How to enable spatial audio on PC and Mac

Spatial audio lets you experience surround sound through a pair of headphones. It’s a pretty exciting experience, but how do you enable it on a PC or Mac? We’ve created an easy-to-follow guide to get you up and running.

Both operating systems have built-in spatial audio implementations, but if you want you use another standard, you may have to download separate apps. Be sure to check what your content supports beforehand.

QUICK ANSWER

On Windows, open Settings > System > Sound > Related settings > Sound Control Panel > Right click on your headphones > Select properties > Spatial sound > Enable Windows Sonic for Headphones.

On a Mac, Open the Music app > Select Music from the menu bar > Click on Preferences > Select the Playback tab > Choose either Automatic or Always On.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

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How to turn on spatial audio on PC

Windows PCs offer a built-in spatial audio option called Windows Sonic for Headphones. It is pretty easy to enable:

  1. Open the Start menu then navigate to Settings > System > Sound > Related settings > Sound Control Panel.
  2. Select your playback device (headphones in this case), then click on Properties.
  3. In the window that opens, click on Spatial sound.
  4. Under Spatial sound format, select Windows Sonic for Headphones, then click Apply.

Note that this is Microsoft’s implementation of spatial sound. If you have content that supports other implementations, such as Dolby Atmos or DTS Headphone:X, you’ll need to download separate, paid apps from the Microsoft store. Dolby Access provides Atmos support and requires a one-time payment of $14.99 USD after a seven day free trial. DTS Surround Unbound includes DTS Headphone:X and will cost you $19.99 USD after a two-week free trial.

How to turn on spatial audio on Mac

 

On macOS, you can enable spatial audio through the Apple Music app using Dolby Atmos. First, ensure you have the latest version of macOS installed, then:

  1. Open the Apple Music app.
  2. In the menu bar, navigate to Music > Preferences.
  3. Select the Playback tab.
  4. Choose either Always On or Automatic.

Note that Automatic mode requires a few prerequisites, the first being content recorded with Dolby Atmos support. Next, you’ll need the AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, AirPods (3rd gen), AirPods (1st or 2nd gen), BeatsX, Beats Solo3 Wireless, Beats Studio3, Powerbeats3 Wireless, Beats Flex, Powerbeats Pro, Beats Solo Pro, Beats Studio Buds, or the Beats Fit Pro and ensure that spatial audio is enabled on them. If you do not have any of these models of headphones or earphones, then select Always On.


Read more: Best Bluetooth headphones

FAQs

Yes and no. As long as your OS is doing the signal processing and you have content mixed with spatial audio in mind, any pair of headphones should work. Windows Sonic technically works with any pair of headphones, for instance, but support varies across streaming services and content. Apple’s implementation, however, requires specific models if you want spatial audio to kick in automatically. If you don’t have these models, you need to use the Always On mode with your headset.

Enabling Windows Sonic can give games compatible with this standard support for spatial audio (check the details of your games to see if they work with it). You can also install the Dolby Access or DTS Surround Unbound apps on Windows to work with those compatible games. On macOS, Dolby Atmos and games compatible with this standard should work.

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