Clubhouse Adds Spatial Audio, Aiming to Stay Ahead of the Curve
Laying the groundwork for other social platforms to follow, Clubhouse continues to stay relevant in the audio app race by attracting more users now that they have moved out of Beta.
Riding on the momentum of its exponential increase in users since January, Clubhouse announced in a recent Twitter post that it’s now rolling out spatial audio, adding a new level of depth to Clubhouse chats.
The company explained that it is rolling out spatial audio support to the Clubhouse app for iOS, giving users a more “lifelike” 3D conversation.
As other companies compete for audio chat users, like Twitter’s Spaces, Clubhouse is very aware of how important it is to provide the “next best thing” that brings better experiences for their users.
Will this new feature help maintain the momentum of this growing platform? It quite possibly can, especially if Clubhouse is able to get ahead of the curve of other competitors.
The Benefits of Spacial Audio
In a recent blog, Clubhouse explained, “With spatial audio, you’ll hear the speakers in a room around you in 3D, which makes the experience more lifelike and human. These spatial cues also make it easier for your brain to track who is talking, making listening more enjoyable.”
If they are an iOS user of the app, they need to be running the latest version of Clubhouse. Once a user opens the app, they can go to their settings and check to see if the “Spatial Audio” toggle is on.
“It’s like surround sound, but with your own headphones,” Clubhouse announced in another tweet. “A more vibrant, human experience! Plus makes it much easier to tell who’s talking.”
According to their FAQ, users will need headphones (either wired or Bluetooth) to enjoy this feature. “If you are speaking in a room, others will still hear you with spatial audio even if you aren’t using headphones,” they explained.
TechCrunch spoke with Clubhouse’s Justin Uberti about the decision to add spatial audio. Uberti also created the WebRTC standard that Clubhouse was built on, so he knows how the platform works and what users want.
“One of the things you realize in these group audio settings is that you don’t get quite the same experience as being in a physical space,” Uberti said.
He further explained that while Clubhouse and other voice chat apps bring people together in virtual social settings, the audio generally sounds relatively flat as if it’s coming from a single central location. But at the in-person gatherings, Clubhouse is meant to simulate; users would hear audio from all around the room, from the left and right of a stage to the various locations in the audience where speakers might ask their questions.
Uberti said the immersive sound would be subtle but noticeable. While the audio processing will “gently steer conversation” to put most speakers in front of the listener, Clubhouse users should have a new sense that people are speaking from different physical locations.
Although it is only currently available to iOS users, they assure that this feature will make its way to the Android app soon. Social Media Today explained that when Clubhouse offered Android access in May, there was a large boom in followers, mainly because of India’s large population of Android users. Offering the surround sound feature could potentially provide another boost.
Furthermore, Clubhouse said it would implement spatial audio depending on the number of speakers and the tone of the conversation. For example, if a single speaker is hosting a show that would come from a stage (like a comedy act), their voice will sound like it’s coming from a stage ahead, while the applause from the audience will offer surround sound to mimic a real-life audience.
Such features give Clubhouse a definite leg-up in the audio chat app space, and being ahead of this feature allows them to refine it faster than other platforms that are arriving later.
It now remains to be seen how soon rivals such as Twitter Spaces, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit (among others) catch up with Clubhouse at providing a superior chat room experience, but for now, Clubhouse seems to have an edge that could keep their users growing and maintain their 2021 momentum.