Surround sound in Windows 10 without Dolby Atmos

Windows 10 has a somewhat hidden option to create spatial sound, or surround sound, via headphones. You can choose from the standard free way, or go for a paid variant that even realizes Dolby Atmos.

We are now quite used to surround sound. Just in the living room via an extensive surround home cinema set. Or nice and compact from a soundbar under the TV. Actually, the latter device provides a virtual form of surround sound. A solid DSP is used to give you the illusion that the sound is coming at you from all sides. That trick can also be used for headphones. By playing the timing of the different channels it feels like you are right in the middle of the sound. By default, Windows 10 has already had an option to realize spatial sound via headphones since the beginning of last year. It's a matter of first plugging your headphones into the appropriate connection on your PC or notebook. Then right-click on the speaker icon in the lower right corner of the System Toolbar. Usually found near the clock. Then click in the opened context menu on Spatial Sound (None). A new window opens with the Spatial Sound tab on top. To get started, select from the selection menu below Select a spatial sound format to apply the option Windows Sonic for Headphones. Check if the option Enable 7.1 virtual surround sound is checked and click OK. You can now enjoy virtual surround sound in, for example, games or movies.

Dolby Atmos

As you have undoubtedly seen, there is also another option in the selection menu in the form of Dolby Atmos for headphones. This is a better variant that also has (virtual) height information. For example, Atmos is used in cinemas (and nowadays also in the newer home cinema sets) to really let sound come from all sides via height speakers. In a home cinema, upward-firing speakers are often used for this. The emitted sound is then reflected off the ceiling. A DSP or Digital Signal Processor ensures that everything runs smoothly in terms of timing. In headphones you normally only have one driver (with a few exceptions) and the whole has to be built up virtually.

The Dolby Atmos plugin takes care of that. If you select it in the menu, you will be taken to the Windows Store, where you can download a demo version of Dolby Access - the app that realizes Atmos. After a while you have to pay, about $15 dollars which is about the same in Euros. The same trick is also being implemented on more and more mobile phones. But now it is also possible to enjoy it under Windows 10. Worth experimenting with. If you like the free Sonic, you might like Dolby Atmos even more! In either case, it saves a whole collection of surround speakers.

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