Spatial Audio: I am very impressed!

Ronald Epstein

Founder
Owner
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 3, 1997
Messages
56,748
Real Name
Ronald Epstein
Some of this I have talked about previously.

I never intended to purchase Airpods Pro. I own a pair of Sony's MX2 headphones (now upgraded to MX3 and MX4), and they provide exceptional audio and noise canceling. Though the Sony headsets are not nearly the best audio experience you can buy, for most mainstream consumers, they are among the top-rated and most loved headphones out there.

Why would I want to invest in dinky, stick-in-ear, earphones?

Then came the WWDC 2020 virtual event that introduced Spatial Audio




I have to say, it was love at first sight. Surround sound within headphones is something I have always strived for. Dolby introduced their headsets in 2018, but at $500, they were cost-prohibitive. In fact, I just did a search for the current price on Dolby Dimension Headphones and I don't even think they make them anymore. Perhaps another failed Dolby product?

So, soon after WWDC I put in an order for my first pair of Airpods Pro. Over the past few months, they were barely used. While I was extremely impressed with the way they connected to Apple products, I still didn't see a need for wearing them.

Over the past few days, I have been visiting my brother in North Carolina. I am without my Home Theater. I brought along my 12" iPad Pro and have been using that to view TV shows I generally watch at home. It has given me a great opportunity to try the Airpods Pro with the new Spatial Audio feature.

It seems like once you connect your Airpods Pro to an iOS 14 device, the Spatial Audio is turned on by default. However, you can make adjustments by going into Settings -> Bluetooth and click on the information button ("i") next to the connected Airpods Pro indicator.

I watched this week's episode of LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, via HBO MAX, in spatial audio. I was completely blown away by what I was hearing.

The entire audio soundstage is completely opened up. The first sense that you have is that the audio is absolutely not coming from your Airpods Pro. I had to take them out of my ear as I thought perhaps the audio was playing through my iPad instead. It's absolutely hard to believe that this kind of audio is coming from those dinky earbuds nestled in your ear.

We could stop right here and already, I would say my investment in a pair of AirPods Pro was warranted.

But taking a huge leap forward...

The added Spatial Audio for home entertainment viewing now makes the AirPods Pro a better choice than the Sony MX headphones.

I don't know what kind of magic the audio engineers at Apple are doing, but they have mastered the art of manipulating your brain and fooling it into thinking sounds are emanating from different directions, in the same manner a 7.1 system would accomplish.

I am sitting here watching this week's episode of LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. There's a scene where the character of Montrose Freeman (Michael Kenneth Williams) is hearing voices in his head. With Spatial Audio, the voices that this character was hearing, seem to rotate in front, behind, and to the side of me. I compare it to memories of the first impressive surround track I heard on my Home Theater system, which was listening to the 5.1 mix of 12 MONKEYS.

It gets wilder...

As you sit and listen to this amazing audio coming from the AirPods Pro, turn your head or move around and the sound follows you. The first time you listen to a surround encoded TV show or movie, you are going to find yourself moving your head from side to side just to experience the amazing way the audio travels with your movements.

And the future looks amazing...

Apple is about to announce its over-the-ear Airpods Studio. I suppose I don't need to tell you what that means, but I will nonetheless. That Spatial Audio technology should carry over into the new headphones.

So, now, there's going to be over-the-ear professional-grade audio headphones with Spatial Audio and noise cancellation. It will probably cost $500, the same price as the Dolby Dimension Headphones. However, in this case, it's an Apple product designed to seamlessly work with their mobile hardware and as a result, I suspect Apple is going to succeed where Dolby seems to have failed.

I would never consider spending $500 on the Dolby Dimension Headphones. I would absolutely buy the Apple Airpods Studio at that price already experiencing what the company has done with the AirPods pro.

It sort of amazes me how much the Spatial Audio announcement was underplayed by Apple. Out of all the great things they have been doing, this is perhaps one of its finest accomplishments. With the introduction of HomePod and HomePod mini, the company has already demonstrated how well its engineers can improve audio coming from portable speakers. However, not enough emphasis has been put on what they have done with in-ear audio. I have a feeling that once they announce AirPods Studio with that Spatial Audio technology embedded into it, Apple could very well become the leader in consumer-level headsets.
 
Last edited:

Peter Apruzzese

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Dec 20, 1999
Messages
4,210
Real Name
Peter Apruzzese
Interesting. I hope they find a way to make this technology work if you’re watching something that’s not on a mobile device. I would love for this to work with my projection setup for late night viewing. I wonder if it’s something they could license to receiver manufacturers.
 

Sam Posten

Moderator
Premium
HW Reviewer
Joined
Oct 30, 1997
Messages
29,022
Location
Aberdeen, MD & Navesink, NJ
Real Name
Sam Posten
Dolby punted on their own headphones and now support Atmos on all headphones, but it’s a $10 fee on xbox at least. You should check that out if you have access to one it’s very good
 

DaveF

Moderator
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2001
Messages
23,822
Location
Catfisch Cinema
Real Name
Dave
I’m jealous. I’ve done some Atmos demos on my iPhone with AirPods Pro. While it’s more expansive, I don’t get the Wowzers! experience that Ron and others have described. It feels like all the other reverb-faked pseudo surround I’ve tried over the years. It’s better than any past one, but I haven’t yet been able really discern the highly separated, front / back and up/ down sense.

I’ll give it another go at some point to make sure I’m using content that’s really processed as Atmos.
 

Sam Posten

Moderator
Premium
HW Reviewer
Joined
Oct 30, 1997
Messages
29,022
Location
Aberdeen, MD & Navesink, NJ
Real Name
Sam Posten
I’m jealous. I’ve done some Atmos demos on my iPhone with AirPods Pro. While it’s more expansive, I don’t get the Wowzers! experience that Ron and others have described. It feels like all the other reverb-faked pseudo surround I’ve tried over the years. It’s better than any past one, but I haven’t yet been able really discern the highly separated, front / back and up/ down sense.

I’ll give it another go at some point to make sure I’m using content that’s really processed as Atmos.
try the Xbox Atmos too for reference
 

DaveF

Moderator
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2001
Messages
23,822
Location
Catfisch Cinema
Real Name
Dave
Is the support for Dolby Atmos on Airpods Pro only for Apple TV streaming content? Or should it work with any arbitrary Atmos content? I was trying demos from my HTPC, streaming MKVs of Dolby Atmos theatrical stingers. I also tried the offical Dolby demo.

@Ronald Epstein can you try the Dolby demo on iPhone or iPad and comment on if you get the same full experience you got from AppleTV? Thanks. :)
 

Ronald Epstein

Founder
Owner
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 3, 1997
Messages
56,748
Real Name
Ronald Epstein
Dave,

It has been a busy week for me as I have family members visiting.

I will try that Dolby demo and get back to you.

This article gives a comprehensive rundown on what streaming services you can or cannot get the spatial audio experience.


I can confirm it is not currently supported on Netflix as I have been using my AirPods pro for streaming on that service for the past week.
 
  • Like
Reactions: DaveF

Forum Sponsors

Forum statistics

Threads
345,136
Messages
4,731,805
Members
141,391
Latest member
smwe16