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Does Spatial Audio Only Work with AirPods? Compatibility Guide

Apple has piqued the interest of audiophiles and casual listeners alike ever since its introduction of Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos into its AirPods and Beats headphones. This three-dimensional audio technology transforms our digital sound experiences, offering immersive sensations akin to being in a live concert hall. But the question on many audiophiles' minds is: does spatial audio only work with AirPods, or can other headphones and devices access it too?

This article delves into the intricacies of spatial audio, discussing whether you need AirPods to enjoy this feature, the compatibility of Apple Spatial Audio with various headphones, and how to experience Apple Music's spatial audio on other compatible devices. Join us as we unravel the mysteries and help you make informed decisions when selecting headphones for your immersive audio journey.

 apple music spatial audio

Do You Need AirPods for Spatial Audio?

The short answer is no. While Apple introduced spatial audio as a feature primarily for its AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and certain Beats headphones, spatial audio is not exclusive to Apple products. Here is a comprehensive introduction to spatial audio and why you don’t need AirPods for spatial audio.

Firstly, it's essential to understand what spatial audio is. Unlike traditional stereo sound, which is limited to left and right channels, spatial audio uses directional audio filters and adjusts frequencies to simulate a 360-degree soundscape, making it feel as though sound is coming from all directions – including above and below you.

To experience spatial audio, the content needs to be encoded in a format that supports spatial or 3D audio (like 5.1 surround sound, 7.1 surround sound, or Dolby Atmos). The playback device (like a smartphone, tablet, or computer) must also be capable of processing this format. Beyond Apple, various other headphones or earbuds manufacturers have incorporated similar technologies to support this format, offering immersive spatial audio features.

Does Apple Spatial Audio Work with Any Headphones?

Building on the understanding that spatial audio is not exclusively tied to AirPods, the question naturally progresses to: Can Apple's spatial audio be experienced with any headphones?

While Apple's spatial audio is integrated within the software of iPhones, iPads, and other Apple devices, which opens the door to broader compatibility, not all headphones will provide the ideal spatial audio experience.

The key factors that influence the effectiveness of spatial audio on non-Apple headphones are:

  • Compatibility with Apple Devices: Headphones need to be highly compatible with the Apple playback devices to ensure that the spatial audio processing, which happens on the playback device, can be effectively transmitted to the headphones.
  • Quality of Sound Reproduction: Headphones with high-quality sound reproduction, particularly those capable of delivering a broad soundstage and clear separation of audio channels, are more likely to offer a satisfactory spatial audio experience.
  • Head Tracking Feature: As we discussed earlier, Apple integrates dynamic head tracking to enhance the spatial audio experience by adjusting the sound as you move your head. Headphones need to be equipped with tracking sensors to support this feature.

Therefore, while many headphones can work with Apple Spatial Audio, the experience can vary significantly based on the headphone's design and quality. These headphones might not integrate as seamlessly with Apple devices as AirPods do. Cheaper or lower-quality headphones may not provide the depth and clarity required to fully appreciate spatial audio. Additionally, the lack of dynamic head tracking in some models can result in a less dynamic experience.

How to Listen to Apple Music Spatial Audio on Any Headphones?

Having established that a range of headphones can support Apple's spatial audio, it's essential to understand how to access and enjoy this feature on your preferred headphones. Here's a step-by-step guide to activate Apple Music's spatial audio for any headphones:

  1. Ensuring Device Compatibility: First and foremost, ensure your device is compatible with Apple Music's spatial audio. Generally, this includes iPhones introduced from late 2016 onwards and iPads released from 2018 forward. Update your device to the latest iOS, iPadOS, and macOS operating system to ensure optimal performance and access to spatial audio features.
  2. Enabling Spatial Audio Manually: By default, your iPhone or iPad will send a standard stereo mix to any non-Apple headphones that it doesn't recognize as being specifically configured for spatial audio. This means you need to enable spatial audio manually:
  • Open the 'Settings' app on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Scroll down and select 'Music.'
  • Under the 'Audio' section, tap on 'Dolby Atmos.'
  • Choose 'Automatic' or 'Always On' to enable spatial audio.
  1. Selecting the Right Content: Not all content on Apple Music is available in spatial audio. Look for playlists and albums labeled with "Dolby Atmos" or "Spatial Audio." This label indicates that the content has been mixed in a way that supports three-dimensional sound experiences.

Spatial Audio Compatible Devices

We know that spatial audio is not exclusive to AirPods; it extends to a range of devices from different brands, including soundcore spatial audio earbuds and speakers. These devices are engineered to provide an immersive, three-dimensional audio experience, similar to what AirPods offer with their spatial audio feature. Let's explore some top models from soundcore:

soundcore Liberty 4 Earbuds

The soundcore Liberty 4 earbuds feature the ACAA™️ 3.0 Coaxial Acoustic System, delivering crisp and clear sound quality. They are equipped with 360° immersive spatial audio and dynamic head tracking, offering music and movie modes to suit your listening preferences. The CloudComfort™️ ear tips ensure long-lasting comfort, and with the new heart rate sensor integrated into the soundcore app, these earbuds are more than just a listening device. The HearID personalized active noise cancelling adapts to your environment, providing an uninterrupted audio experience. With up to 9 hours of playtime (28 hours with the charging case), they are perfect for all-day use.

 soundcore liberty 4 spatial audio earbuds

soundcore AeroFit Pro Headphones

The soundcore AeroFit Pro is designed for comfort and stability, featuring an open-ear design with ultra-soft materials. The flexible ear hooks and detachable neckband provide a secure fit, making them ideal for active users. The 16.2mm oversized drivers ensure robust bass, and with true spatial audio and LDAC technology support, you get an immersive listening experience. Additionally, these headphones are IPX5 water-resistant with our SweatGuard™️ technology, making them durable for all conditions.

soundcore aerofit pro spatial audio earbuds 

soundcore Motion X500 Bluetooth Speaker

soundcore also caters to those who prefer spatial audio speakers.

The soundcore Motion X500 Bluetooth speaker delivers immersive spatial audio, letting you feel like your favorite artist is right there with you. It's designed with Wireless Hi-Res certified sound for unparalleled audio detail. Available in three stylish finishes and featuring a portable design, the Motion X500 is IPX7 waterproof, making it perfect for any setting.

soundcore spatial audio speaker 

soundcore Motion X600 Wireless Speaker

Taking it a step further, the soundcore Motion X600 wireless speaker is inspired by theater acoustics. It features a 50W output with five drivers and amplifiers to create an immersive spatial audio experience. It's portable, has a 12-hour playtime, and comes with IPX7 waterproof protection, making it versatile for both indoor and outdoor use.

 soundcore spatial audio speakers

Whether you're enjoying music through earbuds or speakers, soundcore range of spatial audio-compatible devices is designed to bring you closer to the music, immersing you in sound no matter where you are.

FAQ

Let's dive into the frequently asked questions about spatial audio compatible devices:

Can you use spatial audio on Android?

Yes, you can use spatial audio on Android devices. With the introduction of Android 13 (API level 33), developers now have the capability to add spatial audio to their applications, enhancing the sound experience to be more immersive and realistic. This includes both fixed spatial audio and spatial audio with head tracking. However, the availability and quality of spatial audio can depend on the specific device and app being used.

Does spatial audio only work with Apple Music?

No, spatial audio does not only work with Apple Music. It is a technology that can be utilized by various apps and platforms that support spatial audio formats like surround sound 5.1, 7.1, or Dolby Atmos, including but not limited to Apple's own services. Other streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video all support spatial audio, offering an immersive listening experience across a variety of content.

Does spatial audio work with speakers?

Yes, spatial audio does indeed work with speakers. Smart speakers, such as the soundcore Motion X500, are designed to facilitate spatial audio. These speakers include upward-firing drivers that project sound towards the walls and ceiling. This technique creates reflections that distribute sound to specific locations in the room, making it seem as though the music is playing from all around you. This advanced technology allows for an immersive audio experience, similar to what one might experience with spatial audio headphones, but in a room-wide setting.

Conclusion

As we've addressed the question, "Does spatial audio only work with AirPods", it's evident that this innovative technology is not confined to AirPods alone. It extends its immersive reach to a wide array of devices, including various headphones, earbuds, and speakers. By understanding the compatibility of different devices and learning how to set up Apple Music Spatial Audio on various headphones, you can enjoy an immersive, three-dimensional sound landscape, regardless of your choice of earphones. As technology continues to evolve, spatial audio will become more accessible than ever, inviting everyone to immerse themselves in a richer, more dynamic sound universe.

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