How to Use Dolby Atmos Surround Sound on Windows 10


Windows 10’s Creators Update added support for Dolby Atmos positional sound. This includes two things: Support for Dolby Atmos hardware and virtual Dolby Atmos sound that works in any pair of headphones.

The Dolby Atmos for headphones feature is a bit weird. It appears in the standard Windows control panel as an option, but it requires a free trial or $14.99 purchase via the Windows Store before you can actually use it.

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What Is Dolby Atmos?

Traditional 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound uses 5 or 7 speaker channels. When you watch a movie or play a game with surround sound, that movie or game is actually sending 5 or 7 separate channels of sound to your speakers.

Dolby Atmos is an improved type of surround sound. It isn’t mixed into several separate channels; instead, sounds are mapped to virtual locations in 3D space, and that spatial data is sent to your speaker system. A Dolby Atmos-enabled receiver then uses specially calibrated speakers to position these sounds. Dolby Atmos systems may include ceiling-mounted speakers above you or speakers on the floor that bounce their sound off the ceiling, for example.

This feature requires Dolby Atmos-enabled hardware, notably a Dolby Atmos-enabled receiver. Microsoft also just added Dolby Atmos support to the Xbox One, and many Blu-ray discs include Dolby Atmos audio.

Windows 10’s Creators Update also added a separate feature named “Dolby Atmos for headphones”. This feature promises improved positional audio in any pair of headphones or earbuds. You don’t need special Dolby Atmos headphones. It’s a type of virtual surround sound built into Windows.

Really, this is a completely different feature that’s only linked by Dolby’s branding. True Dolby Atmos requires a hardware receiver and special speaker setup, while Dolby Atmos for headphones is a digital signal processor (DSP) that takes surround sound from your PC and mixes it to offer an improved positional sound experience in headphones.

Some games have already added support for Dolby Atmos for headphones. For example, Blizzard’s Overwatch includes built-in Dolby Atmos support, and it works even if you’re not running Windows 10’s Creators Update. You can enable this feature from Options > Sound > Dolby Atmos for Headphones in Overwatch. Blizzard argues that Atmos offers an improved experience that allows you to more…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

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