Spatial Audio not working on Apple AirPods or Beats? Steps to fix it

AirPods iPhone

Apple’s creation of AirPods took the headphones industry by storm. The state-of-the-art headphones improved the listening experience for most users. Since their first model, Apple AirPods have come a long way.

Now with the newest models and firmware, AirPods and some Beats offer a truly immersive three-dimensional sound experience spatial audio for almost any content, from movies and TV shows to your favorites songs! It’s almost like you’re in the room at a live show or movie theater.

And with iOS 15.1+, spatial audio works with all your favorite video and music streaming apps like Spotify, Pandora, Disney+, Netflix, and more.

Is spatial audio not working on your Apple AirPods? Keep reading to learn how to fix it.

Suggested reading:

What is spatial audio? 

Spatial audio is the adjustment of sound frequency to replicate a 3D environment. Basically, it is the equivalent of the sound you hear while at the movie theaters. Apple diagram of how spatial audio works

Apple created their version of spatial audio using Dolby Atmos and introduced this feature with iOS 14. Apple then improved it with iOS 15.1+ to include support for stereo audio with a AI and machine intelligent feature called Spatialized Stereo Audio. iOS 15.1+ also offers more advanced head tracking options.

These later software versions allow your AirPods and Beats to track your head movement and the position of your device when you watch something making it relevant to what’s on the screen and your position.

When you turn on spatial audio, it sounds like the audio is in the room with you rather than on your device or screen!

Spatial audio actually stimulates your natural ability to hear in 360-degrees AND even lets the audio from your movies and music move around with you when you use the head tracking feature.

It’s really cool, especially when watching movies.

So if you or a friend/family member have a pair of AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, AirPods (3rd generation), or Beats Fit Pro give spatial audio a try!

Not getting spatial audio? Check if your Apple device supports it and that it’s on

Even if you update to a supported iOS/iPadOS/tvOS/macOS version, your Apple device must also support Spatial Audio–not all iPhones, iPads, Apple Tvs, or Macs do.

Currently, iPhone 7 models and above do as well as most iPad Pro model and select iPad Airs, Minis, and plain old iPad. For Macs, you must have a Mac with the Apple silicon chip. And only Apple TV 4K models support Spatial Audio.

To find out if you can use spatial audio on your Apple device see this Apple document.

Next, check if you turned spatial audio on by opening up Control Center after you connect your AirPods or Beats to your Apple device.

  1. Open Control Center and tap and hold the volume bar.
  2. Look at the status for Spatial Audio or Spatialize Stereo. AirPods spatial audio setting in Bluetooth
    1. Status options include Off, Fixed, and Head Tracked.
  3. To change the current status, tap the icon once and make your updates.
    • Off: Turns off both Spatial Audio and head tracking.
    • Fixed: Turns on Spatial Audio without head tracking.
    • Head Tracked: Turns on both Spatial Audio and head tracking so the sound follows your head movement. AirPods spatial audio options in Bluetooth settings

Head Tracking is only available in iOS 15.1, iPadOS 15.1, TV OS 15, and macOS Monterey or later.

Using spatial audio in Apple Music

In Apple Music, you can tell which songs use spatial audio by looking for the Dolby Atmos badge.

Spatial audio music in Apple Music

There is also a Spatial Audio playlist available on Apple Music. You should be able to tell if it is working if the sound waves sound like they are pulsing.

Still not working? Keep reading to try our other tips to fix the issue.

Ways to fix spatial audio on AirPods

First, make sure you update to the latest version of iOS/iPadOS, tvOS, and macOS and that your AirPods or Beats run their latest firmware. Spatial audio is supported for Dobly Atmos only in iOS14 and for all audio sources in iOS15+.

If you already updated your AirPods or Beats to the latest firmware and your devices are updated to their latest versions of iOS/iPadOS/tvOS/macOS and you still can’t get the spatial audio to work, we have some suggestions.

Turn off Mono Audio

For most users, turning off the Mono Audio setting fixed the issue!

  1. To do so, open the Settings app and select Accessibility.
  2. Then scroll down to select Audio/Visual.
  3. Make sure Mono Audio is turned off. turn off mono audio

If you still can’t tell if spatial audio is working, try the next tip.

For folks with Apple Music subscriptions, check Dobly Atmos settings

If you subscribe to Apple Music or are in a family plan that supports Apple Music, check your Dolby Atmos settings and make sure it’s on.

  1. Go to Settings > Music > Dolby Atmos and verify it’s on and listed as Automatic or Always On. Dolby Atmos settings for Apple Music
  2. If it’s off, tap it and select Automatic or Always On.
  3. Also, if it’s already set to either Automatic or Always On, try switching the setting. So, if it says Automatic, try Always On instead or vice-versa.
  • Automatic: Plays Dolby Atmos whenever your Apple device connects to supported devices and headphones, i.e. AirPods 3rd generation, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, Beats Fit Pro, or any speakers or receivers that are compatible with Dolby Atmos.
  • Always OnPlays Dolby Atmos to any headphones or speakers connected to your Apple device, regardless if it officially supports Atmos or not. However, not all speakers will play Dolby Atmos as intended.

No head tracking options for spatial audio?

Some people see spatial audio but don’t get the options for Fixed or Head-Tracked. It’s usually an easy fix via your Accessibility settings.

First, make sure your device runs iOS or iPadOS 15.1, tvOS 15 (on an Apple TV 4K,) or macOS Monterey 12.3 or later (on a Mac that uses an Apple silicon chip.) Apple released the head-tracking spatial audio feature with these software versions.

  1. Go to Settings > Accessibility.
  2. Scroll down the Physical and Motor section and tap AirPods. accessibility settings for Apple AirPods on iPhone
  3. Scroll down to Spatial Audio Head Tracking and toggle Follow iPhone on. If it’s already on, try toggling it off.AirPods accessibility feature to Follow iPhone

Restart devices

Whenever you experience any kind of glitch, sometimes restarting your devices can do the trick. iPhone and iPad slide to power off for a restart

  • To restart your iPhone, press and hold one of the volume buttons and the side power button until the power off slider appears.
  • When restarting your devices, you should turn your devices off for a minute or two and then turn them back on.

Reset AirPods 

If restarting your devices did not work, then try resetting your AirPods.

  1. First, put your earbuds in their case and leave them in there for at least 30 seconds. Then, open the case.
  2. After, go to the Settings app and select Bluetooth.
  3. Scroll down to your AirPods and press the (i) button. iPhone Bluetooth AirPods connected and information i button
  4. Then select Forget This Device and confirm. AirPods forget this device in iPhone Bluetooth settings
  5. Then, press the button on the back of the AirPods case for 15 seconds.
  6. Wait for the light to flash amber and then white. Once it does that, follow the on-screen instructions to set up your AirPods again.

Get Your AirPods serviced or repaired 

If none of these suggested solutions worked, then there may be something wrong with your AirPods. So it might be a good idea to get them serviced or even replaced.

FAQ (frequently asked questions) FAQ frequently asked questions

Is spatial audio available on all AirPods and Beats headphones? 

Sadly, no. Spatial audio is only compatible with Apple devices from 2020 and beyond. It is also only available on AirPods versions 3, Pro, and Max. Beats Fit Pro also supports spatial audio.

To see the latest list of devices supporting spatial audio, visit this Apple support document.

What content supports spatial audio? Spatial audio option when watching Netflix on iPad or iPhone

Your AirPods or Beats spatial audio feature works with any sound recorded with Dolby Atmos and Dolby surround sound technology.

And when you update to iOS 15.1+, macOS Monterey, or tvOS 15, Apple includes a spatial audio conversion feature that uses AI to mimic surround sound audio, even on content that does not natively offer Dolby Atmos, including third-party apps like Netflix, Spotify, and more!

Is spatial audio on by default?

No, spatial audio is off by default. You need to set up your spatial audio preferences for each app.

Once you use spatial audio, your device saves those settings so the next time you open that app, it uses the same spatial audio setting.

So, if you tap Fixed when listening to a song on Pandora, the next time you play a song in Pandora it also plays in Fixed.

How to set spatial audio up

The only thing you need to do is to set up spatial audio on your AirPods or Beats is to make sure you update all your apps, including third-party apps like Netflix, and that your Apple devices run the latest version of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS!

Also, check that your AirPods or Beats firmware is up to date.

Basic spatial audio requires AirPods version 3A283 and for spatial audio with head tracking options you need version 4C165 or 4C170.

To check your AirPods firmware:

  • Open the Settings App.
  • Scroll down to Bluetooth and select the (i) button next to your AirPods.
  • In the About section, look at Version to see what your AirPods currently use. Check what firmware version your AirPods use

If it does not have the latest firmware, place your headphones into their case and place the case near your device. It should update after that!

How to turn off spatial audio head-tracking for all apps

First, just change your setting for spatial audio to Fixed or select Off, if you don’t want spatial audio at all for the app you’re currently using.

Don’t worry, you still hear your music or whatever audio source you’re listening too. It just won’t use Apple’s spatial audio AI feature.

If you want to turn off head tracking for just one app on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Start playing a song or video in that app then open Control Center.
  2. Tap the Volume Controller for your AirPods or Beats.
  3. Tap Spatial Audio or Spatialize Stereo. AirPods Spatial audio settings in Control Center
  4. Change your setting to Fixed or Off.

Turn Spatial Audio for AirPods to Fixed or Off

If you don’t want spatial audio to track your movements at all, it’s really easy to turn it off.

To disable head tracking for all apps on your iPhone or iPad

  1. Go to Settings > Accessibility > AirPods
  2. Select your AirPods.
  3. Scroll down and toggle off Follow iPhone or Follow iPad.
    1. This turns off Head Tracking for all apps. Spatial audio setting to Follow iPhone turn it off

For supported Macs, choose the AirPods icon in the top menu bar. Under Spatial Audio, choose Off.

For Apple TV 4K, you can disable dynamic head tracking for all apps by double-clicking the screen icon on the Siri remote. Choose Settings > Accessibility > AirPods and turn off Center Audio on TV.

What’s the difference between Spatial Audio and Spatialize Stereo?

This is confusing!

Basically, Spatialize Stereo simulates Spatial Audio for non-Dolby content by using your supported device’s AI and machine learning to transform stereo audio tracks into surround sound. It’s simulated Spatial Audio.

Real Spatial Audio requires Dolby Atmos to work. Spatialized Stero does not.

You can get Spatial Audio with devices running iOS and iPadOS 14.6+ and macOS Big Sur. Spatialize Stereo requires iOS/iPad 15.1+ and macOS Monterey to work.

See how Apple’s Spatial Audio works via a demo

You can learn more about Spatial Audio when you connect AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max to iPhone or iPad.

  1. Wear your AirPods or Beats and connected them to your Apple device.
  2. Go to Settings > Bluetooth on iPhones and iPads.
    • For Apple TV, go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth.
    • For supported Macs with Apple silicon, open Control Center > Bluetooth.
  3. Find your AirPods or Beats in the list of devices and tap the “i” information button.
  4. Scroll down and tap Spatial Audio. AirPods Spatial Audio Demo on iPhone or iPad
  5. Tap Spatial Audio to hear a demonstration of this feature.
    1. To compare, tap Stereo and notice the differences.
    2. You also see a diagram on your screen of how Apple is broadcasting the sound to your headphones. Demo diagrams of Apple spatial audio versus stereo audio

Final Thoughts

Now that AirPods offer spatial audio, your music, shows, and movies sound even better!

Have you enjoyed the spatial audio feature? Let us know!

I'm a content writer with a passion for all things lifestyle having earned my Bachelor of Science in journalism from St. John's University. I was born and raised in Southern California. My Apple Watch never leaves my wrist, but I also adore Fitbit. I love all things health tech, including fitness and self-care apps. When I'm not writing, I enjoy traveling, reading, and drinking iced coffee!

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