Spatial Audio for AirPods Pros arrive via firmware update

Spatial Audio for AirPods Pros arrive via firmware update
(Image credit: Future)

Apple has rolled out a new firmware update to the AirPods Pros that appears to enable Spatial Audio, a 3D audio feature coming to the noise-cancelling AirPods with the imminent iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 release.

Since the 3A283 software arrived yesterday, many AirPods Pro owners have taken to social media to report being able to see Spatial Audio mode in the Bluetooth settings menu (confirmed by AppleInsider) and use it with Apple TV+ titles. Note that your Apple device needs to be on iOS 14 for it to show up.

On the MacRumors forum, a handful of members seem to have had pretty positive first experiences of the technology, with "trippy" and "pretty incredible really" among the descriptions. One forum user posted: "I just tried playing a movie and then slowing spinning around in my chair. It sounds like the sound is coming from the iPad behind me. Very cool!"

Spatial Audio, which was announced at Apple's WWDC 2020 keynote briefing in the summer, is essentially surround sound via your headphones – Apple’s own take on Dolby Atmos for Headphones and Sony’s upcoming PS5 3D Audio. 

The technology takes 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos signals and applies directional audio filters, adjusting the frequencies that each ear hears so that sounds can be placed virtually anywhere in 3D space. The promised result is a more dimensional, immersive soundfield – a more cinematic experience, if you like.

The 3A283 update has also introduced another handy iOS14 feature to the AirPods Pros – quick switching. As the name suggests, this allows the earbuds to switch automatically between multiple paired devices on the same iCloud account as they're being used.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10+ years in the hi-fi industry, she has reviewed all manner of audio gear, from budget amplifiers to high-end speakers, and particularly specialises in headphones and head-fi devices. In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.