Apple Music is one of the best music streaming services available and has a strong catalog of tracks available in lossless and spatial audio. But despite it having a good amount of spatial audio content accessible via curated playlists, it doesn't currently have a way for listeners to easily know what tracks in their own Apple Music library are available in the immersive 3D audio version.
Luckily, if you're an Apple Music subscriber, there's now a way to automatically find out which of the tracks and albums in your music library are also available in spatial audio without having to carry out lengthy searches of your favorite artist's back catalog. It costs $3.99 / £3.99 via the iOS app store — but if you don't want to pay, you can follow the developer's Twitter account to keep track of new spatial audio releases.
Music Library Tracker is a third-party app for iPhone and iPad that has been developed to integrate with the Apple Music library to track content changes. A recent update now includes monitoring of spatial audio content, and updates and generates a dedicated playlist of songs that have been upgraded to spatial audio. Plus, if you opt-in to notifications when installing the app on your device, it will send you alerts when a track in your music library has been upgraded to spatial audio.
What is spatial audio?
Spatial audio is 360-degree sound format that recreates a surround effect through a pair of speakers, including headphones and even a tiny pair of earbuds. When spatial audio first arrived it was mostly seen as a format for enhanced video playback when using Apple's flagship AirPods Pro earbuds and AirPods Max headphones, but music is now being given the spatial audio treatment as well.
Since Apple first introduced the idea of more immersive listening experiences and 3D soundscapes, we've seen an increasing number of products and services offer spatial audio alongside Dolby Atmos support. Since spatial audio's launch in 2021, music tracks have steadily been engineered to deliver an enhanced stereo experience, and today industry experts estimate that around 80% of new music tracks are emerging with a spatial audio content version.
Do I need spatial audio?
From Apple's own headphones to the latest HomePod 2 smart speaker, the idea of spatial audio seems to be finding its way into all kinds of products, and is fundamental part of the distinctive design behind the new Sonos Era 300 smart speaker, which we understand will be officially unveiled next month.
Whether we realize it or not, most of us have been listening at home on mono speakers such as one of the best Bluetooth speakers or best smart speakers. Unless you have splurged on one of the best music systems for style, have a traditional stereo hi-fi setup, or a multi-channel home theater system, then I'd wager that you're listening to your music through a single speaker unit in mono.
It is no surprise, then, that spatial audio music is taking off, with both old and new recordings being given the spatial audio treatment and popping up on streaming services such as Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, and Tidal. In order for music fans to experience their favorite music in spatial audio, tracks have to be mixed by a studio engineer to create the immersive content.
To experience the full effect of spatial audio content, you'll need a compatible pair of headphones such as a pair of AirPods Max, AirPods Pro 2, or Beats Fit Pro, or stereo speakers like new Apple HomePod 2. But there are likely to be more products arriving that offer full spatial audio support as the format gets more widely known.
In the meantime, if you're an iOS user and Apple Music subscriber, the Music Library Tracker app is a great way to integrate your spatial audio content. I found it particularly useful with getting to grips with spatial audio content in my own library, rather than relying on Apple Music's playlist of Spatial Audio tracks, and made experiencing the latest 3D immersive sound of my favorite tunes far more accessible.