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Apple AirPods' Spacial Audio feature on macOS creates a 3D soundstage illusion — how it works

AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple reveals how Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking on its popular AirPods Pro and AirPods Max will work on macOS and tvOS, with the feature set to arrive in a new update coming later in 2021.

At WWDC 2021, the tech giant announced its popular spatial audio feature will work with tvOS devices and with macOS, including M1-powered MacBook models, along with certain tracks on Apple Music (which is available right now). The update for macOS isn't expected to arrive until this fall, but Apple offered more details on how the audio feature will work. 

Speaking to Engadget, Apple states its spatial audio and head tracking will offer those using AirPods Pro and Max headphones an immersive surround sound experience when watching TV shows or movies using stereo, 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos audio.

Based on your head's position, the audio technology creates the illusion of a three-dimensional soundstage, which means it will sound like noises from content being watched are filling the room. The head tracking feature locks a user in once they are looking in the same direction for a set period of time.

The report also notes that tvOS and macOS devices will pick up the AirPods Pro or Max when close by, displaying a pop-up notification for quick connectivity — similar to how AirPods pair with an iPhone or iPad. While Apple has yet to announce a specific date when the feature is set to arrive, but we can't wait to try out the surround sound upgrade — it's free, after all.

Apple's WWDC 2021 event also offered a sneak peek of more features coming to AirPods, including a Conversation Boost to make voice calls sound better and to adjust the amount of ambient noise, new Announce Notifications that lets Siri read some of your more important notifications, and more.

Plenty of cool updates were announced during Apple's big WWDC 2021 event, including big announcements coming to iOS 15

Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.