Disney has just rolled out an updated version of its Disney+ app on Apple TV 4K boxes that unlocks Dolby Atmos playback with Apple’s Spatial Audio system on AirPod headphones.
Previously AirPod users could only enjoy the soundtracks to Disney+ shows such as The Mandalorian and Loki with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound, despite these (and many other) Disney titles being available via Disney+ apps on other platforms in the much more immersive Dolby Atmos format.
The big advantage of Dolby Atmos is that instead of just steering sound effects to different channels, it creates a three-dimensional sound space around you into which it can then place specific audio effects. This includes sounds behind you, to the side of you and above you as well as in front – and as I’ve experienced with different sources, the way it can place you at the heart of the action with AirPods is a big step up from any mere 5.1 mix.
Obviously Apple’s AirPod headphones don’t actually carry lots of tiny drivers designed to replicate the room full of speakers you’d be looking at with a full Dolby Atmos speaker system. Instead, like the Dolby Atmos for Headphones system, clever processing adds so-called directional filters to elements of the sound that convince your ears that they’re receiving different sounds from different directions.
Plus, of course, thanks to Apple’s Spatial Audio system the AirPod delivery of Atmos will be able to keep an Atmos soundtrack’s elements sounding like they’re in the right place even if you move around or turn your head while watching an Atmos-equipped Disney+ show.
The Disney+ update covers AirPods Pro, AirPods Max and AirPods 3 headsets, and actually additionally unlocks Dolby Atmos support with Apple’s original Homepod speaker.
The new Atmos capabilities are provided by Disney+ update 2.9.5, so if you’re not experiencing the sound format on your Apple TV 4K yet, make sure your box has that software version installed.
Ironically there were reports picked up by FlatpanelsHD that at the same time Disney+ was adding Dolby Atmos support to the Apple TV 4K this week, it also did something to its Android app that temporarily resulted in a total loss of Disney+ Atmos support on a wide range of Android devices. It appears that this issue has now been resolved, though, so potential conspiracy theories around Apple doing deals with Disney to mess with Android don’t have to start…