Can you use spatial audio on Android?

Spatial audio refers to audio that creates an immersive, three-dimensional sound experience by making it seem like the sound is coming from all directions around the listener. This helps create a more realistic and engaging audio environment, similar to surround sound. On Android devices, spatial audio capabilities allow users to experience this effect using their smartphones and headphones.

Android 13 introduced official platform support for spatial audio, enabling compatible apps to take advantage of spatial processing features ( Android can leverage the phone’s built-in motion sensors to track head movements and adjust the spatial audio in real-time to match the user’s orientation. This capability is known as head tracking. With spatial audio and head tracking, listening to music, movies, games, and other content on an Android device can feel significantly more immersive.

However, hardware and software support are required to enable spatial audio. Let’s take a closer look at what’s needed to use spatial audio on Android devices.

Hardware Support

Spatial audio relies on hardware capabilities to deliver an immersive listening experience. On Android devices, spatial audio requires compatible headphones or earbuds and a phone with specific hardware features.

As of 2022, spatial audio is supported on Pixel 4, 4 XL, 4a, 4a 5G, 5, 5a, 6, 6 Pro, 6a, 7, 7 Pro, and other select Android devices running Android 12 or newer [1]. Spatial audio support may expand to more Android devices as the feature develops.

To experience spatial audio, compatible wireless Bluetooth headphones or earbuds are required, such as Pixel Buds Pro or Sony WH-1000XM4. The headphones must contain motion sensors and have the ability to connect to the phone via LE Audio for optimal performance [2].

Software Support

Spatial audio is supported starting in Android 13 according to Google’s documentation. Android 13 introduces a standard API for OEMs to implement spatial audio and head tracking features without needing custom vendor solutions. This means spatial audio experiences can be more consistent across different Android devices running Android 13 and higher.

There are a number of apps that take advantage of spatial audio capabilities in Android 13 and up. For example, Android Central mentions that apps like YouTube Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Netflix all support spatial audio playback. These apps can deliver more immersive listening experiences by using directional audio effects to simulate sound coming from different directions.

Other apps like video games and VR/AR apps are also starting to implement spatial audio for more lifelike sounds that match visuals and environments. As spatial audio gains more adoption, Android users can expect more apps to add support and take advantage of the enriched audio experiences it can provide.

How Spatial Audio Works

Spatial audio creates a three-dimensional sound effect by simulating sound coming from multiple directions, unlike regular stereo audio which only has left and right channels. It uses advanced audio processing to create the illusion of surround sound using just two speakers or earbuds.

Spatial audio works by applying directional audio filters and adjusting volumes to make it seem like sounds are coming from different parts of a virtual space around the listener. For example, if a sound effect in a movie is meant to come from behind, spatial audio will decrease the volume in the left and right earbud speakers while adding echoes so the brain perceives the sound as originating from behind rather than in front.

This differs from regular stereo which can only differentiate between left and right. With spatial audio, sound can be placed all around the listener – in front, behind, above, below, and anywhere in between. This creates an immersive surround sound experience from just standard headphones or speakers.

Some spatial audio formats also track the position and motion of the listener’s head to further enhance the 3D effect. As the listener moves and turns their head, the audio adjusts in real-time to match the changing perspective.

Enabling Spatial Audio

Android phones running Android 10 or later can enable spatial audio in the sound settings. To access the setting:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Android phone.
  2. Tap Sound & vibration > Spatial sound.
  3. Toggle the Spatial sound setting to on.

Some Android phones like the Pixel series may have additional spatial audio settings under Sound & vibration, such as options for head tracking and room acoustics 1.

If spatial audio does not seem to be working, here are some troubleshooting steps:

  • Make sure your headphones are compatible. Spatial audio works best with stereo headphones. Earbuds or headphones with head tracking capabilities are ideal.
  • Check that your media apps are updated to the latest version. Apps need to support spatial audio for it to work.
  • Toggle the spatial audio setting off and back on. Restarting the feature can help.
  • Update your Android OS and drivers. Spatial audio requires Android 10 or higher.

Contact your device manufacturer if spatial audio still does not work after troubleshooting.

Spatial Audio in Apps

A growing number of streaming apps are adding support for spatial audio on Android devices. According to XDA Developers, Google confirmed that Netflix, YouTube, Google TV, and HBO Max will all support spatial audio for compatible Pixel phones and earbuds.

Netflix was one of the first major streaming services to roll out spatial audio support on mobile. By enabling spatial audio in the app settings, Netflix content with 5.1 or Dolby Atmos audio can take advantage of directional sound based on head tracking. YouTube also recently launched spatial audio for immersive music and video content. Spatial audio creates a surround sound experience and makes the viewer feel like they’re inside the video.

In addition to video streaming, an increasing number of mobile games are integrating spatial audio for more immersive gameplay. Titles like MARVEL Realm of Champions, Genshin Impact, and Hearthstone support surround sound and directional audio cues to pinpoint enemies or immerse players in virtual worlds.

Using Head Tracking

Head tracking allows the spatial audio to adjust based on the position and orientation of the listener’s head. As you turn your head, the sound field remains anchored in place, creating a more immersive listening experience. Here’s how head tracking works with spatial audio:

The phone or earbuds have sensors that detect motion and orientation. This includes accelerometers, gyroscopes, and sometimes magnetometers. The motion data gets sent to the spatial audio engine, which adjusts audio filters and mixing in real-time to match the listener’s head position.

For example, as you turn your head to the right, audio on the left side will become boosted while audio on the right gets attenuated. This makes it seem like the sound is coming from a fixed point in space rather than from the headphones.

Head tracking requires specific hardware support. Some phones and earbuds compatible with head tracking spatial audio include:

  • Samsung Galaxy S22 series and newer
  • Google Pixel Buds Pro
  • Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones
  • Apple AirPods Max and AirPods Pro

The device and headphones need to support head tracking over a compatible wireless protocol like Bluetooth LE Audio. The spatial audio processing also needs to happen on the device rather than the headset to enable head tracking.

Pros and Cons

Spatial audio has many benefits for Android users looking for an immersive listening experience. By simulating a 3D soundscape, spatial audio can make music, movies, and games feel more enveloping and realistic. Key benefits include:

More immersive audio for media – Songs and videos mix elements to sound like they’re coming from all around you, just as in real life.

Enhanced gaming audio – Sounds in video games can emanate from precise locations, improving directionality and realism.

Natural voice calls – Voices on phone calls sound like they’re coming from the direction of the person.

However, spatial audio on Android also has some limitations in its current implementation that users should be aware of:

Requires specific hardware – Spatial audio only works on select Android phones and headphones with extra speakers/mics.

Spotty app support – Many apps don’t yet take full advantage of spatial audio features.

Effectiveness varies – The 3D effect can be more or less convincing depending on the audio mix.

Drains battery faster – Extra audio processing requires more power.

Head tracking can be finicky – Moving your head while using head tracking doesn’t always work smoothly.

Overall, spatial audio shows promise in bringing more immersive sound to Android, but it still has room to grow as the technology and app integration continue to develop.

Future Development

Spatial audio on Android is still in the early stages, but is expected to improve significantly in the coming years as more devices add support. According to Android Authority, many major Android phone makers like Samsung and Sony plan to add spatial audio to more models in the future. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S23 series are rumored to have improved spatial audio capabilities.

In addition to more phones, more Bluetooth headphones from brands like Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser are expected to add spatial audio support. As Gaudio Lab notes, spatial audio adoption is still limited but should gradually increase as Android builds out the feature. More spatial audio content and apps are also expected as hardware support expands.

Some key improvements coming to spatial audio on Android include better head tracking accuracy, support for more simultaneous audio sources, and improved room modeling. As the technology matures, spatial audio on Android should deliver more immersive, cinema-like experiences over headphones. The potential for surround sound audio and precise location-based effects could significantly enhance gaming, videos, and other applications.


In summary, spatial audio is available on many Android devices, but support varies depending on the hardware capabilities. Most modern Android phones contain the hardware needed for basic spatial audio playback. However, some features like head tracking may require more advanced hardware not found in every device. The software and OS support for spatial audio has improved in recent years as well, with spatial audio now built into Android 10 and newer versions. Apps like YouTube, Netflix, and other streaming services are adding spatial audio support too.

Compared to iOS and iPhones, the spatial audio experience on Android is still catching up. iOS has more consistent hardware support through the iPhone and AirPods lineup. The integration with Dolby Atmos is tighter on iOS as well. However, Android OS and app support continues to improve. And many Android phone manufacturers like Samsung are prioritizing spatial audio in their devices. Overall spatial audio is viable on Android, but the experience can vary more widely depending on your specific Android device.

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