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The Beginner’s Guide to Spatial Audio

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Have you ever wanted to transport yourself into the heart of a concert hall or immerse yourself in the sounds of nature without leaving the comfort of home? With the emergence of spatial audio, this easily becomes a reality. In this beginner's guide, we’re exploring the world of spatial audio, how it works, and how you can listen yourself.

What is spatial audio?

Spatial audio is an innovative technology that creates a three-dimensional listening experience, making it seem as if sound is coming from various directions and distances. Unlike traditional stereo sound, where audio is delivered through two channels (left and right), spatial audio adds an extra dimension by incorporating height. This technology allows you to perceive sound as though it's coming from specific locations around you, mimicking how sound travels in real life.

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How does spatial audio work?

Unlike stereo or surround sound, spatial audio uses sophisticated algorithms, advanced processing techniques, and specialised hardware to recreate lifelike soundscapes. Using object-based sound technology, such as Dolby Atmos, sound objects (including vocals, instruments, or effects) are strategically assigned to specific locations in a 3D space rather than a fixed channel.

Say you’re listening to spatial audio on a single speaker, like Sonos Era 300. To produce sound that feels like it’s coming from above, upward-firing drivers in the speaker bounce sound off the walls and ceiling, which get reflected to a specific location in the room. Because audio isn’t being projected in one direction, as is the case with mono and stereo sound, your content feels like it’s hitting you from every direction.

A standout quality of Dolby Atmos is its ability to adapt to various hardware and playback setups. Whether listening on headphones, a smart speaker, or a complete home cinema system, Dolby Atmos optimises the sound to your environment for a more realistic listening experience.

Why should I listen with spatial audio?

Spatial audio brings you closer to the creator's original intent, allowing you to hear your content the way it was meant to be heard. When listening to music, you'll feel as if you're in the recording studio, surrounded by every instrument and nuanced detail. When watching a film, the explosions will reverberate around you, the dialogue will appear to come from specific corners of the room, and ambient sounds will transport you into the centre of the scene — it's like having a private cinema right in your living room. Spatial audio enriches your emotional connection to your content by making it more engaging and lifelike.

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How can I listen to spatial audio at home?

To experience your music and movies in spatial audio from the comfort of home, you’ll need two things: a Dolby Atmos-supported streaming service and a compatible device. Below are a few types of devices you can use to play Dolby Atmos content:

Headphones:

One of the most popular ways to experience spatial audio is with a pair of headphones. Over-ear headphones have the ability to create an exceptional acoustic seal around your ears, making you feel completely surrounded by what’s playing.

Smart speaker:

If you want to experience spatial audio out loud instead of using headphones, some smart speakers — like Sonos Era 300 — can fill a large space with immersive Dolby Atmos content. No matter where you are in the room, it will feel like the music is playing all around you.

Soundbar:

Similar to a smart speaker, some high-end soundbars, like Sonos Arc, can support spatial audio for films and TV shows for a cinema-like experience. These systems often include upward-firing drivers to bounce sound off the ceiling to create an all-encompassing effect.

Games console:

If you want to put yourself inside your games, certain consoles and PCs with compatible sound cards can deliver a truly lifelike experience when playing content mixed in Dolby Atmos.

Virtual reality (VR) headset:

Some VR headsets provide spatial audio as part of their virtual experiences. When pairing spatial audio with VR content, these headsets can offer an incredibly immersive audio-visual experience.

Experience spatial audio with Sonos

Spatial audio represents a groundbreaking leap in the way we enjoy our favourite films, music, and games. Its ability to create immersive, lifelike audio environments opens up new dimensions of entertainment where sound isn’t just heard but felt. Sonos Era 300 or Sonos Arc speakers feature cutting-edge technology that allow you to effortlessly experience spatial audio at home. If you have any questions or need help selecting a Dolby Atmos-supported speaker, get in touch with a Sonos expert by phone or chat.

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