Spatial Audio: The AirPods Pro gets “trippy” new feature via latest firmware update

The Apple AirPods Pro have been some of the most popular TWS earbuds around, and one of their strengths has undoubtedly been the effectiveness of the transparency and noise-cancelling modes. However, a new listening mode is coming along with iOS 14: Spatial Audio.

Here’s how Apple describes the feature:

Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking brings the movie theatre experience right to your AirPods Pro. By applying directional audio filters and subtly adjusting the frequencies each ear receives, spatial audio can place sounds virtually anywhere in space, creating an immersive surround sound experience. Using the gyroscope and accelerometer in your AirPods Pro and your iPhone, spatial audio tracks the motion of your head as well as your device, compares the motion data, and then remaps the sound field so that it stays anchored to your device even as your head moves.

I haven’t actually had the chance to test it out just yet, but descriptions from Macrumors forums range from “immersive” to “trippy”, so it will certainly be interesting to see if Spatial Audio genuinely adds to the listening experience. From what I can tell, it appears that the feature will be used primarily for movie-watching, as opposed to music playback.

If you’re keen to try the new feature out, Spatial Audio is now available via the latest AirPods Pro firmware, according to Macrumors. However, you’ll need to have iOS 14/iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, twOS 14, or macOS 11 Big Sur to get it to work—all of which are only available via beta releases for now.

To turn it on, head over to the Control Center on your iOS/iPadOS device. Long press on the volume slider, and toggle on spatial audio. If you want to tweak the spatial audio mode, you can also find controls within the Bluetooth settings in your Settings app.

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Additionally, the latest firmware also brings an auto switching feature for the AirPods and the AirPods Pro. Essentially, this will improve the already-impressive integration between the AirPods and other Apple devices; this means that your AirPods will automatically connect to any nearby Apple device (that’s signed into the same iCloud account) as its listening device whenever you actively use it.

For now, we’ll have to wait. iOS 14 is expected to be officially release sometime soon, and a host of new features are expected—in addition to AirPods-centric ones. And as rivals in the TWS space continue to release cheaper alternatives, it appears that Apple is continuing to add new functionality to their AirPods lineup to ward off the competition.


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