Testing spatial audio on the Pixel 7 is a complicated however pleasant expertise

Google Pixel 7 Pro connected to Pixel Buds Pro and showing settings including spatial audio

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Google just lately began rolling out spatial audio help to its newest Pixel telephones and Pixel Buds Professional. The characteristic goals to duplicate on headphones an analogous encompass expertise to the one you get from strategically putting a number of audio system round you. Whereas spatial audio is nothing new, it’s nonetheless an fascinating addition to the Pixel line-up that improves your auditory expertise — nicely, as soon as you determine how you can actually use it.

Google’s implementation is, for now, totally different from Apple’s spatial audio. Head monitoring isn’t out there on Pixel telephones, so you may’t tilt and switch your head to really feel the sound realistically shifting with every motion. Music apps aren’t supported both, so that you’re restricted to video — once more, for now.

The primary model of spatial audio on Pixels is complicated. You possibly can’t simply toggle it on and assume you are listening to spatial audio.

As with all new Google options, the primary model of spatial audio on Pixels is complicated. You’d suppose a toggle would do the trick, however no. I needed to spend a while discovering which telephones, headphones, and apps have been supported. Just a few extra hours have been spent unearthing content material to correctly check it out. However after digging into all of the discussion board threads and help documentation, I figured all of it out. And let me inform you, when spatial audio actually works, it’s a really enjoyable sound expertise.

Have you ever tried spatial audio earlier than?

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What do I want to check spatial audio on Pixels?

Google Pixel 7 Pro connected to Bose Headphones 700 with settings showing Spatial Audio toggle

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

First, the telephone. The Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Professional, Pixel 7, and Pixel 7 Professional are presently the one ones to help Android’s spatial audio. You should be operating the January 2023 safety patch or newer.

Subsequent, the headphones. Most pairs of wired or Bluetooth headphones will work. Like Home windows Sonic, Google’s help of spatial audio is occurring device-side, so that you don’t want any particular audio gear to profit from it. I examined spatial audio on my Pixel 7 Professional with these true wi-fi buds: Pixel Buds Professional, Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Professional, Nothing Ear 1, and Nothing Ear Stick. I additionally tried it in wired and wi-fi mode on each the Bose Headphones 700 and Marshall Monitor II ANC. It was out there for all of them.

Spatial audio works on most wired or wi-fi headphones and buds. However you want a latest Pixel and suitable content material.

With the headphones plugged into or linked to your Pixel, you could ensure that spatial audio is enabled. That is how:

  • For wired headphones, go to Settings > Sound & vibration > Spatial audio and allow the Wired headphones toggle.
  • For wi-fi headphones, go to Settings > Related gadgets then faucet the settings cog subsequent to your headphones and allow the Spatial Audio toggle.

Lastly, you could discover suitable content material. Presently, we all know these apps are supported: YouTube, Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and Google TV. App builders have so as to add Android’s official spatial audio API to hitch the fray.

And even then, not all content material in these apps is suitable. You need to search for 5.1 (or increased) encompass Dolby Atmos or DTS-X content material with an EC3 audio codec. That final bit is just not simple as a result of no app appears to let you filter particularly by codec. However it’s essential as a result of irrespective of how immersive a video feels (like these binaural track remasters on YouTube), it isn’t essentially the official Pixel spatial audio.

The right way to discover YouTube content material with spatial audio

Bose Headphones 700, Google Pixel Buds Pro, and Pixel 7 Pro playing a DTS-X demo video

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

I’ll make it simple for you. The primary video you need to check out is that this DTS-X 5.1 channel demo. Make certain YouTube’s high quality is about to 1080p or increased and begin taking part in. I like to recommend you return to the spatial audio toggle in settings to show it on and off to note the distinction whereas the video is taking part in. Apart from highlighting the richness and extra practical audio expertise, this may allow you to discover one crucial side-effect of enabling spatial audio: There’s a distinct skip of about one second every time spatial audio is triggered or disabled. The audio pauses briefly and resumes in a brand new state.

Beware: Not each ‘spatial audio’ or ‘dolby atmos’ video on YouTube is suitable with Google’s implementation.

This second-long skip could be a good indicator for any spatial audio content material throughout every other app: If you happen to hear the pause, which means you’re listening to actual, EC3-encoded spatial audio. If you happen to don’t, you’re simply listening to an everyday stereo audio observe. Possibly Google will determine a solution to decrease or fully take away the skip sooner or later, however for now, it’s a great trick to detect suitable content material.

One other one is by enabling Stats for Nerds within the YouTube app and tapping to disclose the audio codec of every video. It’s best to see “ec-3” there and never “opus” or one thing else.

Different video samples you may examine embrace this Dolby Atmos 7.1 demo for AirPods, this 5.1 surround video, this other Dolby Atmos demo, or this one. Beware, although, looking for “spatial audio” on YouTube will yield a variety of incompatible content material that’s made for Apple’s AirPods or that makes use of 360 VR audio (like this), however that isn’t encoded in EC3. Once more, that can revert to a easy stereo observe, and you may inform as a result of there’s no skip if you allow/disable spatial audio.

Watching a film with spatial audio on the Pixel 7 Professional

Man sitting on couch wearing Bose Headphones 700 connected in wired mode to a Google Pixel 7 Pro, watching Will Ferrell's Elf movie

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Since I don’t have a variety of streaming subscriptions, I needed to go digging by means of the few films in my Google TV library. The one supported title I discovered was Will Ferrell’s basic Elf — slim pickings — in order that’s what I went for, switching between my wired and Bluetooth headsets alongside the way in which.

The obvious takeaway is that spatial audio is, fairly predictably, extra noticeable and extra spectacular with over-ear headphones than with true wi-fi buds. A semi-open pair of buds just like the Nothing Ear Stick will profit from spatial audio, however they’re clearly not the easiest way to expertise it.

Curiously, every time I enabled spatial audio, I observed a important soar within the sound’s quantity on the similar quantity setting. Every bit of content material was louder, extra intense, and if nothing else, that is one large benefit of this new characteristic. You’ll get extra output out of your headphones with out elevating the amount to the utmost and risking distortion.

Do not count on a mind-blowing distinction between spatial audio and plain ol’ stereo audio. The characteristic continues to be in its infancy.

The immersive issue is way more subjective and fewer spectacular in correct films versus demo movies which can be purpose-made to point out it off. Sure, you may all the time really feel a major distinction the second you turn spatial audio on/off in a film, however after just a few seconds, you (learn: regular folks, not audio consultants) can’t actually inform. If you happen to gave me some headphones and advised me to guess if spatial audio was enabled or disabled in most Elf scenes, I’d wrestle. I requested just a few folks to check this for me and their reply was the identical.

I can consider many explanations right here. Spatial audio clearly has much less affect within the smaller sound stage of a pair of headphones or earbuds versus a correct encompass system in a room. Additionally, most film scenes are sending sound by means of a number of channels on the similar time, so it’s troublesome to know if the sound is coming from up-right versus proper as a result of it’s possible each. That’s why spatial audio sounds similar to common stereo audio till you get to a scene that triggers very distinct channels. And at last, it’s loads simpler to check issues facet by facet than once they’re on their very own.

Watching a film on a small display screen didn’t assist both. Spatial audio could be extra suited to the upcoming Pixel Pill or when connecting a pair of wi-fi headphones to a Chromecast, for instance, the place you’re extra immersed within the video.

Google Pixel 7 Pro connected to Pixel Buds Pro and showing settings including spatial audio, close-up

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Possibly as soon as spatial audio is ubiquitous and as soon as we’ve skilled it in music too, we’d extra simply discover a degradation if we went again to stereo audio. The addition of head-tracking must also make the expertise extra distinct, however that’s solely coming to the Pixel Buds Professional in just a few weeks. Qualcomm’s Dynamic Spatial Audio can be promising in that regard, however we’ll have to attend for suitable headphones.

Till some or all of those turn into actuality, spatial audio on Pixel telephones is a cool occasion trick. Allow it and chances are you’ll discover that you simply’re having fun with a video or film about 10% greater than with out it. The audio observe feels richer and extra immersive, however not in any ground-breaking method; it’s not like spatial audio can magically remodel an everyday dialogue scene into the ultimate battle of Avengers Endgame.

Briefly, does spatial audio enhance audio high quality?

The simple reply isn’t any. Your headphones will nonetheless work the identical method and play sound in the identical method. However you should still be extra impressed by their efficiency as a result of they’ll really feel louder and extra intense. I liken the expertise to listening to binaural remasters of songs: It’s nonetheless the identical track, however the clearer separation between devices and vocals is pleasant and makes you uncover music in a brand new mild.