Apple’s spatial audio feature promises to give users an “industry-leading” sound experience that gives the impression of the sound surrounding listeners in a 3D space. Until now, the tech company has only made it available to Apple Music subscribers listening to specially-made tracks, and some TV series and films from Apple TV+ or iTunes.
But now, it’s coming to the most popular streaming service on the planet, Netflix. When you play content which has been set up with spatial audio, you’ll see an additional option in the iPhone and iPad apps to switch over.
The Netflix feature will only work if you’re using an iPhone or iPad and the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max. This is because spatial audio uses the gyroscope and accelerometer in Apple’s earbuds to make it sound like the audio is coming from many different directions.
It even tracks your head position, so that audio will keep its position in space. For example, if someone on the left of the screen is talking – the audio will sound like it’s originating to your left. If you turn your head to the left, the audio will start to filter into your right ear as it’s now closer to where the character’s location in physical space.
It sounds very complicated, but in practice, Spatial Audio promises to be a cinema-like experience which fully immerses you in the world of your TV show or film. From footsteps creeping up behind you in horror movies, to capturing the energy of shootouts in action flicks, we can already see hundreds of ways this will enhance your viewing.
And so far, reviews have been positive. One commentator said: “It sounds great with AirPods Max. Notably wider sound stage and a genuine sense of surround.”
Spatial audio won’t be enabled for all Netflix content as it depends on how the original sound file was created. Users online have mentioned it works for sit-com Community, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and a number of original and blockbuster movies.
Spatial audio is already available on Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus and HBO Max. However, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are still waiting to roll it out. Apple is also planning to bring it to macOS and tvOS in the future and you can already try it out if you are signed up to the latest tvOS 15 beta version.
The feature will be available to a small group of users first, before getting a wider release shortly. Not sure if you have it? Check the Control Centre on your app, where there will be a toggle to switch it on and off.