Latest AirPods Pro Firmware Includes Support for Spatial Audio

John Voorhees, writing last week for MacStories:

AirPods Pro firmware version 3A283 is currently rolling out to users with two new features: spatial audio and automatic device switching. […]

I tested the feature with my iPhone 11 Pro Max and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and it worked with both, even though Apple only mentions iPhone models on its iOS 14 preview page. In my tests, I played the latest episode of Ted Lasso, a TV+ show that supports multi-channel audio. I also tried HBO’s Game of Thrones. It’s going to require more testing, but the feature seems to support any multi-channel audio source, regardless of the video streaming provider.

As Ted Lasso played, I turned in my chair and got up, and walked around my office. With spatial audio turned on, which you can do by long-pressing the volume slider in Control Center in the iOS or iPadOS 14 betas, the source of the sound seemed to come directly from my iPad that was sitting on my desk. Next, I switched to watching on my iPhone and moved it as I walked around my office. The entire time the sound seemed to be coming directly from the iPhone.

Very cool, very fun, and in my testing — also against an episode of Ted Lasso, which, if you haven’t watched it yet, is one of the best new TV shows in years — it feels very natural, not gimmicky or distracting. The spatiality just feels right.

Also, is it just the placebo effect, or did Apple greatly improve Transparency mode in this latest firmware? I typically wear my AirPods Pro while I’m out walking around town, and I prefer Transparency mode to Noise Cancellation while I’m perambulating so I can hear what’s going on around me. It could be my imagination, but it seems to me that with this latest firmware Transparency mode is magically better — a lot less white noise from wind. There used to be a baseline background whooshiness that is now just gone. When I pause my podcast or music, it’s like I don’t even have earbuds in at all. I just … hear.

If anyone knows whether this is actually new and improved, let me know.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020