Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio for Apple Music Is Here

spatial audio Apple Music
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spatial audio Apple Music
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Photo Credit: Aaron Burden

Apple Music now has Dolby Atmos spatial audio support for streaming. Here’s how it works.

Apple enabled both spatial audio and lossless audio playback for Apple Music subscribers at no additional charge. The service automatically plays music in Dolby Atmos on all AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip.

The company also says it will make spatial audio content easier to find with curated playlists and special badges. Apple doesn’t have an exact count of the number of Dolby Atmos tracks, but says ‘thousands’ are available at launch.

Apple is also partnering with Dolby to make it easier for artists, producers, and engineers to create music in Dolby Atmos. It has outlined the specifics necessary for submitting spatial audio files to be featured in Apple Music. If you’re an artist curious about how to get your spatial audio tracks on Apple Music, here’s what you need to know.

AirPods is also gaining support for spatial audio support in tvOS. That means any streamed video content that supports Dolby Atmos will automatically use the format. While the spatial audio music streaming catalog is relatively light for now, movies and games are taking advantage of the format.

Apple AirPods Spatial Audio Support

Apple has announced all AirPods with the W1 and H1 chips will support Dolby Atmos playback. That includes all generations of AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max. The Beats Powerbeats line also uses the W1 and H1 chips.

W1 Chip

  • Apple AirPods (Gen 1)
  • Beats X
  • Beats Studio 3
  • Powerbeats 3 Wireless
  • Beats Solo 3 Wireless

H1 Chip

  • AirPods (Gen 2)
  • AirPods Pro
  • Beats Solo Pro
  • Powerbeats Pro
  • Powerbeats (2020)
  • AirPods Max

While these AirPods devices will support spatial audio out of the box, lossless audio is not. “Lossless audio is not supported on AirPods, on any model,” an Apple spokesperson recently confirmed to Digital Music News. “AirPods Max wired listening mode accepts analog output sources only. AirPods Max currently does not support digital audio formats in wired mode.”

Lossless audio wirelessly is harder for Apple to implement. That’s because Apple uses the AAC codec, which can’t offer CD-quality bit-rates. Apple will need to embrace something like AptX HD to deliver high bitrate audio wirelessly.