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How to Turn on Spatial Audio on iPhone, Windows, and Mac

Photo by Joseph Gonzalez / Unsplash

Fostered by tech mastodons like Apple, Amazon, or Sonos, spatial audio has become a notable feature aiming to redefine the way we experience sound. With its capacity to create a three-dimensional audio environment, this technology has garnered attention among users across different platforms.

But how to turn it on? In this piece, we'll give step-by-step instructions on how to enable spatial audio seamlessly on your iPhone, Windows device, and Mac. Regardless of your preferred operating system, the tips below will provide you with clear insights, allowing you to enjoy the potential of spatial audio on your chosen device. But first, make you sure you have a device that'll let you fully enjoy spatial audio.

Devices that you can use with Spatial Audio

Here's the list of devices that support spatial audio.  

  • AirPods Pro (1st or 2nd generation), AirPods Max, AirPods (3rd generation), Beats Fit Pro, or Beats Studio Pro
  • The built-in speakers on an iPhone 7 or later, or on one of these iPad models:
  • 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
  • iOS or iPadOS 15.1 or later
  • The built-in speakers on a Mac computer with Apple silicon
  • Apple TV 4K with tvOS 15 or later
  • Audiovisual content from a supported app
  • Google Chromecast
  • Google Chromecast 4K TV
  • Echo Studio
  • Sony SRS-RA3000
  • Sony SRS-RA5000.

How to turn on spatial audio on iPhone

Although primarily accessible through the AirPods lineup, Apple suggests that spatial audio can extend to any headphones supporting Dolby Atmos, achieved by navigating through Settings, selecting Music, and choosing the "Always On" feature.

For iPhone users on iOS 16, the detection of Dolby Atmos spatial audio is automated. Originally introduced to enhance video playback, spatial audio has evolved to encompass a library of specially crafted or remixed music content designed for Dolby Atmos.

Here are the steps to enable spatial audio on your iPhone:

  1. Swipe down from the top right of the iPhone screen to open the control center.
  2. Tap and hold the volume control.
  3. While playing a music or video track, select Spatial Audio.
  4. Choose between Off, Fixed, and Head Tracked options.
  • Off: Disables both Spatial Audio and head tracking.
  • Fixed: Activates Spatial Audio without head tracking.
  • Head Tracked: Engages both Spatial Audio and head tracking, providing an auditory experience as if the sound originates from the iPhone or Mac.

The selected settings are automatically saved and applied the next time you use the respective app. For instance, if you opt for the Fixed setting while enjoying a song in the Music app, the Fixed setting will be automatically applied the next time you play a song within that app.

How to use personalised spatial audio

For those seeking a more tailored audio experience, Apple offers Personalised Spatial Audio, a feature allowing users to create a representation of their ear and head shape. This profile customisation aims to fine-tune audio to better match individual hearing preferences, syncing seamlessly across Apple devices with iOS 16, iPadOS 16.1, macOS 13, tvOS 16, or later, provided the devices share the same Apple ID.

To enjoy Personalised Spatial Audio, follow either of the two methods outlined below:

Method #1. Open the case lid with AirPods inside

  1. Hold the case close to your iPhone.
  2. Follow the onscreen instructions to initiate the Personalised Spatial Audio setup.

Method #2. Use iPhone settings

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Navigate to the section for AirPods settings.
  3. Tap on the name of your AirPods near the top of the screen.
  4. Within the AirPods settings, find the option for Personalised Spatial Audio.
  5. Tap "Personalise Spatial Audio" to initiate the customization process.

By following either of these methods, you can create a personalised Spatial Audio profile, enhancing the audio experience to align with your unique preferences. This profile then synchronises across compatible Apple devices, providing a consistent and customised audio environment wherever you're signed in with the associated Apple ID.

How to turn on spatial audio on Mac (with Apple silicon)

First of all, to optimise your audio experience on a Mac with your AirPods Pro (1st or 2nd generation), AirPods Max, AirPods (3rd generation), Beats Fit Pro, or Beats Studio Pro, ensure they are securely worn and connected to your Mac.

  1. Click on the AirPods or Beats icon located in the menu bar.
  2. While playing multichannel content, you'll find "Spatial Audio" listed in the menu bar.
  3. If playing two-channel stereo content, look for "Spatialise Stereo."
  4. To activate both Spatial Audio and dynamic head tracking, click on "Head Tracked."
  5. For Spatial Audio without dynamic head tracking, click "Fixed."
  6. To disable both Spatial Audio and dynamic head tracking, click "Off."

By following these simple steps, you can effortlessly control Spatial Audio settings on your Mac, tailoring audio to your preference.

How to turn on spatial sound in Windows 10 & 11

Windows Sonic, a spatial sound solution integrated into Windows 10 and 11, offers an enhanced audio experience for movies and gaming. Here's how to enable this feature.

  1. Select the Start menu.
  2. Click on "Settings."
  3. Choose "System."
  4. From the options, select "Sound."
  5. Under "Related settings," click on "Sound Control Panel."
  6. In the Sound Control Panel, choose your desired playback device.
  7. Click on "Properties."
  8. In the new window that appears, go to the "Spatial sound" tab.
  9. Under "Spatial sound format," select "Windows Sonic for Headphones."
  10. Click "Apply" to implement the changes.

For additional spatial sound options, you can explore alternatives by downloading Dolby Access or DTS Sound Unbound from the Microsoft Store. These applications provide diverse sound profiles, allowing you to further customise your audio experience based on personal preferences.

Bonus: How to use spatial audio on Amazon Music

Before we begin, note that the main requirement is an active subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited. If you have one, here's how to explore Spatial Audio on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Launch the Amazon Music app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Ensure your preferred headphones are connected to your device.
  3. Look for songs labeled as either "Dolby Atmos" or "360 Reality Audio."
  4. Once you've identified a compatible song, start enjoying the Spatial Audio experience.

This feature is readily available in the latest update of the Amazon Music app. Unlike some platforms, Amazon Music doesn't limit Spatial Audio compatibility to specific headphone models, offering users greater flexibility in their choice of audio devices.

Moreover, Amazon's Spatial Audio isn't confined to personal listening. Users can cast Spatial Audio to select streaming devices, including popular ones like Google Chromecast, Google Chromecast 4K TV, Echo Studio, Sony SRS-RA3000, and Sony SRS-RA5000.

To play Spatial Audio on these devices:

  1. Find a song with the "Atmos/360" badge, perhaps by exploring Spatial Audio playlists like "Best of Spatial Audio."
  2. Tap on the Cast icon in the Now Playing screen.
  3. Select your desired smart speaker from the list.

Once connected, the "Now Playing" screen will confirm that the device is playing in Dolby Atmos and 360 Reality Audio through the Atmos/360 badge.

For a more curated experience, you can enquire with Alexa or search for Spatial Audio playlists within the Amazon Music app, such as saying, "Alexa, play the Best of Spatial Audio playlist."

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