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If you’ve heard of Dolby Atmos, you probably want to experience this amazing spatial surround sound. The good news is that even without Atmos-enabled devices, you can use your headset and set up Dolby Atmos for headphones. But will this technology work with just any pair of headphones?
Dolby Atmos certainly works with Bluetooth headphones but that is actually not the bigger question. Some credible sources say that high-quality Bluetooth headphones can be used to watch content created with Dolby Atmos and can offer an Atmos-like experience.
So, in this article, we’ll expound on this question as well as tackle the general idea of Dolby Atmos for headphones, what it is, and how it works. We’ll also explain how any headphones can actually be used with this revolutionary Atmos sound technology and how to set it up on your PC and Xbox One. Let’s begin.
Understanding Dolby Atmos for Headphones
Before addressing what Dolby Atmos for headphones is, let’s first ascertain that we’re all on the same page in our understanding of Atmos.
Dolby Atmos is a new sound technology that enables listeners or viewers to get a three-dimensional audio experience. This audio format makes it possible to hear sound from all angles, including above and behind you.
Dolby Atmos was initially made for and used in cinemas, but with advancements in technology, Atmos soon began handling consumer audio needs and providing sound for home entertainment. Today, Dolby Atmos is extensively being used in home theaters to watch movies, listen to music, and in gaming.
The biggest difference between traditional surround sound and Dolby Atmos is that Atmos does not rely on speaker channels. Instead, Dolby has created metadata that picks specific object-based audios in a movie, film, or video game, and positions it in various places around the listening space. This creates a scenario where the sound comes at you from various angles.
You can either upgrade your sound system setup with Atmos-enabled devices to test out the Atmos sound, but if that’s not something you can afford to invest in now, then trying out Dolby Atmos for headphones is your next best option.
So, what is Dolby Atmos for headphones?
Dolby Atmos for headphones is the awesome surround sound made available through headphones or headsets. The best part is that you can use absolutely any headphones. But obviously, the quality of the sound produced in the end will depend on the quality of the headphones.
If you’re wondering how surround sound can be produced from just the two speaker cups found on a pair of headphones, the answer lies in Dolby Atmos producing spatial sound. Spatial sound is basically a virtual surround sound. These are audio signals produced in a three-dimensional virtual space. You can hear the sounds around you, including overhead and behind you.
With Dolby Atmos for headphones, films and movies sound much better than if you were using the plain television’s built-in speakers. Dolby says their technology creates a 360-degrees sound bubble.
Let’s have a look at how Dolby Atmos works with headphones.
How Dolby Atmos Works With Headphones
Traditionally, surround sounds are transmitted through specific channels according to the number of speakers in the audio system. All these channels are arranged on a flat plane.
Dolby Atmos, on the other hand, makes use of the full 360-degrees area in a listening room such that sound seems to be coming at you from all directions.
So how is this achieved with a pair of headphones that go over your head?
For one, Dolby Atmos for headphones is not dependent on the structure of the headphones. It’s not about how many drivers a headset has (though this may affect the sound quality level). It’s also not dependent on whether the headphones are Atmos-compatible or not. This object-based technology depends on software that creates an enhanced surround sound experience.
Dolby Atmos can work with any standard headphones. And despite the very small real estate available on headphones, Atmos places you inside the action in a movie or video game with exceptional immersive sound.
The software that gets the job done here is the Dolby Access app. This is an app created by Dolby for Windows 10 and Xbox. By setting up Dolby Access on your device, you can plug in your favorite headphones, enable the spatial sound, and experience Dolby Atmos.
In Microsoft Store, you can get the trial version of the Dolby Access app or go for the in-app purchase. The trial runs for 30 days and after that, you can decide whether to pay and unlock the lifetime access or not.
Once installed, the Dolby Access app will guide you through how to enable Dolby Atmos for headphones. It’s a simple process that we’ve outlined right here. So read on for more details.
How to Set Up Dolby Atmos for Headphones on Windows 10
To set up Dolby Atmos for headphones on your PC, you need to have Windows 10 as your operating system. Then follow these steps to get the Dolby Access app.
Setting Up Dolby Atmos for Headphones
- Go to the Windows Store. You can either go through this link or through your taskbar. For the second route, right-click on the sound icon located on the bottom-right corner of your taskbar. Select Spatial Sound then Dolby Atmos for Headphones (or Dolby Access).
- Download the Dolby Atmos app. Once in the Dolby Access store listing, click on the Get button to download the app on your PC.
- Once the download is complete, open the Dolby Access app and select the With my headphones box.
Enabling Spatial Sound for Headphones
- Connect your headphones. Select them from the menu to the right side of the screen. Click the Continue button. Allow the app to confirm compatibility between your headset and Dolby Atmos. Since you are using Windows 10, every headset will be compatible, though sound quality will differ from one pair of headphones to another.
Note: To set the headset as the default playback choice (if it isn’t already), go back to the taskbar to make the change. Right-click on the sound icon at the bottom-right corner. Select Playback Devices. Check if your headset is the default choice, if it’s not, select it and click on the Set as Default button.
- Head over to the Dolby Access app again. Click on the 30-day trial button if you just want the free trial. If you want to purchase the app, click on the Buy for $14.99 button.
- If you select the 30-day trial, a Microsoft Store Window will appear next. Click on the Get button to agree to the Store Terms of Sale.
- Go back to the Dolby Access window. Select Okay to download and install extra content for Dolby Access.
If this window with the prompt to download content does not appear, reboot your computer and reopen Dolby Access.
- After the download is completed, a new window will appear. Select the Configure PC settings button.
- The next window will be on Speaker Properties. Go to the Spatial sound tab. Under Spatial sound format, hit the drop-down menu and select Dolby Atmos for Headphones. Select Apply to save changes.
You’re all set to go. Dolby Atmos is now configured to your headphones.
To start enjoying and testing out this Atmos software, go back to the Dolby Access app, where you’ll get a list of curated videos that are Atmos-enabled.
How to Disable Dolby Atmos for Headphones
If, for whatever reason, you decide to disable Dolby Atmos for headphones before the end of your 30-day trial, you can do so through the taskbar. Click on the sound icon and set the Spatial Sound to Off.
How to Set Up Dolby Atmos for Headphones on Xbox One
If you’re using this gaming console, you can experience virtualized spatial sound by leveraging Dolby Atmos for headphones. It’s easy to set up; just follow these steps:
- On your Xbox One, go to Settings. Select General and then Volume & audio output. Set Headset Format to Dolby Atmos for headphones.
- A Dolby Access store listing will appear. Click on the Install button.
- In the app’s window, select With my headphones box when asked how you would like to experience Dolby Atmos.
- Follow the rest of the instructions on the screen to finish downloading the app.
- If you are using an LS50X, LS35X, or LS20, everything is now set to go. But if you are using an LS30/31 or LS40/41, continue with the following steps.
- Select Using HDMI or optical audio headset.
- For the LS40/41, ensure you press the EQ button until you hear “Stereo,” or else the surround effect will not sound correct.
That’s it, Dolby Atmos for headphones is now ready for use on your Xbox One.
If you prefer a step by step video guide explaining this process of setting up Dolby Atmos for headphones on Xbox One, then check out this video.
Does Dolby Atmos Need Special Headphones?
So far, we’ve established that Dolby Atmos for headphones is powered by a software (the Dolby Access app). This setup was created by Dolby in order for users like you to be able to work with any standard pair of headphones. You don’t require any special sound card on your PC or any additional hardware on Xbox One.
The compatibility between your headset and Dolby Atmos, for instance, when using Windows 10, is established by Windows 10, which already has the necessary drivers. The default setting on Windows 10 on a PC means every headset connected will be compatible with Dolby Atmos.
Now, even though any standard pair of headphones can be used to produce Atmos sound from Windows 10 PC or Xbox One, this doesn’t mean that the quality of sound will be the same.
The better the quality of headset you have, the higher the Atmos sound quality you are bound to experience. Some of the factors that can guarantee better Atmos sound quality include multi-drivers and large speaker diaphragm. But all in all, any pair of headphones will do the work.
Let’s look at these different types of headphones one can use to produce Atmos sound.
Multi-Driver vs. Single-Driver Headphones
Multi-driver headphones are special kinds of headsets that are designed with a number of small speakers placed in each ear cup. The speakers are strategically positioned to mimic surround sound speakers used in home theater setups.
As a result, the quality of sound produced using these multi-driver headphones is expected to be similar to a full home theater sound quality. But some people feel like cramming too many tiny drivers in one place ends up reducing the quality of the sound produced overall. So it all depends on what sounds better in your ears.
One popular example of multi-driver headphones is the Razer Tiamat headphones (check price on Amazon).
As for single-driver headphones, they encase only one driver in the earcup. Just like multi-driver headphones, they can also produce Atmos sound, but some will argue that single-driver headsets won’t give you the optimum Atmos expansive sound experience.
Surround Sound Headphones vs. Stereo Headphones
Surround sound headphones are designed to produce an immersive sound that’s as similar to home theater surround sound as possible.
These headphones create a virtual surround sound setup that makes you feel like there are a number of speakers all around you. One example is Razer Kraken 7.1 V2: 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset(Amazon link). This is one of the premium-priced headsets that have a built-in 7.1 virtual surround sound. They are loud and clear and the mic has an active noise-cancellation allowing for crystal clear communication.
For a more budget-friendly option, check out the Jeecoo USB Pro 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset for PC (Amazon link). These ones also have a built-in 7.1 virtual surround sound.
Stereo headphones can also produce Atmos sound when connected to Windows 10 PC or Xbox One with Dolby Access installed. BENGOO G9000 Stereo Gaming Headset is one budget-friendly stereo headset that’s compatible with multiple platforms, including PlayStation 4, New Xbox One, PC, Nintendo, among others.
Dolby Atmos Headphones vs. Normal Headphones
There are headphones that are pre-designed for use with Dolby Atmos. These are the ones we are referring to as Dolby Atmos headphones. Then there are the normal headphones that are obviously not pre-designed for use with Dolby.
Both of these types of headphones, as we’ve already mentioned, can produce Dolby Atmos sound so long as they are connected to a device that has Dolby Access installed.
Sony MDR-HW700DS Wireless Headphone (Amazon link) is a good example of a Dolby Atmos headphone. It comes with a sound up-mixing decoder capable of handling Dolby Atmos decoding and 9.1 surround sound.
As for the normal headphones, check out Cowin E7 Pro (Amazon link). Not only is it affordable, but it also pairs well with Dolby.
Now, do you know that Dolby also sells its own headphones that can be used with the Dolby Access app? They actually even have non-Dolby headphones called Dimension. And since they are made by the same company that manufactures Dolby Atmos, you can trust it to work well.
Dolby Atmos With Wireless Headphones
Now, to zero in on wireless headphones, let’s look at how they work with Dolby Atmos.
Wireless headphones can be used to produce Dolby Atmos sound when using Dolby Access on your Windows 10 PC or Xbox One. This is based on the fact that Dolby Atmos for headphones supports any headphones as we’ve already seen.
What is more, during the process of setting up the Dolby Access app on your Windows 10 PC, you’ll even notice that at the point of testing your headphone connection, one of the default playback choices offered on the app is “Wireless Stereo Headset.” Therefore, It’s safe to say that the Dolby Access app can work with wireless headsets as well as wired versions.
That said, there is still the aspect of Bluetooth headphones and whether they support Atmos. Since Bluetooth headphones are a type of wireless headphones, this presents an unclear situation. How so? Users and tech companies seem to be giving differing reviews of how Bluetooth headphones work with Dolby Atmos.
First, some users report amazing experiences with Dolby Atmos sound when using Bluetooth headphones, while others say that the sound isn’t anything to write home about.
On the other hand, Engadget, one of the highly trusted tech blogs, has something slightly different to say. During their review of Dolby’s headphones, Dimension, Engadget mentions that Dimension headphones cannot support Dolby’s Atmos based solely on the fact that this pair of headphones rely on Bluetooth. Even so, they do admit that the Bluetooth headphones “offer an almost Atmos-like experience.”
So what’s our verdict?
It’s safe to say that wireless headphones (whether Bluetooth-enabled or not) can support Dolby Atmos through the Dolby Access app. Engadget, in the same review above, points out that the headphones produced amazing audio when watching content created with Dolby Atmos.
Now, the audio from wireless headphones (or any other headphones for that matter) may not necessarily be exactly what you will hear with Dolby Atmos in your home theater room since, after all, you still are just using headphones, and those can’t be compared with stand-alone surround speakers in a room.
Even so, the sound quality is really enhanced, immersive, and unlike what we’ve heard before.
The compatibility of headsets and Dolby Atmos is not dependent on the headphone itself but the Dolby Access software. So, if you’ve been wondering whether Dolby Atmos works with Bluetooth headphones, the simple answer is yes, it does. As for the quality of Atmos sound, that’s another story altogether.
For Dolby Atmos to work with any pair of headphones, whether Bluetooth-enabled or not, wireless or wired, you first need to install the Dolby Access app on your Windows 10 PC or Xbox One and enable Dolby Atmos for headphones. Enjoy your Atmos listening experience.