In short: Make sure the Mono Audio setting is disabled, otherwise Apple Music spatial audio won’t work. The Mono Audio is a setting that makes the left and right speakers play the same content without left and right stereo audio variations.
Spatial audio makes listening more fun, especially if you’re listening to songs on Apple Music because the origin points of different sounds can appear to envelop you from all directions.
To enable spatial audio on your device, first, you’ll need to wear the proper equipment. Then, you’ll need to open the Control Center on your iPhone or on your iPad.
On iPad and iPhone X, and later, swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen. On iPhone SE, and iPhone 8 and earlier, swipe up from the bottom edge of any screen.
Touch and hold the volume control to turn on spatial audio while you’re playing multi-channel content or Spatialize Stereo while you’re playing two-channel stereo content.
When you turn on spatial audio with head tracking, audio adjusts based on your head movement. To turn on spatial audio and dynamic head tracking, tap Head Tracked.
Or, tap Fixed to turn on spatial audio only. To turn off spatial audio and dynamic head tracking, tap Off. But sometimes Apple Music spatial audio is not working. Here are a few reasons why.
Not all content supports spatial audio
The first thing you need to understand is that not all content on Apple Music supports spatial audio. This is the case when you open the Control Center and spatial audio is missing or OFF.
Apple says there are “thousands” of songs with spatial audio enabled on Apple Music at the time of writing, though you’ll have to do a tiny bit of searching to find them.
Apple currently isn’t providing a hard number on how many songs are available in spatial audio, but you’ll know if a song uses it if you see a little “Dolby Atmos” logo on the playback screen.
You’re not using the proper equipment
Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking brings theater-like sound so that the song you’re listening to on Apple Music feels like it’s coming from all around you.
However, you’ll need to use the proper equipment to take advantage of the feature. The most important thing is making sure you have the right hardware.
You’ll need either the AirPods Pro (both 1st and 2nd Generation models), AirPods Max, AirPods (3rd Generation), and Beats Fit Pro or Beats Studio Pro.
Several of the older models didn’t originally launch with spatial audio support but will be supported automatically with the latest firmware update.
However, Apple did mention that you don’t need AirPods to listen to Dolby Atmos Apple Music and that any headphones will be able to play songs with spatial audio.
Compatible Apple and Beats headphones will have spatial audio enabled automatically, but for any other headphones, you just need to switch Dolby Atmos to “Always On” in Settings.
Apple Music’s take on spatial audio can also be played through the integrated speakers of newer Apple devices so long as they’re running iOS 15.1 or later.
As long as you keep these considerations in mind, you’re on track to enjoy Apple Music songs with spatial audio. But if spatial audio still doesn’t work, let’s move on to the next step.
The Mono Audio setting is turned on
If you’re using the proper equipment but Apple Music spatial audio is not working, chances are the Mono Audio setting is currently enabled on your device.
The Mono Audio is a setting that makes the left and right speakers play the same content. It’s useful when you’re using only one earbud, but it can prevent spatial audio from working.
I’ve actually tried turning on the Mono Audio on my iPhone and the spatial audio icon is immediately grayed out. Once I disable Mono Audio, the spatial audio is back.
To make sure that Mono Audio is disabled on your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app then navigate to Accessibility > Audio/Visual. Make sure Mono Audio is turned OFF.
When you’re done, you can return to the Home screen by swiping up from the bottom of the screen or by pressing the Home button on devices with a physical Home button.
Now, the audio experience will become much better and you can hear 360° audio. Remember, with Mono Audio turned on, you won’t be able to have left and right stereo audio variations.
Make sure Dolby Atmos is turned on
Spatial audio can work without Dolby Atmos, but more times than not you’re going to be listening to content that supports both simultaneously so it’s better to turn on Dolby Atmos.
In fact, Apple designed spatial audio so that it works best with Dolby Atmos. The combination allows you to enjoy a more immersive audio experience on Apple Music.
To enable Dolby Atmos, go to Settings and tap on Music. Under Audio, tap on Dolby Atmos. On the window that opens, you can choose between Automatic, Always On, or Off.
If you choose Automatic, supported songs on Apple Music automatically play in Dolby Atmos when you’re listening with the right hardware and proper equipment.
On the other hand, you should choose Always On if you want to use wired headphones. When the Dolby Atmos setting is turned off, you won’t be able to enjoy spatial audio.
Set spatial audio head tracking to follow the iPhone
If you are using headphones or earbuds that support head tracking, make sure it is enabled on your device. To do this, navigate to Settings > Accessibility > Follow iPhone.
Make sure the toggle is ON and set to “Follow iPhone” so that spatial audio will sound like it’s coming from your device instead of following your head movements.
But when you’re listening to music with spatial audio on but the head tracking off, you’re getting that simulated theater room/stereo system sound, but you’re not getting the full simulation.
What head tracking does is add another layer of realism to spatial audio by emulating the experience of sitting inside a multichannel, Dolby Atmos, or stereo listening environment.
When head tracking is off, the simulated sound inside the virtual room is still moving with you, which is unrealistic because in real life the speakers inside the room aren’t going to move.
In reality, the speakers don’t move around on their own depending on where your head is facing at any point in time, YOU do. And your brain interprets the positionality of sound that way.
Many people seem to think that head tracking is a useless gimmick but it’s not. Once it’s enabled, you should be able to experience a more immersive audio experience.