Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio, and Apple Music

Apple Music can now be listened to in surround sound using Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos. Here are the facts.

Surround sound is most commonly heard in movie theatres. It projects sounds from above, below, behind the listener, and on the left and right. You can enjoy surround sound on many consumer devices, including home theaters and gaming consoles, through popular formats such as DTS:X and Dolby Atmos. Software magic allows you to experience surround sound through headphones.

Apple Music now has surround sound, using Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos. Here are the facts.

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What's new on Apple Music?

Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos is now available to subscribers of Apple Music. If you don't have Apple Music, you can sign up for a free trial or start one.

Apple Music in iOS 14! What's New?!?, Source: Youtube, Andre Taylor

You don't have to subscribe to Apple Music, but you still want it. There are many other ways to get Apple Music free.

Some songs may not be available in surround sound. Only those that were uploaded with Dolby Atmos mixes are.

What is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is an audio format that uses surround sound technology to allow you to hear sound in three dimensions.

Multichannel technology is conventionally used to assign sounds or audio tracks to channels through speakers (think speakers around a movie theater). Stereo combines multiple recordings into a single song and is played through two channels using left and right speakers.

On the other hand, Dolby Atmos assigns a sound point to a sound in three-dimensional space. This creates a more immersive sound experience.

What Is Dolby Atmos?, Source: Youtube, Sweetwater 

Dolby Atmos is used in movies to create a more realistic listening experience. However, many musicians use technology to enhance their recordings.

Dolby Atmos' magic is that surround sound can be experienced with a small number of speakers. Software magic makes it possible to enjoy surround sound through compatible headphones and soundbars.

What is Apple's Spatial Audio?

Spatial Audio was introduced with iOS 14. It simulates surround sound through headphones or stereo speakers, such as Dolby Atmos. Spatial Audio allows you to experience three-dimensional sound with surround sound formats such as Dolby Atmos, Dolby 5.1, or 7.1.

Introducing Spatial Audio | Apple Music, Source: Youtube, Apple Music 

Spatial Audio also offers dynamic head tracking, making it appear that audio is still coming from your headphones, even though you move around or turn your head.

Apple announced plans to add dynamic head tracking to Apple Music this fall.

Who can use Spatial Audio and Dolby atmos?

Three things are required to experience Dolby Atmos sound:

  • Dolby Atmos-enabled device
  • A streaming service that streams music in Dolby Atmos
  • Mixing and rendering music in Dolby Atmos

You can listen to great music if you have a Dolby-enabled device with streaming services, such as Amazon Music HD or Apple Music HD.

You can listen to Spatial Audio songs on Apple Music with an Apple Music subscription.

  • AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max
  • BeatsX, Beats Solo3 Wi-Fi, Beats Studio3, Powerbeats3 wireless, Beats Flex Wireless, Beats Studio3, Powerbeats3 Mobile, Beats Solo Pro, or Beats Solo Pro.
  • For iPhone XR and later, on-device speakers.

Apple Music Lossless vs Spatial Dolby Atmos: Which Should You Choose?, Source: Youtube, WhatsTheHype

According to Hi-Fi, Spatial Audio is available for all headphones. Apple has not been as clear. You can enable this feature on all headphones by going into Settings > music > Dolby Atmos >> Always On. We are not convinced that Apple has enabled this feature by default.

Your iPad, iPhone, or iPad must be updated to iOS 14.6 or iPadOS 11 and your Mac to macOS 11.4. Update your Apple TV 4K to tvOS 11.4.6 if you plan to listen to music on it.

Apple Music will automatically play Dolby atmos tracks on most Apple devices, including AirPods and Beats headphones equipped with H1 or W1 chips.

For clarity, Spatial Audio with dynamic Head Tracking will only be available to select audio devices, namely the AirPods Pro or Max.

How do I know if the song is a Dolby Atmos track?

Apart from the more complex song, the Dolby Atmos badge should be found in Now Playing.

Apple Music, which curates playlists that list Dolby Atmos tracks under various categories such as Hits or Rock, makes it even easier to locate these songs.


Technology allows you to experience music in a way that's as authentic as possible. Spatial Audio in Apple Music is like being in the same recording studio or concert as your favorite artist.

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Hope this article is helpful to you, thanks for reading.