How to Listen with Spatial Audio on Mac

Spatial audio is Apple’s attempt to add 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’ll 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 made for spatial audio and experience content in impressive three dimensions. For other media, spatializing the stereo remains an option.

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

What devices support spatial audio?

Image: KnowTechie

To enjoy spatial audio on your Mac, you must use compatible headphones or earbuds.

Here is 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 Enable 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:

  1. Connect a compatible spatial audio listening device

  2. Start playing supported spatial audio content, such as a Dolby Atmos track on Apple Music. To make things easier, Apple offers several playlists containing compatible tracks.designed for spatial audio apple music playlist

  3. Click it Control center icon in the top menu bar and select Ring. Otherwise, click the AirPods icon when connectedmac control center options

  4. Change Spatial audio for Fixed Where Head trackedspatial audio menu showing fixed and head tracking options on purple background

When you enable head tracking, the sound adjusts based on your head position. The feature may be more relevant for movies than songs, but does have an interesting effect.

That said, head-tracking spatial audio could add a compelling dimension to live performances.

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

Mac spatializes stereo controls
Image: KnowTechie

When you play content through Safari and certain other applications, including AppleTVyou will instead receive the stereo spatialization option.

The feature lets you enable 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 feel a touch of spatialization.

Spatial audio has potential

Spatial audio brings the benefits of surround sound to headphones and earbuds. Although the concept is not entirely new, head tracking adds an interesting dimension to the functionality.

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

The next logical step for Apple is to figure out how to transmit sounds directly into our brains. This feature will undoubtedly arrive soon.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Let us know below in the comments or forward the discussion to our Twitter Where Facebook.

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Steven L. Nielsen