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Here's how: Activate personalized Spatial Audio on AirPods Pro, Max & Co.

how to activate personal spatialized audio
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With just a few taps, you can set up Personalized Spatial Audio—or personalized 3D audio—in iOS 16. The feature is not only available for the new AirPods Pro 2, but also for the AirPods Max and the old AirPods Pro. NextPit shows you how to activate the feature and use it correctly.

The good news: You don't necessarily need a whole new iPhone. Apple also brings Personalized Spatial Audio or Personalized 3D Audio to older iPhones with iOS 16. According to the manufacturer, it works with every iPhone model that gets iOS 16—even with the iPhone 8 (Plus).

There is also broad support for the headphones. In addition to the newly introduced AirPods Pro 2, Personalized Spatial Audio also supports the old AirPods Pro, the AirPods 3, the AirPods Max and the Beats Fit Pro.

What is personalized Spacial Audio anyway?

Headphones have always had a challenge: the sound that arrives at your eardrum is massively different from the sound that is actually produced by the sound source. The sound waves are refracted at your auricle and your head. From these refractions, your brain can precisely determine the direction and distance of the sound source.

However, this factor does not apply to headphones, because the sound source is located directly in or on the ear. The solution is the so-called HRTF, the Head-Related Transfer Function. This HRTF is a mathematical model of what your head and ear do with the sound, and ensures a more realistic reproduction. The challenge, however, is that every head and ear is different.

AirPods Pro 2 HRTF-Support
iOS 16 calculates a personal HRTF for your head. / © Apple

So instead of applying an HRTF to the sound for the average ear and head, Apple lets you scan your head with iOS 16—and create your own personal Head-Related Transfer Function.

How to activate personalized Spatial Audio

Setting up Personalized Spatial Audio takes just two minutes. You can find the option in iOS 16 in the settings of your headphones paired with the iPhone.

Screenshots with explanation of how to set up Personal Spatial Audio
The option for Personalized 3D Audio or Personal Spatial Audio can be found in the settings of your paired headphones. / © NextPit

Simply scroll down here until you find "personalized spatial audio". Tap on the option with your finger to start the setup. Afterwards, you simply follow the instructions of iOS 16.

Screenshots with explanation of how to set up Personalized Spatial Audio
Scanning once from the front, once from the right and once from the left, and the personalized Spacial Audio is already set up. / © NextPit

Our first impression: It definitely sounds different! A bit more spacious, and the ANC seems to work better somehow, too. Of course, how big the difference is also depends on how different your ear is from the standard ear in the standard HRTF.

Finally, after you set up the personalized Spacial Audio, we'd like to know if you notice a difference from before, and if so, how is it noticeable? We look forward to your comments!

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Stefan Möllenhoff

Stefan Möllenhoff
Head of Content Production

I have been writing about technology since 2004 with a strong passion for smartphones, photography, and IoT, especially in the world of smart homes and AI ever since they debuted. I'm also an avid cook and bake pizza at least three times a week using my Ooni Koda 16. In order to compensate for all the consumed calories, I indulge in sporting activities on a daily basis while strapping on at least two fitness trackers. I am strongly convinced that you can DIY a lot of things if you put your mind to it - including a photovoltaic system and power station.

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