I Tried iOS 16’s Personalized Spatial Audio On My AirPods Pro…. Here’s What I Think Of It

iOS 16 dropped a new feature upon AirPods owners called Personalized Spatial Audio. The idea with personalized audio is that if headphones or earbuds tune their sound to the shape of your ears, then they’ll remove some detail imperfections you get from reflections and other interference. In theory, that means more precise, realistic, and dynamic performance.

To produce this personalized tuning, Apple uses the iPhone’s front-facing TrueDepth camera to scan your ears. The process, which involves holding your iPhone about 10 to 20 centimetres from the side of your head, and the resulting data is then used to optimize spatial audio for your unique ear shape. I will say right up front that this is not as easy as it should be as I kind of struggled with getting this to work until I figured out how Apple wanted me to hold my phone and what prompts to press. But as long as you carefully read everything that Apple wants you to do and execute those instructions, you can get this done in a couple of minutes.

But the real question is, how does it sound? To test that, I used this video which allows you to test 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos on my iPhone 12 Pro.

The result is that I could perceive that audio was being placed in specific locations relative to where you see them in the video. It’s freakishly good. Thus I would say that it’s worth the effort to do this as you will notice the difference if you have the right source material. I say that because just listening to music bought from the iTunes Store and that I listen to frequently didn’t result in it sounding any better. So I am going assume that movies that have Dolby Atmos as well as any other media that leverages spatial audio would you be your best bet in terms of leveraging this feature.

Apple is planning on releasing an update to this “later this fall” that will bring this feature to Macs and iPads. I suspect that the update in question will be macOS Ventura and iPadOS 16. Thus I will revisit this when that update comes out. But for now, if you have AirPods and you’ve updated to iOS 16, this feature is totally worth trying.

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