One of the best features of the Apple TV 4K is its support for spatial audio, but this feature is limited to only one pair of Apple headphones in tvOS 16. That looks to be changing though, according to a feature that FlatpanelsHD spotted in the beta for tvOS 17.
In tvOS 17, which is currently in public beta, the existing support for spatial audio has been doubled, which means that you’ll now be able to stream surround sound to two pairs of the best AirPods, including Beats headphones, at once.
At the time of writing, you can stick your AirPods in your ears or your AirPods Max over them to enjoy 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos surround sound. And that’s great if there’s just one of you. But what if you want to share the experience with your significant other or a family member? Well, tvOS 17 is going to change that.
How to stream surround sound to two sets of AirPods today
tvOS 17 is in public beta, so you can download it to your Apple TV right now via the Apple Beta program. I’ve been using it for a while and haven’t encountered any horrors, but as ever with beta software you shouldn’t install it if you’re not willing to risk bugs and general weirdness – this is unfinished software and you might encounter issues.
Flatpanels HD, which revealed the feature, says that sometimes connecting a second pair of AirPods disconnects the first, and that on other occasions one pair of AirPods plays at much lower volume than the other pair. In both cases, restarting your Apple TV 4K seems to fix the problems.
Once the beta is installed and your Apple TV has rebooted, you should then be able to connect your AirPods or Beats and get twice as much spatial audio as before. However, as Flatpanels HD pointed out, there is one limitation. You lose the dynamic head tracking that you get with solo AirPods, because Apple isn’t going to track two different heads at once.
In addition to the extra support for spatial audio, there’s lots to like in tvOS. There’s a new and more sensible Control Center, FaceTime on Apple TV and a useful Enhance Dialog feature for HomePods (2nd generation) that makes Christopher Nolan movies easier on the ears. The public beta is open now and we’d expect the final release in late September.