Spatial Audio vs. Spatial Stereo: Is There a Difference?

Apple recently released Spatial Audio for Apple Music, which enables many people to enjoy an immersive audio experience where multi-channel audio is available.

However, the tech giant has also discreetly created a workaround for stereo tracks called Spatialize Stereo, an audio feature that turns normal stereo mixes into a surround sound experience. Read on to learn more about the difference between Spatial Audio and Spatialize Stereo.

What is Spatialize Stereo?

While Spatial Audio made headlines for Apple Music, Apple was rather quiet with the “Stereo spatialize” function.

With Spatialize Stereo, Apple uses Computational Audio Technology to turn an ordinary stereo audio mix into a surround sound experience. It tries to simulate spatial audio without the need for Dolby Atmos audio tracks.

Just listen to any title and switch the function on to transform the stereo music into an even more immersive listening experience. The feature makes it easier to distinguish instruments and sound effects in the mix that come from everywhere, similar to Spatial Audio.

If a Dolby-enabled track is available, Apple uses Spatial Audio. However, it is automatically switched to Spatialize Stereo if a Dolby-enabled multi-channel track cannot be used instead. This is an excellent option if you’re an Apple Music subscriber but your favorite track isn’t on Spatial Audio yet.

But this feature isn’t just limited to Apple Music. You can also use it in other apps that usually use stereo audio like Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube. You can even try it out with videos in your photo library.

Spatial Audio vs. Spatial Stereo: Similarities

Image source: Apple

Both audio technologies require an Apple device with the latest software and paired with one of the following headphones:

  • AirPods Pro

  • AirPods Max

  • AirPods (3rd generation)

  • Beats Fit Pro

Both audio options can be integrated with dynamic head tracking offered by your Apple accessory. The accessories should also be connected to a device that supports audio technology. These devices include:

  • iPhone 7 or newer

  • iPad Pro (3rd generation) or newer

  • iPad Pro 11 inch

  • iPad Air (3rd generation) or newer

  • iPad (6th generation) or newer

  • iPad mini (5th generation) or newer

  • Apple TV 4K

  • MacBook Pro (2021)

Note: These devices should be running iOS or iPadOS 14, macOS Big Sur, tvOS 15 or higher.

Spatial Audio vs. Spatial Stereo: Differences

Now let’s look at some of the differences between Spatial Audio and Spatialize Stereo.

Software requirements

Spatial Audio is available for devices running iOS and iPadOS 14.6 or macOS Big Sur, while Spatialize Stereo is only available for devices running iOS 15.

Source file types

Tracks available in Spatial Audio use Dolby Atmos, an audio format that requires sophisticated hardware and software to be used for recording and mixing. Spatial Stereo, on the other hand, uses Apple’s software magic to turn normal stereo audio into a better listening experience

Some audiophiles are quick to point out the difference in sound quality between the two technologies, while others happily find that some tracks played on Spatialize Stereo are even better than Dolby Atmos tracks.

Many also stated that it didn’t work well on heavily edited audio tracks.

Access to surround sound music

Apple’s Spatial Audio plays tracks in surround sound format, mostly with Dolby Atmos. Apple Music has partnered with Dolby Atmos to bring surround sound music to its subscribers. However, Dolby Atmos music can also be accessed through other streaming music subscriptions such as Tidal and Amazon HD.

On the other hand, Spatialize Stereo enables iOS users to turn all kinds of stereo mixes into a three-dimensional sound experience, regardless of which app they are using.

Surround sound with no price tag

Spatialize Stereo lets you play non-Dolby Atmos audio and turn it into something that sounds more three-dimensional than a standard stereo system that plays equally on your earphones. And you don’t have to spend on expensive audio equipment or even sign up for an Apple Music subscription to get it.

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