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Apple Music with Dolby Atmos: How to use it

Apple Music with spatial sound from Dolby Atmos

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple rolled out a really cool new Dolby Atmos surround sound feature for Apple Music this week that might help it attract and retain subscribers as it competes with streaming music leader Spotify.

Dolby Atmo’s spatial sound makes it feel a little more like music surrounds you while wearing headphones, instead of just touching your left and right ears. Songs with Dolby Atmos are available for free as long as you are already an Apple Music subscriber. Dolby Atmos is also available via Amazon Music HD and TIDAL subscriptions, while Deezer uses Sony̵

7;s competing version called 360 Reality Audio for its Deezer HiFi service. Spotify does not yet have a Dolby Atmos capability.

I’m not an audio file and I usually do not see the difference between some of the higher quality tracks music services have started to roll out. But there is a noticeable difference between regular stereo music and these new “Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos Support” songs. At least most of the time. The difference is more visible in some songs than others.

There are only thousands of tracks (out of the 75 million in Apple Music) with support for it right now, but Apple has some playlists that can show you what it’s capable of. And new albums will continue to add support, while artists will also be reworking some older songs.

It’s probably not enough just to get people to subscribe to Apple Music – at least not yet – but it’s a great added benefit for people who already have Apple Music to get more out of the service.

What is Dolby Atmos spatial sound?

When you listen to a song through headphones, you usually listen to stereo sound. It’s like when you have two speakers left and right on your TV. Dolby Atmos offers surround sound, so it looks like what you would expect if you had a lot of speakers around your living room. Except, instead of having a lot of living room speakers all around you, this works through your headphones.

AirPods Pro gets a new surround sound experience of surround sounds.


Dolby Atmos allows musicians to create songs that specifically place vocals and instruments in certain areas of the “sound scene”. And these are the new types of songs that are now available in Apple Music.

This fall, Apple will build on that with a head-tracking feature for AirPods Pro and AirPods Pro Max, already available for things like movies and TV shows offered by Dolby Atmos. When turned on, the music sounds like it is coming from the device that is playing it. So if you have headphones on and you turn your head, you will e.g. Hear the music change in the direction of your iPhone. Kind of like the iPhone is the stage.

What do I need to listen to spatial sound?

Apple Music with spatial sound from Dolby Atmos

Todd Haselton | CNBC

  • An Apple Music subscription (or trial) costs $ 4.99 per share. Month for students, $ 9.99 per. Month for individuals or $ 14.99 per month. Month for families (up to six people).
  • AirPods
  • AirPods Pro and AirPods Pro Max (with Spatial Audio turned on)
  • BeatsX, Beats Solo3 Wireless, Beats Studio3, Powerbeats3 Wireless, Beats Flex, Powerbeats Pro or Beats Solo Pro
  • It also works through the built-in speakers on iPhones and iPads that have been released in the last few years (except iPhone SE), but I found it much more visible through headphones.

But you do not need AirPods. Dolby Atmos songs work on all headphones, you just need to turn on “always on” in the settings first.

To do it:

  • Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Select music.
  • Select “Dolby Atmos”
  • Change the setting to “Always On”.

If you’re listening from an Apple TV, you can listen to Dolby Atmos through speakers that support the format, or through the above AirPods and Beats headphones. To turn it on, go to Settings> Apps> Music and make sure Dolby Atmos is turned on “Automatic”. On a Mac, you will enable the Dolby Atmos download option in the Apple Music Settings menu.

How do I listen to spatial sound in Apple Music?

Apple Music with spatial sound from Dolby Atmos

Todd Haselton | CNBC

It’s easy to try spatial sound from Dolby Atmos in Apple Music.

If you open the app right now, you can see several playlists for different genres with songs created to support Dolby Atmos. But I recommend starting with the playlist “Hits in Spatial Audio”, which gives a sound example of stereo vs. Dolby Atmos.

As new tracks and albums roll out, you’ll see a small tag under each song showing “Dolby Atmos” to tell you that it supports the format.

You will need to download your songs again

Apple Music with spatial sound from Dolby Atmos

Todd Haselton | CNBC

You can stream Dolby Atmos, anything you want. However, if you want these tracks available when you do not have a Wi-Fi connection, download them. And if you have already downloaded non-Dolby Atmos songs, delete them and download the song again to get it in the spatial audio format.

You can make sure that future downloads always download the Dolby Atmos version by opening Settings on your iPhone and tapping Music and activating “Download in Dolby Atmos”.

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