Though it was announced as a “coming later this year” feature when the Pixel Buds Pro were unveiled at Google I/O 2022, spatial audio was never actually added to Google’s latest earbuds in 2022. The feature – which gives users a more-immersive audio experience and can place sound in a specific spot in space – has been pretty hyped in different wireless earbuds over the past year or so, though many have reported a pretty hit-or-miss experience with it thus far.
Google’s take doesn’t sound any different than what Apple or Samsung are doing, but until we try it out for ourselves, we won’t really know. I’ve used it on AirPods and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds2 Pro and I’d have to admit I’m in the “meh” camp with the whole thing. The head tracking part of the equation is a fun trick, but it ends up just feeling exactly like that: a parlor trick.
Paired up with a big screen, maybe the effect would be different, but so far I’m not wildly excited for this new feature. Either way, it is now rolling out for the Pixel Buds Pro and along with a Pixel 6 or Pixel 7, you should soon receive the update to version 4.30 on your Pixel Buds Pro and have this new spatial audio feature available to you for use. To turn it on, simply head to the Pixel Buds settings and you should see a new Spatial Audio section. Click into that and flip the switch for both Spatial Audio and Head Tracking and you’ll be on your way.
Though it began rolling out yesterday, Google says it could be up to a week before you’ll get the update, so keep checking in the Pixel Buds settings if you don’t have it yet. Once the update to 4.30 happens, you can start trying out the new feature with supported apps like HBO Max, Netflix, YouTube and others as long as the playback supports 5.1 surround sound or better.
I’m definitely interested to try this out for myself and see if Google does it better than others. Spatial audio could be a really interesting addition if handled right, but I’m still not convinced that watching a video on a phone is the killer application it needs to see massive adoption. For me, the immersive surround sound is more of what I’m after, and if Google nails that part of the equation, that could at least be a nice addition for those times when I need to lose myself in a movie on my phone.