Dolby Atmos is an increasingly popular virtual surround sound technology initially only experienced in commercial theater sound systems. Since its 2012 debut in the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, all major Hollywood studios and filmmakers have quickly embraced the sound format.
Serious audio enthusiasts have adopted Dolby Atmos as the surround sound format of choice for their home theaters. Though, it’s no longer just for movies. You can now use Atmos on mobile phones and tablets to listen to everything from music to your favorite video games on headphones.
Before we get into Dolby Atmos for headphones, it’s important to understand what Dolby Atmos is and whether or not you need it.
What Is Dolby Atmos?
In a nutshell, Dolby Atmos is an object-based surround sound format. It expands upon the conventional 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound setups. Atmos adds height channels to surround sound systems by interpreting sounds as three-dimensional objects. Thanks to Dolby Atmos, your home theater and headphones can now feature overhead and height effects, as well as dynamic sound all around you.
With a conventional 5.1 surround sound home theater setup, each channel is represented by a single speaker.
There are two stereo channels in front: a left front speaker and a right front speaker. Just below the screen is one center channel speaker for dialogue. The surround channels are represented by a speaker on the left and right sides of your listening position. Depending on where the bass sounds best, a single subwoofer is located at the room’s front center, left, or right.
In a 7.1 home theater setup, two additional rear channels are added. A speaker is positioned directly behind the listening position to the left and right.
With Dolby Atmos, 2 to 4 ceiling speakers are added as height channels to a 5.1 or 7.1 setup making them 5.1.2 to 7.1.4. Ceiling speakers represent overhead sound sources, such as thunder, rain, and ambient effects that can add an immersive experience to watching movies and listening to music. Looking for a soundbar with Dolby Atmos? Then check out our Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review.
What Is Dolby Atmos for Headphones and How Does It Work?
What is Dolby Atmos for headphones? In a conventional 5.1 surround sound system, audio is limited to speaker positions in the horizontal plane. This limitation occurs because sound varies depending on the location of speakers in a room and how close you are to them. As a solution, Dolby Atmos soundtracks add height channels. These height channels can be used with various sound systems but do not necessarily require height speakers.
You might be wondering how does Atmos get the sound of a full surround system out of headphones? Atmos transforms audio by freeing sound from channels, allowing it to create a complete sound environment all around you, including overhead. Atmos uses audio object metadata to correctly position audio anywhere inside a 360-degree space. Thanks to Dolby Atmos for headphones, individual sounds can also be precisely placed and moved in three-dimensional space, just like they can in the real world.
Dolby Atmos On Mobile
Tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, Amazon Fire HD 10, and iPad Pro (with Spatial Audio) support Dolby Atmos on mobile. However, you won’t hear the same level of immersive audio as a surround sound system.
Atmos reproduces the experience of a multi-channel loudspeaker listening experience as closely as possible over headphones. Using metadata Dolby can treat sounds as discrete objects to create a virtual 3D surround sound experience on mobile. It renders all audio inputs to create a compelling, immersive mix over headphones. Object-based surround produces the effect that sound is coming from all around you.
Several compatible smartphones on the market are compatible with Dolby Atmos on mobile. The Samsung Galaxy S21 and iPhone 13 Pro Max support Dolby Atmos, giving them theater-quality surround sound with a compatible pair of headphones.
Dolby Atmos for Gaming
Dolby Atmos for gaming is object-based and not dependent on a speaker configuration like 5.1 or 7.1. By placing each sound precisely where it belongs in three-dimensional space, Atmos puts you at the heart of the action. Atmos can help you gain an advantage in your games, especially if you know your opponent’s position and location. Spatial audio can help players precisely estimate their enemy’s position in 3D audio space in games such as first-person shooters.
Most games make good use of the height channels for overall atmosphere and spatial audio cues with Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos for gaming can surround players with an immersive listening experience and help you unlock your full potential with just about any gaming headset or speaker configuration.