Spatial Audio is one of the best tricks that Apple has added to its headphones and earphones. It uses special sound processing to trick your ears into thinking that sounds originate from all sorts of points around you. It’s used to play Dolby Atmos content in Apple Music and other compatible video and audio apps, and it sounds really great.
Even though we only have two ears, we know the direction sounds are coming from because sounds alter as they interact with our ears and head. Our brains detect these subtle changes to determine the direction of origin. With Spatial Audio, Apple uses algorithms called HRTFs (Head Related Transfer Functions) to mimic those subtle changes, so you “hear” a sound coming from somewhere other than the tiny earphones pressed against your ear. With AirPods Pro, Max, and Beats Fit Pro, you can even use the built-in accelerometer to measure the turn of your head and have the sound hold steady relative to your position.
While it works great for most people, these algorithms were initially something of a one-size-fits-all. As you can imagine, the sound entering your ears is modified differently depending on the size and shape of your head and ears. With iOS 16, you can set up a Custom Spatial Audio profile that takes this into account more accurately, making Spatial Audio work even better. This is how you set it up.
Time to complete: 5 minutes
Tools needed: iPhone with Face ID, iOS 16 or later
Necessary materials: none
Pair your AirPods and open the case
Make sure your AirPods or Beats earphones are paired with your iPhone, and then open the case near your iPhone.
Open Settings and you’ll see your AirPods or Beats headphones listed near the top. play it
Select “Custom Spatial Audio”
With your AirPods connected, you’ll see many options in this menu. Scroll down to where you see Custom Spatial Audio and select it.
The following screen describes what this feature does. Play Customize spatial audio… To get started.
Follow the prompts to scan your head and ears
You will be guided through a step-by-step process to scan your head from a frontal view and your left and right ears.
Play Continue and follow the prompts. It’s a lot like setting up Face ID!
When you scan your ears, move your head slowly and listen for the confirmation sound to let you know when the scan is complete.