How Spatial Audio Could Make Podcasts Even More Interesting

It’s like you’re sitting with the speakers

  • Spatial Audio can transform podcasts into immersive experiences. 
  • And also help you tell which host is which. 
  • Spatial Audio can be added with no special equipment.
Two people talking at a table with a podcast microphone and a laptop computer recording the audio sitting between them.

CoWomen / Unsplash

Podcasts are awesome, but do you know what's even better? Podcasts in 360˚ surround sound.

Immersive Spatial Audio is perfect for movies and TV shows and surprisingly good for music. It is also perfect for podcasts, so why are so few podcasters using it? One is that it is hard to create, which is why one company has made a box that can capture podcast recordings in 3D sound. 

"Spatial audio is like the ultimate podcast upgrade. It's like going from regular TV to 4K. It's just a whole new level of listening experience. I think once people hear it, they'll be hesitant about going back to regular old stereo audio again," Digital media and entertainment specialist Cameron Sunkel told Lifewire via email. 

Spatial Effects

Spatial audio can be a gimmick, but after using it to listen to music for the past few months, I’m convinced it’s more than that. On the MacBook Pro, Spatial Audio lets music and movie audio fill the space around you. It’s not just about making car sirens appear behind you or placing the instruments of a jazz trio on a virtual stage in front of you.

Well, it is that, but Spatial Audio just makes the sound more enveloping. It seems like the audio is there, in the room, rather than feeling like it’s coming out of speakers. It’s less of a whizzy 3D gimmick and more of a way to make the sound seem more natural. 

Spatial audio recording and remixing tools displayed on an Apple MacBook computer.


The effect is different with compatible headphones, AirPods Pro and Max, for example. If you use Apple’s fancy feature that scans the shape of your ears with your iPhone’s front depth camera, then the Spatial Audio 3D space is incredible. 

And this is why it’s good for podcast listening. Instead of having all the speakers in the same central space, all on top of each other, you can have them arrayed around you. Done subtly, this could decrease listening fatigue by making it more like listening to people in a room, with spatial cues helping to distinguish the speakers. It’s even more useful if the podcast hosts have similar voices. 

Vocal Opinion

Most of the podcasts you listen to are probably in mono. Fancy podcasts with high production values, and also podcasts that are about music, often come in stereo. But for basic podcasts with a few people talking, mono has been the way to go. Partly because it's just talking and partly because a mono podcast is half the size of a stereo podcast. If you have a popular show, cutting your bandwidth costs by half is a big deal. Mono is also smaller and faster to download to your phone over cellular. 

But now, with fast 4G and 5G connections, that doesn't matter so much. And the benefits of separating those voices are massive. 

"Voices' 2023 Annual Trends Report found that audio quality is essential for an engaging experience; listeners crave high-quality audio and, most importantly, real, genuine emotional connections to their audio experience voices and podcast hosts. Spatial Audio is one element that will contribute to this sense of connection and relatability to the whole experience," David Ciccarelli, CEO and co-founder of Voices, a network for voice actors, told Lifewire via email.

Your iPhone can already create a faux 3D effect if a podcast is in stereo, but ideally, audio should be mixed with Spatial Audio in mind. One way to do this is to use a purpose-made device like the Nomono Sound Capsule, which comes with wireless microphones and a recording unit and can capture Spatial Audio right there.

But you don't need special gear. And it's important to note that while Spatial Audio is Apple-only, it relies on Dolby Atmos behind the scenes for the 3D audio files. If you make your podcast in Atmos, it will work on Apple devices and anywhere else that can read those files. And if not, the listener can just listen in stereo. 

One way to create Spatial Audio is to edit your podcast in Apple's Logic Pro, which many podcasters already use. You can move the recordings from each participant around in virtual 3D space, represented as a cube on the screen. This is to say, the process is straightforward, requires no special tools, and could make your podcast a lot more enjoyable to listen to. What's not to like?

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