Dolby Atmos is the bleeding edge of home cinema technology when it comes to surround sound audio. We've covered what Atmos is and how it works before, but for gamers, things are getting more interesting now as it's now possible to get Dolby Atmos on both Xbox One and PC.
What does that mean for you? Well, a more enhanced and immersive gaming experience for a start.
What does Dolby Atmos mean for gaming?
Dolby Atmos allows sound to be projected precisely into a three-dimensional space, which means, in theory, you get a better experience when it comes to positional audio.
This is great for games where audio makes all the difference, like first-person shooters for example. Knowing where gunfire is coming from or being able to accurately estimate the position of your enemy based on the sound of their footsteps can mean the difference between life and death, winning and losing.
For other games, Dolby Atmos simply offers a more immersive and all-enveloping experience. You're surrounded by sound and have a new-found sense of where in the game space sound is coming from.
What's required to run Dolby Atmos at home?
Dolby Atmos sounds great for gaming, doesn't it? But you might be wondering what you need to get that experience in your home. Well, the good news is it might not be as complicated as you think.
There are essentially two different ways to run Atmos for gaming - that's either via a Dolby Atmos capable A/V receiver and speakers or by headphones. The latter is far easier to set up and get into, but doesn't offer the same level of experience as it's entirely virtual so perhaps not for the audiophiles amongst us.
That's not to say that Atmos over headphones or a good gaming headset isn't good though.
PC Dolby Atmos compatibility
For the best experience, Dolby Atmos support runs via the graphics card on a PC. With Battlefield 1, for example, the game utilises DICE's Frostbite graphics engine to include the encoding for the Dolby Atmos element of the soundtrack.
You'll need a PC with a modern graphics card and an HDMI cable from that to a Dolby Atmos capable A/V receiver. Dolby Atmos audio can then be activated in the audio settings of the game and as long as you've got the right amount of speakers (or capable soundbar) then you're away.
Alternatively, you can download the Dolby Access app for Windows 10, pay £14.249 and get access to the ability to run Dolby Atmos through your headset or headphones.
The advantage here is you don't even need a surround sound headset (in fact the app recommends you turn any surround sound functionality off). A good pair of stereo headphones or a standard gaming headset will do. That's because Dolby Atmos is encoded into the games then the Dolby Access app applies the necessary technology to deliver the spatial audio and the Dolby Access experience.
A combination of the Dolby Access app and Windows 10 with the latest Creators update allows you to open up sound settings for your device and apply spatial sound formats and virtual surround sound to your headphone audio. This is relatively straightforward if you know your way around Windows settings and Dolby gives guidance on how to do it within the app.
Then you just need to ensure you have the right games to play because both methods require a Dolby Atmos compatible game as there's no upscaling of sound like there is for HD/4K picture. So you'll need to ensure you have the right games before you think about diving in.
Blizzard's Overwatch was one of the first games to support Dolby Atmos over headphones and we've seen other capable games including Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefield 1 too.
We'll cover the full list of compatible games below.
PlayStation 4 Dolby Atmos support
At the time of writing, Sony's PS4 offers Dolby Atmos support via audio settings and specific settings within the Blu-ray app which means you can watch films and enjoy the full glory of immersive sound in your home theatre. However, current support for Dolby Atmos in PlayStation gaming is unfortunately lacking.
When we spoke with representatives from EA, they told us that to play Battlefield 1 with Atmos on this console Sony would first have to roll out a firmware update and then DICE would need to patch the game. There's no word from Sony currently on whether this is in the pipeline.
Xbox One Dolby Atmos support
Microsoft started rolling out bitstream pass-through for Xbox One a while back, so that console is certainly capable of supporting Dolby Atmos for Blu-ray playback. The console is also now capable of playing games in Dolby Atmos and we've seen it in action and can attest that it's certainly impressive.
If you have a capable A/V receiver and compatible games then you're good to go. Otherwise, much like on PC, you can buy the Dolby Access app and enjoy Dolby Atmos over headphones.
Dolby Atmos compatible games
The current list of Dolby Atmos compatible games includes:
- Battlefield 1 (PC)
- Star Wars: Battlefront
- Gears of War 4 (Xbox One X)
- Gears 5
- Crackdown 3 (Xbox One/Xbox One X)
- Star Wars: Battlefront II
- Assassin’s Creed Origins (Xbox One X)
- Final Fantasy XV (Xbox One X)
- Rise Of The Tomb Raider (Xbox One X)
- Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One X)
- Mass Effect: Andromeda (PC)
- For Honor
- Forza Horizon 4
- Metro Exodus
- Resident Evil 2
- The Division 2
- Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
What about mobile gaming?
There are a number of different mobile mobiles that have support for Dolby Atmos via their built-in speakers. Some modern phones also support variations of Dolby Atmos specifically for mobile gaming. You can usually find these settings under your phones sound settings. The list of phones that current support Dolby Atmos includes (but is not limited to):
- Axon 7
- GM 9 Pro
- Lenovo Phab 2
- Lenovo Vibe K5
- Nokia 6
- OnePlus 7 Pro
- Oppo Reno
- Razer Phone
- Samsung Galaxy Note 9
- Samsung Galaxy S9
- Samsung Galaxy S10
- Sony Xperia 1