What is Dolby Atmos for Headphones? Complete guide!


Dolby Atmos for Headphones


Dolby Atmos has been the latest introduction in the audio world sometime back. However, Dolby Atmos for headphones has been recently introduced and marketed for the audio enthusiasts. Dolby Atmos is an audio format that is meant to take the surround sound to the next level. It does that by giving you a 3D sound experience. It works to bring about a 360-degree sound similar to the one you get in a theatre to your mobile phone or living room.

It is available in small devices like headphones, phones, and laptops. It is also available in soundbars, TVs, and game consoles. Dolby Atmos is a must-have feature in all audiophiles nowadays.

With the help of atmos, content creators like broadcasters, cinematographers, and sound mixers are able to put some sounds accurately in a soundscape. This way, you can be able to hear the sound of the action as it is. This means, with Atmos technology one can be able to reproduce the sound of something easily.

For instance, you can realistically reproduce the sound of a flying bee accurately. Most interesting, you can be able to hear a sound that is produced overhead. Dolby Atmos works on the principle of deceiving the brain to feel like the scene is happening as you are listening.


Dolby Atmos was founded in 2012 as an expansion of the prior 5.1 and 7.1 versions. It works under the principle that many speakers are put in a room such that they develop an all-around sound system. This technology was first tried in a theatre where 64 speakers were used. The speakers are located all around you and above. The positioning of the speakers increases the dimension of the sound by creating a network of speakers. When the speakers are correctly positioned, the sound can be directed to a particular section of the room accurately.

Before the discovery of Dolby Atmos, the sound was only constrained to a few channels. But with Dolby Atmos, sound can longer be limited to a specific channel only. In fact, it is now possible to know the origin of a specific sound and where it is moving to. The Atmos has the ability to interpret that sound and then replay it within 3D space.

When Atmos interprets the sound and replay it, it makes it feel it starts right where you are sitting. For instance, it is possible to hear individual raindrops as they fall. An individual sound that is not limited to one speaker is known as the audio object.

Under Atmos, the sound is mixed with the old channel-based principle. This is the stationary sound which does not require to be placed in a specific location. The audio object is put at the top of the layer so as to produce a dynamic sound. This also allows the sound to scale across a number of formats. The best way to create a good sound is to use 64 speakers. However, even a setup with fewer speakers can equally produce a good sound experience using Dolby Atmos. In a nutshell, the sound system is not determined by the number of speakers but by the principle of an audio object. Also, the sound produced is determined by its reproduction across different systems.

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How it works

Atmos technology uses a 9.1-bed channel (made up of stationary sounds e.g. background music), 128 tracks and 118 different sound of objects playing simultaneously. When all these are combined, they create a soundstage.

The sound object used here can be any sound such as a moving car or a bouncing basketball. The sound should have a specific stationary position. Atmos allows the content creator to position these sounds in a specific position while at the same time creating other moving sounds. All these sounds are put in a 3D1 space.What_is_dolby_atmos_for_headphones_2_audiowavegeek

When the content creator has finished mixing the sounds, atmos has the ability to give theatre quality sound into your headphone. However, you must have a Dolby Atmos compatible device like headphones or soundbars.  The device you are using will bring the sound to the video or audio receiver.

The atmos optimized technology has the ability to analyze the audio data. Depending on the position and numbers of speakers, atmos will determine the optimal playback in real time. In other words, if an airplane flies over your house while watching a movie, you will hear an actual plane flying over your head. The higher the number of speakers you have and proper location, the better the sound quality and depth you will get.

Where Dolby Atmos is Used

Dolby Atmos is used in different setups. The major areas where atmos technology is used include the following:

  • Cinema

The best place to experience the Dolby Atmos sound is in a cinema. An update cinema that uses atmos technology will give you an experience of a lifetime. There are not many cinemas that are using this technology so you can check the Dolby Atmos web for cinemas in your city that uses Atmos technology. In a theatre that uses the Atmos technology, it uses the recommended 64 speakers which make the sound effect superb.

  • Home

Another place where the Atmos technology can be used is at home. However, in a home setup, it is not possible to use the 64 speakers. Therefore, there are other techniques that have been added to make the Atmos sound experience to homes.

You can get a Dolby sound experience in your home without the 64 speakers. It is possible to produce the 128 audio-objects with lesser speakers. 7 speakers can be used in a home setup to produce the sound. But in some incidents, 34 speakers are used in home setups to produce the Atmos sound.


To produce the Atmos sound in your living room, you will need a standard player. The recommended player that supports Atmos data is the Blu-ray player. There are also other movie broadcasts that support the atmos data as well. You also need to have an AV receiver which will decode the Atmos sound. You will also need speakers. The normal home cinema speakers will do just well. Most of the home cinema speakers have the atmos receiver. However, other speakers can be used as well.

In the Dolby Atmos setup, overhead speakers are required. But you don’t have to put speakers on your ceiling in order to be able to get the sound. There are 2 options for this problem:

One, there are Dolby atmos special speakers. These speakers are designed in such a way as to integrate upward firing speakers with forward facing speakers. The upward-firing speakers re-bounce the sound from the ceiling. Thus they mimic overhead speakers. Also, you do not wish to buy new speakers, you can use your home cinema speakers. There is a module which can transform a normal speaker into an Atmos-enabled version. The transformed speaker will have the ability to throw the sound up. When you use the module, you place it on top of the old cinema speaker and it will work just like an upward facing speaker.

The second way of creating an Atmos sound at home is by installing overhead speakers. You can opt for this option when you want to use many speakers. In a home setup, you will need between 2 and 4 overhead speakers. 2 overhead speakers will produce a powerful sound experience while 4 speakers overhead will produce a maximum sense of precision and sound movement.

However, if you want a less complicated atmos sound experience at home, there is another option. You can use atmos enabled soundbars. The soundbars have an integration of upward-facing speakers and traditional sound technology to give you an Atmos sound experience. There are several soundbar speakers that are atmos enabled. The most common ones are Samsung KW-K950, Ambeo 3D Soundbar and LG SK8Y 2.1 ch High Res Audio Sound Bar soundbar prototype.

  • Headphone

It is possible to listen to atmos sound on a mobile. This is made possible by its adaptability. Therefore, atmos sound can be heard on the headphone, tablet or smartphone.

On the mobile phone, atmos technology is made possible through a combination of surround sound technology and Dolby’s object-based audio technology. The combination of the two technologies has allowed headphones to produce atmos 3D sound.

However, since this is a relatively new technology, not all phones have this sound effect. There are a few devices on the market today that are using the Atmos sound technology. The most common smartphones that support atmos sound are Samsung S9/S9+, LG G7 (via Dolby:X), Lenovo A7000 and Fire HDX8.9 tablet. Most of the headphones nowadays are atmos sound enabled so you can enjoy the sound experience. According to Dolby, the headphone manufacturers have embedded atmos technology both to the hardware and software there the headphone do not need any hardware to produce the sound.

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Similar Products

Dolby is not the only company that is using atmos technology to produce the Atmos sound. There are other companies as well that are using the technology on the audio object action. Some of these companies include:

(a)    DTS

The DTS produced their first atmos sound in 2015. DTS’s product was the DTS: X. However, this product was only at the beginning meant for home use only. But it has ever since upgraded to the cinema type.

DTS: X  – works under the same principle as Dolby Atmos but differs in the setup of the speakers. Unlike the Dolby Atmos which uses 64 speakers for theatre Atmos sound and 34 for home use, the DTS: X uses 32 speakers for the home sound. In addition to that, the 32 speaker setup works well with the home cinema speakers.

This means that under the DTS: X setup, there will be more overhead speakers as compared to the Dolby setup. Therefore, the later will give a better atmos sound experience. Besides that, many manufacturers prefer the DTS: X sound system and they are compatible with most AV receivers.

(b)    Auro 3D

Another company competing with Dolby is Auro 3D. It was first produced in 2006 and its sound produced is object based. They use a 3 layer format in sound production i.e. height, overhead and surround.

The major difference between Dolby and Aurio 3D is its speaker layout. They add an extra layer of speakers hence increasing the height. Besides that, they also use only one speaker as the overhead speaker. Under, therefore, they create spatial sound.

In addition to that, Auro’s speaker arrangement allows the designer to determine from which angle the sound will start and move to which direction. Their sound system can be used for home, headphones, and cinema.

  • Dolby Atmos has been used in numerous movies to create atmos sound. Some of the movies that have used it include Brave, Game of Thrones among others.
  • Atmos has been used in virtual reality. This has helped recreate daily sounds to make the sounds we hear immersive.
  • The atmos technology is compatible with most devices such as Samsung which turns a smartphone into a virtual reality viewer.
  • It is supported by many manufacturers hence making the sound experience more exciting.
  • It gives a realistic sound experience. When you are watching a movie either at the theatre or at home with Atmos technology it makes the sounds you are hearing believable.
  • It is simple to install. It does not require a lot of speakers to install a Dolby Atmos at home.
  • It has optimal ceiling height requirement. In order to enjoy the Atmos sound effect fully at home, it requires high ceiling. Mostly it requires a ceiling height of 10 feet to install the overhead speakers. Most homes do not have such heights.
  • The Dolby Atmos headphones only support a limited number of Netflix. It does not support the ultra HD streaming subscription tier.
  • It needs to be upgraded. If you are using the normal home theatre speakers, you must upgrade to a Dolby Atmos receivers. Not all speakers are atmos receivers hence you will need to buy new Dolby Atmos speakers.
  • It is addictive. If you are using the Blu-ray with atmos now, better versions are yet to be produced. If you are currently using the Atmos sound system, you will want more of it. Once you get the sound experience, you will definitely want more of it.


Dolby Atmos’ sound technology is awesome. In place of using the channel speakers, it instead directs the sound to one spot, 8-10 feet high. This way, it adds height to the surround sound hence making it more realistic and smoother as the sound is passed from one end to another all around you.

It gives you a fantastic 3D sound on an object-based audio. Moreover, the sound is hard panned to a specific channel. You can be able to transition the sound from one speaker to another hence creating a smooth sound experience. If you move the sound in slow motion between different speakers, it drops as it moves from one speaker to the next. For you to have a better transient sound response, you can increase the number of speakers and position them properly. In fact, if you place the speakers together in order to form an array of speakers, the sound will travel better and you will have better sound effects.

The sound in the Dolby Atmos is produced when voices in the movie are mixed in a common channel. This means that what you hear is an object-based sound. This places the object in a specific location depending on the number of speakers you are using.

When you are using the headphones with Atmos technology, it takes the atmos content and creates a localized base. It works under the same principle as the atmos in the cinema or home sound system. Therefore, it allows the sound to be projected into 3D space hence giving you a better sound experience. This is what makes the headphones experience to real. For instance, you are playing a shooter game, you will know where the sound of the gunshot is coming from. This will enable you to estimate accurately the position of your enemy based not only on the gunshot but also on the footsteps. If you can be able to predict your enemy’s position, you stand high chances of winning the game. Further, for other game types, it gives the gamers an immersive experience. The experience of being surrounded by the sound and you are sure where every sound in the game is coming from.

Dolby Atmos is compatible with most of the video games. Some of the video games that are supported by the Atmos technology include the following:

Overwatch was among the first games to support Dolby Atmos headphone use. Since then many other games have supported the idea.

The latest Windows 10 allows the user to access Dolby access app where you can open your laptop’s sound settings and format the sound for your headphone audio. This way you can set spatial sound effects and surround sound to give you a better sound experience.

Dolby Atmos is a must have.

The experience is worth it. It is a no-brainer, you need the Atmos technology. So ahead and immerse yourself in the indulging sound of the Atmos!

Do your experiences with the Dolby Atmos and the related equipment that you have used, in the comment section below

As always – Happy Listening!


  1. What software is actually needed for 3D music production using Dolby Atmos for Headphones? Is this possible with eg Ableton Live or do you need specialized software? I’m very much looking forward to making music in 3D.
    Thank you.

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