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apple music logo with dolby atmos logo for spatial audio

How to Use Spatial Audio With Dolby Atmos in Apple Music on a Mac

On May 17 Apple announced that Apple Music was bringing “industry-leading sound quality” to subscribers with the addition of Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos. It’s here now and can be enjoyed on a Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

What is spatial audio and what does it cost?

Apple says spatial audio gives artists the opportunity to “create immersive audio experiences for their fans with true multidimensional sound and clarity.” The good news: spatial audio with support for Dolby Atmos and Lossless Audio (a form of compression that preserves all of the original data in a music file) is available to Apple Music subscribers at no additional cost. 

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology developed by Dolby Laboratories. It expands on existing surround sound systems by adding height channels, allowing sounds to be interpreted as three-dimensional objects.

If you subscribe to Apple Music, you can listen to select songs in spatial audio with Dolby Atmos. And listen on any headphones, the built-in speakers on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and with Apple TV 4K.

How to listen to Dolby Atmos on your Mac

Here’s what you need to do in order to listen to Dolby Atmos on your Mac:

  1. Make sure your Mac is running macOS 11.4.
  2. Open the Apple Music app.
  3. In the menu bar, choose Music > Preferences.
  4. Click the Playback tab. 
  5. Choose Automatic, Always On, or turn Dolby Atmos Off.
Apple music showing dolby atmos preferences

If you choose Automatic (which I recommend), supported songs automatically play in Dolby Atmos when you’re listening with:

  • AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max
  • BeatsX, Beats Solo3 Wireless, Beats Studio3, Powerbeats3 Wireless, Beats Flex, Powerbeats Pro, or Beats Solo Pro
  • The built-in speakers on a MacBook Pro (2018 model or later), MacBook Air (2018 model or later), or iMac (2020 model or later)

If you choose Always On, note that this option isn’t supported on all speakers. Supported songs will now play in Dolby Atmos instead of stereo. You’ll need to connect headphones or Dolby Atmos-supported speakers. 

Or you can simply turn off Dolby Atmos altogether.

What about HomePods connected to your Mac?

Can you listen in Dolby Atmos if you have HomePod or HomePod minis connected to your Mac? Nope. At least not now. Currently, HomePod speakers must be connected to your Apple TV 4K to play music in Dolby Atmos.

How can I see if a song is available in Dolby Atmos?

Play the song, then check for the Dolby Atmos badge in Now Playing. If every song on an album is available in Dolby Atmos, you’ll see the Dolby Atmos badge on the album’s detail page. Some songs are available in Dolby Atmos only on a particular version of an album.

You can find music available in Dolby Atmos on Apple Musicʼs editorial playlists.
You can find music available in Dolby Atmos on Apple Musicʼs editorial playlists.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Contributing Author
Dennis has over 40 years of journalism experience and has written hundreds of articles. For the past 20-plus years, he's been an online journalist, covering mainly Apple Inc. He's written for MacCentral, MacWorld, MacMinute, Macsimum News, Apple Daily Report, and is now contributing editor at Apple World Today.
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  • I have an m1 iMac. If I understand correctly, I get Spatial Audio through the built in speakers, correct? If I plug in a pair of Bose desktop speakers, will I still hear it in spatial audio?


  • I have a 2020 iMac. It doesn’t show those options for audio quality.

      • I have the same problem and, yes, I’m running 11.4.
        I am not an Apple Music subscriber. Does this make a difference?

        • Ah, yes. I believe Apple Music is what allows the functionality to access Atmos encoded content.