iOS 16: How to use personalized surround sound on iPhone

Apple released iOS 16 for iPhone and iPad a few days ago. While this isn’t a major update, it does come with some interesting features. Personalized spatial audio is one such feature that includes AirPods. We’re here to tell you all about personalized spatial audio, from how it works to how to use it.

Personalized spatial audio

Apple has been making strides in audio over the past few years. When they launched Spatial Audio for Apple Music in 2021, they aimed to provide a more immersive music experience. It felt like we were sitting next to Ed Sheeran in the studio listening to Shape of You. And, of course, we were equally impressed by the personalized spatial audio. Continue reading this guide to learn more.

What is Personalized Spatial Audio?

According to Apple’s definition, Personalized Spatial Audio is technology that provides a three-dimensional sound experience when you move your head.

In case you were wondering what spatial audio is in the first place, it’s a listening experience that creates a surround sound effect in your headphones. You will hear the notes and sounds of the music in all directions, creating a multi-dimensional effect.

Apple claims that each person perceives sound in a unique way and offers the ability to adjust the spatial sound profile – and how it works is very interesting.

How personalized surround sound works

Personalized Spatial Audio scans your ears and face profile on your iPhone to optimize sound output based on your unique ear shape. Analyzing the structure of your ear adjusts the sound based on all the unique folds and contours of your ear.

Once complete, the sound will be adjusted based on frequencies, desired intensity, and takes into account the changing profile of the sound as it enters the ear. The goal is to give you the best possible surround sound listening experience.

However, setting up this feature was quite a tedious process and it took us almost three tries to register the right ear. In the end, when we completed the process, the musical experience was unlike any other. We recommend you to try it. The good thing is that you can demo it before you configure the feature to make sure.

What you need to use personalized surround sound

To set up Personalized Spatial Audio, you must have an iPhone with a TrueDepth camera running iOS 16. Once set up, you can access this feature on any of the devices below by signing in with your Apple ID.

  • iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 16 or later, iPad with iPadOS 16.1 or later, or Apple Watch with watchOS 9 or later, Apple TV with tvOS 16 or later, or Mac with Apple silicon and macOS Ventura
  • Airpods 3rd generation, Airpods Pro, Airpods Pro 2 or Airpods Max.
  • Beats Fit Pro is the only other compatible audio device.

How to get a quick demo of personalized surround sound on iOS 16

Step 1: Open the Settings app.

Open Settings

step 2: Select your AirPods.

Select Airpods

step 3: Select “See and Hear It in Action…” under “Spatial Audio”.


Step 4: You’ll get a demonstration and comparison of stereo and surround sound. Click Done when you’re done listening to the demo.

A personalized demo of spatial audio

Now that you’ve experienced the difference, we’re sure you won’t want to go back. Here’s how you can set up Personalize Spatial audio on your iPhone and AirPods and listen to your favorites.

How to set up personalized spatial audio on iPhone with AirPods

Step 1: First, connect AirPods to iPhone. To do this, place the AirPods case near the iPhone with the cover open.

step 2: Now press and hold the button on the back of the charging case as shown on your iPhone.

Hold button

step 3: Wait for the AirPods to establish a connection. Once connected, click Done.

Step 4: Open the Settings app and select your connected AirPods.

step 5: Select “Personalized Spatial Audio”. On the next screen, select “Personalize Spatial Audio…” again.

Step 6: Click Continue to start the scanning process.

Select Continue

Step 7: First, place the front profile of your face. Follow the instructions to turn heads and register your profile.

Front view capture

Step 8: Then grab the right ear profile and follow the prompts to move your head to register the profile. Repeat the same for the left ear profile.

Step 9: After registration, you will receive a confirmation message. Click Done.

Click Done

As mentioned earlier, we had to go through several attempts to register the ear profiles. If you are facing the same problem and getting the error message “Unable to set up personalized spatial audio”, don’t worry. We have some tips to help us get it right.

Fix “Unable to configure personalized surround sound” error.

  • Scan your face without lots of objects in the background.
  • Remove glasses or any facial accessories of similar scale.
  • Make sure your hair doesn’t get in the way of your ears.
  • Place the phone at a distance of 10-20 cm from your face.
  • When prompted to move your head, do so slowly and carefully.

Once done, go ahead and listen to the fine-tuned surround sound created for your ears.

How to get the best spatial audio from Apple Music

Apple Music has had Hi-Res Lossless audio for a year now, and we’re sure a personalized experience would be even better. Here’s how you can listen to music that works best for surround sound. To do this, you need to enable several parameters in the settings.

Step 1: Open the Settings app and tap Music.

Select Music

step 2: Select Sound Quality.

Select Sound Quality

step 3: Enable lossless audio.

Turn on the switch for lossless audio

Step 4: On the same screen, tap any streaming mode and select Hi-Res Lossless if not already selected.

A note: Listening to high-resolution music without loss will consume more data than the High-Efficiency option.

step 5: Now open Apple Music.

Open Apple Music

Step 6: Search for Spatial Audio in the search bar. You’ll find an array of playlists tuned to deliver immersive surround sound.

Search in spatial audio

Step 7: The song being played will have a tag indicating that it has lossless surround sound.

Sample song

Now that you understand how to enable and use this feature, you probably have a few questions about its availability and more. For answers, go to the FAQ section.

Frequently asked questions about Apple’s personalized surround sound

1. In which applications can I use personalized spatial audio?

Currently, only a few software packages support spatial sound features. Popular apps include Apple Music, Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, HBO Max, Clubhouse, and more.

2. Is personalized spatial audio available on Spotify or YouTube?

No, neither Spotify nor YouTube currently provide surround sound. However, we hope that the developers are working on using the personalized surround sound feature.

3. Can I make calls with personalized surround sound?

Yes, FaceTime supports calls with personalized surround sound.

4. How to disable personalized spatial audio on iPhone?

On your device, go to Settings > Select Airpods under your name > “Personalized Spatial Audio” > tap “Stop using Personalized Spatial Audio”.

Enjoy spatial sound precisely tuned to your hearing

That’s all you need to know about using personalized surround sound on iPhone. For best results, we recommend using Apple Music. It’s impressive how Apple improves the experience through software updates like this. AirPods have revolutionized the field of wireless headphones, and we can’t wait to see how the competition reacts to such a feature.