Apple‘s Spatial Audio feature first rolled out to the AirPods Pro in 2020, and now works on select Mac devices with Apple Silicon and macOS Monterey. Since its introduction, Spatial Audio has received significant updates to make the technology more accessible for users. It was initially designed for watching movies and TV shows that were encoded with 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, or Dolby Atmos. On supported content and devices, the surround sound feature revolutionized the listening experience. With just a pair of AirPods, users could experience 360-degree sound that moved with them, creating immersive audio that would otherwise require a pricey speaker array.

The company’s leap in expanding Spatial Audio compatibility came with the announcement of high-fidelity Apple Music tracks ahead of its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2021. After the release, new levels of audio quality and features were introduced for users with both an Apple Music subscription and select AirPods. Lossless audio, which preserves the full studio-quality sound of a given song, was accessible on any of the company’s 75 million tracks offered on Apple Music. Though through AirPods, the sound quality is limited by the Bluetooth standard, as is any wireless headset. More importantly, the move brought Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos certification to many of the service’s albums, making the feature mainstream and accessible to many Apple Music and AirPods users.

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The latest PC software version from Apple, macOS 12 Monterey, was revealed in the summer of 2021 and released a few months later. With it came promises of new features for Apple Silicon MacBooks and desktops, including Universal Control and Spatial Audio. With the public release of MacOS 12.3, Spatial Audio is now available on select Macs with specific hardware. The feature is only available for Apple Silicon computers — M1 and newer — so the vast community of Intel MacBook users are currently out of luck. It’s also only compatible with AirPods (third-generation), AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max.

How To Use Spatial Audio On Mac

AirPods: How To Enable Spatial Audio On iPhone, iPad & Apple TV

The most common use case for Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio will be inside the Apple Music app, and there’s a quick and easy way to ensure songs automatically play in that quality, when available. After the Mac is updated to latest version of macOS — 12.3 or newer — users can navigate to the settings menu for the Apple Music app. After running the application, go to the menu bar at the top of the screen and hover over the word Music. This will reveal a dropdown menu that prompts a slew of other settings, but the one to click is the Preferences menu. Next, click the Playback tab, where there will be three options for Spatial Audio: OnOff, and Automatic. In Automatic mode, Apple Music will play Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos whenever AirPods (third-generation), AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max are connected.

Aside from Apple Music, some videos do support Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos. Typically, videos need to either support 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, or be certified as Dolby Atmos for the feature to be available on Macs. In addition to standard AirPods, some Beats headphones that contain Apple’s audio chips will be compatible with Spatial Audio. That includes the BeatsX, Beats Solo3 Wireless, Beats Studio3, Powerbeats3 Wireless, Beats Flex, Powerbeats Pro, Beats Solo Pro, and Beats Studio Buds. As Apple continues to produce its own Silicon processors, Spatial Audio will become more prominent on all devices, from iPhones and iPads to Macs.