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Dolby Atmos for Headphones now available in Windows 10

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by johnnyreef, Apr 16, 2017.
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  1. JohnnyReef
    After the Creator Update in Windows 10 i noticed i had a new menu in my sound panel. Spatial Audio. Here you can select Sonic Audio or Dolby Atmos. Really struggling to hear the difference between Dolby Atmos for Headphones compared to Dolby Headphone for example. With Atmos it uses 2 channel and Dolby Headphone uses a 5.1 or 7.1 channels but they sound very much the same.
  2. seeteeyou
    15 bucks for a broken feature? Probably not until that's fixed.
  3. pinnahertz
    Dolby Atmos has always had upmixing built in.  It takes 5.1 or 7.1 and creates signals to "light up" all those expensive Atmos speakers you paid for so they're not just sitting there doing nothing.  That's because there is so little real Atmos content as compared to 5.1, that without up-mix, mostly those speakers would remain dead silent, and that's no way to make the consumer feel good about investing in them.  Some find the up-mix function pleasing, others find it annoying. And some no doubt never notice it at all.   
    It looks like the Windows app does three things, it takes actual Atmos content and creates HRTF based localizations for those signals when listening on headphones, and it up-mixes non-Atmos content to create Atmos-ish content, and passes Atmos audio over HDMI to another Atmos capable device.  So, very similar to what goes on with Atmos in home theater systems.
    Listening in headphones, unless you are giving the app actual Atmos content to chew on it couldn't be expected to do much more than Dolby Headphone.  Remember, the Atmos upmix is just a set of algorithms designed to create Atmos-ish content from non-Atmos material.  It's not extracting actual positional information (there isn't any), it's creating those signals, hopefully at least somewhat intelligently. But, at the end of the day, those signals are fakes.  When that track was mixed the creators never placed anything intentionally in the location of Atmos speakers, virtual or real. 
    Real Atmos soundtracks can place an "object" in a location with specificity limited by the number of Atmos speakers available.  Very different from up-mixing. 
    LajostheHun likes this.
  4. JohnnyReef
    But the big question is, is it worth paying money for when you have Dolby Headphone? Is it an updated and better version of Dolby Headphone. Why pay for this when we have CMSS3D (Creative Users) and Dolby Headphone available. 
    Im talking about Dolby Atmos for Headphones only now.
  5. Jacobh
    I was a little disappointed to find out the headphone feature was $15 after Dolby Atmos support was presented as being included for free in the update.  I realize that the HDMI output is free, but the headphone feature was called out in all the preview material.
    I was also a bit underwhelmed with the demonstration videos.  I prefer the samples I've heard of Creative SBX or Dolby Headphone for movies/games.  The overall effect was more subtle with Atmos and I had trouble locating sound sources in comparison.  For music, Dolby Atmos was better for me.  Upmixing and virtual surround on headphones has always sounded strange to me and usually sounds like it's just adding a lot of reverb and muddying up the sound.   Atmos pretty much eliminated the reverb effect and did increase the sound-field width such that I didn't find it distracting.  That being said, I think well recorded music is going to sound better without any effect.
    For games/movies I'd personally look at Creative's software solution (or Dolby Headphone if your soundcard/motherboard supports it), or a dedicated sound card with virtual surround capabilities.  For music, Atmos might be a better bet if you like virtual surround upmixing on stereo music.   
    One advantage with Dolby Atmos via Windows might be that if it's tied to your user account you can use it with any system attached to your Microsoft account.  Most other software solutions are per computer licensed.  I'm not sure if this is the case or not.
  6. AxelCloris Administrator
    I haven't tried out the Windows Creator update yet, but if the integrated Atmos is the same as the Dolby Atmos that comes with Overwatch on PC, I'll definitely spend $15 for it. I use an Asus card that outputs Dolby Headphone over optical to my Mojo for gaming, and I really enjoy DH for most games. That said, I cannot use anything but the included Atmos for Overwatch anymore because the height cues are a must with that game. There are several character that have vertical movement and elevation is a key aspect for positional accuracy. If I can bring the same elevation cues that I get in Overwatch to other games, then $15 is cheap investment.
    I may install this update on my home machine later and play around with the Atmos option. If I can get it processing through my Mojo via USB then I'll be ecstatic.
  7. JohnnyReef
    Yeah would be interesting to hear your opinion. I guess you need to turn it off though if you enable it in Overwatch and vice versa. Or else you have two software doing the same.
  8. AxelCloris Administrator
    Yeah, you should only have one DSP active or you could run into potential issues. Atmos has become indispensable for Overwatch, but if I can have it enabled at the system level rather than the game level I'd prefer that, since it can be used with more (all?) games.
  9. Clovis559
    That picture linked above by Seeteeyou is mine, cool mini yay :D
    Atmos isn't always upmixed. There is content out there, just not a lot of it:
    Battlefield 1
    Movies - Select few, and even fewer that you might want to actually watch.
    Dolby Access App Demos
    Dolby Atmos Test Tones.
    (Actually, I haven't come acrossed content that is upmixed. When I listen to non Atmos content, nothing comes out of my height speakers. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I just haven't come acrossed it.)
    If you watch Ninja Turtles through the built in "Movies and Tv" in windows, you can actually select the Atmos audio track. That's the only Atmos movie I have so far, I'm hoping to get Hancock.
    As far as Overwatch goes, it's only through the built in setting. Those with receivers are out of luck. Zero Height sound. Dolby Atmos for Headphones = same boat. It's only by the built in setting.
    Dolby Access App has a ton of issues for everyone. It always seems to be temporarily remedied for some random amount of time by: Uninstall, restart, reinstall. For all the content I've found, the Dolby Atmos for headphones (Windows setting) doesn't work in any Atmos content I have found. You cannot enable it in Battlefield 1/Battlefront and you cannot watch movies with it. I did read somewhere that using an old game like Diablo3 (Where you can select 5.1/7.1 through the audio setup) created quite a noticeable difference, but that same user also stated he noticed no difference in newer titles.
    Since the Dolby Access App came out to the public on April 5/6 (Whichever). It's been updated many times for better or worse. Let's hope that they keep working on it. As far as my receiver, goes, I can fidget to get the spatial sound setting to work, but I'm not sure what I'm actually getting. I can still play games and watch movies in Atmos with it off. So for now I leave it off. (Well it turns itself off, I just gave up turning it back on).
    Don't bang your head too hard trying to get this thing to work.
  10. tbritton
    I tried Dolby Atmos for Headphones tonight using my Shure SE846 listening to an HRTF recording I made using Sonic Studios' microphones of the fireworks at Tweetsie Railroad in NC a few years ago. This recording has both a segment with the "legal" fireworks being set off by families in the vicinity before the "big" fireworks started, and the entire "big" fireworks show with its thundering echos off the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding us. There is no doubt in my mind that it improved the positional accuracy over hearing it without the Dolby Atmos turned on, and was superior in that regard to the Windows Sonic for Headphones option as well, though that also did improve positional resolution. Which was a pleasure to hear, since I have many field recordings made with those microphones that will be enhanced by this effect. The fireworks seem to have a beefier presence and individual fireworks quite definitely can be "pointed at" location-wise -- and height information seems to be conveying as well, especially with the whistling rockets and their retorts. This is the best playback experience I have had coming from that field recording setup. (Sonic Studio mics into a Sony PCM-1 portable DAT recorder)
    So, one happy customer at the moment, at least for field recordings!
    I am listening now to Ligeti's "Apparitions" by Berliner Philharmoniker and it also seems to be benefiting from the positional cues nicely, but for that the Windows Sonic for Headphones works well also. But I'll have to give it more listening time to decide whether I like it with musical performances. The Dolby Atmos seems to be glitching every so often with a drop-out, while Windows Sonic for Headphones never did that. We'll see how it goes!
  11. tbritton
    HRTF CUES and Binaural Playback -- Having read that both Windows Sonic for Headphones and Dolby Atmos for Headphones rely upon HRTF cues, I've just posted at my Binaural thread about these, wondering how people are experiencing Binaural and HRTF recordings using these tools. To me, field recordings played back via Dolby Atmos for Headphones are very noticeably better, with smoother transitions between locations and a "rounder" sound to the details than Windows Sonic for Headphones, but the latter sounds better for music as the bass is a bit overblown in Dolby Atmos for my tastes for musical playback.
    Here is the post. 
    You will find links to many examples to listen to at my "Legally Downloadable Binaral Recordings Links" thread in the Music section here.
    Very interested to hear people's experiences and opinions over there on the Binaural materials!
  12. BrightCandle
    That isn't how this works however. Dolby Atmos uses location information in the audio stream to place audio in a dome of sound and then processes that at playback time to come out of the right speakers or with the right HRTF for headphones. If you give it a binaural recording that is 2.0 with none of that information. So if you then play that back via Dolby atmos it is either going to do nothing with it or do something we don't full understand. The most obvious thing it can do is assume you had a 7.1.4 surround system around you and play the two channels of sound from the front left and right speakers as if they were ~1m away. But its binaural recording, that will cause a lot of crosstalk and other things that ought to ruin the effect.
    So I don't understand the feedback you are giving, it doesn't match with how the techology works.
  13. tbritton
    There really is no question but that my field recordings sound better using the Dolby Atmos for Headphones setting. Theory aside, it definitely reproduces those better than without. I have a feeling you are missing something about the theory, though. I will look for references to point you to regarding the HRTF component of Dolby Atmos if I can find them -- info is pretty scanty at the moment other than on using the API, where you can synthesize an HRTF position.
  14. BrightCandle
    The point is a binaural recording has all the HRTF's built into the audio. When you record using fake (or real ears) you have already introduced all the binaural effect. You don't need a HRTF because it already has been processed with one before it got to the stereo microphone. Adding another one treating that input as 2.0 ought to be worse, it is when do that with SBX Pro and the Sennheiser GSX 1000.
  15. tbritton
    As I said in reply to immersifi at the thread starting here at my binaural page, it seems to me that for Dolby Atmos, HRTF is the playing field and enhanced reproduction of HRTF is the Dolby Atmos for Headphones game. It seems to enhance the reproduction of the phase and absorption cues. Now, this is not necessarily all there is to its multi-speaker array reproduction (I'm certain not). The API info I glanced at seems to describe how to synthesize HRTF positioning info in a panner, to add it where it did not exist before.
    I'm watching both of these threads, so please do continue the conversation in either one.
    I am entirely open to being proven that what I'm hearing are "unintended effects" of the tool (though wonderful, to me!), but what I've found so far (in this rarefied atmosphere of info on this) is that Dolby Atmos for Headphones is enhancing HRTF repro.
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