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What is Apple Spatial Audio, how does it work and how to get it?


Here’s everything you need to know about Apple’s Spatial Audio, including how the 3D audio tech works and what devices it is available on.
Why you can trust Pocket-lint (Pocket-lint) – Apple’s Spatial Audio was introduced with iOS 14 in September 2020 and has evolved a fair amount over time. It is Apple’s answer to Dolby Atmos for Headphones and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, creating a virtual 3D surround sound effect in a stereo pair of headphones. It virtualises an audio mix that surrounds you, making it seem you are in the heart of the action. Uniquely though, it also uses tracking hardware in Apple devices, including the AirPods (3rd Generation), AirPods Pro and AirPods Max headphones, to track your head in real-time along with the position of an iPad or iPhone. This enables it to place the audio effect realistically depending on where you look or turn. Here’s how it works, what devices it is available on, how you turn it on and off and everything else you need to know. How does Spatial Audio work? Spatial Audio enables you to hear three-dimensional audio from supported videos that follow the movement of your iPhone or iPad. It effectively recreates a cinema-style experience, where sounds appear to be coming from all around you – front, behind, from the side, even above your head. In order to do this, Spatial Audio uses the 5.1,7.1 and Dolby Atmos mixes from a compatible film or video, applies directional audio filters and adjusts the frequencies relayed to each ear. Where Spatial Audio differs to other similar technologies like Dolby Atmos for Headphones is in its tracking. The accelerometers and gyroscopes within AirPods Max, AirPods Pro and AirPods (3rd generation) are used to track your head and position the sound accordingly. It also tracks your iPhone or iPad, so the sound you hear is also relative to the screen you are watching on. As a result, when Spatial Audio is turned on and you’re watching a supported film or video, if you turn your head or move your device, the dialogue you hear remains with the actor or action on the screen.

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