Skip to main content

Best earbuds that support spatial audio 2021

Sony WF-1000XM4 True Wireless Earbuds
Sony WF-1000XM4 True Wireless Earbuds (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

When it comes to spatial audio, it's not just over-ear headphones that get to have all the fun. Even among the best wireless earbuds, you'll find pairs that support a virtual audio holographic effect, emulating 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound to make content feel like it's coming to your ears from every direction. But not all of them are on that list, and the ones included here may use different terms to describe spatial audio. Either way, when you want to hear more than just stereo, these earbuds have the goods.

If you can, listen to spatial audio

"Spatial audio" is a term Apple rolls with, but it could just as easily describe any other brand trying to do the same thing, which is to replicate a true surround sound setup in headphones. Not all earbuds offer that kind of audio experience and not all of the ones that do necessarily do it the same way. Most content available isn't yet mastered to play in spatial audio, and some services don't offer it at all. While adoption isn't widespread yet, you can expect that to change in the years to come.

What spatial audio does is immerse you in the content you're listening to, and the effect can feel more pronounced if it's a live concert or dramatic action movie. Using any variety of similar techniques — something known in these circles as "binaural rendering" — engineers can play with sound to make it seem like it's traveling to your ears from more than two directions. Our brains have an innate ability to determine the direction sounds originate, and this virtual trickery has a way of doing that with pairs of earbuds.

Though not all on this list are among the best wireless earbuds, but a pair like the Sony WF-1000XM4 certainly are. As are the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and AirPods Pro, all of which drive this technology in their own ways.

Ted Kritsonis
Contributor, Audio Reviewer

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.