By Patrick Perez, Senior Product Manager
With the latest release of our iOS app, fans can now enjoy the magic of spatial audio. But what exactly is spatial audio?
Simply put: it’s like being in a multimillion dollar movie theatre with surround sound, except now you can enjoy aural nirvana by slapping on a pair of AirPods Pro or AirPods Max and watching Funimation on your iPhone or iPad app. Plus, using head tracking, the sound stays locked as if it’s coming directly from the device no matter which way you move your head. And that’s why you sometimes hear it being referred to as “positional audio.”
Now you can enjoy your favorite anime in an entirely new dimension.
Shows are more engrossing as they pull you into the action. You’ll even want to rewatch shows because of the new experience that spatial audio brings.
Instead of audio coming from distinct right or distinct left, audio will appear to come from anywhere in 3D space. For the optimal experience, content providers create special audio mixes to fully leverage the power of spatial audio, but the beauty with this technology is that even stereo content can be converted to spatial audio. More on that in a minute.
First: how exactly do you get it to work?
What you need to enjoy spatial audio
- AirPods Pro or AirPods Max
- iPhone 7 or later or one of these iPad models:
- iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (3rd generation) or later
- iPad Pro 11‑inch
- iPad Air (3rd generation) or later
- iPad (6th generation) or later
- iPad mini (5th generation)
- iOS or iPadOS 14 or later
- Funimation iOS app, version 2.1.1 (3159)
Finally, just activate spatial audio on your iOS device. Here are the steps required:
Turn on spatial audio
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Find your AirPods Pro or AirPods Max in the list (for example, “Izuku’s AirPods”).
- Tap the Info button next to your AirPods.
- Turn on Spatial Audio.
For more, just go here.
Why did we add this feature?
We at Funimation are fortunate to have a direct relationship with Apple, and we’ve known about spatial audio since it was announced last year. Still, we take a cautious approach when adding brand-new, platform-specific features. There have been plenty of audio formats that have come and gone through the years, so we wanted to be smart about our decision. First adoption isn’t always the best path.
It’s clear that the folks at Apple were stoked about this new feature, and it wasn’t until we tried it ourselves that we heard something truly magical. Then, when spatial audio rolled out to Apple Music and major names like J Balvin, Gustavo Dudamel, and GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Manny Marroquin who mixes for the likes of Pharrell Williams, FKA twigs and Kanye West, were getting behind it, we were convinced that Apple was committed to this new technology. In fact, Marroquin went so far as to say, “The future has arrived.”
The best spatial audio experience relies on 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos mixes. Apple converts these mixes algorithmically. It then applies directional audio filters to adjust the frequencies in each ear to recreate the attenuation that one normally hears in real life. It’s essentially an audio trick on the way you sense the sound. Spatial audio works with stereo content, too. Spatial audio means audiophiles no longer need to build expensive home theatre systems because it all happens in the headphones. Some are calling it VR for your ears.
Surprisingly, spatial audio has been part of Apple’s development kit since 2014, but it wasn’t until the release of iOS 14 that Apple added a new set of APIs to leverage the motion sensors already in AirPods Pro to provide head tracking illusion.
A more immersive experience
Spatial audio rolled out in our 2.1.1 release last week. For purists, we’re not changing anything about the original audio experience. To get this to work we didn’t have to touch the files (nor did we want to). Everything remains the same with all your favorite content. Spatial audio merely unlocks a new way to experience the show’s audio track, automagically. Watching The Promised Neverland is now even more dramatic; Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train is more engrossing; with Attack on Titan you are literally in the middle of the action.
There is so much that goes into developing new features for an app. Our Apple reps maintained that deploying spatial audio would require a relatively low amount of effort. In reality, even a low-level effort feature requires hours of development, testing, certification and validation.
We at Funimation are constantly evaluating new features to surprise and delight our fans. As many of our fans know, we just rolled out a massive overhaul of our iOS app. You can read more about it here and here.
And while we are working to continually improve the app and fix unwanted bugs, we felt compelled that rolling out a new feature is just as important as fixing a bug. This is one of many new features on our road map. We have a group of passionate developers who make these new features come to life, and we’re excited for you to try out spatial audio.
Have you tried spatial audio? What do you think? If you have a feature you’d like us to add to iOS, share this post and let us know! Chances are we’re working on it.