Apple Music and spatial audio: What you need to know


apple music

Jide Akinrinade/CNET

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Apple has announced spatial audio will be available for Apple Music subscribers from today, during its annual WWDC conference.

“It’s available starting today with albums from some of your favorite artists like Ariana Grande, the Weeknd, J Balvin and Kacey Musgraves,” Apple’s Gagan Gupta said.

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Spatial audio, or immersive audio, has been around for years in various forms, and Apple had previously indicated that its spatial audio format would be released on Apple Music in June.

Here’s what we know about Apple Music and spatial audio.

What is spatial audio?

Spatial audio is designed to bring height and rear effects to video calls, music and specially remixed music. Apple introduced spatial audio on its AirPods Pro last year and it uses the headphones’ accelerometer for head tracking so onscreen audio stays in place when users move their heads.   

The two main formats for music are Dolby Atmos Music and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. Apple hasn’t made any pronouncements about Sony yet and Apple Music will support Atmos for the moment.

“Listening to a song in Dolby Atmos is like magic. The music comes from all around you and sounds incredible,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats said in a press release last month. 

Which devices can I hear it on?

Apple has yet to announce any dedicated speaker devices — a la the Amazon Echo Studio — but spatial audio is supported by the company’s headphones. Here’s the products that support it so far: 

  • Apple TV 4K (2017 and 2021)
  • AirPods and Beats headphones with H1 or W1 chip 
  • Built-in speakers of the latest iPhone, iPad, and Mac (M1 chips)

Which services do I need to subscribe to?

Apple Music is adding Atmos Music albums from today and it is available for a $10 (£10, AU$12) a month subscription. Last month both Amazon and Apple announced its HD streams including Atmos audio would be folded into their regular plans.

Apple Music isn’t the first spatial audio to appear on Apple devices though — Tidal brought Atmos Music to Apple TV 4K in May 2020. Sony’s Reality Audio 360 is available on its own headphones and high-end speakers.