At ASTRO Gaming, we believe the experience of gaming is vastly improved by great audio: it’s why we created the MixAmp Pro TR. Immersive gaming is why the new wave of 3D gaming audio technology has us stoked for what’s next. With the arrival of Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic, we wanted to explain how each iteration of the respective 3D spatial audio solutions work in general and how it works with our headsets. Whether you’re new to gaming or you’re an experienced pro, headsets are a key element for a fully immersive gaming experience. From communication with your teammates to delivering developer-designed audio cues, owning a great pair of headphones completes the gaming experience.
So what is 3D audio? Doesn’t surround sound give you 3D audio? Technically, no. Broadly speaking, surround sound places an audio ring with 5 to 7 speakers in a flat, disc-shaped field. 3D audio gives gamers a huge competitive edge, because it digitally creates sounds placed vertically as well as horizontally, creating a 360-degree audioscape. Designers can spatially place audio objects with precision accuracy with a process called adaptive rendering, something impossible with surround sound mixes. As gamers, we know this level of immersive audio gives you better cues in-game. You’ll know which way to turn when your enemy is behind you, or above you, due to the way the sounds are processed spatially. You’ll get a much better sense of the combat scene above and behind you, and whether other players are friends or foes. You’ll feel as if you were plucked from reality and dropped into any game, from Overwatch to CS:GO. It’s multi-dimensional, precise digital audio. Let’s dig a little deeper into current 3D spatial audio solutions.
DOLBY ATMOS V. WINDOWS SONIC
Dolby defines Atmos: “treating sounds as audio objects, Dolby Atmos lets game creators preserve the three-dimensional audio scene and precisely move and position sounds in that scene—we call it moving audio.” Xbox announced that a Blu-ray Bitstream pass-through, which includes Dolby Atmos support on Xbox One and Xbox One S, would be rolling out to Xbox Preview members. This feature enables all Xbox consoles to pass Blu-ray audio data untouched to a user’s audio equipment, allowing your headset to produce an immersive sound experience.
While audio engineers have been acquainted with Atmos for a few years, gamers are getting access to this feature on Xbox One and Windows. The first time running Dolby Atmos, there will be a Windows Store pop-up for Dolby Access. The app is free, and you can try it for free, but you need to buy it if you want to keep it. It is compatible with Windows 10 PC/tablets, and Xbox One. Currently, there are no plans for PlayStation support with Dolby Atmos.
Windows Sonic is Microsoft’s answer to spatial sound. Spatial sound can be leveraged by Windows Desktop (Win32) apps as well as Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps on both Windows and Xbox One. Audio will be presented to headphones without needing any code or content changes. The platform fully supports real-time Dolby Atmos encoding for both Optical and stereo headphone output, as well as Windows Sonic for Headphones encoding for stereo headphones. It also allows all existing applications that were capable of rendering to 5.1 or 7.1 channel formats to now treat all stereo headphones as a virtual 7.1 device.
Windows Sonic is free, and is already available as an update for Windows and Xbox. It is compatible with Windows 10 PC/tablets, and Xbox One. Currently, there are no plans for PlayStation support with Windows Sonic.
ASTRO GAMING HEADSETS + 3D AUDIO
We’ve listed compatible ASTRO Gaming headsets below. As we may have mentioned above, there is no current compatibility with Sony, thus the PS4 versions of our headsets will not be listed here. Because 3D audio is processed via software, it can be transmitted via stereo signal to any 3.5mm port, or via an Optical port. If you select Atmos or Sonic, make sure to disable Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound on your MixAmp Pro TR.
All standalone A10 Headsets (PS4/Xbox One/PC) are compatible with Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic by simply connecting your A10 Headset’s Volume Control Cable to a 3.5mm jack on your Xbox One or PC. Please note: the PS4 A10 will work with any platform or device. Connecting it (or any other standalone A10 Headset) to your PlayStation 4 will still not give PS4 users spatial audio as Sony supports neither Atmos nor Sonic.
A10 + MixAmp M60/M80
The Xbox One A10 + MixAmp M60 or MixAmp M80 (PS4/Xbox One/PC) are compatible with Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic by simply connecting your M60/M80 directly into your controller and selecting Atmos or Windows Sonic in your audio settings.
A20 Wireless Headset
The Xbox One A20 Wireless Headset will deliver Atmos and Sonic through PC and Xbox One. You will also need to adjust the Bitstream format and Headset Audio features in your Xbox One settings. Be sure to enable the 3D spacial audio software to process your audio by clicking the “Using HDMI or optical audio headset” box after you select which 3D audio experience of your choosing. For additional setup help, please check out our Xbox One A20 Wireless Headset setup guide here.
A40 TR + MixAmp M60/M80
The A40 TR + MixAmp M60/M80 (Xbox only) is compatible with Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic by simply connecting your A40 TR Headset’s Inline Mute Cable to a 3.5mm jack on your Xbox One or PC.
Standalone A40 TR
All standalone A40 TR Headsets (PS4/Xbox One/PC) are compatible with Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic simply connecting your A40 TR Headset’s Inline Mute Cable to a 3.5mm jack on your Xbox One or PC. Please note: the PS4 A40 TR Headset will work with any platform or device. Connecting it (or any other standalone A40 TR Headset) to your PlayStation 4 will still not give PS4 users spatial audio, as neither Atmos or Sonic are supported by Sony.
A40 TR + MixAmp Pro TR
Both Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic are compatible with the entire TR line. Any version of the A40 TR + MixAmp Pro TR works with your PC, and both Atmos and Sonic are available through your PC Sound options. You will need to turn off Dolby on the MixAmp Pro TR, as you only want Atmos or Sonic to process the sound. You will also need to adjust the Bitstream format and Headset Audio features in your Xbox One settings when using the Xbox One MixAmp Pro TR.
Connecting the PS4 MixAmp Pro TR will not give you either Atmos or Sonic when connected to the PlayStation 4.
A50 + Base Station
The Xbox One Base Station and both versions of the A50 Wireless Headset will deliver Atmos and Sonic through PC and Xbox One. As with the MixAmp Pro TR, you will need to disable Dolby on your A50 Wireless + Base Station, as you only want the audio processing done by either Atmos or Sonic. You will also need to adjust the Bitstream format and Headset Audio features in your Xbox One settings.
Connecting to the PS4 will not give you either Atmos or Sonic.
ASTRO + INNOVATION
Not only is this an exciting time in gaming audio, we believe it’s also very important. We believe innovations in 3D spatial audio encourages developers and content creators to focus on more than just video and graphics, and give sound the attention it deserves. VR is pushing the industry in that direction already, and it’s exciting to see where we can play our part in driving that innovation forward, to the betterment of the gaming industry we all love.
If you have any questions, comment, or feedback about anything we mentioned above, leave us a comment! We love hearing from you.
As always, thanks for reading, ASTRO family. GLHF.