Is Spatialise Stereo Good?

Posted on August 3, 2021

Yes, it’s amazing. It does depend on the strength of the original stereo mix, but generally it creates better listening experiences from source material, while still being faithful to the source material. At least with the AirPods Max, it’s a great extension of in-can DSP, that for many more casual audiophiles will only further reduce the need for a dedicated DAC.

It’s as if the sound gets out of your head and is all around you, which, with closed headphones like the AirPods Max, goes a lot of the way of emulating listening with much more expensive gear: you’ll be able to separate instruments more easily. Tracks can breathe more. Details are more apparent.

Laughably, it’s often better than actual dolby atoms mixes. It’s definitely a more reliable option. I’m interested to see what producers will do with atoms/spatial audio, because the results can defiantly be better, but if it doesn’t catch on I’ll be happy enough with Spatialize Stereo.

Unfortunately, you can’t have spatialise stereo without also having dolby/spatial audio – the options are tied together. This means if a track is available in dolby, you’ll be fed this version, rather than the stereo version. Let’s hope that in time the bar of quality for dolby/spatial rises (to listen to how truly bad Atmos can sound check out Flesh and Blood by Jimmy Barnes. wow). It’s not too hard to toggle options on or off via a long press on the control centre volume bar, but it’s not ideal I guess.

A great thing about Spatialize Stereo is that unlike the dolby tracks, it works with any general stereo app such as Tidal or YouTube, and so lifts the whole iPad/iPhone experience – even beyond music.

A musician it was interesting to listen to my own pieces this way via the Files app – too hear what Apple’s processing makes of my stereo mix.

Here are some songs that sound very good with Apple’s new Spatialize Audio turned on in iOS 15 / iPadOS 15.

  1. Spoonman – Soundgarden
  2. Cherub Rock – Smashing Pumpkins
  3. Zooropa – U2
  4. Desire – U2
  5. Kung Foo Sing – Regurgitator

What music doesn’t sound good with Spatialize Stereo on? Some songs, with heavy stereo processing built into the mix, like Bjork’s All is Full of Love, don’t work as well in Spatialize Stereo. A lot of 80s music also doesn’t translate well – perhaps it was the experimental stereo processing that was done, or some particular production techniques from the time.