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How to listen to spatial audio on a Mac

If you want to get the most out of your sound, spatial audio is for you.

Apple spatial audio
Image: Apple

Spatial audio is Apple’s attempt at adding an extra dimension to the listening experience. The feature works with tracks optimized with Dolby Atmos surround sound technology.

That’s great, but to use the feature, you will need to know how to listen with spatial audio on Mac.

If you have an Apple Music subscription and the right hardware, you can access songs designed for spatial audio and experience content in three awesome dimensions. For other media, spatialize stereo is still an option.

Let’s discuss how to use spatial audio in macOS.

Which devices support spatial audio?

Apple airpods pro
Image: KnowTechie

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To enjoy spatial audio on your Mac, you’ll need to use a compatible set of headphones or earbuds.

Here’s a list of Apple devices that support spatial audio:

While most modern Apple listening devices support spatial audio, third-party alternatives are also an option.

How to activate spatial audio in macOS

If you want to take your music to the next level, here’s how to listen with spatial audio on a Mac:

Connect a compatible spatial audio listening device to your Mac

Begin playing supported spatial audio content, such as a Dolby Atmos track on Apple Music. To make things easy, Apple provides several playlists that contain compatible tracksMade for spatial audio apple music playlist

Click the Control Center icon in the top menu bar and select Sound. Alternatively, click the AirPods icon when connectedMac control center options

Switch Spatial Audio to Fixed or Head TrackedSpatial audio menu showing fixed and head tracked options on purple background

When you enable head tracking, the audio adjusts based on the position of your head. The feature may be more relevant to movies rather than songs but it does produce an interesting effect.

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With that said, head-tracked spatial audio could also add a compelling dimension to live performances.

If you don’t want your Mac tracking your head, you can select the Fixed option instead, which still provides surround sound.

Mac spatialize stereo controls
Image: KnowTechie

When you play content through Safari and some other apps, including Apple TV, you’ll receive the option for spatialized stereo instead.

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The feature enables three-dimensional audio when consuming media that doesn’t use Dolby Atmos. Therefore, even if you don’t have an Apple Music subscription, you can still experience a touch of spatialization.

Spatial audio has potential

Spatial audio brings the perks of surround sound to headphones and earbuds. While the concept isn’t exactly new, head tracking adds an interesting dimension to the feature.

Spatial audio may not be exciting to the casual music consumer, but the technology has the potential to seriously shine in other mediums, such as movies and VR.

The next logical step for Apple is to figure out how to beam sounds directly into our brains. That feature is undoubtedly coming soon.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Matt is an Australian writer with a degree in creative and critical writing. Prior to commencing his studies, he worked in tech support and gained valuable insights into technology and its users. He is also an editor and author coach at Dean Publishing.

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