The Apple TV is getting a surprise new feature for AirPods users – but there's a catch

The Apple TV is getting a surprise new feature for AirPods users – but there's a catch
(Image credit: Apple)

We know about plenty of new features coming to the Apple TV later this year, but there's one that Apple has been keeping under its hat: Spatial Audio becoming available in two pairs of AirPods simultaneously.

At the moment, Apple's Spatial Audio immersive audio content on the Apple TV is limited to playing through one pair of AirPods at a time. But FlatpanelsHDhas discovered that this will change in the autumn with the launch of tvOS 17.

This Shared Spatial Audio feature works with 5.1 and 7.1 audio as well as Dolby Atmos, just like regular Spatial Audio. Supported apps include Netflix and Apple TV+, and Beats headphones that support Spatial Audio will also support this audio-sharing feature.

FlatpanelsHD has reportedly used the new feature with an Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen) connected to a pair of AirPods Pro and AirPods 3. We assume all Spatial Audio-compatible models of AirPods will be able to use the feature, though that is yet to be confirmed.

However, there's a catch. Connect two pairs of AirPods/Beats to the Apple TV 4K with Spatial Audio enabled, and you won't be able to use Spatial Audio's dynamic head tracking feature. This anchors the sound so that it always seems like it's coming from the audio source even if you turn your head to the side. Instead, only the 'Fixed' option is available – turn your head to the left and the soundstage won't adjust to 'follow' your head movements. For now, anyway. As tvOS 17 is still in beta, this feature could be enabled at some point in the future.

The tvOS 17 software will launch this autumn, probably around the same time as the iPhone 15. It will bring FaceTime for video calls, an Enhanced Dialogue feature through the HomePod speaker, the ability to find your Apple TV remote using your iPhone, and more. 


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Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.