Twitter user Kenny (via 9to5Mac) was the first to spot the announcement of the spatial audio showcase, although the Apple Music link Kenny posted is no longer available and there’s nothing about it on the official WWDC schedule. That might suggest Apple doesn’t see the spatial audio event as part of WWDC 2021 proper, or simply wants it kept more of a surprise.
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Still, we already knew a form of spatial audio was coming to Apple Music, alongside lossless audio, in June. This event is likely more of a deep dive into how the tech works.
We’re expecting Apple Music’s spatial audio to be closer to Sony 360 Reality Audio than how spatial audio works on the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. These headphones include motion sensors so that videos with surround sound can ensure the origin points of different sounds stay consistent, relative to your phone screen, even when you move your head.
Since Apple has already confirmed that Apple Music spatial audio won’t require the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, and will in fact be compatible with any pair of headphones, the head-tracking feature likely won’t be a core component.
It could, therefore, just be Apple’s take on 360 Reality Audio, taking advantage of Dolby Atmos mastering to map different instruments and vocal tracks in a 3D digital “sphere” around the listener. This could still create a 360-degree effect, just not one that stays in place when you move your head.
Judging by this new event tease, we won’t need to wait long to find out more about how spatial audio will work on Apple Music: according to the now-removed announcement, it is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT today, June 7.
Apple's WWDC keynote, meanwhile, will take place at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT and you can follow it all via our WWDC 2021 live blog.
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James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.