Apple Music Spatial Audio to Get Dynamic Head Tracking in the Fall

Apple is currently rolling out spatial audio and lossless audio for Apple Music, offering subscribers a more immersive and higher-quality audio experience. Later this year, however, Apple will also bring dynamic head tracking to songs in the Apple Music catalog.

apple music spatial audio
From the FAQ section of a newly updated Apple support document:

Is spatial audio with dynamic head tracking available for music?

We are excited to announce that spatial audio with dynamic head tracking is coming to Apple Music in the fall. Dynamic head tracking creates an even more immersive experience for spatial audio. It brings music to life by delivering sound that dynamically adjusts as you turn your head. And you can experience spatial audio with dynamic head tracking on AirPods Pro and AirPods Max with a compatible iPhone or iPad.

When you consider Apple's current implementation of dynamic head tracking, it's not entirely clear how it will apply to music. In its existing form, dynamic head tracking can be experienced when watching video on iPhone and iPad with headphones that support spatial audio, but it's the video element that's key.

Spatial audio uses the gyroscope and accelerometer in the ‌headphones‌ and the iOS device to track the motion of your head and your ‌device's position, comparing the motion data, and then remapping the sound field so that it stays anchored to your device even as your head moves.

Apple Music videos with spatial audio enabled already support dynamic head tracking in this way, but given that there's no visual element involved when listening to audio tracks, Apple presumably has a different implementation in mind that will create more depth to the listening experience. Individual instruments and effects may remain locked in place in a virtual soundstage when you turn your head, evoking the experience of being in the audience at a live gig, for example.


At any rate, Apple says that Apple Music subscribers will be able to experience it for themselves "in the fall," which is also when iOS 15 will be released to the public, so the two could well drop together.

Top Rated Comments

Gee4orce Avatar
6 days ago at 01:27 am
It's working already in the iOS15 Beta, as far as I can tell. I move my head and the music sound field stays fixed in the same position. eg. the vocals appear to be anchored to a certain place in the room around me.

Honestly, I think this is a total game changer. It's like stereo on steroids.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mariusignorello Avatar
5 days ago at 01:58 am

It's working already in the iOS15 Beta, as far as I can tell. I move my head and the music sound field stays fixed in the same position. eg. the vocals appear to be anchored to a certain place in the room around me.

Honestly, I think this is a total game changer. It's like stereo on steroids.
The haters can hate but Spatial Audio is in a class of its own. There's a few tracks where it's abysmal but that comes down to the engineer. Other tracks, like many of Ariana Grande's, a few of the Weeknd's and especially that Marvin Gaye remaster are masterpieces.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Canubis Avatar
5 days ago at 02:01 am
Honestly I thought that’s what yesterday’s launch of spatial audio was all about? instead we just got music in a different audio format, slightly differently mixed? At least to my understanding Spatial Audio was all about interactivity, if I move my head the sound mix would adapt to feel as if I am directly in the sound scene, adding an extra level of immersion.
But in reality it’s still output just like stereo material, just with a fixed fake sound stage…? Maybe I am over critical but what’s the point?
Plus fun fact: the promo videos for Spatial Audio in Apple Music actually Support The head tracking.
Super confusing marketing/rollout for this product…
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Nuvi Avatar
5 days ago at 07:25 am

Except you're just listening through Stereo headphones, so all you're hearing is a different mix...in stereo.

In fact i'm pretty sure I could just recreate the sound of the spatial audio in stereo - it can't do anything but pan it left and right when mixes down to stereo anyway.
Dude, HRTF aka A head-related transfer function, is a response that characterizes how an ear receives a sound from a point in space. As sound strikes the listener, the size and shape of the head, ears, ear canal, density of the head, size and shape of nasal and oral cavities, all transform the sound and affect how it is perceived, boosting some frequencies and attenuating others.

You do understand you have only two holes in your head but with those two holes and the magic of our own sound processing we know where the sound is coming from. The different sound directions can be simulated with normal headphones. However, in order to make this convincing this needs heavy sound manipulation. With enough processing power and 100% isolation you can make headphones virtual surround as good as the real thing.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Polaroid Avatar
5 days ago at 02:23 am

I'd think you do want head tracking when your phone's in your pocket, but it should be tracked relative to your phone. So you walk along looking forward and the sound stays the same (even if you go round a corner), but look to your side and it changes.
I didn’t explain well :P

What I mean is it won‘t use the phone to place where your head is at, it will use the AirPods - so when your head tilts you do hear instruments in different locations (but in same place) - so the headphones and phone will create a virtual space and place those instruments… I can’t explain lol
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
level1807 Avatar
5 days ago at 02:39 pm
People who write these articles clearly haven't even considered whether what they're writing is true. Spatial Audio with videos IS NOT ANCHORED TO YOUR DEVICE. All you need is a kindergarten level of curiosity to devise a simple experiment: turn on a video on the iPhone, keep your head still, and move the iPhone around your head. You won't hear any difference.

Now keep the iPhone in place and just turn your entire body away from it, and keep still for 15 seconds or so. You'll notice that Spatial Audio will automatically re-center itself to your head's new position.

In other words, Spatial Audio knows nothing about the position of your phone relative to your head. It simply "anchors" the 3D audio to the average position of your head over some short period of time.

This also means that enabling this for music would be completely trivial. However, in its current form that wouldn't make sense either: you don't really listen to music in your headphones while sitting still. You walk around, and it would be weird to have your virtual music stage suddenly shift every 10 seconds. Personally I don't see how Head Tracking can make sense with music at all, but perhaps they're planning to come up with something.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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