'Spatialize Stereo' Feature in iOS 15 and macOS Monterey Simulates Spatial Audio for Non-Dolby Content

In iOS 15 and macOS Monterey betas, Apple has quietly included a new audio feature called "Spatialize Stereo" that takes any non-Dolby stereo mix and creates a virtual spatial audio environment out of it.

spatialize stereo 1
The addition was first discovered by a Reddit user, who had this to say about it:

I assumed that if they ever did this it would warrant at the very least a mention in a Keynote, but unless I completely missed it today I don't think they said anything about it!

The greatest thing about this is that it supports EVERY audio track. Sure I'd pick Atmos Spatial Audio mixes over Spatialized Stereo every time, but for the moment there are only a dozen or so options for Atmos available on Apple Music, so this is such an amazing feature to have!

It's worth reiterating that Spatialize Stereo is different from Spatial Audio, which Apple brought to Apple Music subscribers earlier this week. Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos creates a three-dimensional experience by moving sound all around you.

Spatialize Stereo meanwhile appears to be Apple's attempt to simulate the effect of having sound coming at you from different directions in a virtual environment. It doesn't utilize Dolby Atmos, but on the other hand it works with basically any content, although you do need AirPods Pro or AirPods Max headphones to access it. Here's how it works in the latest ‌iOS 15‌ beta:

  1. Connect your ‌AirPods Pro‌ or ‌AirPods Max‌ to your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Play some non-Dolby audio content on your iOS device.
  3. Bring up the Control Center.
  4. Long press on the volume slider.
  5. Tap the Spatialize Stereo button to enable it.

spatialize stereo
The same option can be found in ‌macOS Monterey‌ in the Control Center's Sound pane. In terms of sound quality, your mileage may vary, but it at least allows users to enjoy some of the benefits of spatialized sound on anything they listen to, and not just content that officially supports Spatial Audio. If you've been able to compare the two different modes, let us know what you think in the comments.

Related Roundups: iOS 15, iPadOS 15
Related Forum: iOS 15

Top Rated Comments

ElliotF Avatar
15 months ago
Am I the only one who finds that stereo sounds better than spatial audio? I played a song, then went into the music settings and switched it between “off” and “always on” as the track was playing and found stereo to be so much better. I’m using AirPods Pro btw.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xalea Avatar
15 months ago
As a music producer who spends a lot of time and effort mixing to get just the right stereo sound field and 'wall of sound,' putting this kind of crap on top of one of my tracks would make me cry. lol. Please don't dishonor the work of many audio engineers and technicians, mastering experts, etc. by applying this junk to their tracks.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
haruhiko Avatar
15 months ago
My 1997 Winamp memory is coming back.
That surround sound plug-in turned every MP3 into broken surround music ?

“Winamp… it really whips the llama’s ass”
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
IceStormNG Avatar
15 months ago

Am I the only one who finds that stereo sounds better than spatial audio? I played a song, then went into the music settings and switched it between “off” and “always on” as the track was playing and found stereo to be so much better. I’m using AirPods Pro btw.
You're not alone. The thing is: Those headphones don't do real surround even if the the track is a native surround file. You just have left and right. What they do are audio effects that try to mimic the timing difference depending on the sound origin relative to your head.
For that purpose, a "reference head" is taken and measurements are based on that. The more your head differs from that, the worse it works. Our ears are all slightly different and our brain is used to our own ears.

In the end, Spatial Audio is just a fancy name for "virtual surround" which exists since many years. It will and can never be on the same level as true surround with speakers in a room. It will always cause some distortion to the track.
Also: Some headphones are better than others to playback virtual surround.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ian87w Avatar
15 months ago
Err... Why? Putting on fake effects on regular audio files never sound good to me.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kylo83 Avatar
15 months ago
I’ll keep stereo special audio ruins music
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

apple music spatial audio

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

Tuesday June 8, 2021 1:16 am PDT by
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. From the FAQ section of a newly updated Apple support document: Is spatial audio with dynamic head tracking available for music? ...
Spatial Audio Netflix Feature 2

Netflix Rolling Out Spatial Audio Support

Wednesday August 18, 2021 1:29 pm PDT by
Netflix is rolling out support for Spatial Audio on the iPhone and the iPad, based on reports shared by MacRumors readers and on Reddit. A Netflix spokesperson also confirmed to MacRumors that the rollout is underway. When playing compatible content in Netflix, Spatial Audio will be available as an option in the Control Center on iPhone and iPad for those running iOS 14 and iOS 15....
iPhone Hi Fi Apple Music Feature

Apple Music Gaining Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio in iOS 14.6, Not All Tracks Supported at Launch

Monday May 17, 2021 8:29 am PDT by
Apple Music's incoming Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos and Lossless Audio features will be available in June on devices running iOS 14.6, iPadOS 14.6, macOS 11.4, and tvOS 14.6 or later, according to Apple. Apple said thousands of tracks will be available in Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos at no additional cost, with more added regularly. Already available on the AirPods Pro, Apple describes...
apple music album cover art

Apple Music App for Android Gains Spatial Audio and Lossless Quality

Thursday July 22, 2021 11:38 am PDT by
Apple today updated its Apple Music for Android app to introduce support for Spatial Audio and Lossless music quality, bringing feature parity to the Android and iOS operating systems. Spatial Audio and Lossless for Apple Music came to Apple devices in June, and has been available in a beta capacity on Android since last month. From the release notes for the update:In this update, Apple...
homepod feature purple

HomePod Will Support Spatial Audio for Apple Music, But Not Lossless Audio

Monday May 17, 2021 1:34 pm PDT by
Apple Music will be gaining support for two new audio formats in June, including Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio, but MacRumors has received confirmation that the HomePod and HomePod mini will not support Lossless Audio. Apple's website does indicate that the HomePod will support Spatial Audio, but it's unclear if this includes the HomePod mini. Spatial Audio, based on Dolby Atmos, is an ...
apple music spatial audio ad

More Than Half of Apple Music Listeners Using Spatial Audio, Says Apple Exec

Wednesday February 16, 2022 2:24 am PST by
In an interview with Billboard, Apple's vice president of Apple Music and Beats, Oliver Schusser, details the growth of and reaction to Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio on the streaming platform. Apple Music gained Spatial Audio and Lossless support in June 2021, and since, Apple has continued to add new songs to its catalog that support both new features. Apple had previously promised that ...
spatial audio iphone 12 pro

Eddy Cue Says Spatial Audio on Apple Music is Equivalent to Watching HD Television for First Time

Tuesday June 8, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
Apple Music's new Spatial Audio feature started rolling out on Monday evening and officially launches today, and to mark the occasion, Apple's services chief Eddy Cue and Apple Music radio host Zane Lowe shared some thoughts. Spatial Audio, based on Dolby Atmos, is an immersive three-dimensional audio format that enables musicians to mix music so it sounds like the instruments are all around ...
iPhone Hi Fi Apple Music Feature

Apple Music's New Spatial Audio Feature Launches Today

Monday June 7, 2021 10:43 am PDT by
Spatial Audio, powered by Dolby Atmos for Apple Music is officially launching today, Apple announced during its WWDC keynote. Announced earlier last month, Spatial Audio provides a more immersive music experience for Apple Music subscribers at no additional cost. Spatial Audio will initially be available to thousands of songs on Apple Music, with the selection growing more in the future. The ...

Popular Stories

ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, XS and XS Max, and...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...
iOS 16 battery percentage

Apple Limiting iOS 16 Beta 5 Battery Percentage Display to Select iPhones: Here Are the Supported Devices

Tuesday August 9, 2022 2:51 am PDT by
Apple this week brought back one of the most highly requested features from iOS users since the launch of the iPhone X in 2017: the ability to see your battery percentage directly in the status bar. Ever since the launch of the iPhone X with the notch, Apple has not allowed users to show their battery percentage directly in the status bar, forcing them to swipe down into Control Center to...
ios 16 battery indicator 2

Everything New in iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage in Status Bar, Find My Changes and More

Monday August 8, 2022 12:53 pm PDT by
Apple today seeded the fifth beta of iOS 16 to developers for testing purposes, introducing some small but notable changes to the iOS operating system. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've rounded up everything new in the fifth beta below. Battery Percentage in Status Bar The battery icon in the status bar now displays the exact battery percent, a feature that ...
iphone 14 pro max camera bump compared lipilipsi 16 9

Bigger iPhone 14 Pro Max Camera Bump Shown Alongside iPhone 13 Pro Max

Monday August 8, 2022 4:33 am PDT by
The camera bump on the upcoming iPhone 14 Pro Max is expected to be the largest rear lens housing Apple has ever installed on its flagship smartphones, and a new photo offers a rare glimpse at just how prominent it is compared to Apple's predecessor device. iPhone 14 Pro Max dummy (left) vs iPhone 13 Pro Max All iPhone 14 models are expected to see upgrades to the Ultra Wide camera on the...
cook sept 2020 event

Gurman: Apple Preparing Pre-Recorded iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 Event

Sunday August 7, 2022 6:13 am PDT by
Apple has "started to record" its virtual September event, where it's expected to announce the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 8, and a new "rugged" Apple Watch model, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says the event, which is expected to take place in the early part of September, is already under production, implying...
airpods pro black background

Beyond iPhone 14: Five Apple Products Expected to Launch Later This Year

Monday August 8, 2022 9:43 am PDT by
While the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 are expected to be announced in September as usual, there are several more Apple products rumored to launch later this year, including new iPad and Mac models and more. Beyond the iPhone and Apple Watch, we've put together a list of five Apple products that are most likely to be unveiled by the end of 2022. Second-Generation AirPods Pro Apple...