen iPad Air or later. The sixth-gen iPad (and later) and fifth-gen iPad Mini (and later) will also work.
Once you have the hardware requirements, you will need to turn on the feature in the iOS 14/ iPadOS 14 settings. To do this, head over to Settings/ Bluetooth/ Your device name and tap on the ‘i’ button next to the headphones.
Scroll below and look for the Spatial Audio toggle, and turn it on. Tapping on the ‘See & Hear How It Works’ will let you experience a quick demo.
To control Spatial Audio, users can swipe down/up from their screen’s top/bottom edge to enter the iOS Control Centre. Once here, press and hold the volume control button and another screen will appear, allowing users to see a Spatial Audio toggle. You can tap on this to turn the feature on or off. Note that blue is on, and black is off.