How to use Spatial Audio in macOS Monterey

Spatial Audio on Mac
Spatial Audio on Mac (Image credit: iMore)

With select headphones and speakers, you can take advantage of Spatial Audio on Mac. The new feature is available using Apple Music and FaceTime with macOS Monterey. Here's how to use Spatial Audio on the best Macs.

What is Spatial Audio?

With Spatial Audio, music listening becomes a multidimensional experience where the sound feels like it's coming from various directions. Apple's surround sound version, Spatial Audio, uses multiple sensors inside the headphones or speakers to work, including accelerometers and gyroscopes.


For Apple Music, Spatial Audio is typically tied with Dolby Atmos, although not always. The one-two punch takes better advantage of the virtual audio space that Dolby Atmos creates. Apple Music is the only audio service that supports both features.

According to an Apple support document (opens in new tab), you need to be listening with one of the following devices to use Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos automatically on Mac:

  • AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max
  • BeatsX, Beats Solo3 Wireless, Beats Studio3, Powerbeats3 Wireless, Beats Flex, Powerbeats Pro, Beats Solo Pro, or Beats Studio Buds
  • The built-in speakers on a MacBook Pro (2018 model or later), MacBook Air (2018 model or later), or iMac (2021 model)

Note: You also need to have macOS Big Sur 11.4 or later.

How to use Spatial Audio with Apple Music on Mac

To utilize Spatial Audio on Apple Music on Mac:

  1. Open the Apple Music app.
  2. Choose Music from the menu bar.
  3. Select Preferences.
  4. Click the Playback tab.

To use Spatial Audio with Apple Music on Mac, open the Apple Music app, then choose Music from the menu bar. Select Preferences. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Toggle Dolby Atmos to Automatic, Always-On, or Off.

To use Spatial Audio with Apple Music on Mac, toggle Dolby Atmos to Automatic, Always On, or off.

To use Spatial Audio with Apple Music on Mac, toggle Dolby Atmos to Automatic, Always On, or off. (Image credit: iMore)

Remember, if you want automatic playback, you need to be listening with one of the devices listed above. If you want to use other headphones that don't support automatic playback, choose Always On.

How to use Spatial Audio with FaceTime

With Spatial Audio, a sound field gets created during a FaceTime conversation, making it sound like your friends or colleagues are in the same room. As such, voices are spread out to sound like they're coming from the people's direction on the screen. The only requirement to using Spatial Audio with FaceTime is that you're using a Mac from 2018 or later and have macOS Monterey or later installed.

Good start

Spatial Audio makes listening to music and attending a FaceTime session even better. It's super easy to use as long as you have the right equipment.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

  • I have a 2019 MBP with macOS 11.5.1, and Dolby Atmos is nowhere to be found in my Music settings. Did I miss a crucial step?
  • The steps are correct and confirmed with Apple. The computer and software versions should be fine. So there's no Dolby Atmos under the Preferences > Playback section in Music? Anything about Dolby Atmos on Preferences > General? You are an Apple Music subscriber, right?
  • I experienced this on my new Mac just the other day. It was glorious. The situation was so Apple. I traded in an Intel MacBook Pro for a new M1 MacBook Pro (13", I like the touch bar). After getting the new one set up I was sitting and browsing some YouTube videos. Not wanting to disturb the wife watching TV, I picked up my AirPods Pro, flipped open the case and pulled one out. On the new Mac, connecting to AirPods Pro popped right up. How Apple is that? No muss, no fuss, no pairing, just worked. I noticed when I put them in my ears it sounded way better and like the audio was coming from the laptop. I was sure they had disconnected, because it sounded like the sound was coming from the screen. I pulled one ear out, and it paused the video. I restarted it and no, it was sending the sound through the buds. I turned my head left and right, and it continued to sound like the sound was coming from excellent speakers in my laptop. It is an interesting and pleasant experience.