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Spatial audio brings theater-like listening to podcasts, and while a small number of shows are currently being released using the technology, a new survey shows that the investment may pay off for those that are employing it.

The engagement platform Agora surveyed more than 1,500 Gen Z consumers to get their thoughts on spatial audio. It found 79% of respondents said they would pay for new headphones with spatial audio features – while over one-quarter (28%) say they would pay regardless of price.

"The Gen Z audience sees the value of spatial audio and is willing to invest in the hardware required to experience it," said Agora CEO Tony Zhao. "These numbers should give technology companies greater confidence when considering whether or not to invest in spatial audio features and capabilities."

Digging deeper into how much Gen Z consumers would be willing to pay, the survey found a quarter (26% ) said they wouldn't want to pay more than $50 for new headphones with spatial audio capabilities and another quarter (25%) wouldn't want to pay more than $100.

Spatial audio enables users to hear three-dimensional or 3D audio, mirroring how sound behaves in the real world, where each sound originates from a specific location. The survey shows some education is still needed. Half (49%) of survey respondents had heard of spatial audio, though 51% were either unaware of the technology or not sure if they had heard of it before. Half (50%) also agreed there have been fewer advances in live audio experiences compared to live video over the years.

When asked in what setting spatial audio experiences are most important, one in ten (9%) said it is when they listen to a podcast or audiobook. While that is behind gaming (24%), watching TV shows or movies (21%), or watching a virtual concert (14%), more Gen Zs said spatial audio was more of a need in podcasts than in virtual tours or shopping experiences.

Looking at the Metaverse, 60% of Gen Z consumers said they'd prefer to use a Metaverse service with 3D spatial audio. A little over one-third (34%) were neutral, with 6% saying they wouldn't prefer to use a service with 3D spatial audio in the Metaverse.

"This technology is in its infancy from an adoption standpoint," said Zhao. "However, its awareness among Gen Z is fairly high – and growing. They are welcoming it as much-needed innovation, especially as interest in the Metaverse and virtual content consumption continues to surge."

Spatial audio got a boost last year when Apple made the higher-quality audio available to Apple Music subscribers at no additional cost. Apple is using Dolby Atmos which will ultimately include more than 75 million songs in Lossless Audio with the implementation of the technology.

On the podcasting front, iHeartMedia has begun using its version of the technology for series such as 13 Days of Halloween. Branded as 3D Audio, iHeart has also worked with advertisers such as Activision, Audible, and Warner Brothers with plans to deploy the technology across a variety of content.

Spatial Audio has also become available through technologies like Dolby Atmos and Fraunhofer's MPEG-H.