Amazon Music Starts Streaming Spatial Audio to Any Headphones as Apple, Clubhouse Race to Introduce Spatial Audio Features
Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers can now stream songs with spatial audio to their current headphones through the service’s iOS and Android apps as well as a handful of new home speaker systems. Amazon announced its vast expansion of spatial audio support just hours after Apple unveiled spatial audio as a feature in the new AirPods 3 earbuds, marking an escalation in the audio streaming competition among tech giants, particularly when it comes to hearables.
Time to Hear Space
Spatial audio recreates the way people hear sound in three dimensions. Amazon Music has thousands of songs mixed to mimic hearing performance in the room, with relative volume and other elements adjusted to suggest direction and distance. Amazon supports both the Sony Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos spatial audio systems, though that’s relevant mainly for the artists and producers. Support for spatial audio is newly available on several Sony wireless speakers and home theater systems, with Sonos Arc and Beam joining the list later this year. Subscribing to Amazon Music Unlimited at $8 a month for Prime members and $10 a month for non-Prime members also automatically earns HD and Ultra HD music access as well. Amazon’s interest seems centered on spatial audio right now.
“We’ve always believed that the highest-quality audio possible should be the norm for streaming music, and that’s why today, we’re making spatial audio available to our customers without any special equipment needed, and no upgrade required,” Amazon Music vice president Steve Boom said. “We can’t wait for even more fans around the world to be able to hear the vibrancy and nuance of music in spatial audio with just their favorite headphones, and discover new details in the albums they love for the very first time.”
3D Audio Competition
Amazon’s plans for spatial audio have undoubtedly been in the works for a while. Still, it is notable how the company shared the update less than a day after Apple introduced the AirPods 3 wireless earbuds and their built-in spatial audio using the same Dolby Atmos tech as Amazon. The $180 true-wireless headphones look a lot like the current AirPods Pro, albeit with upgrades and improved battery life. Apple Music started enabling spatial audio on iOS and Android over the summer, and Spotify has shared its plans for a higher audio quality service called Spotify HiFi. Spatial audio’s moment extends beyond music—Netflix revealed plans for spatial audio in its mobile apps and social audio platform Clubhouse recently started incorporating spatial audio to enhance its virtual conference rooms and make them feel more realistic.
Amazon is actively encouraging more audio content mixed for 3D experiences as it eyes Apple, Spotify, and other competitors. The announcement included new additions to the songs using the tech, including an upcoming Imagine Dragons EP set to stream exclusively on Amazon Music and a remix of all of Alicia Keys’ body of work.
“Over the last year, my engineer Ann Mincieli and I worked passionately to reimagine my catalog in 360 Reality Audio, a process that found us poring through music we love endlessly!” Alicia Keys said in a statement. “Making these spatial audio mixes revealed unforgettable moments—little details that define a song but tend to hide in the mix. I’m so proud of the results, and I can’t wait for you to fall in love all over again with my music in 360 Reality Audio on Amazon Music.”