Spatial Audio is one of the main listening features of Apple Music. It simulates audio coming from different directions, just like Dolby Atmos. The feature can even track your head movements so the sound moves with you. Cool, right?
It was first rolled out as a feature for videos on Apple devices and was introduced to Apple Music in 2021. With Spatial Audio enabled, you can listen to your favorite albums in a more immersive format, making it feel like the elements of a piece of music come at you from all angles.
Use of the feature requires a pair of AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, AirPods (3rd Gen), or Beats Fit Pro, and a newer iPad, iPhone, or Mac. Interestingly, some MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads support the feature through their built-in speakers, as does the new Studio Display. You can find a full list of supported devices at Apple’s support pages.
That’s all well and good, but what can you really listen to in Spatial Audio (apart from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, of course)? With some albums specifically mastered for the feature and a wide range of playlists to browse on Apple’s streaming platform, here are ten albums we think you need to hear in Apple Music’s Spatial Audio for sure. help get started.
1. Sour – Olivia Rodrigo
Sour is Olivia Rodrigo’s debut studio album. Perhaps best known for her Disney roles, Rodrigo became an international pop star in 2021. The young artist has already won awards for the most streams of her album, and it hasn’t even been out for a while. year.
This album was specially mixed for Spatial Audio, and Apple used the album in most of its marketing for the feature (recognize the purple album cover?). And you can tell, because this album exemplifies all the benefits of technology.
When you listen to the tracks, your ears are really enveloped by the sound, and some of the acoustic songs feel like you’re in the room with Rodrigo. The bass is clear and punchy, while his sweet, smooth voice cuts through the soundstage with excellent presence and clarity.
Hear non-musical sounds like footsteps in tracks 1 step forward, 3 steps back and enough for you; these should have a clear focus within the larger mix. The guitar melodies also stand out in this album, being particularly highlighted under Rodrigo’s vocals in the mix.
2. WHEN WE’RE ALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? – Billie Eilish
WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is Billie Eilish’s debut studio album (we promise they’re not all like that). From producing her debut album in a bedroom studio to international fame as the latest James Bond theme artist, the album that started it all remains one of Eilish’s most popular.
Eilish is well known for her soft, raspy voice, and Spatial Audio makes it sound like she’s whispering right into your ear. This contrasts with the characteristic bass that punctuates most of the tracks on this album and creates a feeling of texture in the 3D soundscape.
Where Spatial Audio really improves this album is in the panning. Notably at the start of Villain and throughout My Weird Addiction, the traditional technique of switching audio between left and right channels is amplified to the point where the music really sounds like it’s coming convincingly to you from either side of your head.
3. 1 – The Beatles
1 is one of the Beatles’ most recognizable compilation albums. Home to some of the band’s most beloved tracks, this 2015 remaster features dedicated stereo mixes and was recently adapted for Spatial Audio.
Spatial Audio on this album is great for helping you pick out the different layers of the soundstage, rather than identifying individual instruments. You can hear vocals, drums and strings stacked on top of each other like your ears were biting into a well-made sandwich.
Tracks like Eleanor Rigby with distinct, sharp strings take full advantage of the sonic space offered by Spatial Audio. Listening to this album is like being in the room with John, Paul, Ringo and George.
4. Rumors – Fleetwood Mac
The rumors are definitely a bit of a throwback. The album dominated the radio airwaves in the 70s when it was released, and it is still a beloved album today. Spatial Audio simply takes this classic album and gives you a new way to experience it.
When we listened to the tracks with Spatial Audio, the bass sounded great, with plenty of room for those low frequencies to resonate without muddying the rest of the soundstage. You should be able to clearly identify instruments and sound effects as they move through your head, especially with the voice hanging around in Dreams.
Hear the drums in many tracks, which have noticeable direction behind the vocals, just as they would in person. With this album, it’s like being in the recording booth with Fleetwood Mac, not to mention just being in the room.
5. The Dream – alt J
The Dream contains some of alt-J’s most popular tracks; and now that it supports Spatial Audio, fans of the alternate trio are in for a treat.
On most tracks, you’ll feel like the sound is completely enveloping you. You can pin this to distinct sounds like a cymbal and snare, and the deep bass beats moving through the mix.
Again, the elements of each track are perfectly placed to create layers, giving the effect that the music totally surrounds you – it’s a less naturalistic sound than the Spatial Audio mix for Rumors, but it’s more immersive.
6. The Immersive Experience – London Philharmonic Orchestra, Ben Gernon
The Immersive Experience is an album that takes some of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s most popular interpretations – you’ve got everything from Debussy to Berlioz – and optimizes them for Spatial Audio. It’s a must-have for classical music fans who want to reproduce the sound of a concert hall without leaving their living room.
Dolby Atmos mixing means you can clearly select individual sections of the orchestra, with each instrument having the space it needs to shine, even in complex arrangements. Not only can you identify these sections, but they also have a clear direction. Listen there, the string section is forward-left!
This virtual surround sound effect emulates a concert hall quite realistically, so you can get a taste of what it’s like to see the orchestra perform in real life.
7. Starboy – The Weekend
2016’s Starboy is one of The Weeknd’s most popular albums. It’s back ahead of TikTok’s popularity of Blinding Lights and the 2021 Superbowl halftime show.
Listening to this album, you can again select individual sounds more clearly than in stereo (it’s almost as if Spatial Audio was made for this), with the piano from the album’s title track coming through in particular detail. In other tracks, listen especially for softer rhythms, which seem to have an unknown depth. Voices also have a strong sense of directionality, making for a truly immersive experience.
8. A Night at the Opera – Queen
A Night at the Opera is Queen’s fourth studio album. It contains some of the band’s greatest songs, as well as some you may not have heard before. It’s not just an album, it’s an experience.
This album also excels at panning between the left and right sides of your head. In Bohemian Rhapsody, there’s a real sense of fluid structure as the instrumental section of the track not only bounces between your ears, but around the simulated soundscape. The wailing guitar and violin strings shine particularly bright here, in a sort of coordinated chaos. These are accompanied by deep, shattering bass, which seems to come from above (just like thunder and lightning).
It’s a really different way to hear the album. In tracks with complex vocal harmonies, Spatial Audio makes it very easy to select them and give them direction; almost as if you could tell who was standing where. Listening to this album, it’s as if you were inside each of the tracks.
9. The Blues and Abstract Truth – Oliver Nelson
The Blues And The Abstract Truth is a jazz album you may not have heard before, but Oliver Nelson was an incredible artist, and this album showcases his talent. Ted Lasso fans might recognize a track or two from certain episodes of the show.
Listening to the album, we clearly identify each of the instruments played. Not only that, but Spatial Audio helps highlight the lead instrument by ringing it closer, before the next instrument takes over. It’s a great way to bring out the conversational (and sometimes conflicting) interactions between different instruments. Keep an ear out (virtually) for some of the sweetest drum beats, increasing in volume as the conversation gets livelier.
10. Sometimes I might be introverted – Little Simz
Sometimes I Could Be Introverted is the fourth studio album by British rapper Little Simz. It is a rhythmic and moving work, juxtaposing confessional lyrics and boisterous rhythms with rapid orchestral movements and haunting choral harmonies.
You can hear the directionality of Simz’s voice as it moves through the virtual environment, accompanied by choppy, screwed-up ’80s beats and booming strings. Even in the most crowded arrangements, you can clearly distinguish each instrument – and this is only enhanced by the extra space provided by Spatial Audio mixing.